Working Hard to Make it Work

DairyIndustry-Blog

Burfeind Dairy employees (l-r): Alfredo Figueroa, Grace Figueroa, Bo Dankers, David Burfeind, Sheila Burfeind, Peter Burfeind holding Brooks Burfeind and Patti Robertson of Merchants Bank.

Those who have paid attention to the dairy industry know it’s been a roller coaster for farmers, with the ride hitting some lows over the past several years, and continuing to be challenging for many farmers.

In 2014, milk prices were at record highs, and things were relatively good for dairy farmers. In September of 2014, prices peaked at $25.70 per hundredweight (100 pounds) for milk, on the average nationally. Over the past three years, prices have been lower and they have bottomed out at $15.30 per hundredweight in February of this year.

Another indicator of challenging times was at the monthly dairy sale in early May in Pipestone, Minnesota, where the going price of “springers” – cows about to give birth – averaged $1,332, the lowest price since November of 2011. The overall size of the dairy herd was also down by 4,000 cows in Minnesota, according to the Milk Producers Council newsletter.

This has made every move count for dairy farmers.

“Unless you are in a niche market, it can be challenging,” said Goodhue dairy farmer Peter Burfeind.

Making a Go of It In Organics

One person who is in a niche market is Merchants Bank Commercial Banker, Kim O’Reilly, who with her husband, Casey, operates an organic dairy farm where they milk about 100 cows.

She said that back in 2014 and 2015 the cooperative they were working with needed more milk, so they were asked to produce more milk.

“But, it takes time to increase production as it doesn’t occur overnight,” Kim said. “So we have worked to get our production up, and now they have placed a quota limiting the milk the cooperative will take at the current price and are paying less than cost for the amount over quota.”

The Future is Brighter

Overall milk production is starting to slow down lessening the supply in the marketplace, and that means that the prices have started to tick up, Peter said. That sentiment was echoed by dairy expert Dr. Bob Cropp, of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, as noted in the May 25, 2018, Wisconsin Ag Connection newsletter. Cropp said that milk production needs to slow down if prices are going to gain traction again.

Peter, who milks 300 cows at the family operation which started in 1965, said the slowing of production should mean better prices six months from now, and he is hopeful that the smaller producers can stay around to enjoy that benefit, “but we really don’t know for sure where the industry is going.”

Cropp was in agreement in his May 25 column, saying: “Milk prices are expected to strengthen and possibly top out in October or November.”

It’s Nothing New

For many farmers, farming is part of their family history and it gets in their blood. Over the years, they have been through the ups and downs of the economic cycles. They remain resilient and optimistic.

“Farmers work hard day in and day out, but I truly believe it is a great life and a true blessing to be a farmer,” Kim said.

A Part of Merchants Bank Too

O’Reilly pointed out that experience with farming is something that she thinks sets Merchants apart from the other financial institutions working in the Ag sector.

In addition to O’Reilly, who is based in Cannon Falls and Red Wing, Senior Lender Brian Hokanson is also a farmer and also based in Cannon Falls and Red Wing. Lenders like Patti Robertson, who is based in Red Wing and works with the Burfeinds, has decades of experience in Ag, as does Jim Peterson in Cannon Falls.

Jim Allen, Tim Gossman and Blake Koebke help farmers in St. Charles. Matt Schuldt in Caledonia and Spring Grove and Ken Graner in Rushford and Lanesboro have years of experience working with farmers. Dustin Hundt and Senior Lender Shawn Sackman work with farmers out of the Onalaska location. Our Winona location includes Jim Vrchota and Senior Lender Randy Domeyer. Recent additions, like Jerad Brown in Rushford and Kaleb Storm in Winona, who grew up on the family farm and also has experience with helping vineyards, make up our Ag team.

Here’s more on what Merchants Bank’s ag financing and the lenders who may be able to help.

Meet Patti Robertson, Commercial Banker

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Get to know Patti’s commercial banking philosophy and how she helps businesses in Red Wing, MN.

Share a little about your background and banking career.

Patti: I have been in lending for over 30 years. For the majority of my career, I’ve focused on agricultural and commercial lending in western Wisconsin and now Red Wing, Minnesota and the surrounding area.

What do you like most about your job?

Patti: Every day is different. I get to work with interesting and hard working people. It’s like working a puzzle at times – trying to get all the pieces to fit – working within the banking requirements and meeting my customers’ needs to help them grow their business. I enjoy it.

What kinds of businesses do you typically work with?

Patti: I work mostly with small businesses and farmers. I have seen a dramatic change in agriculture with operations getting larger and involving multiple generations compared to early in my career, when I mainly worked with family sized dairy farms. I now have a variety of farms and farm sizes that I work with. My business customers range from small retail to larger manufacturing businesses and real estate holding companies.

What is something not many businesses know about working with Merchants Bank?

Patti: Not many know about all of the services we can provide as a large regional bank. Our image as a small local community bank can sometimes overshadow the true capacity we have to provide financial services to businesses of any size. In addition, we’re unique because we can offer lease financing and trust services*, as well as cash management solutions and fraud tools often found at larger banks.

How would you describe your partnership with your business customers?

Patti: It’s a two-way street, where financial and industry data is shared. I celebrate their successes and am available to help them with any financial issue. We are a team in their success.

What do you hope your customers say about working with you?

Patti: That I appreciate their time, knowledge and expertise. I hope they feel I am professional and can get the job done for them with a smile.

How important is continuing education to you as a banker?

Patti: Change is all around us and I think it’s important to stay educated about banking and industry changes…anything that might affect my customers. When I’m informed and educated about their industry, I may be able to offer suggestions, help provide a solution to a problem or find a way to improve their bottom line. Understanding the issues they may be facing only improves our conversations and the trust between us.

What does community banking mean to you?

Patti: Investing the Bank’s deposits back into the community through loans to businesses and consumers. It means being a supporter of community institutions and initiatives that try to make the community a better place to live and work.

Merchants Bank doesn’t just talk about supporting the community – they actually do it. I appreciate the support Merchants Bank gives to me so I can participate in community organizations and the financial support it provides to many organizations in our communities.

Loans are subject to approval.

*May or may not be covered by FDIC insurance, depending on service selected.

3 Essential Small Business Security Practices

SecurityPracticesWithKerriBronk-Blog

Keeping your business protected from fraud and security threats can feel like an overwhelming job. One place to start is by focusing on internal controls that help keep your business’s financial information more secure. Our Security Officer, Kerri Bronk, recommends putting the following three internal controls into practice and reviewing them regularly.

“The idea is to have a combination of different types of security checks and balances in place – and to make sure you keep them up-to-date,” said Kerri. “These simple internal controls can really have an impact on how secure your business information can be.”

Authorized Account Signers

A small business may want to have a few people listed on a financial account as an authorized signer. This can vary by business but may include the owners, an office manager or bookkeeper.

Kerri advises, “[a]uthorized account signers have access to some of the essential functions of your financial account, so you want to make sure this type of access is only granted when necessary.”

 FAQs about Authorized Signers

  • What can an authorized account signer do? An authorized signer is different from an account owner (who has complete control over a financial account). In regards to a checking or saving account, for example, a signer can make withdrawals, sign checks and access some account information.
  • How many authorized account signers can I have? There is no limit. However, the more individuals who have access, the more risk you’re taking.
  • How often should I review this access? On an annual basis or when you’ve had an employment change in your executive management team or accounting/payroll staff.
  • How do I make changes to authorized account signers? Changes to authorized signer need to be done in person at a Merchants Bank location. Contact your Customer Service Representative to make an appointment.

Authorized Cardholders

You might like to have the option for several people to make business purchases with a debit or credit card. This is where authorized cardholders come in.

FAQs about Authorized Cardholders

  • What can an authorized cardholder do? An authorized cardholder can use a debit or credit card tied to your business account to make purchases and get cash from an ATM. You can set spending limits per card user to help keep spending in check.
  • Does the authorized cardholder need to be a signer on the account? No, you can give a person access to a card without having other signing abilities.
  • How many authorized cardholders can I have? There is not a set limit to the number, but again the more access, the harder it will be to track spending.
  • How often should I review this access? Who has access to business debit and credit cards should be reviewed more frequently. We’d recommend making updates to your authorized cardholders each quarter or when you have staffing changes.
  • How do I make changes to authorized card holders? For both your Merchants Bank debit or credit cards, stop into your local Merchants Bank location for assistance.

Access to Account Information

Knowing who has access to your business account information and keeping the number of people to a minimum is one of the best ways to avoid a security or fraud threat.

Considering that small or mid-sized businesses lost a median amount of $289,864 to employee funds theft in 2017, it’s critical to thoughtfully review who should have access to this information.*

FAQs about Account Access

  • What kind of information can I give employees access to? You can select the level of information you want an employee to receive from paper statements to viewing accounts in Online & Mobile Banking or credit card transactions through mycardstatement.com. You can also use our mobile card controls – My Mobile Money for debit cards and SecurLock Equip for credit cards – to have alerts on card spending.
  • How many people can have this access? This varies by solution, please ask at your local Merchants Bank location.
  • How often should I review this access? It’s extremely important to stay current with account access. This should be updated immediately when staff join or leave your business.
  • How do I make changes to who has access to my account information?
    • Statements: Contact your local Merchants Bank location for assistance.
    • Business Online & Mobile Banking: Once you have set up your Business Online Banking account with you as the owner, you can add or remove secondary users and define account access or transactions limits per user at your convenience. If you have any questions or need help with user setup, just contact our Electronic Banking Department (ibsupport@merchantsbank.com or (866) 496-0522).
    • mycardstatement.com: Contact your local Merchants Bank location for assistance.

“My last tip regarding internal controls is to ensure that no single employee has access to all the financial aspects of your business,” said Kerri. “For example, you want to make sure that employees who can pay business expenses with a business credit card are not the same employees who pay the credit card bill.”

Just remember that Merchants Bank is always here to help. If you think your business bank account information has been compromised or have a security concern, contact your local Merchants Bank location and ask to speak to your Cash Management Specialist or a Customer Service Representative.

 

*https://www.hiscox.com/documents/2017-Hiscox-Embezzlement-Study.pdf