Support for Farm Credit Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture Program Nears $500,000

Five of California’s top agricultural lenders pledged their continued support for the Fresno State Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology’s Farm Credit Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture program.

The program, led by Jordan College professor Dr. Steven Rocca and University Outreach Coordinator Desiree Molyneux, was created to build closer ties between the Jordan College and future agricultural leaders from Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties. Through the program, Fresno State agriculture students will mentor high school students interested in pursuing careers in agricultural science and technology.

“At Fresno State, we have a laser-like focus on helping students succeed,” said Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “Programs such as the Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture are crucial to student success because research indicates that students who are actively engaged with the University are more likely to graduate.”

The endowment now stands at $495,000 in commitments, thanks to nearly $300,000 in combined gifts from Farm Credit System members American Ag Credit (Santa Rosa), CoBank (Roseville), Farm Credit West (Roseville), Fresno Madera Farm Credit and Golden State Farm Credit (Kingsburg).

These gifts will be matched by a $200,000 Title V-Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) grant by the U.S. Department of Education.

On December 12, representatives of the financial institutions met with Castro, Jordan College Interim Dean Dr. Sandra Witte and the program’s first class of student ambassadors, including:

– Courtney Carlton from Kerman, CA
– David Jaime from Winterhaven, CA
– Lennette Gutierrez from Salinas, CA
– Desirae Perez from Filmore, CA
– Toushulong Vang from Fresno, CA

The Jordan College students were selected to participate in the program based on their academic standing, career objectives, ethnic backgrounds and their strong interest in promoting higher education opportunities in agriculture.

Each participating student will receive $1,500 for the 2015 spring semester. In return, they will work as mentors with ethnically-diverse high school students in rural communities across the Central Valley. More than 100 languages are spoken in this culturally-diverse region, and Fresno County alone is composed of 70 nationalities

Fresno State’s student population is equally diverse. Seventy percent of the university’s 23,179 students report minority heritage, and Hispanics represent the largest overall percentage (39.4 percent).

The Jordan College is one of the West Coast’s most diverse colleges of agriculture, and its 1,000-acre farm laboratory reflects the region’s reputation as the most productive agricultural area in the world.

To discuss potential partnership opportunities to fund academic positions or programs, contact Alcidia Freitas Gomes at or 559.278.4266.

For more information, contact Geoff Thurner, Jordan College media and development communications, at 559.278.7221 or

CoBank Named the Safest Bank in the United States by Global Finance Magazine

Global Finance, which covers the financial services industry, publishes the “World’s 50 Safest Banks” list annually, and released its rankings for 2014 yesterday. Banks are ranked using a methodology that includes total assets and an evaluation of long-term ratings from major rating agencies. CoBank was first named to the list in 2011.

“We’re very pleased to have earned this distinction,” said Robert B. Engel, CoBank’s chief executive officer. “Financial strength and stability is something all our customers look for when choosing a banking partner. We greatly value the trust our customers place in us, and it is essential that we continue to deliver exceptional value to them while maintaining a strong financial foundation for the long term.”

The ranking will be published in the November issue of Global Finance. Further information is available at the magazine’s web site at

CoBanks Joins USDA in New Public-Private Partnership Focused on Rural Infrastructure Investment

July 24, 2014 – CoBank, a cooperative bank serving agribusinesses, rural infrastructure providers and Farm Credit associations throughout the United States, announced today that it has joined with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the formation of a new public-private partnership focused on infrastructure investment in rural America.

The new “U.S. Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund” will serve as a source of private-sector capital to partner with USDA on wide variety of infrastructure projects in rural communities. CoBank will act as anchor investor and has committed $10 billion of balance sheet capacity to co-lend with the fund.

The fund was formally launched today in Washington, D.C. at a White House event focused on rural economic development featuring U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This fund represents a new approach to our support for job

creating projects across the country,” Vilsack said. “USDA and other agencies invest in infrastructure through a variety of federal initiatives, but our resources are finite and there are backlogs of projects in many parts of the economy. We know where investment opportunities exist, so we are in a position to help promote these projects among investors. With new efforts like this we can move beyond existing programs and help encourage substantial private investment in projects that grow the economy and improve quality of life for millions of Americans.”

“We’re extremely pleased to join with USDA in this important initiative,” said Robert B. Engel, CoBank’s chief executive officer. “It will enhance access to capital for a wide array of vital infrastructure projects around the country and speed up the process of rural infrastructure improvements. It is completely aligned with our mission of service to rural America, and we believe it represents a meaningful long-term growth opportunity for CoBank and our partner organizations in the Farm Credit System. We look forward to seeing the benefits the fund will deliver to rural communities.”

CoBank’s co-investments with the fund are designed to complement existing government loan and grant programs. The fund’s investment activities will include:

Recruiting new sources of private capital to support rural infrastructure projects;
Serving as a co-lender for borrowers financing projects where the government’s program limits or resource constraints warrant the fund’s involvement; and,
Private lending in support of projects capable of meeting market terms.


“The continued success of the U.S. rural economy and the improvement of rural communities depend on the strength of our infrastructure,” Engel said. “To remain competitive, we must develop innovative financing strategies that will ensure infrastructure investment keeps pace with the needs of agriculture and other key rural industries. We strongly believe this public-private partnership will facilitate the flow of capital to deserving projects and promote the health of rural America.”

About CoBank
CoBank is a $102 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation’s rural economy. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

For more information about CoBank, visit the bank’s web site at

Fresno Grizzlies Partner With Farm Credit

Through the multi-faceted partnership, which covers the 2014, 2015, and 2016 baseball seasons, Farm Credit will sponsor the Grizzlies’ Farm Grown Friday home games and participate in both Farm Grown magazine and Grizzlies Community Fund (GCF) initiatives – including the Farm Grown program. Farm Grown, which was implemented in April 2012, provides agricultural awareness, while strengthening knowledge of the farming tradition in the Central San Joaquin Valley.

“Farm Credit recognizes the critical role that agriculture plays in our communities,” said Keith Hesterberg, president and chief executive officer, Fresno Madera Farm Credit. “From the food they grow to the jobs they create, farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses are constantly striving to create value and opportunity and to give back to the communities they serve. That’s why we’re proud to join the Fresno Grizzlies in their efforts to recognize these agriculturists and to amplify their contributions through charitable outreach. Just like the Grizzlies, we are proud to be Farm Grown.”

The partnership involves four California-based Farm Credit associations as well as Denver-based CoBank, which serves agricultural cooperatives throughout the state. Participating associations include American AgCredit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit and Golden State Farm Credit.

“This partnership certainly brings to light the vital role Farm Credit plays in providing financial support to the Central Valley agriculture and farming industry,” stated Fresno Grizzlies Director of Corporate Partnerships/Community Fund Jerry James. “It will also expand awareness of the Farm Grown program to the industry beyond the Central San Joaquin Valley, increasing our ability to promote agriculture and farming sustainability here at the stadium and in surrounding communities.”


Established in 2012, the Grizzlies Community Fund’s (GCF) Farm Grown program promotes the agricultural heritage and philanthropic vitality of the Central San Joaquin Valley through the building of meaningful partnerships in support of education and healthy living. Farm Grown has been a central component to the GCF’s Wild About Reading program, in which 100,000 students annually receive a Farm Grown magazine that serves as a call to action for reading outside of the classroom.

Farm Credit Associations Pledge $100,000 To California Farm Communities to Support Areas Impacted by Drought

CoBank and seven affiliated Farm Credit associations that serve California’s agricultural sector announced today that they have committed $100,000 to alleviate hunger in drought-stricken farm communities throughout the state. The associations together pledged $50,000, which CoBank matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

The seven organizations are American AgCredit, Farm Credit Services of Colusa-Glenn, Farm Credit Services Southwest, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit. Together, these lenders serve as the single largest source of loans and financial services for California’s agricultural economy, including farmers, ranchers, growers and agribusiness cooperatives.

Funds from the joint contribution will be directed to food banks in rural areas hurt by the historic drought, which has idled thousands of acres of farmland and left many farm workers unemployed.

“One of the many downside impacts of the drought has been increased food insecurity for the labor force that California agriculture depends on to be successful,” said Robert B. Engel, chief executive officer of CoBank. “We hope this contribution by the Farm Credit organizations that serve the state will make a meaningful impact and help to reduce the level hardship for farm workers.”

“We’re enormously grateful for this contribution,” said Andy Souza, president and CEO of Community Food Bank in Fresno, one of the food banks that will receive funds from the Farm Credit contribution. “California’s farm communities literally put food on the table for the entire nation. I commend Farm Credit for recognizing the importance of farm workers to the success of the state’s agricultural economy and stepping forward to help out people in need.”

The Farm Credit System is a nationwide network of banks and lending associations that provide loans, leases and other financial services to agriculture and other rural industries. Farm Credit institutions are cooperatively owned by the farmers, ranchers, growers, cooperatives and other borrowers they serve, and governed by boards elected by their customer-owners. CoBank and the seven Farm Credit associations serving California have aggregate loan portfolio totaling more than $17 billion and finance every sector of agriculture in the state, including citrus, nuts, vegetables, cotton, rice, livestock, wine and timber.

About Farm Credit

For nearly a century, Farm Credit has been a national provider of credit and related services to rural America through its cooperative network of customer-owned lending institutions. Farm Credit provides nearly $200 billion in loans and leases to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, aquatic producers, timber harvesters, agribusinesses, and agricultural and rural utility cooperatives. For more information about the Farm Credit System, please visit

Small and Ethnic Farmer Tour Project

University of California, Davis

Program links new farmers with produce distributers

It’s not easy to find markets for your produce when you’re an immigrant farmer or someone new to farming. You can sell your crops at fruit stands or farmers markets, but you may not have the contacts or even the language skills and cultural customs to connect with large-scale produce distributors.

Meanwhile, in restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hospitals and corporate lunchrooms across the state, buyers are clamoring for locally grown food.

“The demand for local, sustainable food is large and increasing,” said Gail Feenstra, food systems coordinator for the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at the University of California, Davis. “Distributors can’t find enough locally grown produce to meet the need.”

But that’s changing, thanks to a new Small and Ethnic Farmer Market Tour Project which introduces small farmers to conventional distributors interested in offering a line of locally grown food. The project is run by the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) and funded by CoBank, Farm Credit West, American AgCredit, and newly added Fresno-Madera Farm Credit along with Farm Credit Services of Colusa-Glenn.

The tours work like this: Farm advisors and Cooperative Extension specialists identify the small, specialty-crop growers in their areas, many of whom are Hmong, Mien and Latino. The growers climb aboard a bus along with tour leaders like Feenstra and David Visher, an analyst with UC SAREP.

“We have translators on board, too, if needed,” Feenstra said. “We drive to terminal markets, produce houses or processing facilities where growers meet face-to-face with distributors who explain their produce needs.”

SAREP hosted two successful tours in fall, 2013 to a group of 46 farmers who grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and field crops.  Tour participants spoke English, Chinese, and Spanish, and translators worked for 15 hours to ensure that each participant understood all the information shared. Farmers were able to learn about purchasing criteria from a number of different buyers and establish contacts with them.

The success of the tours was evident in the weeks to follow. Several farmers reported back that they connected directly with produce buyers and even sold much of their upcoming harvests as a result of the contacts made.

“Workshops and field days are great education tools, but nothing makes markets happen as well as simply introducing a willing seller to a willing buyer and then stepping out of the way,” Visher said. “We help growers tell their stories and make good-value propositions to buyers, but it’s really up to these business people to make their own deals.”

In thank you notes following the tour, farmers gave overwhelmingly positive feedback to the tours.

“The trip has been encouraging,” said Emma Torbert. “I currently sell to markets in my area, but am interested in expanding. Today, I got the impression that there is a lot of demand.”

“Invaluable connections were made and key information was imparted to all the growers,” said another farmer on the tour. “This will increase the market channels for small growers and help secure economic viability of small growers.  Supporting this type of essential bus tour is testament to your commitment to the sustainability of California Agriculture.”

Over half of the tour’s participants have since signed up for individual consultations with Visher to continue to refine their marketing strategies.  The consultations help farmers create an action plan for selling their crops and prepare a farm profile — a flyer that explains who they are and what they grow.

“We’ve been getting good responses from the promotional flyer David (Visher) helped us prepare for our avocado ranch,” said Los Angeles area farmer Steve Bailey. “Thanks to the contacts and advice, we’ve started selling to local restaurants.”

“We’re always on the lookout for new sources of organic produce and local farms,” said David Weinstein, sales manager at Heath & Lejeune, Inc., a certified organic wholesaler in Commerce, Calif. “Our firm knows firsthand that some of these small farmers will become important suppliers in the future and it is in our interest to help them know how to do business at our level.”

Following the tours, each produce buyer requested contact information for the full list of grower participants, opening doors for those conversations to develop into business relationships.

CoBank and the Farm Credit partners say they are happy to help.

“Local food initiatives prove that the food we eat can do more than nourish our bodies,” said Leili Ghazi, Western Region president of CoBank. “They can strengthen and support our communities and create tremendous economic opportunities. The challenge has always been connecting the right people and businesses at the right time. CoBank and our Farm Credit partners are so pleased to support UC Davis in its efforts to help introduce the region’s small, ethnic farmers to those who can truly help them grow their business.”

In response to the success of the 2013 tours, Fresno-Madera Farm Credit has joined with CoBank, Farm Credit West, American AgCredit, and Farm Credit Services of Colusa-Glenn —to expand the workshops to other regions of California.

The tours, dubbed “workshops on wheels” by many social media users, received excellent press coverage including a front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Daily Democrat, Capital Press, AgAlert,Valley Public Radio, Farms Reach, the California Farm Bureau Newsletter, and a news segment by Fox 40 in Sacramento.

To learn more about project and how you can participate, contact Visher at (530) 758-2429,


American AgCredit Supports Multicultural Scholars in Agricultulre

American AgCredit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit and CoBank have teamed up to support the Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture program in the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. Through this program, Fresno State agriculture students mentor middle and high school students interested in pursuing careers in agriculture, science or technology. In return for their service, Fresno State students receive scholarships of up to $5,000.

Together, the four Farm Credit System entities have committed nearly $200,000 which will be matched by a Title V-HSI grant, through the U.S. Department of Education.

“The future of the health and economic vitality of the Central Valley depends upon ensuring professional development opportunities for all residents, including students from diverse backgrounds,” said Dr. Charles Boyer, Dean of the Jordan College. “This support helps Fresno State continue to develop and train future agricultural leaders of all backgrounds.”

American AgCredit, Farm Credit West and Fresno Madera Farm Credit are all Farm Credit associations serving farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers throughout California. Denver-based CoBank provides financial services to agricultural cooperatives across the state and also serves as the wholesale funding bank for the three associations.

A joint statement issued by the three California associations praises the Jordan College program. “Multicultural Scholars in Agriculture is a tremendous program that will create opportunities for generations of agricultural students. College-age students will gain valuable leadership skills as they pursue their education, and middle and high school students from all walks of life will learn about the many opportunities our industry can offer them.  As California-based members of the Farm Credit System, we are pleased to partner with Fresno State and CoBank to support this important program.”

Leili Ghazi, western region president for CoBank, noted that CoBank’s portion of the gift is part of a broader, $5 million fund the bank created to support agricultural research and education at leading universities across the country. In addition to Fresno State, the University of California-Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are also receiving support through the CoBank fund.

“One of the best ways for CoBank to return value to rural America is by giving to academic institutions that are engaged in agricultural research and training the next generation of rural business and civic leaders,” Ghazi said. “We’re extremely pleased to be able to support Fresno State in this manner and look forward to seeing the benefits of this exciting scholarship initiative.”

The Jordan College offers students a comprehensive, hands-on educational experience. Students in traditional areas of agriculture train on Fresno State’s 1,100 acre farm laboratory in animal sciences, plant science, agricultural education, viticulture and agricultural business. The college also offers programs uniquely related to agriculture including nutrition and dietetics, food science, enology, child development, family science, fashion merchandising and industrial technology.