MOHICANVILLE, Ohio — The Wooster and Millersburg offices of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America welcomed a special guest to the annual customer appreciation reception held the evening of July 28.
Bill Johnson, the new president of the 17 billion dollar ag lending cooperative, spoke to a room full of guests at Mohican Gardens in Ashland County.
Johnson has worked for farm credit for 28 years and also has connections through his father and father-in-law. He previously was executive vice president of business services for AgriBank of St. Paul. He replaces former president Donnie Winters, who retired after a 40-year career with FCS.
He said he looks forward to working with customers and putting more emphasis on customer interaction through farm visits.
“We’re going to put a lot of emphasis back on training,” he said. “We’re going to work to make sure that we have the right people in the right places so that we can continue to be here from this generation to the next, and to remain strong for you as a financial cooperative.”
The organization serves farmers in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. Johnson said FCS is in good financial standing, and he wants to maintain its strength by focussing on good business fundamentals, and the people FCS serves.
As the result of several good years, FCS recently sent letters to farmers informing them their interest rates on existing loans were being reduced. The savings to customers amounted to $43 million.
“No one is to be thanked for that besides yourselves as the members and for the operations that you run,” said Bill Patterson, the Ohio FCS director.
Johnson said his biggest goal is focussing on the next few years, especially the next five to ten.
In that time, he expects as many as 25 percent of FCS staff will be retiring, bringing new opportunity to youth in all of the states FCS serves, including internships for college students.
He also sees a need to connect with all generations of farmers, to help serve farms that may be changing ownership. With the average FCS customer in his or her 50s, there’s a definite need to work with younger farmers who will become the next owners.
“We want to make sure that we’re growing along with our customers and also working with that next generation,” he said. “We see it as a challenge, and we see it as a great opportunity, too.”
The organization has 92 locations in the four states. Since becoming president in the spring, Johnson has been traveling to various FCS locations and meeting with staff. He said it’s a good company for college students to work for, because they can be close to agriculture, and also advance their career.
Several honors were presented during the reception. Isaac Kauffman of Wayne County was awarded an FCS scholarship. His parents are Jeff and Nancy Kauffman of Wooster, and he is studying ag systems management at Ohio State University.
The heritage award went to the Hi Hills Farm of Glenmont, Ohio, owned by Don and Pat Stitzlein. The Stitzleins milk about 675 cows with the help of three generations of family.
The stewardship fund was valued at $3,000 and went to the Ashland County Fairgrounds, to support a sheep barn project.