SACRAMENTO, SEPT. 1 -- Directors of the strapped federal Farm Credit System today unveiled a plan to streamline its operations and cut costs in hopes of winning approval from Congress for a bailout loan.
The plan hammered out at a four-day meeting would, through mergers, reduce the country's 12 farm credit districts to six. It also calls for merger of Federal Land Banks and Federal Intermediate Credit Banks.
The 80 directors from the 12 districts worked out the restructuring under pressure from Congress. The Farm Credit System, the country's largest source of agricultural loans, has asked Congress for $6 billion to help it ride out a crisis brought on by depressed crop prices and the declining value of farm land.
The House Agriculture Committee approved a bill to bail out the system. However, the bill was amended Aug. 6 by Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) to call for a drastic consolidation of offices and reduction in the number of employes.
The main features of the proposal include:
Merging Federal Land Banks and Federal Intermediate Credit Banks immediately in districts receiving federal financial assistance. Within six months, a similar initiative would be placed before stockholders in all other districts.
In districts where the banks are merged, stockholders would vote within a year to consolidate their Federal Land Bank Associations and Production Credit Associations.
The present 12 farm credit districts would be consolidated into "no more than six." Voting on the mergers by stockholders would take place within 18 months.
Board chairmen Charles Miehe of the St. Paul District and Howard Whitmore of the Omaha District said they have ordered their staffs to draw up plans for an eventual merger of the two districts.
"There is complete agreement of our stockholders," Miehe said. "We'd been holding talks prior to this. It will be a win proposal for the borrowers in our districts."
Miehe said there has been a rapid consolidation of service centers in both districts in recent years.
"With communications the way they are today, distance doesn't make so much difference," he said.
Stenholm's amendment calls for closing most of the system's 37 banks. But Grant Lucas, a Ceres, Calif., grower and chairman of the credit system's legislative committee, said the feeling among the system's stockholders was that some of them should be saved.
Lucas said the banks' expertise is needed to help the system complete with commercial banks, insurance companies and other large private lenders