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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Report calls for changes in Farm Credit System to address fairness, sustainability

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Thursday, December 7, 2023   

A new report is calling for greater accountability in the system providing funding to farmers in underserved communities.

The research takes a dive into the Farm Credit System, examining the risks and suggesting improvements to make the system more fair and sustainable.

Joshua Humphreys, president and senior fellow of Croatan Institute, a farmer and lead author of the report, said despite the Farm Credit System making around 45% of all agricultural loans, there is no transparency in how much of the funding goes to small, midsized or socially disadvantaged farmers.

"Minority homebuyers were deeply underserved," Humphreys pointed out. "Yet no data demographically related to race, ethnicity or gender along the lines of other equal lending opportunity sectors are provided."

According to the report, most Farm Credit System loans go to very large operations, and fewer than 20% to small or beginning farmers. Humphreys argued the findings can be an opportunity for the system to address the disparities.

The report also pointed to the system's lack of climate-related reporting, and suggests ways to make sustainability a bigger priority in lending. For the last several decades, farmers have dealt with increased risks, from rising temperatures and more frequent severe storms to wildfires.

David Beck, director of policy at Self-Help Credit Union and a contributor to the report, said as agriculture's government-sponsored enterprise, more can be done to help farmers to transition to more eco-friendly practices.

"For instance, helping small farmers or even larger farmers switch to more regenerative ag practices that can require a lot of upfront cost," Beck suggested. "Maybe helping subsidize that switch to more sustainable ag systems."

The research touched on some governance issues as well, such as board members serving expired terms. Humphreys stressed the challenges must be addressed, as taxpayers ultimately would bail the system out in the event of a crisis.

"Agriculture is not immune from a wide array of environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities," Humphreys emphasized. "I think that's the key takeaway, is that we really want to encourage the Farm Credit System to end its laggard position among government-sponsored enterprises."

The report recommended conducting more climate research, implementing Green and Impact Bonds, and establishing a grant set-aside program through a congressional mandate.


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