Member Stories

Steve Matthees

Industry knowledge means financial security

Like many dairy producers, Dairy Farmers of America Board Director Steve Matthees relies heavily on his bank to secure cattle, real estate and operating loans that keep his business running. In 2009, he faced a situation with his longtime bank he never thought he’d have to deal with.

“Because of the way the economic situation just flipped around on us, my bank was questioning if they even wanted to service us,” Matthees says. “It was a scary situation — all of a sudden, this partner who we thought was with us 100 percent was talking about walking away.”

Although he’d been a customer since the 1980s, Matthees was one of only a handful of agriculture customers his bank served. After buying out his brother’s half of their 200-cow dairy operation in Goodhue, Minn., combined with the economic situation of the dairy and financial industries at the time, his bank wasn’t sure they could support his business.

“It was very traumatic,” Matthees says. “I didn’t know where to go. We rely on operating loans to run our farm.”

He had met DFA Financing loan officer Scott Vosters at previous DFA events and decided to give him a call.

“I told Scott the scenario I was in, and he thought they could help,” Matthees says.

Switching banks can be a hassle since there are new forms and new information to provide, but Matthees says Vosters made it easy by handling the paperwork himself. Vosters visited Matthees’ operation and worked with him to secure the operating funds he needed.

“Steve had a distinct need for operating money that his bank wasn’t able to meet,” Vosters says. “We were able to work through the challenges of that time and get him the money he needed to get his crop in the ground. We’ve had a great relationship with him now for three years.”

DFA Financing, through DFA subsidiary Agri-Max Financial Services, works exclusively with DFA members on their unique needs.

“Since all we do is dairy, we understand the industry,” Vosters says. “Agriculture lending is different because our clients are always dealing with Mother Nature. With dairy, there are even more factors producers can’t control like government regulation, feed costs and more.”

Matthees says working with DFA Financing is a night-and-day difference from working with a conventional lender because of their understanding of the dairy industry.

“My old bank, they would read about the challenges facing dairy in 2009 and wonder how anyone could survive,” he says. “DFA Financing understands the industry. They know there are certain times of year I have more cash outflow or income.”

Matthees says working with DFA Financing is also convenient since he can arrange for loan payments to be automatically deducted from his milk check.

DFA Financing loan officers also work to look beyond an operation’s finances, Vosters says.

“Because we understand how dairying works, we’re able see past a balance sheet,” he says. “If a member says they need money to buy equipment or make improvements to their parlor so they can increase milk quality, we know that’s going to result in more income in their milk check. A traditional bank might look at that and not understand how those dollars will pay for themselves.”

For more on DFA Financing’s services, visit dfafinancing.com.