Oxley named new executive director of Ag Finance Authority
Stephanie Oxley became executive director of the N.C. Agricultural Finance Authority on Sept. 1 after the retirement of its longtime leader, Dr. Frank Bordeaux. Oxley began her career with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services more than 25 years ago and has spent almost 20 of those years with the Agricultural Finance Authority.
Following is a brief Q&A with Oxley:
You are executive director of the N.C. Agricultural Finance Authority. Tell us about this agency and its importance for agriculture in the state.
The AFA was established in 1986 by the General Assembly to provide credit to agriculture in local areas where it is not available at reasonable rates and terms. The mission applies to all aspects of agriculture: farming, processing, manufacturing and exporting. Since 1987, we have loaned over $80 million to the agricultural community. Applicants who are having difficulty qualifying for conventional loans should consider this program. We are able to serve all 100 counties in North Carolina with less-stringent equity and cash-flow requirements than many conventional lenders use. We keep closing expenses to a minimum and we have competitive interest rates with reasonable loan terms. AFA can provide farm ownership loan assistance to beginning farmers, startup operations and borrowers unable to obtain conventional financing and to borrowers with needs that can’t be met by direct USDA loans.
AFA has statewide authority to issue tax-exempt Agricultural Development Bonds utilizing a state allocation. These bonds provide better interest rates for agribusiness. Bonds are usually used for projects from $1.5 million to $10 million. Since 1995, $46,810,000 of ADBs have been issued for the development of agricultural processing and manufacturing.
Can you provide some examples of projects or businesses the authority has funded over the years?
Poultry operations are a big part of our portfolio. We have also financed row crop farmers, swine farms, swine processing plants and wine producers. AFA has a disaster loan program for farmers to help rebuild structures when a natural disaster is declared.
You’ve been executive director for a few months now. What is your vision for the AFA going forward?
To reintroduce AFA to the farming community as a resource to increase awareness of our programs. Since we receive no appropriations from the state, we also want to increase our loan volume by continuing to sell the USDA-guaranteed portion of the loans on the secondary market, thereby generating more funds to lend. I want to continue to improve our outreach by having a presence at farm shows and other farm venues across North Carolina. Outreach is critical in developing ways to reach the diverse population in North Carolina by helping create new opportunities for family-owned farms. Small family farmers have played a big part in bringing North Carolina to one of the top states in agricultural production, and we would like to see this tradition continue. I’m very proud of the success of this agency, and with continued hard work the staff and I will keep AFA moving forward.
If someone is interested in applying for a loan through the AFA, how should they do it?
Interested persons can contact us by going to our website, ncagr.gov/agfinance, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-790-3949. The website has information about all programs offered by AFA and a list of staff email addresses.
In your opinion, what makes North Carolina agriculture special?
First of all, North Carolina is one of the few states in the nation that has an AFA. It is one of the most diversified agriculture states in the nation, and agriculture is an important part of the state’s economy. The climate differences from the mountains to the coast, with many different soil types, provide for a multitude of row crops, fruits and vegetables, nurseries, trees, swine, poultry, livestock and specialty farm enterprises. Farmers across the state have a profound awareness of how important it is to keep the environment that not only they live in, but the environment we all live in, safe.