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Farming without the bank: Believe it is possible

Mary Jo Irmen for Progressive Dairy Published on 07 February 2020

With all the challenges going on in the dairy industry right now, most are finding themselves in crisis mode 24-7. This leaves little time to sit back and think about what got us here, how it can be solved and what we can do so future generations don’t have to go through the same thing.

The obvious factor that has led us to today’s struggle is the price of milk not covering the cost of inputs. Outside of these milk pricing challenges, there is one other factor driving the financial challenges of all farmers and ranchers: availability to operating capital.

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In order to understand this we need to go back in time, 103 years to be specific, and take a look at what changes took place in the ag industry that changed ag financing forever. The Federal Farm Loan Act was passed in 1916, which allowed banks to lend to farmers – and from that we saw the beginning of Farm Credit Services.

Some may feel this was a great opportunity for farmers; it gave them an opportunity to expand. However, what I see is: It has made the farmer reliant on banks. In turn, farmers have put up their livelihoods as collateral. The very thing farmers do for a living could be taken away in mere seconds, leaving them with no way to earn an income or a place to live. It has allowed banks to “garnish” income and pay themselves first before the farmer ever sees a season’s hard-earned money.

The things I have witnessed, working with farmers, is unreal. There is no other business I am aware of that has its income “garnished” upon depositing money into the bank.

You are seeing this firsthand in the dairy industry. Milk prices have fallen to lows where some are unable to continue, and banks are being forced to stop lending to dairy farms. Farmers feel as if the bank is there when times are good but, as soon as you need them the most, they turn their backs.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming the banker. The banker and the bank are not the same people. The banker is your friend, neighbor or family member, and they do not want to tell you no. He or she most likely understands what you are going through and yet has to answer to a board. When the board says no, his or her hands are tied.

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We need to keep in mind, the bank is in business to make a profit. They have loans that need to be backed by collateral and, as soon as they feel there is a threat, they will pull back so as to not lose money. Keep in mind the financial “Golden Rule” is very relevant here: Those with the gold make the rules. As soon as that Federal Farm Act was passed, those with the gold took over and farmers became their employees.

Today, farmers in all areas of agriculture find themselves bound and feel it is impossible to get out. I am here to tell you that is not the case. However, I am not going to tell you it’ll be easy or that it may even happen in your lifetime. But I am here to tell you there is a different way to finance a farm and steps that can be taken to ensure the next generation has an opportunity to continue farming what you worked so hard to build.

Studies have shown a negative mind can’t see positive thoughts. Many of you may be in this mindset right now, which is completely understandable. However, before you say, “It can’t be done,” I challenge you to open your mind to a different way of doing things. If what you are doing is not working, then it’s time to change. It’s time to look at a different way of handling the finances of your operation. Many of you will look at what you can do differently in order to cut costs, labor or increase production.

Those are all within your control, and good managers will affect these things. But when was the last time you looked at a better way to utilize the money going through your hands? You probably have thought that’s not something you can control or influence and thus haven’t spent much time on it.

There is a better way to utilize the money going right through your hands. In fact, I’ve written a book about that method – called the Infinite Banking Concept and pioneered by R. Nelson Nash – and how other farmers are using it to gain control of their finances.

We are not taught to think the method I write, speak and podcast about; we are taught to go to the bank and do just what is being done. What I teach is so different, and it is what is needed to get through the bad times. This method attempts to use some of the money that’s going through your hands and creates your own banking system so you can take back control of your finances. Then you own the bank; you have control of your loan terms; you no longer put your livelihood up as collateral. You then have an opportunity to save what you’ve worked so hard to build and pass it on to the next generation.

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This does not exclude those who may be using cash for everything. In my opinion, cash is not king. As my mentor, R. Nelson Nash, said, we finance everything we buy. We either give up interest to someone else or we give up the ability to earn interest. Are you using cash to finance your operation that could otherwise be earning you interest? Yes, most likely you are.

It is truly time for the ag industry to take back control and get away from the banking industry. Time for a change that will save the farm you and generations before you worked so hard to build and to ensure it will be there for generations to come. This is not going to happen overnight, and it may not happen in your lifetime, but that is not a reason to sit back and do nothing. Change must start somewhere, and why not with you?

Coming from a farm background and watching my family go through the same struggles, it has become my mission to help the ag industry and save family farms. I do it one family at a time.

If you’re tired of always answering to the bank, curious enough about a different option for financing and willing to study a bit to learn about a better way, let’s start a conversation. In future issues, I’ll be writing about what’s possible to move toward farming without the bank using the Infinite Banking Concept because I want to help save your farm, too.

Thank you for getting up every day and doing what you do. I appreciate you and am thankful for you. I hope you can continue to do it for many more days ahead.  end mark

Mary Jo Irmen

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