Magazine article American Banker

Lender to Cranberry Growers Doesn't Get Bogged Down in Bad Loans

Magazine article American Banker

Lender to Cranberry Growers Doesn't Get Bogged Down in Bad Loans

Article excerpt

Bill Dachle lends to cranberry growers - and his loans don't go sour.

In Wisconsin, a state better known for its dairy products, his bank has proved there's a niche for everyone.

Wood County National Bank takes only one slice of the farm lending pie - cranberries. "We know cranberry growing best, so that's what we do," says Mr. Dachle, a vice president.

The bank, based in Wisconsin Rapids, has financed cranberry growers since the turn of the century, said Steve Bell, its president and chief executive.

Wisconsin is the second-largest cranberry producer, after Massachusetts, and most of the bogs are within 50 miles of the bank, Mr. Dachle said.

He acknowledged that concentrating in one product could be risky for the bank - if, for instance, growers face weather problems, or prices dip from a cranberry health scare.

But the bank's long experience and tested underwriting techniques - including a crop insurance requirement - mitigates the risk, he said. "We have not had - knock on wood - a situation where there's been numerous growers who have been hard hit," he said.

Wood County has no cranberry-related loan losses, he said, and the niche is as profitable as the bank's other lines of business. The bank recently posted strong return on assets of 1.89% and return on equity of 17.67, Mr. Bell said.

The Farm Credit System and other banks do finance cranberry growers, but Wood County claims to be Wisconsin's leading cranberry bank.

"I can't imagine anyone else even coming close" to its amount of cranberry loans, said Mr. …

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