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National Farmers Union asks Congress to oppose FSA sale to Rabobank

(Monday, Oct. 4, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen testified before a U.S. House Agriculture subcommittee on September 29 about National Farmers Union's opposition to the proposed sale of a farmer-owned lending system by a foreign entity.

Last week the National Farmers Union board of directors unanimously opposed the acquisition of the Omaha-based Farm Credit Services of America by the Netherlands-based financial conglomerate Rabobank, which is reported to be the largest agricultural lender in the world.

"National Farmers Union supports the congressionally defined mission of the Farm Credit System to keep family farmers and ranchers on their land by actively providing necessary credit," Hansen said. "We strongly believe in the value of this cooperative-style system of farmer-owned, farmer-directed, and farmer-controlled agricultural lending. If and when there is a problem, as farmer borrowers we still have the power to fix it when needed. Once farmers relinquish this farmer-driven ag lending system, then it's gone."

Hansen said Farmers Union supports Sen. Tom Daschle's efforts to enact a 180-day moratorium on the acquisition before Congress adjourns for the year.

"There seems to be a big push to withhold information and get it done right way," he said. "However, we need to go very carefully, very slowly until all the facts are known and out in the open."

National Farmers Union is concerned about the short and long-term effects of this proposal on the four-state region, as well as the national implications of future conversions of other federally sponsored cooperatives to privately owned ventures. NFU has called for additional field hearings in the affected states to explore all present and future implications.

"We feel that the sale of this FCS unit could potentially damage and weaken the entire system by setting a potentially lethal precedent," Hansen said.