Kansas farm loan delinquencies low, loan demand heavy
April 23, 2017
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas corn grower Tom Giessel talks wistfully about how he was out of debt just four years ago — before back-to-back years of low grain prices set his finances back a decade and forced him to borrow again to run his western Kansas farm.
The 64-year-old Larned farmer has been able to make his farm loan payments and pay his other bills thanks to record yields the past couple of years that have nearly doubled the bushels of grain harvested.
With commodity prices still low — and crops still piled up on the ground outside bulging grain elevators across Kansas — Giessel worries that a more normal-sized harvest this season won't bring in enough money to cover his costs.
"I am going to have trouble, everybody is going to have trouble," Giessel said.
But the latest farm loan delinquency numbers from the U.S. Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency, which administers farm commodity loan programs, show that thanks to those past record yields Kansas farmers have fared better than many people had feared.
The agency's direct loan delinquencies in Kansas as of March 31 fell slightly to 6 percent, compared to 6.5 percent at the same time a year ago.
"We are very pleased and surprised," said Robert White, the agency's farm loan chief in Kansas.
But White said the lower delinquency rate is not an indication that farmers have received significant relief from the financial challenges.
The farm loan delinquency rate on March 31, 2012, was 3.7 percent, he noted.
The agency also guarantees some loans made by commercial banks and those are faring worse as of March 31 compared to last year: 3.6 percent of guaranteed loan borrowers have not made their payments on time, compared to 2.1 percent last year.
Many farmers pay off last season's operating loans during the first three months of the year and take out new ones for planting. Demand for agricultural loans this season has been unusually heavy.
Giessel said he has begun planting this year's corn knowing he is going to spend more money than he can possibly make.
"We are running out of money real fast and it is kind of scary," Giessel said.