Home » MBJ FEATURE » BREAKING GROUND — Mississippi Land Bank sees growth in rural lending

BREAKING GROUND — Mississippi Land Bank sees growth in rural lending

Corn-Planter_rgbBusiness has been booming at Mississippi Land Bank, the 90-plus-year-old financial services provider whose staff specializes in lending for rural living and agricultural customers across the northern part of the state.

Mississippi Land Bank is a private cooperative, owned by its borrowers through the purchase of stock. the amount of stock is determined by the size of the loan. Stockholders receive an annual dividend based on the profitability of the Association. From 2004 through 2009, Mississippi Land Bank has returned $15,052,995 to its member-borrowers.

The bank makes loans to buy land, refinance mortgages and other debts, build homes, make property improvements, construct or improve agribusiness facilities, and purchase equipment. It is supervised by a board of directors elected by the borrowers of the association

“The last several years for us have been record years as far as growth in loans, said Ben Beavers, vice president and branch manager of the Mississippi Land Bank’s Tupelo office. “Loan growth remained steady while loan volume increased. Business has been great.”

The bank is part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, created by Congress nearly 100 years ago to help farmers get loans. It is affiliated with the Farm Credit Bank of Texas, in Austin, Texas. The Farm Credit Bank provides funding for the association by selling bonds to investors in the nation’s money markets.

Mississippi Land Bank is headquartered in Senatobia and has offices in Clarksdale, Cleveland, Corinth, Indianola, Kosciusko, Louisville, New Albany, Starkville and Tupelo. “We serve 32 counties, from the Alabama line to the Mississippi River and up to the Tennessee line,” Beavers said. His office covers seven of the counties.

“Our territory is very diverse,” Beavers said. “It stretches from the Delta to the Hill section of Mississippi.” The banks offer loans to rural customers who want to plant crops or build a cabin in the country. “We can make loans to folks in any state in the United States,” he said. “It’s all based on where the borrower lives. If you live in one of our 32 counties, we can help you buy land pretty much anywhere.”

Because of a combination of factors, crop land is in high demand and so is the demand for land suitable for hunting and other recreational activities.

“The overall health of the state of agriculture in Mississippi has been tremendous in the last five years in particular with good commodity prices, favorable weather and growing conditions,” Beavers said. “We’re seeing record prices on farm land in our area. The demand for what we call recreational investment type properties and timber tracts is steady. Business has been great.”

Because the market is strong, Beavers said, if land is suitable for growing a crop or raising cattle, it’s been utilized. “The way the market and commodity prices have been, there are a lot of folks who have plowed up pastures and turned it into farm lands. Cattle prices are at an all time high so you’ve got all available pastures being used for cattle production. Agriculture is the number one industry in the state so it’s been good the last few years for all our farmers in Mississippi.”

Beavers said Mississippi Land Bank gives customers specialized, local services. “We feel we have the best rates and terms available,” he said.

“This is what we do day in and day out as an agricultural lender. Our knowledge of agriculture and land in general sets us apart from a commercial lender.”

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