Episode 44: Embracing Cooperative Value: Insights from AgCredit's New Board Members
October is National CO-OP Month, and in the world of agriculture, cooperatives play a pivotal role in fostering a sense of community, support, and shared success among farmers. Season 3 of "AgCredit Said It" kicked off with a deep dive into the essence of cooperative values – the values AgCredit embraces to foster growth in rural communities.
Hosted by Libby Wixtead and Matt Adams, this episode introduces two new AgCredit board members, Terry McClure and Steve Reinhard, who shared their experiences and perspectives on the importance of embracing cooperative values.
The Cooperative Advantage
Cooperatives are unique in their commitment to serving their members above all else. As Terry McClure aptly puts it, "Its only reason for existence is to serve its members." This fundamental principle lies at the heart of every cooperative, including AgCredit, where patronage, or profits returned to members, prove to be a vital force in strengthening rural communities.
Meet the New Board Members
Terry McClure and Steve Reinhard bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to AgCredit. Terry, a fifth-generation farmer, runs a diverse operation in Southeastern Paulding County, involving corn, beans, wheat, contract hogs, and a beef operation. Steve Reinhard operates a diversified grain farm and seed service business.
Their stories reflect the ever-evolving landscape of modern agriculture, where diversification is key to sustainability. Terry and Steve's experiences mirror the cooperative's mission to adapt to the changing needs of its members, providing financial support and guidance through every season.
Benefits of Farmer-Run Boards
One of the distinct advantages of agricultural cooperatives like AgCredit is the active involvement of farmers on their boards. These board members are boots-on-the-ground individuals who understand the daily challenges faced by farming families. Their insights into the industry, coupled with their commitment to their communities, are invaluable.
Advice for Young Farmers
Terry and Steve also share valuable advice for young and beginning farmers. From serving on boards to connecting with other farmers around the country, their experiences have taught them the importance of saying "yes" to opportunities and getting involved. Embracing cooperative values not only strengthens individual farms but also fosters a sense of unity and support within the entire farming community.
AgCredit's commitment to serving its members shines through the wisdom and dedication of its board members. As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of agriculture, the cooperative values that have guided generations of farmers continue to provide a solid foundation for growth, resilience, and shared success.
Here’s a glance at this episode:
- [00:39] Discussion about AgCredit's focus on being a premier cooperative that returns profits to its members. Terry McClure and Steve Reinhard are welcomed as new board members of AgCredit.
- [01:09] Terry McClure shares details about his farm operation in Southeastern Paulding County, which spans multiple generations and is primarily a grain farm.
- [02:33] Steve Reinhard discusses his farm operation, emphasizing a diversified grain operation, seed dealership, and the challenges of staying up-to-date with technology, plus Steve's involvement in various agricultural boards and organizations.
- [05:52] Terry McClure discusses his perspective on cooperatives and how AgCredit has been a vital partner in his farm's success. The concept of cooperatives exists solely to serve their members.
- [07:22] Steve Reinhard emphasizes the community involvement aspect of cooperatives and the importance of building rural communities.
- [08:40] The benefits of having farmer board members in AgCredit, providing boots-on-the-ground insights, plus the cooperative's commitment to its members in both good and challenging times.
- [13:29] Patronage, how it benefits members, and its role in strengthening rural communities.
- [25:25] Terry McClure advises young farmers not to say no often and to seize opportunities. Steve Reinhard encourages young farmers to get involved in agricultural organizations and learn from others' experiences.
Connect with AgCredit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Share questions and topic ideas with us:
Voiceover (00:08):Welcome to AgCredit Said It. In each episode our hosts sit down with experts from all parts of the agriculture industry to bring you insights and must have information on all things from farming to finances and everything in between.
Libby Wixtead (00:26):Welcome to season three of AgCredit Said It. I'm Libby Wixtead here again with Matt Adams.
Matt Adams (00:32):Libby, nice to be doing this with you again. Excited for season three and a lot of great content that we have coming to the listener's way.
Libby Wixtead (00:39):Yes, and it is cooperative month. AgCredit prides itself on being the premier cooperative who returns profits to its members. And we are excited to introduce to you our listeners, our two new board members, Terry McClure and Stephen Reinhard. Welcome.
Terry McClure (00:57):Good to be here.
Steve Reinhard (00:57):Good to be here.
Libby Wixtead (00:58):We are excited, like I said, to have you guys here. Would each of you tell us about yourself, your farm operation, what boards you guys have been on in the past. And Terry, we'll start with you.
Terry McClure (01:09):Yeah, we farm in Southeastern Paulding County. I'm the fifth generation farmer on both sides. And I farm with my son Ryan who will be our sixth generation, him and his family. And I tell people on my best day we strap in generation number seven beside us in a tractor in a combine and we just have all kinds of fun. Life's really good, we've been very fortunate. We're primarily a grain farm, corn, beans and wheat. But my son had an interest in livestock, so back quite a few years ago now we got into contract hogs and so we work with Cooper Farms to raise wean to finish pork. And then Ryan also has a beef operation that's a part of our farm.
Libby Wixtead (02:02):Wow, you guys are very, very diverse in your operation then.
Terry McClure (02:06):It keeps us busy. We handle all of our own grain. We truck all of our own grain. We always tell everybody as soon as we crawl out the combine, we all turn into truck drivers. Spend the winter on the road. And listening to podcasts, by the way.
Libby Wixtead (02:21):Well, that's exciting.
Terry McClure (02:22):It makes our day go fast.
Libby Wixtead (02:24):Yes. All right Steve, well the same question to you. Tell us a little bit about yourself and the farm operation and any other boards that you've been on.
Steve Reinhard (02:33):Sure. I farm with my brother, Tim, and he also works off the farm at Central Ohio Farmers Co-op. And so at the farm we have kind of a diversified grain operation, soybeans, corn, wheat, malting barley still and some hay. And then we also have a seed dealership and we do sell some chemicals and fertilizer then as well. Kind of a different operation. We don't have any livestock really, which is a good thing to be in right now with some of the livestock prices and stuff with the way they've been. That keeps us pretty busy. And then trying to keep everything up to date with technology and stuff that's out there is pretty interesting as well. And so I think Terry and I first met when we served on the Ohio Soybean Council there together and then I currently serve on United Soybean Board as well as the vice-chairman of that board.
Matt Adams (03:39):Okay, great. It's one thing, Libby, I've noticed from a lot of our interviewees that we've had on here. When we talk about diversification in agriculture, that's the name of the game now. It's not just a grain farm, it's not just a livestock farm, we have seed dealerships, specialty crops. It's just really interesting to see where agriculture is headed, where it's just such a diverse system. That when the outside consumer thinks of agriculture, they think of, I've said it before, the man with a pitchfork out in front of his farmhouse with half a dozen hogs and the back 40 behind them.
Libby Wixtead (04:20):Yes.
Matt Adams (04:20):It's just so different. I think just listening to this and the diversification and the more we can promote that to the listeners out there just showing truly what agriculture is.
Libby Wixtead (04:30):And I think it's keeping it generational like Terry, bringing family members back onto the farm and keeping those generations going. Terry, have you been on any other boards other than the Soybean board?
Terry McClure (04:48):I'm a bit of a serial board member. I actually started with the local Farm Bureau Board and then became, went to the state board for a while, was on the National Farm Bureau Board, certainly the Soybean checkoff board. I was on the Corn Growers, Wheat Growers. A unique one might be TNC, I sat on The Nature Conservancy Board for nine years and then sat on The Nationwide Mutual Board for 18 years. And there's a few other along the way that don't need mention, but a bit of a serial board member. Can't say no.
Libby Wixtead (05:21):You are a very experienced board member, we can say that.
Matt Adams (05:23):Well guys, one of our next questions here and you both being members of our association, our cooperative and seeing the traits and the good things that we've done in association, what was your attraction to run for a board member position with AgCredit. And Terry, I guess whoever wants to go first. Terry, we'll go with you first. What sparked your interest?
Terry McClure (05:52):Well, they've been such a partner on our farm. AgCredit, just, we literally sit down ... There's times I call my AgCredit representative before I talk about this to a family member and that's the sign of a true partner. And quite frankly, I felt like I wanted to be a part of that and if give back is the right word, give back a little bit for everything that they've done to help us build our farm and make it what it is today.
Matt Adams (06:29):Truly, that's one thing I think we strive as account officers and the whole AgCredit team is I never want people to say, "Oh, well here's my account officer, here's my lender." No, I want to be known as a team member, I want to be that tool in the toolbox for that member. And the sounding board, sit down at the kitchen table and go over stuff. That's what we're relationship lenders. I don't think we can always stress that enough that we're here in the good times, the bad times, and we truly want to be part of your operation. We're not just a, sign here and we'll move you down the list. That's just not how we operate at AgCredit. Well Steve, I kind of want to get your take too, and I think it might be a little interesting with you and a sibling on the operation. How has that grown with AgCredit and then what sparked your interest to want to be part of our leadership board?
Steve Reinhard (07:22):Yeah, I think that one of the things that, it's always interesting working with somebody else because you're half the operation so you have to make sure that you can get the other one on board to be so everything's kind of going in the same direction and you're not trying to go two opposite ways. And so that always brings a little bit of a challenge in. But I think that the one thing that you look around at a lot of our board members, they've been active in the community and you want to help build that community. And that's what we look at AgCredit is doing, too, is investing in that rural community and we're losing maybe some emphasis in some of our other financial institutions and their ability to do that. And so I think that's one place where AgCredit's really made a fit and kind of made a difference. And with some of the things we've done in the past, we just want to continue to be that kind of community involved mindset.
Libby Wixtead (08:24):And I think with that community mindset, that's what makes us being a cooperative so important. And so why do you guys want to be part of a cooperative like AgCredit? Why is that so important?
Matt Adams (08:40):Yeah, I guess what makes a cooperative good in your minds? Why would anybody want to be a part of cooperative, right? You got to share stuff with people, that's not fun, right?
Terry McClure (08:51):Well, its only reason for existence is to serve its member. It exists for no other ... And it just gets to be that basic. And I especially have always appreciated AgCredit. It is 100% about the members. I mean, I can find cooperatives that get close to doing what AgCredit does. I've never seen a cooperative that does it quite to the extent. And I just think that says it all because they're in your corner and they're there to provide that lending service that you need. But also they're that person that sits at the table and actually has a lot of industry knowledge that they can bring to you that they're picking up along the way because they get to be a bit of a sounding board and an advisor.
Matt Adams (09:44):Oh yeah. One thing our listeners may not know on our home operation, Terry and our farms, we're a stone's throw away from each other. It's just great having not only the representation in our area, but having that knowledge and just the sounding board with neighbors that we're all part of the same culture, that same vision going forward. I think that's just something that's probably lost in today on a lot of things. Steve, what do you think of cooperatives? Give us your take on it I guess.
Steve Reinhard (10:21):Yeah, I think so as we talk about AgCredit here is our cooperative partner, I think one of the nice things is that you talked about how close you and Terry are to each other. And that's the same way with my lender, they're within five miles of where we live and where we operate. And as well as most of the rest of the people in the office. And so that makes it good because they are going to pick up on those trends faster that are happening in your community and they're going to be a little bit more knowledgeable on how to maybe make those adjustments.
(10:54):And this is what we're seeing, is they're a little more closer to our operation. They can say, "Hey, are you seeing these things happen too?" And maybe it's time that we need to adjust something going forward so that we don't get in a position where maybe we're paying more for an interest rate. Like a few years ago we had the opportunity to roll some down and they were making those calls and having us do that. And maybe some of the people that were a little bit more removed weren't doing those things and aren't as in touch with maybe what's going on in the community.
Libby Wixtead (11:33):Yeah, no, I think that's the most exciting phone call you can make to customers say, "We can lower your rate." That's always a fun conversation.
Matt Adams (11:44):And they touch on the close-knit and community. In a cooperative, especially like ours when you talk your local members being close to your operations, we see each other at church, we see each other at the farm store, at the local diner. It's just that common bond and strength and knowing that what we're all doing on that same page. And that's just something that one thing I think we talk about cooperatives, and especially cooperative month, what makes that cooperative strong? Its members.
Libby Wixtead (12:19):Absolutely.
Matt Adams (12:19):From the first thing, it's members that make us strong and make us stronger and we're here to serve. Well guys, we're going to take a quick break here and we'll be right back with Terry and Steve on AgCredit Said It.
Voiceover (12:37):If the standard cookie cutter house layout doesn't fit your family's needs, a Barndominium may be for you. Whether you want to add recreational space or a work area for your business, take advantage of AgCredit's Bardominium financing program to build the unique living space you're dreaming of. Contact your local AgCredit office to get in touch with a mortgage loan originator to learn more.
Matt Adams (13:02):All right guys, and we're back on AgCredit Said It. Terry, Steve got the next question here. And I think it can be a lot of parts of this. We talk about cooperative, one thing that we as a member of the farm credit system have always done for our members is payback patronage. Give me your guys' mind on what patronage means to our members and to the association.
Steve Reinhard (13:29):Well, I think Terry brought it up earlier that we're the member users, so we're kind of the owner of the cooperative. And I think that that keeps in mind that everybody wants to make sure that they're, I guess doing their part to be that good member. And in turn, when those profits do come back to the co-op, then they get shared throughout the membership. And that's a way that I think also we keep those, that revenue source really, it can be a revenue source, may not be, but it can be a revenue source in the community. And it's another way that we can continue to build our community. And sometimes if we're looking at using a multi-state bank or something, that's not the case and those dollars may go someplace else.
Matt Adams (14:23):Where I'd have to defer to our marketing side on this, but I know historically we have always put a lot of funds back into community projects through the whole association. You're exactly right. That's one thing, you look at a true cooperative giving back to US members, but giving back to our area.
Terry McClure (14:42):No Steve's right, the patronage is such an important piece. And it's the basic structural difference between a cooperative and an investor owned facility of any type is, where does the profits go? The profits get returned. There's a 12 month lag, whatever, because we have to make sure we made that money. And it's also a bit of a reserving mechanism if things really go wrong. And there's a, who knows, we have black Swan events in the world, but we want our cooperative to be able to go on. It's happened for a lot of years and we do kind of get to expect it, but we also understand that in that rare, rare event that something could happen, that's the reserve that could keep our cooperative on good financial stead.
Matt Adams (15:41):Oh yeah. And I know you guys being on our board of directors, that is one of the tasks that gets presented to you guys yearly is looking at us an association where we're sitting. How much to give back to our members and still keep, like you said, that reserve. Make sure the association stays strong that way through the good times, bad times we're here for our members.
Terry McClure (16:02):That bulletproof balance sheet that every operation needs is no different. You want your ag credit to be strong no matter what. You want it to be able to be there through thick and thin and good times and bad times.
Steve Reinhard (16:16):And that was one of the comments that came up at our board meeting this week at a historical level kind of in agriculture where the wind's kind of been at our back and we've been able to make some decent incomes over the last several years. But we're sitting around the table today thinking, what is that black swan? What could be that thing coming that doesn't allow that profitability to be there?
Matt Adams (16:43):What's the next event on the horizon that's going to fluctuate our commodity prices? And we know the big topic the last two years has been our interest rates. And what the country's going through is no different than what fluctuates down to basically us end users in agriculture to I guess mitigate the storm. But there again, that's where I always go back to working with your account officer and the farm credit system and AgCredit especially, we hope that we can help you make the best decision for the operation to weather those storms. When it's time to sit on our hands a little bit and ride it, and then when the opportunity is there to expand and grab that by the horns, we're ready for that opportunity.
Libby Wixtead (17:36):And we want to be able to be here, your lender for today and tomorrow. And that's why another benefit I think from being a cooperative is being governed by a board, which you guys are the two newest board members. And you guys are obviously also farmers, so can you share with our listeners what that benefit is to our membership, having our board ran by farmers? And having us govern-
Matt Adams (18:03):Give us the inside scoop, what's the details here?
Terry McClure (18:08):Well, it's boots on the ground. We do have two outside directors that bring great industry and regulatory knowledge to us. Everybody else rides a tractor. And so it is really boots on the ground aspect. We not only get to talk about some of the issues of the day, but a little bit of advice back to management of what's going on on the farm and what's important and maybe where we need the focus to be over the next few years. And so I don't think there's any way you can replicate that experience of the actual borrower sitting at a table with the management of the lender on a daily basis and talking about the issues of the day.
Steve Reinhard (18:56):And I think that Terry summed that up really good. And as he said, around the boardroom you can see the different aspects of agriculture kind of involved on the board. And then as we sit here and discuss this with you, you're also working for AgCredit, but involved in the farm actively. And so I think it really, like Terry said, boots on the ground. I think from all aspects we have firsthand knowledge of what's going on in the industry and maybe where those trends are going to begin or maybe end and how can we address those going forward.
Libby Wixtead (19:33):It's just getting that pulse of what's going on to our leadership team. And that is just to me is the neatest thing of our company is just being, we are ran by farmers and most of our account officers farm as well. And so we do have such a great pulse of what's going on in our community and in the industry like you guys had said.
Matt Adams (19:54):Well, and I think it's one thing to always reiterate, too, and I'm sure both you have dealt with other lenders in the past besides us that one thing I can say about it is other lenders will jump in and out of ag. When the times are good, they're in hot and heavy. When it's not so good ... And to their mind, that's not a profitable aspect to be in. We have one business in AgCredit and the farm credit system and it is ag. Through the good times bad times, we're in it 110% all the time. I think that's just one thing to always ... Because even when I became part of the AgCredit and the farm credit system, and also became a member with them.
(20:38):There's some points out there against the farm credit system that they say, well, they're a cooperative patronage is never a guaranteed thing. And it's exactly right, it all depends on the profitability association. Your commercial lender is going to say, "Well, they're a little different than us and we can do this and that different." We're owned by our members, we're farmers ourselves. We're ag 110%. I think that's just one thing that there may be points out there that they want to be against us, but we were put in place for a reason. That is to provide credit to rural America and the farmers and we continue this day just to keep building that. And just look at how we've, as an association we've grown, but even your guys' operations, I'm sure, I'm hoping we've had the part in helping go over that the next generation hopefully sustain them for the generation after that.
Steve Reinhardt (21:39):Yeah, I think that's been a big part of AgCredit history is you have multi-generational family farms out there that have all three entities may have a loan with AgCredit in some sort of a way, and we have diversified the AgCredit portfolio. And that they can help with that home purchase for that first beginning farmer as well and their family.
Matt Adams (22:06):Yes.
Steve Reinhard (22:06):And you may have a more seniored family member control the land portion of the business. And then maybe they have some shared agreement with machinery or livestock buildings or whatever. And so it does work out very nice for that.
Matt Adams (22:23):Well, and it's just exactly what you said, diversification. As AgCredit Association, we diversified on the home side. And how many times we get that next generation where you have a son, grandson, maybe not ready to buy his first farm yet, but is renting some ground or something and, "Hey, I need a truck loan." It's just getting them started getting that foot in the door and building that relationship from day one. And Terry, I guess I know from knowing your son and your family very well, was that a hard transition to bring your son into working with the lender on that side of things?
Terry McClure (23:08):No, but I do think our structures are changing on the farm and I do think it matters. There was a time my dad, and grandpa, and myself farmed together, but we had separate operations even though we worked ground together and planted together, we all had our separate operations. Now we bring them together under an LLC or an S Corp and those are designed to go forward. And it's interesting, I get this a lot, a little bit more from the general public, but it's like our farms keep growing because ag consolidation's real.
Libby Wixtead (23:40):Yes.
Terry McClure (23:41):And our farms keep getting bigger. And then I remind them that there's four families under that umbrella. Yes they are, but no, they're not. It still takes about the same amount of labor to do the work here. And the transition to that next generation on management and how you turn that over, we always joke when they pry the cold fingers off the steering wheel of the combine. And that's a little bit true, but yeah, that's always an interesting part. And AgCredit is there and that's that relationship sitting around the table. All the people that are at that table, they hear the conversation. Then pretty soon it's like they're having the conversation and you're doing the listening. And that's just when it's cool.
Libby Wixtead (24:36):And that complex, I feel like the farms are just getting more complex because it's for families or it's generational. And that's where, again, we're all living that too. And so it's neat to ... I've been in so many conversations here lately with my clients that I'm in the same situation with the succession planning with my family. And I don't know, I feel like this past year was a year for succession planning and so many people have done that. But just having that knowledge and be able to walk them through has been really exciting because the next generation is excited to come in and start. With that, what is one piece of advice that you guys would share with young and beginning farmers? You got two sitting right here. We'll take all your knowledge we can take.
Steve Reinhard (25:25):Well, I think you're doing it, you're farming, but then you have another job there too to help maybe make things work until a transition can happen to where you can afford to farm without having to have that other job. Don't be afraid to do some work and that. I think one of the biggest thing is just to tell the younger people to get involved. Because no matter what you get involved with or whether it be a commodity board or some other group, usually when you get that set of farmers together, there's just a lot of talk that you learn a lot of different things.
(26:07):And to know how Terry farms his ground is different than mine. I visited his farm and just to know how they do things. And whether or not we can bring some of those things back our way or not. And one of the other groups I'm with, we're bringing people from all over the Midwest and it's really interesting to sit down to the guy that's farm, well, the guy in Texas is done with his corn harvest. And then you got the guys that are raising peanuts and cotton and it's just totally different. But I learn something every time I go to those meetings and it makes the trip worth going to.
Terry McClure (26:47):Yeah, if I had any advice, and it's probably what I usually give, it's just don't say no very often. It's amazing what you look back and the decisions you made, the boards you sat on. Your first inclination was always to say, "I'm too busy. That may not work. That's too risky. I've never done that before." But you ended up saying yes and you look back and said, "I have no clue how we got all that done, but we did. And it was fun and we got through it and it worked out." I always remember board meetings and you're just saying, "Oh my gosh, we got so much to do." And that rain popped up at just the right time and didn't even miss that tractor run so it's amazing how things work out.
Matt Adams (27:43):It's just like you guys said, the relationships you've built and the knowledge you've gained from just different aspects of agriculture is, it's something you can't go buy that I mean that's something that you just gain from being part of something. Well, we'd like to thank Terry McClure and Steve Reinhard for being guests on today's podcast. We hope that this gives you some insight to leadership here at AgCredit and the bright future that we have ahead of us. Please like, share and subscribe to AgCredit Said It on your favorite podcast app. And if there are any topics or feedback you'd like to share with us, drop us a note at email@example.com. And as always, reach out to your local AgCredit office for all your rural lending needs and we'll catch you next time on Ag Credit Said It.
Voiceover (28:31):Thank you for listening to AgCredit Said it. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. While you are there, leave us a review to help others find the show. Let's talk ag in between episodes. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at AgCredit. For more tips and resources, visit agcredit.net.