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After “gloom and doom” in the U.S. economy in 2009, last year was a good one for north Mississippi agriculture, says Abbott Myers, Dundee, Miss., grains producer and chairman of the Mississippi Land Bank, which serves 32 counties in north Mississippi. And while he sees the nation’s weighty debt and inflation as problems that need to be dealt with going forward, he told the bank’s stockholders at their annual meeting at Como, Miss., that the outlook for agriculture continues strong.
Inflation or stagflation?
Economists differ as to whether the U.S. faces inflation or stagflation, Myers says.
“The government tells us the inflation rate is 4 percent, but I know on my farm it’s a lot higher than that. Gasoline and diesel fuel are more than $1 per gallon higher than a year ago — you don’t need an economist’s graph to see the impact of all these higher input prices. Inflation is a fact of life; it’s just a matter of how much we’re going to have.
“Stagflation is when the economy doesn’t move, but there’s still inflation. It’s the worst of both worlds, and I hope we don’t see it.
“We’ve got to get our economy to growing if we hope to deal with inflation and ward off stagflation. I think inflation is the big bear in the woods.”
2010 was a strong year for the Mississippi Land Bank, Myers says.
“We distributed $1.57 million in dividends to our stockholders, bringing the total to $16.6 million that we’ve paid since 2004. We’re growing, and our capital position is very strong, which puts us in position to meet the needs of our customers.
“We have a really strong loan portfolio. Our loan quality last year was 96.9 percent, and our loan losses amount to only two-tenths of 1 percent. We’re very proud of that.
“Many of our borrowers were given the opportunity last year to reduce their loan interest rate. When was the last time you know of an insurance company or a commercial bank going to their borrowers and saying, ‘Would you like me to reduce your interest rate?’ We’re proud that we were able to do that.”
Gary Gaines, Mississippi Land Bank president, noted that “even in this difficult economy, our organization is thriving. Things are going really well from an operational standpoint, with an excellent income stream.
We have assets of $478.3 million and we’re in a very strong capital position, with a net growth of 5 percent. Our credit quality is outstanding.”
Gaines noted that the bank is continuing its awarding of an annual community college and a university scholarship in each of the bank’s 10 districts. “We’re pleased to be a part of furthering the education goals of these outstanding students,” he says.