Agri-Access at 20 years: Championing agriculture through innovative lending solutions for banks

Twenty years is a significant milestone for any business. Since establishing in 2003, Agri-Access has helped hundreds of lenders provide feasible financing for farmers and growers across the U.S.

We do this by offering participation loans calibrated for the needs of agriculture. Farmers need financing to expand their operations at terms that protect their working capital. We’re proud of our legacy of bridging that gap, enabling banks and other financial institutions to offer those extended loan terms and balance the risk through collaboration. Together, we’re positioning farms, ranches, dairies and orchards for growth, so they can meet global food needs in the decades to come.

To mark 20 years in the business, we’ll share a bit about our history, how we’ve evolved and our future in participation lending.

History of Agri-Access: How it started

Agri-Access was established in 2003 in the heart of corn country, with the aim of providing a means for lending partners to collaborate in ag finance. It initially started as a concept to work with lending partners on leasing products. But the team quickly discovered what lenders really want: a means to provide longer-term fixed rate financing for agricultural loans.

Joining forces with a community bank in a participation loan, Agri-Access helped finance a farmer’s real estate transaction. A year later, we opened our headquarters in Johnson, Iowa.

“It really took off from there,” says Chad Steele, who was with Agri-Access at its inception, serving as its managing director since 2018. “We work with partners throughout the country to find additional funding opportunities to better serve our lending partners, farmers and ranchers. We’ve continued to build upon valuable opportunities to work in correlation with these lending partners to provide more opportunities for their clients.”

We chalk up our success to the fact that we’re dedicated to helping lenders and producers succeed in the challenging and ever-shifting ag market conditions.

“It has been tough to compete in a rising rate environment,” says a vice president at an Iowa financial organization. “Agri-Access made several underwriting enhancements to keep the flow of new deals rolling.”

Another lending partner tells us they appreciate “the ease of booking loans and the margins a lender can retain. Agri-Access allows a lender to be competitive in the longer rate market.”

“We find the products and service to be excellent,” another lending partner responded. “The conversion option for loans is an excellent tool in this rate environment.”

As we expanded our services to other ag-producing states, we made it a priority to establish a physical presence across these districts to build our expertise and establish trust. That’s important to us because each ag region boasts its unique crop of ag products — apple orchards in Washington state, beef cattle in Texas and Oklahoma, corn and beans in the Midwest and lobster and blueberries in Maine. Each area demands its unique set of lending requirements, cyclical challenges and opportunities for expansion.

“We’ve grown that expertise to really cover the entire ag industry, all commodities up and down the food supply chain,” says Brandon Lytle, VP of Institutional Lending at Agri-Access.

Getting to the why: Our vision and mission, then and now

Over the past two decades, our mission has centered around “enriching agriculture and rural America.”

“Agri-Access is a relationship business,” Lytle says. “Everyone here cares deeply about agriculture and our view on helping the end client, the actual producer, is everyone’s number one goal. Going forward, we’ll continue to develop new products that serve the ag producer.”

Our solutions make a big difference in getting things done. That gets to the root of what we care about: Making an impact in the future success of agriculture and rural communities. To us, our mission and our services provide a powerful way to advocate for agriculture.

Our difference: The evolution of Scorecard

From the start, we wanted to counter the stigma that participation loans add time and complexity, creating confusion for everyone involved. So we quickly set out to create a smooth and painless lending experience that would also enhance your loan service offering.

“Over the last 20 years, Agri-Access has been foundational in providing funding opportunities that can help meet the changing dynamics of agriculture,” says Steele.

That’s where Scorecard comes in. For two decades, Scorecard has been our key product and differentiator. With this unique program, lenders and their ag borrowers get answers quickly — today, these answers arrive in 48 hours or less.

“Our digital online application has been tremendous and has received the most amount of praise from lenders,” says Adam Sperfslage, Product Owner of the Lender Portal. “It has helped get our lending partners closer to a real-time credit decision.”

With a simple application, lenders can determine eligibility and secure financing minus the time-consuming hassle of review and underwriting.

Over the years, the value and potential of Scorecard has grown exponentially, as the loan amounts and LTVs have expanded.

“In 2003, Agri-Access would score up to $300,000 in commitment with the limits expanded to our current maximum of $4 million. The LTVs vary by loan size, but extend up to 75% for smaller transactions,” says Steele.

Bolstering value to lenders with expanded products and services

Over the two decades, we kept listening to our lending partners, creating multiple services to streamline ag lending services.

The Lender Portal: Our intuitive platform is your one-stop shop to initiate, close and monitor any participation loan with Agri-Access. We also provide a library of support and resources.

Streamlined appraisals: Save valuable time with our services and programs that connect you with professional appraisers with options that expedite the process.

Leasing: Whether the borrower is looking to add a grain bin or a new facility, we provide a seamless, convenient path to ownership through lease agreements.

Alternative crops and rare commodities: We support innovation by providing the research and resources, helping underwriters evaluate the viability of a new commodity.

Land development loans: We conduct an in-depth analysis of permanent plantings (fruit orchards and vineyards) to assess the risk of these speculative investments.

Champions of agriculture: The power of advocacy

Everything we do and stand for is focused on advocating for agriculture. Many of us have agriculture roots, whether we grew up on the family farm or in an ag-centered community.

“I’ve been in Ag my whole life,” says Chad Brown, relationship manager at Agri-Access. “I started working on a farm at a young age. I’ve had the dirt under my fingers and also know how to run the numbers.”

We champion agriculture and rural America through our lending solutions. We make agricultural loans more accessible to producers through extended terms at less risk to lenders. This alone contributes to the ongoing success of farmers and the surrounding rural communities.

We also champion agriculture by leading the discussion about agricultural issues that ag producers face, with the aim of helping lenders understand the landscape of ag markets and the role of financing solutions. Our webinars, blogs and social media discussions cover everything from weather patterns to pork markets to succession planning.

“Agri-Access’s advocacy for rural America is core to who we are,” Lytle says. “It’s core to our vision and our priorities. It’s something that we talk about every single day. We’re going to continue to make sure that the producer is heard, and we’re also going to find new ways to do business and provide capital so that operations can grow, be successful, and ultimately produce food to feed America.”

Meeting the future of agriculture with innovation 

With the increased demands on our food supplies and increased productivity, there will be no shortage of opportunity for expansion and innovation.

The future of farming is big. How will you provide the capital solutions that set farmers on the path for growth? The way we see it, participation lending will be a critical part of financing the future generation of ag.

“The definition of the farmer is changing, and I think that’s really exciting that we can serve all aspects of that market,” says Sperfslage.

Agri-Access has the team of experts to help your borrowers convert their vision into reality. As the landscape of ag production continues to evolve, we’ll continue to expand our impact in digital lending and ag services to meet the needs of farmers and financing partners.

“We’re going into a more digital age, so we need to be able to meet our clients’ needs in that area, but not give up on the things that have made us successful in the past,” says Lytle. “That’s the relationship, that’s providing a good service and maintaining our focus on rural America and the producer.”

The value of partnership: Helping ag thrive

As a secondary lender, the value of a partnership with Agri-Access extends beyond the capital we offer to reduce your risk.

We bolster your lending services with fast answers from Scorecard, along with our full suite of leasing services, all designed specifically for agriculture. Our specialty is ag financing, so you get the depth and expertise you seek when making your lending decisions, at terms designed to protect the borrower’s working capital.

Learn about our participation loan offerings, and reach out to a relationship manager any time to get started.

Let’s discuss how we can expand your ag lending power.