Watching Out for Fair Weather Lenders!

Recently, I heard about a couple of banks who were anxious to start lending to dairy operations again. This seems odd, yet fitting, since they both could be described as “Fair Weather Lenders,” who give you an umbrella when the sun is shining and take it away as soon as it starts raining. They were both lenders who had clearly exited the industry during the past three years. In fact, in one bank’s case, they had inflicted lot of “pain” on their borrowers by making changes in their lending terms which, while they may have been beneficial over the long term, certainly were next to impossible to meet in the short term.

As a result, many producers were faced with lower herd values and tighter advance rates against their herd and feed assets, forcing them to be out of compliance. Then came the heartless “workout guys” with their weekly demands for additional reporting and a “plan” for the borrower’s exit strategy, either from the bank or, if necessary, from the dairy industry. When the “Goon Squads” were done with most borrowers in these situations, they were more than happy to leave this lending institution behind and go elsewhere.

The problem with “Fair Weather Lenders” is that, when you need them the most, they won’t be there for you. On the contrary, they will tighten the terms of your current agreement, either by bank-wide fiat or at your next loan renewal or extension. Rather than “riding through the storm” with you, they start making additional demands of you when you can least afford to be without credit. As a result, you get “painted into a corner” with very few options to fall back on. 

If you get approached by marketing people or loan officers from this type of bank, they will be quick to point out that their bank’s prior decision to exit the dairy industry (or any industry, for that matter) was not theirs. Rather, it was mandated from senior officials of the bank, based upon their stock’s performance, shareholder value, trends in the industry or who knows what. All of that may be true, but what is to stop this same thing from happening again during the next industry downturn?

Management guru Peter Drucker, in his book entitled The Daily Drucker stated, “Character is not something one can fool people about… They may forgive a person for a great deal: incompetence, ignorance, insecurity, or bad manners. But they will not forgive a lack of integrity in that person.” Blaming the “people upstairs” is not a very good example of either integrity or positive leadership. I want to know that my Loan Officer is going to be there for me when I need his or her assistance.

What’s the best response to have ready when the Fair Weather Lenders come calling? I suggest that you ask them how many dairy operations they “shut down” from 2009-2013. Also, you can ask them if you can talk to some of their borrowers who they stayed with during the same downturn. If they can’t or won’t answer those two questions for you, your time and efforts would definitely be better spent on managing your operation, because you have probably just met a Fair Weather Lender!

If you would like to learn more about building your banking relationships, check out the section entitled “Help for Dairy Farmers – Dairy Farm Loans” on my website at I hope you find my articles helpful!