Farm Credit Watch: The FCS’s uninsured deposits

By Bert Ely

Although not commonly understood in rural America, Farm Credit System associations hold significant quantities of uninsured deposits. These deposits generally represent that part of an FCS loan that has actually been drawn down by a customer however not yet invested.

Instead, the obtained funds are kept in an account at the FCS association managed by the debtor on which the debtor can make some interest to partly balance out loan interest. As such, these borrowed-but-not-yet-disbursed funds, a possession of the debtor, are an uninsured liability of the FCS.

While the funds the FCS obtains in the capital markets through the Federal Farm Credit Banks Funding Corporation are safeguarded from any loss by the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation, that insurance coverage security does not encompass deposits held by FCS organizations. Therefore, ought to the FCS bank holding deposits in the type of undispersed loan profits ends up being insolvent and is put in a receivership, the borrower/owner of those funds might suffer a loss.

The overall quantity of these uninsured deposits, or whatever they ought to be called, is not unimportant. As gone over listed below, at the end of 2022, these deposits amount to $5.7 billion, spread out throughout 3 of the 4 FCS banks.

As lenders have actually concerned comprehend over the last few years much of the FCS associations they complete versus successfully are accepting deposits in the way explained above. In July 2017, Farm Credit Watch discussed this practice:

“Bankers in lots of locations of the nation have actually found that the FCS associations they complete versus successfully are accepting deposits. The associations accept these funds as one aspect of the cash-management services they provide to their member/borrowers. Technically, the funds transferred with the FCS represent an advance payment versus an exceptional loan or credit line from the association. Check the Compeer Financial site for a fine example of the series of money management services some associations provide. Note how regularly the word ‘deposit’ is utilized.

FCS organizations are not licensed to accept deposits in the way that banks do, however years ago the Farm Credit Administration and the Treasury Department built a legal reason for the way in which deposits can now be accepted by FCS associations. First, the Farm Credit Act allows each of the 4 FCS banks to provide bonds both separately along with jointly through the Federal Farm Credit Banks Funding Corporation. Second, in 1990 the Treasury Department provided a letter to the Farm Credit Administration excusing FCS banks from essential arrangements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. This exemption allowed each FCS bank to offer bonds straight to FCS member/borrowers along with to FCS staff members and retired people, without supplying the disclosures generally related to the sale of securities.

An FCS association serves as representative in offering the bonds of the bank that moneys it. Funds transferred with an association are instantly forwarded to the bank to buy the bank’s bonds with a stated value equivalent to the quantity transferred with the association. Consequently, the association has no liability for the deposits it accepts. The Treasury letter needed that buyers of these bonds (successfully FCS depositors) be provided ‘printed products [that]plainly state that the [farm credit bank]and not the association is the company” of the bonds, that the bonds “are not direct obligations of the United States,’ and that the bonds ‘are in no way insured or guaranteed as to principal or interest by the United States or any governmental entity.’”

It is extremely not likely that FCS “depositors” comprehend that they successfully have actually acquired an uninsured FCS bond. By completion of 2022, “member investment bonds” provided by AgriBank had actually grown to $3.19 billion, more than triple the $939 countless such bonds exceptional at completion of 2016.

At the end of 2022, CoBank had $2.14 billion of uninsured “cash investment services payable,” up from $1.03 billion 2 years previously and $1.5 billion exceptional at the end of 2016. It kept in mind by CoBank that these payables grow within a year however if such a bond can be redeemed over night it successfully works as a need deposit.

The Farm Credit Bank of Texas had a liability on its balance sheet called Payable to Associations for Cash Management that amounted to $36.75 million at the end of 2022, down a little from $37.32 million at the end of 2020. The Texas bank calls this item Farm Cash Management, or FCM, which it refers to as “a short-term investment account that automatically invests your excess funds and pays you a return, similar to a money market account.”

AgFirst does not appear to provide these bonds, or a comparable money management account. Presumably, then, the associations AgFirst funds cannot accept deposits in connection with whatever money management services they provide to their member/borrowers. Whether this in reality holds true has actually not been figured out.

The FCS’s deposit-taking started in 1990 when the Treasury Department licensed the FCS banks to money their balance sheets straight with farmers to match the funds raised through the FCS Funding Corporation. However, today more associations, in coordination with the FCS banks, are utilizing that permission for a totally various function—to complete versus business banks in providing cash-management services. Offering cash-management services is not why Congress developed the FCS.

If combined, the FCS’s overall deposits at the end of in 2015 would just rank it about the 220th-largest bank in the nation, determined in regards to overall domestic deposits. In regards to uninsured deposits, however, the FCS would rank much greater on that list as the majority of domestic deposits, even in the biggest banks, are FDIC-insured or completely safeguarded in the bank is too huge to stop working.

Congress will have a chance in the upcoming Farm Bill to deal with the possible systemic effects to the FCS, to farming, and to rural America if FCS debtors with undrawn balances on their FCS lines-of-credit, end up being worried about their capability to draw down on those balances ought to the FCS experience monetary troubles. Farmers and ranchers unexpectedly not able to get funds they are dedicated to pay back might be really harmful not just to those debtors, however to all of farming and to rural America, too.


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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