07 Mar Career Spotlight: Agricultural Finance
I was once talking with a man about finances, and a glow suddenly materialized on his face as though he had remembered something vitally important. He grinned slyly and said, “Hey, you know how to make a small fortune? Start off with a large fortune and buy a helicopter.” That joke gets a laugh among most folks who don’t operate aircraft. Of course, in agriculture there are uses for helicopters and airplanes, from spraying crops to herding cattle. Most producers, however, are concerned with costs on the ground, and the battle of the budget is no laughing matter. That’s when it pays to know an agricultural finance professional.
From hobby farmers to large multinational agribusinesses, the people who grow our food and fiber are faced with many of the same challenges. Mother nature, market swings, consolidation, expensive real estate, and many more factors make agricultural production a risky proposition without the right help from lending institutions. Agricultural finance professionals assist ranchers and farmers with their businesses by extending loans and operating lines of credit to smooth out some of the seasonality and cash flow concerns.
LENDING A HAND
If you haven’t heard, AgGrad has teamed up with some other great voices in agricultural media to create the Farm and Rural Ag Network. This is a podcast network devoted to those interested in issues across the board in today’s agricultural industry. Last week we were at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas, and we caught up with Wednesday Rozsypal, Area Manager with Ag Resource Management.
Rozsypal has been working in agricultural finance for fifteen years. She started her career within the Farm Credit System, moved on to corporate agricultural finance with an investment bank, and now she runs the Victoria, Texas office for Ag Resource Management. Ag Resource Management is a private specialty finance company and crop insurance provider based in Louisiana with offices in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, and the Corn Belt.
Ag Resource Management differs from traditional agricultural lenders in the Farm Credit network. The company does not offer term debt such as real estate loans. Instead, they focus on operating lines of credit, crop storage loans, and capital bridge loans to help producers get to the next season. They evaluate producers’ credit based on their actual production history and use their crop, insurance, and subsidy payments for collateral rather than land or equipment. But, like most things in this industry, it’s all a big happy family. Ag Resource Management works with other lenders on referrals and even collaborates with them on loans.
YOU GUESSED IT . . . IT’S THE PEOPLE
By this point, we may be starting to sound like a broken record, but it’s a song worth hearing over again. Every agricultural professional we speak with emphasizes the importance of strong relationships, and Rozsypal is no different. Her enthusiasm for her career shines through the way she speaks about her bosses, her employees, and her clients.
Like being an agricultural economist, working in agricultural finance requires an analytical mind. In fact, many in agricultural finance start out as analysts, evaluating financial statements and making recommendations to lenders on borrowing requests. But those in agricultural finance aren’t just any bankers. They have to remember that there is a wind-burned face and a rough pair of hands that belongs to each transaction. The people who walk through the door aren’t just there to deposit a check or open a savings account; they are putting their livelihoods on the line to dance the dance for another year. For those interested in a great example in literature of a relationship between a rancher and a lender, check out The Time it Never Rained by Elmer Kelton. It’s a sometimes humorous and often heart-rending look into the importance agricultural producers place on the rapport with those who finance their operations.
Successful agricultural finance professionals are good communicators, according to Rozsypal. “I think a big part of it truly is personality, your ability to talk [with producers]. Communication is so important with your borrowers,” she says. She adds compassion and having an outgoing nature to the list, as well.
YOU CAN LEARN IT
AgGrad followers know that one of the questions we like to tackle often is how to become involved in agriculture without having grown up on a farm or ranch. Rozsypal provides some light at the end of the tunnel. “I would challenge young people, even if you don’t have a strong ag background, you can learn it. With good mentorship, good training, and a good company, it can be a very rewarding career,” she says. Two degrees in business (note that’s not in agribusiness or agricultural economics) provided Rozsypal with some of the analytical tools she uses in her job. She does, however, maintain that the real skills she relies on were honed by talking to producers and having a love for agriculture and the rural life.
She gives an example of a young man currently working under her supervision. He didn’t grow up in production agriculture. He approached Ag Resource Management after graduation and asked for a job. Rozsypal said it was a busy time and juggling everything on her plate made it difficult to focus her attention on his request at first, but he was persistent and landed an interview. She recalls, “The moment I interviewed him I knew that he really had a passion to work in this industry, and I knew that he didn’t have the experience. Yet there was something about that interview that told me that this is what he really wanted to do. I really felt like even though he didn’t grow up on a farm, we could help teach him what it was that he needed to know to become a good analyst.” And, according to her, he’s well on his way to becoming a success.
HEAR IN HER OWN WORDS
To hear our entire interview with Wednesday Rozsypal of Ag Resource Management, click here. And as always, if you have any questions about this or any career profile we have posted, please email Logan West at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever considered a career in agricultural finance? There are many avenues to take, from sales to analysis to lending. It takes a love for production agriculture, an ability to have an honest and genuine conversation, and a desire to solve problems through the evaluation of data.
We would like to hear from you. Click here to upload your resume. If you or someone you know already works in agricultural finance, drop us a line and let us know what it’s like. What are the challenges and opportunities?