By Jimmy Dodson, Tom Halverson and Doug Stark

Several years of low commodity prices are making life difficult on the farm, and small towns across the country face serious challenges to modernize their infrastructure. Regardless, America’s farmers, ranchers and rural families remain optimistic. They are working hard to make ends meet and provide opportunities in agriculture and other rural businesses for the next generation.

Times like these highlight the value of Farm Credit’s mission. Farm Credit supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, today and tomorrow. We help these areas grow and thrive by financing vital infrastructure and communication services and providing farmers and agribusinesses with the capital they need to be successful.

Because a steady flow of credit means more jobs and economic growth, Farm Credit helps ensure the vibrancy of communities throughout rural America – an especially important task given the current downturn in the farm economy. That has been our mission for more than 100 years and we are proud to share our story today with the House Agriculture Committee.

Farm Credit is a nationwide network of 77 customer-owned lending institutions that all share a critical mission. These independent, cooperatively-owned institutions lend to farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives and other agribusinesses, rural homebuyers and infrastructure providers throughout rural America.

The loans we make support our mission. Whether helping a young farm family begin its operation, supporting our veterans as they return home and take up farming or financing U.S. agricultural exports around the globe, Farm Credit is committed to the success of American agriculture.

Farm Credit’s mission beyond agriculture is just as important. Rural homebuyers face obstacles unknown in more urban settings, and Farm Credit provides loans tailored to these unique circumstances. Farm Credit finances companies that provide vital infrastructure to rural communities, helping bring clean water to rural families, reliable energy to farms and rural towns and broadband that connects rural America to the rest of the world. Modern infrastructure makes rural communities competitive, provides jobs and helps improve the quality of life for rural families.

Farm Credit fulfills its mission without federal funding. We raise money from Wall Street and put it to work on farms, ranches and in rural communities.

This also is a time when supporting key programs such as crop insurance, the current farm bill, the renewable fuels standard and promoting strong export markets has never been more important to maintaining the viability of the industry. Passage of a strong Farm Bill next year is essential.

Rural communities and agriculture are at the heart of what we do. And a constant supply of credit to our customer-owners helps make agriculture one of the driving engines for the U.S. economy and enables our nation’s agricultural producers to feed a hungry world.

Every day Farm Credit is focused solely on its customers and our mission remains as important today as it was when we made our first loan more than 100 years ago. Farm Credit is committed to its customer-owners in good times and bad and we will honor that commitment today and tomorrow.

About the Authors: Jimmy Dodson is chairman of the Farm Credit Bank of Texas and a third-generation farmer, raising cotton, corn, wheat, hay and grain sorghum near Corpus Christi, Texas.

Tom Halverson is president and CEO of CoBank.

Doug Stark is president and CEO of Farm Credit Services of America and Frontier Farm Credit.