Congressman Ryan Costello goes to bat for farmers
Every night at 9, Tom Krall rousts himself for the walk from his farm to an adjoining dairy farm owned by his son, Joel, where he spends the next four hours milking 170 cows.
It’s a labor of love that is typical of farming life. And the last of three milkings the cows get each day.
But soon — by the end of the year if all goes according to plan — Tom Krall may be able to sleep through the night, thanks to a recent loan his son arranged with MidAtlantic Farm Credit to help pay for the construction of a more efficient milking parlor.
On Thursday morning, the Kralls, including Joel's wife, Christine, and their three young children, welcomed Congressman Ryan Costello (R-6) and officials from Farm Credit to give them a tour of their Furnace Hill Holstein farm at 480 Schaeffer Road in South Lebanon Township.
MidAtlantic Farm Credit has been an essential partner in Joel Krall’s professional farming life.
After graduating from Penn State with a degree in agriculture, Krall purchased half of the family farm from his parents about 10 years ago. That was the first time he turned to MidAtlantic Farm Credit, which loaned him money to purchase 100 Holstein cows, and to build a new barn and silo.
As the group toured the 75-acre farm, hammering and other sounds of construction could be heard from the workers building the new milking parlor. When it’s finished, it will allow about 250 cows to be milked during a total of eight hours during the day, instead of the 12-plus hours is currently takes to milk 170, Krall said.
“We’ve been batting around the idea of building one for a long time,” he said. “You are looking at a $750,000 investment to save four to six hours of milking time a day.”
By giving him a 10-year, fixed-rate loan at today’s low interest rates, MidAtlantic Farm Credit was able to help Krall make the decision to invest in the farm for his family’s future.
The Farm Credit System was established when the U.S. Congress passed the Farm Loan Act of 1916, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary of helping farmers invest in their properties by lending them money to purchase land and equipment, and build new facilities.
The anniversary was commemorated by Costello who presented a certificate of recognition to MidAtlantic Farm Credit officials, including Dale Hershey, a board member and local farmer, loan officer Darin Miller and government affairs officer Kurt Fuchs.
“I think it is important that families across Lebanon County who don’t farm know that there is a Farm Credit program that works and is working, and government does have a role in it,” Costello said.
MidAtlantic Farm Credit is different than other institutions, explained Fuchs, because it is essentially farmers helping farmers, through a system called patronage in which about 60 percent of profits are given back to its farming members.
“We are a limited cooperative,” he said. “The earnings and profits that the association earns in a given year, the board of directors looks at to decide what we can retain and what can we give back to our cooperative borrower-owners.”
The system is needed to protect farmers and give them the security to grow, said Costello, who recently added his name to a congressional letter sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to help protect dairy farmers who are suffering from prices that have dropped 40 percent in the past two years.
“It is critically important that there is access to capital, and that those lending the capital have a deep appreciation and understanding for what the challenges of farming are,” he said. “And also making sure that when farmers are accessing credit that they are making smart investments. So that relationship, that co-op nature of Farm Credit is extremely critical.”
Despite the pressures on dairy farmers and his current 100-hour work weeks, Krall said he has confidence in the future of agriculture and his farm, which he hopes to pass on to his children.
”I’m really optimistic about ag, just because everybody needs to eat every day,” he said. “I think we can continue to get more efficient, and I think we can be competitive on an international basis, as long regulations don't get too out of hand.”
Krall’s father feels the same way.
“We are looking to our congressmen to help us to continue to use technology, food technology, such as GMOs (genetically modified organism), so we can compete on a world basis,” Tom Krall said. “We don’t want a hand out of money, because money only lasts so long. We want to compete. We want a level playing field to be able to compete on a world basis, because it is competitive.”