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Montana Ag Network: Ag lender offers cautious optimism for new year

From crop and livestock market fluctuations to trade wars to a farm bill that almost didn’t happen, Montana farmers and ranchers have experienced a lot this year.

Bill Coffee, the CEO of Stockman Bank, said agriculture lenders are preparing for more headwinds in 2019.

“I think we’re seeing slower global growth, which obviously has an effect on demand,” said Coffee. “I think the China issues whether they’re tariffs or even their growth slowing as a country are going to create headwinds for agriculture. We’ve seen it before and we’re all going to make it fine. I think the long-term prospects just continue to grow for Montana agriculture. But I think for the next year or so it’s going to be tough sledding.”

Like others, he said agriculture lenders were happy to see Congress finally pass a new farm bill, which helps them aid their customers with lending needs.

“You know, part of it is that it’s a baseline, so we know what the rules and the hot buttons are,” said Coffee. “A lot of times it takes out some of the risk and some of the anxiety and other times, it kind of puts a little bit of it back into the market and into the planning and those kinds of things.”

As farmers and rancher make plans to meet with their ag lender to work on 2019 operating lines of credit and more, Coffee said it’s important for producers to keep an open line of communication with their lender.

“It’s hugely important. It’s hard to underestimate the value of that,” said Coffee. “I think it’s hard to be a partner and certainly all of our Stockman Bank lenders view themselves as partners with our ag producers and all of our customers. So, if you’re not open with them or you’re not honest with them about what the production looks like for that year, what prices you can reasonably achieve, what other assets or resources you have to lean on, it’s really hard for Stockman Bank or any ag lender to really help you to full extent they can.”

Ag lenders like Coffee say farmers and ranchers should contact their own lender for specific questions regarding their own operations.

-Reported by Russell Nemetz/MTN News

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