At the start of 2019, the 27-year AgCredit veteran Patrick Zeka assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer for Oklahoma AgCredit, succeeding Butch McComas. Earlier this week, Zeka sat down with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays to discuss the current health of the member-owned cooperative as well as the agricultural industry here in the state. Since taking up the mantle, Zeka remarked that despite this lean period in the ag industry, the members of the Oklahoma AgCredit have been fortunate enough to stay within a relatively positive position from a credit perspective. You can listen to Zeka explain that more in depth by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page to hear his complete conversation with Hays.
“You never know… you’re always just one or two crop failures from problems, but so far things worked out really well,” Zeka said, commenting from a lender’s perspective on the industry. “Up until probably three months ago, we were all surprised at how well our portfolio was holding up. It just seems in the last couple months, though, we’ve had some people come in that are finally to their last dollar and needing some help.”
Zeka says the further west you go, the more challenging things have become. Back east, he says there is more off-farm employment and producers there are not having the same problems being seen on more traditional operations. The comparisons are further telling when you compare the livestock and cropping segments.
“We continue to see breakeven to nice profits on the cattle side. But if you’re growing soybeans, or corn or wheat,” he said, “they’re struggling out there to breakeven.”
In doing its part to help stakeholders during these tough times, Zeka says the Oklahoma AgCredit Board of Directors elected to increase its patronage back to members. Last year, the board distributed $5 million in payouts. In 2019, Zeka says that amount was raised to $6 million. In fact, payments from that are scheduled to begin today April 3rd and continue over the next two weeks.
In addition, Zeka encourages producers to continue to lean on Oklahoma AgCredit, but admits that as a lender it is important to be mindful of what sound partnerships consist of. His advice for interested farmers, when it comes to presenting oneself as a viable candidate, can be boiled down to one thing.
“One word – communication,” Zeka remarked. “What we tell our customers is if you’re going to have problems, get to us early. Let’s not wait until things get past a certain point of no return. That way it gives us enough time to work out a plan that can help them retain profitability and continue financing going forward.”
With assets exceeding $1.34 billion and a portfolio in excess of 6,300 loans, Oklahoma AgCredit is the largest Farm Credit association in the state. Headquartered in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma AgCredit has 17 full-time lending offices and a number of weekly contact points to provide loans for farm and ranch land, country homes, livestock, equipment and operating costs.
Source: Oklahoma Farm Report