Rate increase a blow to farmer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 24, 1999

For farmers already hurting from shrinking world markets for their crops, the quarter of a percent increase in interest rates on Tuesday comes as another blow, said Adams County farmer Kenneth Isbell.

&uot;I’m not a whiz at economics, but I know farmers are having the worst time with low commodity prices and low yields,&uot; he said.

Then there is the variable rate loans farmers have to finance the routine expenses of their business: equipment, seed, fertilizer and fuel.

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This puts a financial squeeze on farmers from two sides, Isbell said.

&uot;The financing to do business goes up while the prices on crops keep dropping,&uot; he said.

Steve Plauch\u00E9, partner in the investment firm The Century Group in Natchez, said the quarter of a percent increase shouldn’t make an immediate impact on the local economy.

&uot;This increase will not be detrimental to the average person,&uot; he said.

If someone holds a variable rate mortgage, that rate is only adjusted once a year. Plauch\u00E9 said most banks look toward future trends in setting the interest rate for the coming year.

&uot;If someone’s variable rate just changed, the bank cannot go back and immediately change it again,&uot; he said.

&uot;If rates continue to rise,&uot; Plauch\u00E9 said, &uot;you will see a marked decrease in the number of 3.9 annual percentage rate credit card offers in the mail.&uot;

Local entrepreneurs Ann Logan Watts and Patty Logan Brown of The Brown Company feel fortunate to have already set up their financing on a new grocery they plan to open in downtown Natchez next month.

&uot;The interest rate increase shouldn’t affect us too much since our financing is already set,&uot; Watts said.

Kenneth Taylor, instructor of business administration at Co-Lin, said the average person on the street will notice the interest rate increase most in consumer lending rates.

&uot;Consumers will see their credit card rates go up,&uot; Taylor said.

Higher interest rates could deter industry growth in Adams County, he said. &uot;Our economy has not expanded at the rate of the rest of the nation,&uot; he said. &uot;Let’s say a local group wants to start a new business in Adams County that would create 25-50 new jobs. An increased interest rate would raise their cost of start-up, and could affect the decision to start that business.&uot;

On June 30, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent, the first increase in two years.

Taylor said the Fed’s move to raise interest rates signals a contractionary policy – an attempt to slow growth of the economy and make a preemptive strike against inflation.