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Media Release

New report explores Farm Credit lending practices

Newly Released Croatan Institute and Self-Help report explores systematic issues in Farm Credit lending practices and provides recommendations for addressing concerns

Nov 16, 2023

Croatan Institute and Self-Help announce the release of a major new collaborative report that explores leading challenges faced by the Farm Credit System – the largest lender in the agricultural sector.

The nation’s oldest government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), Farm Credit was founded more than a century ago to provide dedicated financial services to underserved farmers and rural communities. With nearly $350 billion in assets, Farm Credit makes approximately 45% of all agricultural loans. Yet many believe that the system, given its largesse and inherent public purpose, should be much more assertive in helping address the financing needs of small, midsize, and socially disadvantaged farmers and others currently underrepresented in Farm Credit’s loan portfolio.

This new report documents leading environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and shortcomings at Farm Credit and recommends changes to help the System more fully meet its basic public purpose: to help farmers and rural communities access affordable, reliable capital. Farm Credit’s hesitancy to incorporate ESG factors into its lending processes presents not only substantial—indeed systemic—risks but also opportunities missed. Unlike our nation’s housing GSEs, Farm Credit is not required to set aside any of its earnings for grants to support the needs of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. It has provided little-to-no information on how climate risks are impacting its portfolio or how its portfolio is supporting the needs of historically underserved producers.

“As we finalize the next Farm Bill, the Farm Credit System faces a major moment of opportunity and accountability,” said David Beck, Director of Policy at Self-Help and a contributor to the report. “American agriculture’s GSE should be much more active in funding the future of sustainable farming, regional food systems, resilient rural development, and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.”

“Among GSEs and other government financial authorities, Farm Credit is a clear laggard when it comes to taking climate risks and opportunities seriously,” noted Joshua Humphreys, PhD, President and Senior Fellow of Croatan Institute and lead author of the report. “We also document clear shortcomings related to the governance of the system and the weak track record it has of serving underserved farmers and rural communities – and this report makes constructive recommendations to address these pressing concerns.”

By managing ESG risks more explicitly, Farm Credit as well as the system’s secondary market entity Farmer Mac, could serve the widely unmet investor demand for “green bonds” and impact investments that finance climate solutions, conservation, regenerative agriculture, and underserved farmers and rural places. Given its privileged status, its mission, and its profitability – the System reported $7.3 billion in net income in 2022 – Farm Credit is well positioned to enhance its role in strengthening our nation’s sustainable food and agriculture systems.

The full report can be found online at and

About Croatan Institute

Croatan Institute is an independent, nonprofit research and action institute with a mission to build social equity and ecological resilience by leveraging finance to create pathways to a just economy. Since the Institute’s launch on Earth Day in 2014, its interdisciplinary team of scholars, scientists, financial activists and analysts have worked collaboratively with more than 200 organizations and developed a reputation for rigorous research and actionable insights related to financing healthy, equitable food and farming systems, resilient communities, and solutions to the climate crisis.

About Self-Help

The nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help is the umbrella organization that encompasses the Self-Help family of organizations whose collective mission is to create and protect ownership and economic opportunity for all, including Self-Help Credit UnionSelf-Help Federal Credit UnionSelf-Help Ventures Fund, and the Center for Responsible Lending. Together, we provide financing, technical support, consumer financial services and advocacy for those left out of the economic mainstream. Since Self-Help's founding in 1980, we have helped expand economic opportunity for underserved communities across California, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.



Jenny Shields, Director of Media Relations, Self-Help Credit Union | Direct Line: (919) 794-6798 Cell: (919) 584-4379  



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