It’s hard to believe anybody in the Texas High Plains could have a better understanding of ag finances, farming or ginning than Curtis Griffith. What makes his credentials unique is his involvement in so many diverse aspects of agri-business in Texas. His family’s connection to farming goes back nearly a century. He is chairman of City Bank and Module Truck Systems in Lubbock. As if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, he is also the owner of Southwest Gin in Morton, Texas, and is involved in other projects, such as fund-raising for the Bayer Museum of Agriculture in Lubbock.
In the following interview with Cotton Farming, Griffith talks about the challenges confronting farmers as they prepare to meet with ag lenders about financing their 2014 crops. Since he has experience on both sides of this
situation, he offers some unusual and timely analysis.
Are there new things to consider in the producer-ag lender relationship as we look ahead to 2014?
The uncertainty about price supports, crop insurance and so many other things make forecasting farm income harder than I’ve ever seen. Lenders don’t like uncertainty, and producers should expect closer scrutiny and more questions than in previous years.
How important is it today for the lender and producer to understand each other?
At City Bank, we believe that our lenders need to know all they can about our customers’ operations. That knowledge helps them provide the right loan amounts and structures for production, equipment and land. Knowing all we can about a borrower’s financial condition, contingency plans and character helps us stick with him through tough times without exposing the bank to excessive risk.
Has the environment in ag lending changed in recent years?
New technology in seed, equipment and irrigation have radically changed how much cotton can be produced per acre, but all of it has come at increased expense. The financial risk for both the producer and lender is higher than ever before.
When a producer meets with an ag lender, what should be his main priority?
Having good financial records makes accurate budgeting much easier, and accurate budgets are vital. When a producer has a detailed and realistic budget and marketing plan, a lender can do a much better job of analyzing the loan request.
Does lack of a Farm Bill make it difficult for farmers and lenders this year?
Absolutely. I hope that a new Farm Bill will be in place by the end of the year. Without it, we have no idea what our safety net will look like or if we’ll have one at all. Farmers deal with more uncertainty and more variables than most businesses in the best of times.
What are the important things to remember in crop insurance?
Assuming that we have a viable multi-peril insurance program in place, every producer needs to work with his agent to understand the options available and not just assume that what he’s done in the past is the best choice.
How seriously has the three-year drought in Texas affected crop financing?
Without good, affordable crop insurance, the past three years would have been devastating to producers in our area. Thankfully, most producers in Texas started with a strong equity position, but we really need 2014 to be a year with normal rainfall. However, lenders have to consider how loans will perform if we don’t get that rain.
Does being a ginner and banker give you a unique perspective?
There are many community bankers who are active in various parts of agriculture production, so I’m certainly not unique. I’m not an actual lender myself, but I do participate on the City Bank loan committee where our loan officers seek approval of their large loans. I hope my experience as a ginner and producer helps us make good decisions about our ag loans.
How do you manage your time being a banker and ginner?
“Poorly” is the most honest answer. As City Bank has grown and significantly increased its assets with locations across Texas, I spend more of my time there. However, I do enjoy spending time at the gin or driving a module truck during the fall. That time away from my desk at the bank lets me think about longer-term strategic issues and hopefully come back with a few good ideas.
If you had a message for producers and ginners, what would it be?
Capital needs in agriculture will only go up. I urge producers to seek out a lender who is committed to financing agriculture for the long term and deal with that lender with respect and trust.
Contact Curtis Griffith in Lubbock, Texas, at firstname.lastname@example.org via email.
Serving As Leader Of Bank Gives Griffith Rare Opportunity
It isn’t often that a ginner or farmer can be involved in the operation of a bank, but that is precisely what Curtis Griffith does on a daily basis as chairman of City Bank in Lubbock, Texas.
Since he is an active ginner and has a history in family farming, he brings an unusual perspective to his position at the bank. Although he isn’t a loan officer, he is on the committee at City Bank that reviews all large loan requests.
The bank has grown steadily and now has more than $2 billion in assets with locations across Texas. Through the years, Griffith has learned that it takes good communication for producers and ag lenders to conduct business.
As simple as it sounds, that relationship starts with the producer having good financial records and providing the ag lender with as much information as possible.
That philosophy has served City Bank well as it continues to serve cotton producers in Texas. Griffith says that the producer and banker, by necessity, must work together as partners.
Griffith Has Enjoyed Successful Ginning Career
Curtis Griffith’s experience as the owner of Southwest Gin in Morton, Texas, dates back many years. His peers obviously respect his leadership in the industry. For example, his involvement in the Texas Cotton Ginners Association is exemplary, and he was honored as TCGA’s “Ginner of the Year” in 2006. He also won a similar award from the National Cotton Ginners Association in 2007.
It isn’t easy managing his time between the gin and bank, but Griffith says he owes it to dedicated staff working at both locations. He admits he spends more time at the bank, but he still enjoys being at the gin in the fall where he can often be found driving a module truck.
“I certainly couldn’t do what I do without the outstanding employees at both City Bank and Southwest Gin,” he says. “They can run their respective operations just fine without me, but I hope they haven’t figured that out yet.”
Whether it’s at the gin, bank or at Module Truck Systems (where he is chairman), Griffith knows how to delegate responsibility and surround himself with capable and professional employees. That might be the key to his success.
Curtis Griffith’s Ag/Banking Career:
• Chairman, City Bank of Lubbock.
• Owner of SW Gin in Morton, Texas.
• Member of State Bar of Texas.
• Member of Texas Bankers Association.
• Member of Independent Bankers.
• Member of National Cotton Council.
• Member of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.
• Member of Texas Cotton Ginners Association.
• Member of Texas Independent Ginners.
• Chairman of Module Truck Systems.