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Journey through History by Keith Sutton | Page 4
Farm Bureau Perspective by Randy Veach | Page 3 Faces of Agriculture — Fred Nickerson by Gregg Patterson | Page 18 Policy Update — Ditch the Rule by Michelle Kitchens | Page 22 Rural Reflections Photo | Page 28
On the cover — At the Plantation Agriculture Museum in Scott, visitors can tour a 10,000-square-foot historical seed warehouse. Turn to page 4 to learn about other museums where job one is preserving the history of Arkansas agriculture. Photo by Keith Sutton.
Executive Editor: Steve Eddington Editor: Gregg Patterson Contributing Writers: Ken Moore, Keith Sutton Research Assistant: Mollie Dykes
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he president of Missouri Farm Bureau, Blake Hurst, and I have become close friends, in part because we share similar thoughts on the cultural and economic impacts of farming and ranching in our respective states. I was especially pleased to see Missouri voters in early August approve a constitutional amendment that guarantees a “right to farm,” taking a giant step forward in protecting the largest industry in our state – agriculture. The vote was close. It prevailed with 50.1 percent of the vote — a difference of 2,528 votes – with just fewer than 1 million votes cast on the measure during Missouri’s primary. The amendment passage will undergo an automatic recount, triggered by the margin of victory being less than 1 percent. The secretary of state will certify the results, though a recount may be requested by anyone who voted “no” on the measure. The proposal, known as Amendment 1, guaranteed the rights of Missouri residents to “engage in farming and ranching practices,” making farming an official constitutional right, similar to existing protections for the freedoms of speech and religion. Presently, only North Dakota has a similar constitutional amendment. Missouri’s new constitutional amendment will protect all farms – from those that raise food organically for local farmers markets to those whose farm products are sold around the world. There has been talk with Arkansas legislators about ways to strengthen Arkansas’ right to farm laws, which were initially passed in 1947 and revised somewhat in 1981 and 2005. There have been some fairly overt attempts to limit farmers’ rights within our state, even when laws and regulations are being followed religiously. According to the National Ag Law Center, which is based in Fayetteville, all 50 states have enacted right-to-farm laws that seek to protect qualifying farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits filed by individuals who move into a rural area where normal farming operations exist, and who later use nuisance actions to attempt to stop those ongoing operations. While the overall statutory schemes might be similar, each state has noticeably different content in the specific details of the laws. It’s those details that Missouri voters wanted to address. Passage of Amendment 1 should limit future legislation or ballot initiatives seeking to regulate agriculture unnecessarily. There’s no need to remind farmers and ranchers of some of the attacks being waged on our way of life. We’ve seen other states pass measures regulating livestock conditions and genetically enhanced crops. Is it any surprise the largest group working against passage of Amendment 1 in Missouri was the Humane Society of the United States? The vote, though close, was based on the trust people have for farmers and ranchers. I thought my friend Blake Hurst summed it up best when he said, “We as farmers will continue to work to be worthy of the trust placed in us by Missourians by caring for our land, our animals and our neighbors.” I couldn’t agree more. As farmers and ranchers, we have a moral obligation to feed and clothe the world, and we must never lose sight of that responsibility. In Missouri, their efforts to feed and clothe the world now carry constitutional protection. Arkansas Farm Bureau will continue discussion with state legislators on possible ways to strengthen Arkansas’ right to farm laws and help ensure agriculture in our state remains sustainable and profitable. Œ*
The Lakeport Plantation house in Chicot County, built in 1859, is Arkansas’s grandest remaining example of antebellum Greek revival architecture.
A look inside Arkansas’ agricultural museums and historical sites photos and article by Keith Sutton
n a state like Arkansas, which has a rich agricultural history, it’s no surprise we have museums and historical sites to educate people about farming and ranching in days gone by. What is surprising is the fact that many of our state’s citizens have no idea these places exist, and as a result, they are missing wonderful opportunities to learn more about the Natural State’s rich agricultural heritage. The next time you’re planning a trip, may we suggest you include a visit to some of these sites on your itinerary? A few hours spent looking at the artifacts and exhibits can give you and your family and friends a much greater appreciation of the important role agriculture has played in our history. Each visit is like a trip in a time machine that takes you to a world of the past full of surprises and revelations, and that can be more fun than you ever imagined. Arkansas Agriculture
Visitors to the Plantation Agriculture Museum in Scott often spend hours browsing historical exhibits chock-full of artifacts from bygone days.
Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park The community of Scott on the Pulaski-Lonoke county line was named for the Scott family whose ancestors settled there in the early 1800s. The family owned a 2,000-acre plantation, plus a general store that opened in 1912. When the store closed in the 1960s, Robert Dortch and his daughter Floride Dortch Rebsamen bought the building and turned it into a museum commemorating Arkansas plantation life. The museum eventually grew to include thousands of artifacts, ranging from blacksmith tools and kitchen appliances to a pair of huge steam engines. Unfortunately, it closed in 1978, six years after Robert Dortch’s death, and fell into a state of disrepair. In 1985, the state Legislature approved funding to buy and renovate the property. Four years later, the museum reopened under the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism as the Plantation Agriculture Museum, with a new mission to “collect, preserve, record and interpret the history of cotton agriculture, with an emphasis on plantations.”
Today, the museum houses more than 10,000 artifacts. Exhibits take visitors “from the field to the gin,” explaining how cotton was grown and harvested in the pre-mechanized era. The life and culture of people from slaves to sharecroppers to plantation owners are explored in the museum’s exhibits. Don’t miss!: The gin and seed warehouse. You can spend hours browsing exhibits inside the museum, but be sure you allow time for a walking tour of the Dortch Gin and Seed Warehouse No. 5. The 1920s cotton gin has been authentically preserved by ginning experts. The 10,000-square-foot seed warehouse was used to store and distribute cotton, soybean and rice seeds. You’ll also find outside a diverse collection of antique tractors and farm implements. Plantation Agriculture Museum is in Scott at the junction of U.S. 165 and Ark. 161. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. There is no admission charge. For more information, phone 501-961-1409 or visit www. arkansasstateparks.com/plantationagriculturemuseum/ continued on page 8
Southern Tenant Farm Museum interpreter Jessica Ross (left) and director Linda Hinton pose for a picture in the Tyronza educational facility. The museum’s many exhibits tell the story of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union and the important role it played in Arkansas and U.S. history.
Southern Tenant Farmers Museum
In July 1934, 11 white and seven African-American people in the Poinsett County community of Tyronza formed the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU). The union was unusual for its time in that both black and white members, and women and men, served in leadership positions. Their goal was to reform the sharecropping and tenant farming systems of the time, which had left many farm families homeless, hungry and unemployed. Reform they did, with a peak membership of 35,000 by 1938. The STFU continued operating into the 1960s. The union’s founding was a pivotal moment in the history of Arkansas and the nation. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas states, “Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the STFU was its pre-Civil Rights Era example of the effectiveness of racial integration to achieve common goals … This combination of evangelism, practicality and purpose would provide an operational example for later civil rights and women’s movements, setting the stage for the next half of 20th-century American life.” In its early years, the STFU conducted much of its business in Tyronza’s Mitchell-East Building, which
served as a dry-cleaning business for H. L. Mitchell and a service station for Clay East, two of the union’s principal founders. Today those buildings are part of the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, which is operated as an educational facility of Arkansas State University. The museum opened in 2006 after the Tyronza community approached ASU for assistance in saving the rapidly deteriorating building and using it to tell the story of the tenant farming movement. The building facade has been restored to its 1930s appearance, while the interior includes exhibition space, a gift shop and a classroom. Visitors can see photographs and artifacts that trace the history of the labor movement and tenant farming in the South. Stories are told through oral history excerpts, art and interactive exhibits featuring STFU songs, poems and interviews with former union leaders. The museum also includes the historic Tyronza Bank building. Don’t miss!: Historic 1930s newsreel footage. Bringing the union wide national attention was a segment in The March of Time, a popular newsreel series shown in movie theaters in the 1930s. An eight-minute version that tells a powerful story can be viewed in the museum. Located at 117 S. Main St. in Tyronza, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. MondayFriday, noon-3 p.m. Saturday. A donation of $5 is requested for admission ($3 for senior citizens). For more information, phone 870- 487-2909 or visit stfm.astate.edu. continued on page 10
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Down in southeast Arkansas’ Chicot County, the name Lakeport has been applied to many places. It originally was the name of a Mississippi River oxbow, Lake Port, where there was a steamboat landing. From there, thousands of bales of cotton were shipped to New Orleans. The name later was given to a nearby plantation established before the Civil War by Joel Johnson from Kentucky. More recently, the Lakeport
name was bestowed upon a 17-room house built on the plantation in 1859 for Joel’s son, Lycurgus and his wife, Lydia. Their descendants remained there until the property was sold in 1927. Lakeport is the only remaining Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River. The house was placed on the National Historic Register in 1974, donated to Arkansas State University in
2001 and designated in 2002 as an official project of Save America’s Treasures. Members of ASU’s Delta Heritage Initiative program extensively renovated the property, and the restored Lakeport Plantation house now serves as a museum and educational center, having celebrated its grand opening in September 2007. Lakeport Plantation has remained in continuous cotton production since the 1830s when slaves carved it from the heavily forested Arkansas frontier. Thus, it provides complete documentation of agricultural development in the region, including the transition from frontier and plantation slavery, to sharecropper and tenant farmer systems, to agricultural mechanization, to large-scale farming. An interpretive tour of the beautiful, two-story GreekRevival-style home provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of the farming families who lived in the 8,000-square-foot mansion. Don’t miss!: The country store operated in the back of the house. This room includes samples of many foods and other products locals could buy here as late as the 1980s. Lakeport Plantation is at 601 Highway 142 southeast of Lake Village. Admission is $5 ($3 for seniors, school-age children and groups of eight or more). Guided tours are offered at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, phone 870-2656031 or visit lakeport.astate.edu/. continued on page 12
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At the Heritage House Museum, guests can see the recreated interior of a 1880s log cabin — just one of many exhibits documenting the history of Montgomery County and its citizens.
Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County Dick Whittington had a dream. His ancestors settled Montgomery County in west-central Arkansas, and members of each generation documented and recorded bits of local history. Whittington perpetuated the family’s keen interest in the past and, in the early 1970s, began recording interviews with locals regarding people, events, customs and conditions of the past. He decided there should be a repository of artifacts, archives and photographs to honor the history and heritage of Montgomery County, and with a core group of interested county residents decided to build a museum. Whittington’s nephews Bill and Richard Ray donated land. Whittington paid for construction and left an endowment to support the museum’s operation. Thanks to Whittington’s dream, the Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County was dedicated in 2000.
The museum covers the historical period from 1800 to 1975, with so many exhibits, it can take hours to see them all. There are exhibits showing the importance of the timber industry in the county, a quartz crystal and mineral exhibit, a rural general store, an exhibit barn constructed by local craftsmen using local materials, an authentic 1880s log house moved from Alamo to museum property and a 1940s outhouse moved from Pine Ridge. Don’t miss!: Heritage Day and Sorghum Squeezin’ Day. The first takes place in spring with “old-timey” demonstrations and activities. The second is in fall, with sorghum made on-site, complete with a mule-powered mill. Heritage House Museum is at the intersection of Highway 27 and Luzerne Street in Mount Ida. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 1 p.m.4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is no admission fee. For more information, phone 870-867-4422 or visit hhmmc.org. continued on page 14
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A self-guided walking tour through Lawrence County’s Clover Bend Historical District will allow up-close looks at many of the old farm and school structures preserved on this 13-acre site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Clover Bend Historical District Clover Bend, the oldest community in Lawrence County, has a long, interesting history. Named for unusually shaped bends in the Black River, it was settled by Frenchmen who farmed along the river in the early 19th century. A cotton plantation sprang up there in 1840, and the land passed through a series of owners — farmers all — for almost 100 years. From 1883 through 1909, fiction writer Alice French, known chiefly by her pen name Octave Thanet, spent her winters living and writing there in a three-story, 15-room Clover Bend home called Thanford. Her stories about the lives of Clover Bend’s sharecropping families gained her national acclaim, and she entertained many notables at Thanford, including Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1936, the United States government purchased a large portion of the Clover Bend Plantation, and during the first and second administrations of President Franklin Roosevelt, it was the site of a successful attempt to combat the socioeconomic problems of the Great Depression. The plantation was divided into 88 units averaging 45 acres each. Farmers received the land, a four- or five-room house, a barn, a poultry house and other outbuildings. They paid $200 a year on a 40-year mortgage while raising cotton, clover, vegetables, cattle, hogs and poultry. This allowed tenant farmers to break the cycle of borrowing against earnings on one crop to put in a new one. It was deemed the Farm Security Administration’s most successful project in Arkansas. At the core of this project was the local school, which the government built to provide educational
opportunities for children of participating farmers. Clover Bend High School opened in 1939, along with buildings for vocational agriculture and home economics. Later, a gymnasium, elementary building, cafetorium and two houses were added. World War II marked an end to many New Deal programs as the government’s attention turned to the war effort. The Clover Bend school and the land on which it stood were given to the school district in 1945. Farmers continued to pay their mortgages and farm their land. As the years went by many of the small parcels of land were sold and larger farms began to emerge. When consolidation closed the Clover Bend school district in 1983, the Clover Bend Historic Preservation Association was formed to capture the area’s history. The Clover Bend Historic District, comprised of
five buildings in the high-school complex, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. A farm house, barn, chicken house, smokehouse and outdoor bathroom were later moved onto the 13-acre site to recreate the FSA appearance. All these things can be seen by visiting the site and taking a self-guided walking tour or a guided tour by appointment. Educational programs are also available. Don’t miss!: The Alice French Bell Pavilion. In 1885, Alice French ordered a bell to be hung in the Clover Bend school building for calling the community for school, church and emergencies. The 500-pound brass bell now hangs in the pavilion in front of the school. Clover Bend is on Highway 228, 4 miles west of Minturn on U.S. Highway 67. There is no admission fee, and visitors can drop in for an outdoor walking tour any time. For more information visit cloverbend.com. continued on page 16
The Museum of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart includes one of the most varied collections of historical artifacts in the state, including this exhibit of dairy farming memorabilia, which includes old glass milk bottles, a cream separator, a variety of churns and much more.
Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie At the time of settlement, the Natural State’s largest tall-grass prairie covered almost 1 million acres in what is now Arkansas, Prairie, Monroe and Lonoke counties. Beginning in the early 20th century, this area in eastern Arkansas was converted into the nation’s most productive ricegrowing region, and its waterfowl hunting became nationally renowned. The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, founded in 1974 by Arkansas County residents Bennie Burkett and Jack Crum, preserves the history of agriculture, waterfowling and the pioneers who farmed the Grand Prairie from the 1800s to 1921. The museum began in a 1,500-square-foot building on city property. Today, the 20,000-squarefoot structure holds more than 15,000 artifacts donated by area residents, many of whom still farm the same land as their forefathers. Anyone with an interest in agricultural history will find it a treasure trove of information about prairie farm families and the ways they lived, worked and played. Among the items exhibited are antique tractors, farm tools, plows, buggies, wagons, trucks, automobiles, combines and even a scale-model crop-dusting plane. Visitors also can walk through a recreation of Stuttgart in its early days, complete with wooden sidewalks, mercantile, toy store, grocery, millinery shop, jail, post office and doctor’s office. There are wildlife displays, too, an exhibit on the history of rice milling, a fish farm exhibit and thousands of photographs that capture intriguing moments of the area’s history. Plus, on the grounds outside the main museum, guests can tour an early newspaper shop, a firehouse with Stuttgart’s first fire truck, a replica of a prairie
schoolhouse established in the 1880s, a replica of a 19th-century prairie home and a beautiful recreation of the Lutheran Church built by Stuttgart founder Rev. Adam Buerkle. Don’t miss!: The Waterfowl Wing. In the “Duck Capital of the World,” it’s no surprise many people come here to see museum’s nationally acclaimed collection of waterfowling memorabilia, including hundreds of rare duck and goose calls, antique decoys, market-hunting guns, boats, art and memorabilia from Stuttgart’s annual
World Championship Duck Calling Contest. A favorite of all is “Early Morning Duck Hunt on the Grand Prairie,” a lights-and-sound experience that lets visitors experience what it’s like to sit in a blind and watch the birds pitch in. The Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie is at 912 E. Fourth St. in Stuttgart. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, call 870-673-7001 or visit grandprairiemuseum.org. Œ*
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Faces of Agriculture
Fred Nickerson A single-driven purpose
by Gregg Patterson
Guns to beef Cattle rancher Fred Nickerson converted some of his military pay while serving in the Vietnam war for buying beef cattle back in Arkansas.
red Nickerson runs a cow-calf operation on 120 acres in Sweet Home. It’s one of the last farms remaining in Pulaski County. The 67-year-old’s commitment to ranching covers more than 50 years even though he didn’t come from a farming or ranching family. His father was a railroad man, a profession Nickerson did, too, retiring as a locomotive engineer after 35 years. Nickerson caught the love for cattle from his uncle who farmed soybeans and cotton and raised cattle. “My uncle used to come over to our house and get me out of bed and say ‘There’s work to be done.’ Then we’d go to his farm, and there was always some kind of work to do,” Nickerson said. He laughs at the memory, saying he wished his parents had rescued him from time to time from all that hard work but admits his uncle prepared him for what he knew he’d need the rest of his life. “There was a strength that my uncle taught me,” Nickerson said. At 16, he purchased one of his uncle’s heifers for $85, and he’s
been raising cattle ever since. After graduating high school, Nickerson went into the service and was shipped off to Vietnam. Even halfway across the world in the middle of a war, he was still thinking about cattle. “I would send a little bit of my money home to my uncle and when he would get enough together, he’d buy me a heifer,” Nickerson said. “When I got back to the states, I think I had four head.” From that he built his herd, and he built it into something special. Nickerson enjoys taking care of his animals. In 2010, the Nickerson family was named Pulaski County Farm Family of the Year. Throughout, he’s been actively involved in Pulaski County Farm Bureau. He believes the strength of the organization comes from its people and their service toward the common goal of bettering agriculture. “We talk about it being a grassroots organization. I don’t know Webster’s definition of grassroots,” Nickerson said. “But my definition is a group of individuals coming together with a
single-driven purpose – that being to further agriculture – be good stewards of the land and just take care of what the good Lord has given us charge over.” Nickerson says he’s never known a hungry day. But he knows there are those that not a day passes without hunger entering their thoughts. “I guess we’re blessed with the ability to produce an abundance, but it may not always be this way” he said. “Not wasting it and getting it to those who need it most is one of the big reasons why Farm Bureau needs to keep agriculture strong.” Keeping farming and ranching vibrant is also important to Nickerson for future generations. Even in an urban area, he sees a future for his farm. His grown son and daughter often work on the farm. And his three grandchildren come after school and feed the calves and the barn cats. “I think this farm will remain in agriculture for generations to come,” Nickerson said. “The future is bright for agriculture for those who want to remain in agriculture.” Œ*
TASTE ARKANSAS.COM FROM FARM TO TABLE
Food, like nothing else, brings us together. After all, everyone eats. On Taste Arkansas, a food blog by Arkansas Farm Bureau, this simple truth is connecting those interested in food production with the farmers and ranchers who provide us with an abundance of Arkansas agricultural products. Arkansas Agriculture
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uddles, ponds, ditches and isolated wetlands dot the nation’s farmland. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last March issued a proposed rule designed to expand its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to these types of land features and waters, giving the agencies the power to dictate land-use decisions and farming practices in or near them. Congress passed the CWA in 1972, banning discharges of pollutants from a point source into navigable waters without a federal permit. EPA and the Corps continually have tested the jurisdictional limits of the CWA during the last 40-plus years seeking ever broader interpretations of “waters of the U.S.” The U.S. Supreme Court twice has drawn the line at “navigable waters.” Now, EPA is once again back for more. In releasing the new “waters of the U.S.” proposed rule, EPA said it is clarifying the scope of the CWA. However, EPA’s “clarification” is also an expansion of the types of waters and lands that would be subject to federal permit requirements and limits on farming practices. Two sections of the law particularly impact agriculture.
Section 404 requires anyone wanting to discharge “dredge and fill” material into navigable waters to obtain a federal permit. This section deals with any discharge resulting from moving soil. It impacts individual landowners and homebuilders, as well as farmers who want to plant trees, construct buildings, install drainage, deep-plow the soil — the list goes on. Section 402 establishes the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program to enforce discharge mitigation requirements and limit point-source discharges into navigable waters. EPA accompanied its proposal with a new “interpretive rule” claiming to clarify certain statutory exemptions for agricultural conservation practices, including activities commonplace and essential to farming. But these exemptions apply only to “dredge and fill” permit requirements. They don’t protect farmers from federal veto power over pest and weed control, fertilizer application and other essential farming activities that may result in the addition of “pollutants” to “navigable waters.” The ability of farmers and ranchers to remain in production
often depends on using the types of farm practices that would be prohibited if EPA denies a permit for them. For example, building a fence across a ditch, applying fertilizer or pesticides, or pulling weeds could require a federal permit. The proposed rule, in effect, would give EPA veto authority over a farmer’s or rancher’s ability to operate. Under this proposed rule, farmers, ranchers and all other landowners will face a tremendous new roadblock to ordinary land-use activities. This isn’t just about the paperwork to get a permit to farm or about having farming practices regulated. The fact is there’s no legal right to a Clean Water Act permit. If farming or ranching activities need a permit, then permits can be denied. That’s why Clean Water Act jurisdiction over farmlands amounts to nothing less than federal veto power over a farmer’s ability to farm. It’s vital for agriculture this proposed rule doesn’t become final or, if that is not possible, is substantially changed. Farmers are encouraged to comment on the rule at www.regulations.gov, search for Docket ID No: EPA-HQOW-2011-0880. Œ*
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GROWING ARKANSAS Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the U of A improve the lives of families across our state and nation, and around the world.
We are preparing students to be the leaders of tomorrow in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability, and human quality of life. Our students receive value-added opportunities promoting their ability as leaders, innovators, policy makers, and entrepreneurs. Our graduates are the first-choice candidates of employers seeking talent to maintain maintain the competitive edge of their businesses.
Farm Bureau member Mary Lewis of Benton took this photo of her draft horse gelding, Cody, wearing an antique plow harness.
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Contact your local Arkansas Farm Bureau agent or visit farmbureaubank.com Existing Farm Bureau Bank equipment loans are excluded from this offer.
*Rate disclosed as Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and based on exceptional credit. Some restrictions may apply based upon the make and model of the equipment offered as collateral. Up to 90% financing for new and 85% for used equipment loans subject to credit approval. Rates are accurate as of 6/13/2014. Rates and financing are limited to farm equipment model years 2004 or newer and are subject to change without notice. A down payment may be required for new or used equipment purchases. Financial information required for loan requests over $50,000. Commercial vehicles and trailers may be subject to an additional documentation fee. Farm Bureau Bank does not provide equity or cash out financing on commercial vehicles and equipment. Banking services provided by Farm Bureau Bank, FSB. Farm Bureau, FB, and the FB National Logo are registered service marks owned by, and used by Farm Bureau Bank FSB under license from, the American Farm Bureau Federation.