“Our new business for 2011 started slow in the first quarter, but things picked up as the year proceeded and we ended with a strong fourth quarter. At the same time, we had a lot of loans that were paid off or paid down, thanks to the good year farmers had.

“There also were a lot of cash sales of land and assets last year that didn’t need financing, another indicator of the strong agricultural economy in the region. All this meant fewer loans for us, but we are of course happy that Mississippi farmers are making money and being successful.”

The bank started 2012 with “a very strong first quarter,” Gaines says, “and we hope that will continue the rest of the year.

“The credit quality of our loan portfolio is extremely strong. At the end of 2011, we had 97.2 percent acceptable loans, and only 0.6 percent loans with minor problems. In any economy, almost 98 percent credit quality is outstanding.

“Our Senatobia branch exceeded $100 million in loans this past year — our first branch to reach that threshold. Our Starkville and Clarksdale branches we almost at the $100 million level.”

While the majority of the bank’s loans are for land, Gaines said this marks the third year for the organization to be in the commercial lending sector, providing short term loans for production, equipment, cattle, etc.

“We’re pleased that in the short period of time we’ve been in this lending arena, we closed last year with about $12 million in short term loans. We will build on that this year and look for this to be a strong sector of business for us in the future as the number of land sales may decline.

“There will continue to be demand for short term financing of equipment and other production needs, and we’re excited about the opportunities to build our portfolio of these loans over the next few years.”

Mississippi Land Bank is a part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, a financial cooperative owned by its member-borrowers since 1916. Unlike commercial banking institutions, because of its unique cooperative structure the member-borrowers share in the profits generated from lending activity in the form of patronage dividends.

“This can significantly reduce the cost of borrowing for our member-borrowers.” Gaines says.”

The bank, headquartered at Senatobia, serves 32 counties in north Mississippi, with 10 additional offices located throughout northern Mississippi at Clarksdale, Cleveland, Corinth, Houston, Indianola, Kosciusko, Louisville, New Albany, Starkville and Tupelo.