Agricultural Finance Databooks--Monthly Series, 1977 to 1984

   Publications and papers by Emanuel Melichar   (www. emelichar. com)

Evolution of the Monthly Series Databook

    Tables of Monthly Data

From monthly statistical reports of the farm lending experience of Production Credit Associations, Federal Land Banks, and life insurance companies, the Agricultural Finance Databook--Monthly Series presented current and historical data on new and outstanding loans, as well as on renewals and refinancing at the PCAs and FLBs and on outstanding mortgage commitments at the insurance companies. Very little banking data was available monthly, but it did include seasonal borrowing from the Federal Reserve Banks.

The Databook presented various processing of these data, including seasonal adjustment and calculation of 12-month moving totals. The table-of-contents pages of the initial Databooks listed these series--see Databook series March 1977. For all of these data, the Databook tables presented relevant ratios as well as monthly and annual changes and percentage changes.

A key feature of Databook tables is the presentation of historical data on one page, which helps to reveal trends and fosters analytical insights. Initial monthly series Databooks, first issued in so-called landscape format in March 1977, presented data back to January 1974. A switch to portrait format in November 1979 enabled showing data back to January 1973. The December 1980 issue is the last one able to go back that far. The eight years covered by this 34-page issue encompass virtually the entire farm boom:

Agricultural Finance Databook--Monthly Series
December 1980

As farm finances soured in the 1980s, analytical attention turned to different data--on income, interest rates, and problem loans--which were mostly reported for annual or quarterly periods. The last monthly series Databook, issued in January 1984, presented data from January 1976 to December 1983. As many of the series go from positive to negative values over this period, they provide a striking tabular picture of the extent and timing of the financial bust:

Agricultural Finance Databook--Monthly Series
January 1984

Together, these two volumes provide monthly data in the same tabular format from January 1973 to December 1983.

Overviews and Appendix Pages

Soon after starting to issue the monthly series Databook, it was hard to resist inserting comments about the farm lending experience reflected by the most recent data. Beginning with the May 1977 issue, captions were written under most of the tables, briefly noting significant developments.

The "wasted" blank spaces on the inside front cover and the entire back cover soon attracted attention. In the September 1977 issue, the table captions were continued, but in addition a lengthier "Overview" describing data developments was inserted on page 2, the inside front cover. The Overview became a regular feature of the monthly series Databook.

Also beginning with the September 1977 issue, the back cover was used to present data or other items of interest, such as "Recent Federal Reserve Publications in Agricultural Finance," mainly articles by Reserve Bank economists, listed in that issue and several later Databooks. After 1978, however, two developments not covered by the regular monthly data series dominated the back cover as well as extra "Appendix" pages that were added in many issues.

The first development was the extraordinary rise in farm loan interest rates, which led to presentation of quarterly data on rates on Appendix pages of most of the monthly series Databooks. As rates rose, great variations developed among the rates at the various farm lender groups, current knowledge of which was especially useful in view of frequently promulgated generalizations from experience at just one or two lenders or lender groups.

The second development was a sharp rise in loan/deposit ratios at many Midwest agricultural banks, which led to concerns that availability of farm production loans would be curtailed in the spring of 1980. Appendix pages were first used to present call report data, by state, on loans, deposits, and loan/deposit ratios at agricultural banks. (As it happened, loan demand proved weak and loan/deposit ratios fell in 1980.) Then, starting in March 1981, the Appendix pages were also used to present new econometrically derived weekly estimates of the average loan/deposit ratio at agricultural banks, by state.

The combination of the Overview of monthly lender experience and the material presented on the Appendix pages provides a historical record of if and when financial developments were recognized and considered significant. All of the Overview and Appendix pages in the Databooks issued in a given year have been scanned into a single PDF file:

Overview and Appendix pages
Agricultural Finance Databook--Monthly Series

From all issues in the year--

1977     8 pp.

1978   21 pp.

1979   25 pp.

1980   18 pp.

1981   23 pp.

1982     9 pp.

1983   11 pp.