While the financially strapped Farm Credit System (FCS) was asking Congress for a multibillion-dollar federal bailout over the last 14 months, it also was inadvertently financing four overseas trips by one of its federal regulators.

According to records of the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) -- the agency that regulates the farmer-owned lending network -- board member Marvin R. Duncan has spent more than $11,000 on trips billed as "official" to Europe and Asia, always flying in the costlier "business" class to have more room.

FCA records show that Duncan spent $2,566 to go to Sweden in September 1986; $5,528 to travel to Japan, China, Indonesia and Thailand last July; and $3,785 for a three-day trip to Turkey in September. His travel expense records for a four-day trip to Spain this month were not available.

The regulatory agency's expenses -- about $30.7 million last year -- are financed from assessments levied against Farm Credit System member banks. Congress has not completed work on a bailout bill, but the financially troubled FCS is asking for a $6 billion line of credit to avoid collapse.

Duncan, an agricultural economist, said he saw no relationship or conflict between his travels and the FCS' financial difficulties.

"If I were a farmer," he said, "I would hope there would be credible and timely information provided to those, both domestic and foreign, who invest in the system. The agency has credibility . . . the agency has the responsibility to protect the system's borrowers and investors."

Duncan, a former vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, joined the FCA in 1985 and was appointed by President Reagan to sit on the independent agency's three-member board in 1986. Chairman Frank Naylor Jr. and Jim Billington, the other members, have not traveled overseas as FCA officials.

Officials of the Farm Credit System's lobbying arm declined to comment on Duncan's travels, but in October the FCA official was taken to task indirectly by the House Appropriations Committee's agriculture subcommittee.

"The farmer can ill afford to have his money used for $100-per-hour psychologists, receptions, foreign travel and unnecessary personnel," the panel said in its report on a fiscal 1988 appropriation. It also noted that the FCA is funded through levies on Farm Credit System member banks.

The psychologist referred to was hired by Naylor earlier this year to help FCA staff members deal with job-related stress. Duncan said he supported Naylor's idea and found it helpful. Board member Billington and his aides declined to take part in the counseling scheme.

Duncan defended his journeys as "constructive" and "important" in helping foreign lenders, investors and governments understand the problems that drove the FCS to ask Congress for help and that have put pressure on other farm credit institutions in this country.

"The travel has been constructive in relieving the unwarranted apprehension . . . about the capacity of the system and its regulator to continue to effect timely repayment of Farm Credit securities -- which is absolutely bottom line," Duncan said in an interview.

Duncan said that in each case he had traveled abroad at the invitation of foreign farm credit officials, many of whom routinely visit FCA headquarters in McLean when they are in this country.

"There are a number of reasons for having foreign contacts," he said. "Foreigners tend to look to the regulator as the definitive source of credit information, to look to the FCA to understand its regulatory role and assure soundness of the system."

Duncan also said that foreign trips are "carefully evaluated in the agency as to their appropriateness. All of my trips were evaluated in this way . . . . {Travel} is focused on occasions when there is an appropriate role for a regulator and where there is an opportunity to engage in constructive conversations where cooperatives or investors are involved."