To learn the story of Agri-Access, just talk to Don Slagle. Now the Director of Business Development for the Midwest states, he’s been with Agri-Access since its earliest days in 2003. Over 17 years he’s seen it grow from its early stages to an impressive loan volume of around 3 billion dollars.
“I’ve seen [Agri-Access] through the highs and the lows,” Don reflected during a recent interview. “It is rewarding to see everything we’ve been through.”
The Early Days
For the first 10 years, Agri-Access operated without any marketing. Instead, the program relied heavily on Don’s established contacts. He worked as a Relationship Manager, signing up banks and lenders across the country. During that time he formed strong bonds with clients, knowing that good relationships are the foundation of future success.
Focusing On The Midwest
In the past two and a half years, Don has narrowed his focus on the Midwest states. The regional commodities his team works with include:
- Sugar beets
“I have three Relationship Managers that report to me. Two live in Minnesota, and one lives in central Iowa,” Don explained. Together they cover Ohio, through the corn belt, Kansas, Missouri, and up through the Dakotas into Minnesota and Wisconsin. Don uses his deep expertise in agricultural lending to help his staff make connections with new banks and lenders throughout the region.
On top of all that, Don still personally manages two of the largest accounts at Agri-Access. He’s been with those accounts for 17 years, since the inception of the program. Once again, longevity has come down to maintaining quality relationships with his clients.
Looking To The Future
When asked about the future of agricultural financing, Don sees change on the horizon. Some of that change is already afoot.
“There’s a lot of people entering the market in the last 24 months. We’re seeing an interest like we haven’t seen before,” he said. This growth is driven by the demand for non-regulated debt, as well as the development of digital products and services. “The average age of a farmer is starting to turn a little bit and transition. [The new generation] is looking at things differently.”
Still, Don sees a continued demand for the community bank model that has been so successful in the past. Banks need partnerships to keep up with local demands. Farmers are looking for more services, including longer fixed rates, and partnerships are fundamental to making those services possible.
The Secret To Agri-Access Success
When asked about what has worked so well for Agri-Access, Don’s answer is simple. “Nine times out of 10, [clients] do business with us because they like us.” Going forward, the program will guide lenders on delivering Agri-Access products in innovative ways. But there really isn’t a secret to success. It always comes down to the same core principles: competitive pricing and excellent service.