BMO Bank of Montreal helps farmers in the good times, and the not-so good times
Bank of Montreal (BMO) has been a fixture in Canadian agriculture for 200 years and counting. Proudly the largest non-government agriculture sector lender in North America, there isn’t much that BMO doesn’t know about farming and agricultural production. “We’ve been involved with agriculture since the very beginning,” says Adam Vervoort, Head, Agriculture Financing at BMO Bank of Montreal. “Many of our first customers were farmers, and we recognize the importance of agriculture to Canada’s economy. It provides over $110 billion to our GDP, and accounts for one in eight jobs in Canada.”
In Saskatchewan, BMO is involved with every segment of the agriculture sector. From primary production segments such as cattle ranching and grain farming, to food processors, elevators and related support industries. They’re even supporters of major agricultural events in the province, like Regina’s Canadian Western Agribition. BMO is more than just a bank when it comes to agriculture—they’re deeply embedded in the sector, working to support operations big and small.
The bank’s agricultural arm employs agricultural business managers, that are more than just ‘bankers.’ This team of financial managers also have a background in agriculture, with expertise in agrology, for example. “Our team can sit down at the kitchen table and ‘talk shop’,” says Vervoort. “This is a competitive advantage for us and for our customers, because we can get a good, wholesome picture of their operation and can work together to figure out what they need now and going forward.”
BMO prides itself on the relationships it builds with every agricultural customer it works with. Their commitment to the sector can be seen in the long-time relationship it has with Saskatchewan farmer Kevin Hruska. In 1996, Hruska was working two financial institutions for his mixed grain and oil seed operation and his manufacturing business. His operation near Gerald, Sask. needed a financial institution to understand his businesses and was nimble enough to provide what he needed. BMO stepped in to assist with both operations, bringing them together with a BMO agricultural manager that could support Hruska in the way he needed. In 2004, BMO stepped up again to help when Hruska dealt with a frost in August. “That frost was a widespread problem, and we had the relationship long enough to know how to help,” says Vervoort. The relationship continues today, as Hruska has grown from a 2,000-acre operation to 46,000 acres, and a growing manufacturing company. The manufacturing arm—Bridgeview Manufacturing—employs 75 people at its 70,000 ft2 facility, building 25 products for the agriculture industry. BMO has been there every step of the way.
“For us, it’s about building relationships based on two pillars—communication and trust,” says Vervoort. “Our customers trust us to do what we do, and we trust our customers to do what they need to grow their businesses and in turn, be profitable.” The successful relationship BMO has built with Kevin Hruska over the last 23 years is testament to that.
Last fall, BMO announced another support for the sector with the BMO Young Farmer Program, for farmers aged 35 or younger. The program offers eligibility for all products available to farm operations and higher advance rates of any asset types eligible under the Canadian Agricultural Loans Act Program, for farmers with six or fewer years of experience. “We recognized that demographics are changing, and the next generation of farmers need our support too,” says Vervoort. The bank also supports farmers when things get tough. BMO relief programs help producers manage when weather extremes get in the way. “We have launched a relief program for Western Canadian farmers dealing with the results of a poor growing season and unfavourable fall weather conditions,” says Vervoort. The program includes principal payment deferrals and the reducing and or waiving of fees for farm operations and related businesses in all three prairie provinces.