Ag innovation and ag banking are nuanced, ever-evolving worlds. As the ninth-largest agriculture lender in the United States, Bremer Bank says it has gone “all in” on investing in agriculture.
Marc Schober, director of specialized agriculture solutions at Bremer Bank, is leading the charge to ensure the bank is poised to help farmers and ag operations of all sizes prepare for an often-uncertain future. Having grown up on an 80- acre farm in southeastern Wisconsin, surrounded by rolling fields and the farmers and crops that filled them, it seemed inevitable that Marc would devote his career to agriculture. But it wasn’t just the exposure to agriculture that drew Marc so strongly to the industry. He was drawn to the authentic nature of it all, and admired the genuine, salt-of-the-earth disposition of the farmers and ranchers he knew.
At Bremer, he identifies opportunities, services and solutions to better serve farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses in new and better ways as an agriculture thought leader. Put otherwise, Marc helps ag bankers have the best, most updated toolkit possible so that their work with agriculture customers is high-quality, effective and efficient.
Below are Marc’s four key takeaways of emerging themes in these spaces that have the potential to change the way we navigate them – themes that he says Bremer will continue to be on the forefront of in the coming years.
In Marc’s words:
Carbon Credits and The New Administration
While Europe and Canada both have some form of a carbon market currently in place, the U.S. is still figuring out a path of its own. There are various forms this could take, particularly at the intersection of carbon credits and agriculture, that make a carbon market in the U.S. a very real possibility.
Opportunities for farmers and growers to capture additional yearly revenue by providing carbon sequestration data throughout their growing seasons are not far off. For example, Land O’Lakes recently launched a similar program in partnership with Microsoft that financially reimburses farmers for their carbon.
This is a promising example of the directions we should continue to explore. The biggest challenges include finding a quantifiable way to demonstrate the amount of “locked up” carbon below the surface, and understanding that different farming regions across the country will need tailored solutions that accommodate each unique climate and growing season.
There is also a lot of exciting, cutting-edge technology happening behind the scenes. Certain forms of soil testing and drone imagery can now link up to farm management software that calculates a farm’s estimated carbon emissions through a specialized algorithm. Ten years ago, most farmers in the U.S. were net carbon producers. Now, with new technology and more efficient field machinery, goals center around getting farmers to be net negative on carbon. It is amazing to look back on how far we have come in such a short time.
Carbon credits in agriculture is a space in need of more industry definition, but there are a lot of great opportunities to do so in the future. Bremer Bank is committed to continuing to explore options in this area that help farmers net negative on carbon in an accessible, convenient way.
Incentivizing Green Programs
It is forecast under the Biden administration that there will be a new green incentive program created through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) soon. This will be one of, if not the largest, pushes towards green program incentivization in history.
As the USDA develops and rolls out new green programming, it is absolutely the job of an ag banker to be aware of these new opportunities and understand how they may fit into a farmer or rancher’s operations.
Bremer’s agricultural banking team makes it a point to be consistently up to date on new green farming programming to ensure we are equipped to help farmers and operators understand what options are available and most conducive to their operation’s success.
Ag Tech Solutions Feed a Real Time Financial Picture
One trend we are seeing our most adaptable farmers tap into has been ag tech – specifically, ag tech that can deliver real- time financials so farmers
know exactly what their critical break-even costs are every single day. This technology has been groundbreaking in maximizing farmer/rancher efficiency and ensuring no time or resource goes to waste. It has the capacity to layer in the cost of producing a crop or commodity and to reflect real-time sales data for the item.
The result is an accurate portrayal of the market that considers the unique financial picture of each producer. The break-even number helps farmers make informed financial decisions, making it easier and faster to intelligently adapt when unanticipated challenges crop up – like a pest infestation.
There is great interest in this type of financial ag tech, even in its current early state. While there are already a handful of talented frontrunners in this space, every day we are seeing new innovations pop up. The most exciting part? This impressive technology is being created by people with hands-on agriculture experience who know what producers need to continue building their thriving farms.
Ag tech is the future. It is also a great way for farmers to save money and rest easy when making quick and unexpected financial decisions – the perfect pairing with our team of ag experts at Bremer Bank, who work with agriculture customers every day in making positive, intentional investments in their futures.
Ag Tech and Banks: How They are Partnering for The Future
One of my responsibilities at Bremer Bank is to immerse myself in anything new that has to do with agriculture.
New trends often overlap with innovation and future ag tech solutions. If these innovative, tech-based solutions can increase farmer-customer profitability while decreasing their bank risk, our agriculture team is interested in it. The exciting part is that there are a lot of amazing solutions out there. From farm and livestock management software to data collection and crop insurance solutions, there is no shortage of fresh, cutting-edge problem-solving going on in the agriculture banking world.
While regional banks like Bremer can continue to support their agriculture customers on a case-by-case basis in finding personalized solutions to individual financial questions, I do see future opportunities for banks to partner with companies on real-time financial software to help roll out their operations- changing technology to more customers. This would make it possible for more farmers/ ranchers to access valuable tools, become more familiar with their micro-level financials, and implement real-time solutions to ensure their operations can truly flourish.