July 17, 2017

Going Big to Better Serve Producers

 |  By: Mike Opperman

On July 1st three Farm Credit organizations—1st Farm Credit Services in Illinois, Badgerland Financial in Wisconsin and AgStar Financial Services in Minnesota—merged to form one company, Compeer Financial. Leadership in the new organization says they are poised to meet the evolving ag and rural market place.

“As markets continue to evolve it becomes more challenging to meet the specific needs of the marketplace,” says Rod Hebrink, president and CEO of Compeer Financial. “This merger was a core part of our effort to reach the scale necessary to effectively serve the needs of all of agriculture.”

While the merger will create a nearly $20 billion financial organization with about 45,000 customers, Hebrink says that doesn’t mean that they will only cater to large producers. In fact, he says about 80% of their portfolio includes loans of less than $100,000. That’s where the knowledge of experts within the organization helps the most, Hebrink says, providing expertise to customers who may not be on the farm full time. “Collaboratively we can create expertise to serve the marketplace much better than we could before.”

Listen here to Hebrink’s AgriTalk interview.

Current customers may not recognize much of a change other than the name, as all 47 offices  will remain in place as will the client services team members they have come to know and trust.

“Compeer Financial can deliver more by coming together,” says Todd Van Hoose, President and CEO of the Farm Credit Council. “The reason you go big is to go small. Now they will have more reserves to meet more specific needs.”

Listen here to Van Hoose’s AgriTalk interview

Of the $249 billion in loans through Farm Credit, Van Hoose says about 7% of that goes to dairy farmers. While the larger scale of opportunities available through the merger provides resources to help small farmers, Mark Greenwood, chief diversified markets officer at Compeer Financial and dairy specialist, says the larger size also helps meet the needs of larger clients. That includes larger dairy producers looking for capital investments.

“We have a specialized group able to serve larger client needs,” Greenwood says. “We need that expertise to be able to help clients determine the impact of the investments they want to make, providing the insight and expertise to help producers evaluate expansion opportunities.”

Greenwood himself has 16 years of experience in the dairy industry as a nutritionist, and others on the eight-person dairy team have similar experience. “It helps that we understand the needs of producers and what it’s like to milk a cow.”

The larger organization is ready to give back as well, announcing that 1% of net earnings per year will be donated to programs serving rural communities. “Each legacy organization had been generous within the communities they serve and we are extremely pleased to carry on this important work,” says John Monson, Compeer Financial chief mission and marketing officer. “We’re in partnership with our clients, and our giving pledge is one more way to share their vision for the future and support their needs.”