Jill Long Thompson, a former congresswoman for northeast Indiana, was appointed by President Barack Obama appointed to be the chairman and chief executive officer of the Farm Credit Administration.
Jill Long Thompson, a former congresswoman for northeast Indiana, was appointed by President Barack Obama appointed to be the chairman and chief executive officer of the Farm Credit Administration.

WASHINGTON — As the new chair and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration, Indiana native Jill Long Thompson brings a strong background in agriculture, politics and farm credit to her position as the leader of the organization.

A resident of a Marshall County corn and soybean farm, she ran for governor of Indiana in 2008 and was appointed to the FCA board of directors by President Barack Obama in 2010, where she worked in McLean, Va., overseeing the agency’s activities.

The FCA is the independent, arm’s-length regulatory body overseeing the Farm Credit System and does about 43 percent of agricultural lending in the U.S. — an amount that totals about $250 billion, the new chair said.

As a lender for agriculture and farming co-ops, the FCS regulates and examines 88 FCS direct-lender associations and four Farm Credit banks, a slight decline in the number of FCS institutions since late 2008.

It also examines and regulates Farmer Mac and examines, but does not regulate, the National Consumer Cooperative Bank.

The banks networked throughout the FCS are privately owned and managed, and the FCA board ensures these banks are operating according to federal law.

“A very high percentage of producers are members of the FCS,” Long Thompson said. “Farm Credit Services of Mid-America is the farm credit system that serves Indiana producers, and we have a variety of producers in Indiana who raise cattle, dairy, row crops and produce.”

As chair of the board, Long Thompson will set the agenda for the administration, using input from board members and professional farm credit staff, she said.

The three-member board on which she formerly served determines farm credit regulatory policy and works to ensure examiners have resources to carry forth the mission of ensuring the laws and regulations of the FCA and the policies of the FCS are being followed and implemented.

“My new position entails major responsibilities that I take very seriously, including ensuring that we have resources and can provide information to Congress,” she said.

“We are not funded through taxpayer dollars. Our budget comes from an assessment on the institutions we regulate, but Congress sets the levels of spending and budget levels, so it is important that they have current, complete information to appropriately set policy and adequately examine the system.”

“The FCS is very important because it provides capital to producers, without which it would be very difficult for them to get started farming or to continue farming,” Long Thompson added. “What’s particularly unique about the FCS is that the borrowers are member-owners from the institutions they borrow from, not unlike a credit union.”

She said that while there have not been any major changes at the FCA since she became one of the administration’s three directors, interest rates have been very favorable and farm incomes remain strong and many corn and soybean growers have insured their crop with the FCI program.

About 85 percent of U.S. corn and 75 percent of U.S. soybeans are insured, and many farmers who did not carry insurance this year used irrigation.

The FCA also keeps close watch on land values.

“In the farm credit system, loans are not highly leveraged on farmland. That is a prudent way to make loans, so even if there were some stabilization, the system would remain strong,” Long Thompson said.

She said that while the FCS is very strong and in very good financial shape in regard to overall loans, there are some areas of stress.

“The sectors experiencing the most financial stress today include those industries reliant on grain and soybeans as inputs into the production process,” she said. “The recent and ongoing drought caused grain and soybean prices to soar this year, boosting feed costs for the livestock and dairy industries.”

“Dairy farmers who grow their own feed generally are fairing much better than those who must purchase feed,” she added. “Ethanol producers have also been under stress since corn is a key ingredient in making ethanol.”

The FCA 2011 financial report also noted that the horticultural industry

Long Thompson said that it is difficult to predict how the fiscal cliff or its resolution may affect agriculture and the risk profile of the FCS’ customers, adding that it is likely that the provisions of the new farm bill will be affected by the outcome of the budget negotiations.

“Crop insurance has become an important risk management tool for many farmers,” she said. “Any change in the cost or provisions of the crop insurance program could affect farmers’ use of this program for risk management.”

Long Thompson added that the FCS has a mandate to provide constructive credit to agriculture in good times and in bad times, and those who are creditworthy should not have a problem obtaining credit from the system.

“If deemed appropriate, FCA can provide guidance to the system in the event that unusual economic or financial circumstance arise,” she said.

The new chair noted that the Farm Credit System’s young, beginning and small farmer and rancher program offers a venue for producers who raise produce or eggs or a farmers market or sell directly to consumers and who often are seeking smaller, more traditional loans than a row crop farmer would need.

Congress established the Young, Beginning and Small Farmer Program to reach out to younger, beginning and small farmers, she said.

FCS associations offer lower interest rates to allow potential YBS borrowers to qualify for loans.

Long Thompson has many years of leadership experience in agriculture.

From 1989 to 1995, she represented northeast Indiana as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving on the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Select Committee on Hunger. She also served as chair of the Rural Caucus.

From 1995 to 2001, she served as under secretary for rural development in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where she oversaw an annual budget of $10 billion and a staff of 7,000 employees.

In addition, Long Thompson served as CEO and senior fellow at the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, a nonprofit research and policy organization in Washington.