FCS Diversity and Inclusion - PROPOSED RULE - MARCH 2011
Dear Mr. Van Meter,
Young farmers, small farms serving local and regional food systems, and farmers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds are helping New England’s agriculture industry grow. The Farm Credit System (FCS) can play a significant role in this trend by implementing a rule that would diversify its portfolio to foster the growth of these farms.
Demand for local foods has increased tremendously in our region in recent years, and this has spurred existing farms to transition to production for direct-to-consumer sales, and has prompted many people to start new farms. Access to capital is a huge obstacle in such endeavors, and this rule would give FCS an opportunity to evaluate demand, devise outreach and marketing plans, and develop products to help farms overcome such challenges.
New England Farmers Union urges FCS to take steps to diversify its loan portfolio to better serve small and midsized, local and regional food producers. Toward that goal, we suggest that FCS:
• Focus on conducting outreach to local and regional food producers;
• Set a goal of investing each institution’s capital in small and midsized, local and regional food producers proportionally, based upon the region’s market share held by these types of producers;
• Develop lending products tailored to small and midsized, local and regional food producers;
• Include small and midsized, local and regional food producers on the FCS board; and
• Offer staff development training to FCS staff regarding services appropriate for small and midsized, local and regional food producers.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this issue.
Annie Cheatham, President New England Farmers Union
Annie Cheatham P.O. Bo1 226 5 State Street, 3rd floor Shelburne Falls, MA 01370