WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation today reported a fourth quarter net loss of $61.1 million, or $6.03 per diluted common share for the three months ended December 31, 2008, and a full year 2008 net loss to common stockholders of $154.1 million or $15.40 per diluted common share.

These results primarily reflected fourth quarter losses on financial derivatives and provisions for losses principally related to certain of its credits in the ethanol sector and the previously announced third quarter losses on certain investments.

Consistent with Farmer Mac's focus on capital compliance, the board of directors reduced the common stock dividend to $0.05 per share from its previous level of $0.10 per share. The common stock dividend will be payable on April 3, 2009 to stockholders of record on March 24, 2009.

"The unprecedented turmoil in the capital markets and the sharp downturn in the national economy have been significant factors in causing the second half of 2008 to be the most difficult in Farmer Mac's history," said Michael A. Gerber, Farmer Mac's newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer. "In response, we have begun taking actions intended to mitigate the impact of these conditions going forward. We have concluded a review of Farmer Mac's investment portfolio operations and taken actions to address the difficult market dynamics that have emerged and seem likely to prevail in the time ahead. We have adjusted our funding strategies to reduce the reliance on financial derivatives that have adversely affected our capital position, notwithstanding that all of our derivatives have been economically effective.

"Despite the difficult second half of 2008, Farmer Mac has continued to have access to the debt markets to fund its program assets. We raised $124.2 million in capital through preferred stock offerings at the end of the third quarter and during the fourth quarter, ensuring compliance with regulatory capital requirements. As we look ahead to Farmer Mac responding to the credit needs of rural America in 2009 and beyond, capital strength will continue to be important. Within this context, the Corporation's Board of Directors decided to reduce the quarterly common stock dividend from 10 cents per share to 5 cents per share."

Loans underlying the Corporation's guarantees and commitments grew to a record $10.1 billion at year end and, with the exception of ethanol loans, continued to perform well during 2008. Delinquencies on non-ethanol loans have remained near historically low levels consistent with the strength of the U.S. agricultural economy through the end of the year. Farmer Mac's 90day delinquencies, including ethanol loans, were $67.1 million, representing 1.35 percent of the portfolio, as of December 31, 2008.

Excluding the ethanol loans, 90-day delinquencies were $17.9 million, or 0.36 percent of the portfolio. The fourth quarter provisions for losses of $17.2 million were largely due to the bankruptcy of one ethanol producer and construction issues related to another ethanol plant. The ethanol industry has suffered due to the volatility of commodity prices. While those prices have stabilized, the industry still faces significant challenges.

"Farmer Mac's outlook for 2009 is mixed," Gerber continued. "We expect the turmoil in the financial markets will continue to create challenges to Farmer Mac's ability to raise capital and securitize its assets. While agriculture has been strong, the industry is not insulated from the effects of the economic downturn. Some sectors continue to prosper, while others, such as ethanol producers, dairy farmers and the protein sector (e.g., cattle, poultry and pork producers) are experiencing pressure on profitability. In addition, significant portions of California and Texas are facing the effects of persistent drought. Farmer Mac continues to closely monitor developments in those industries and areas experiencing stress. We anticipate stress in the portfolio is likely to increase in 2009, although any resultant credit issues are expected to remain within manageable levels.

"Looking ahead, there should be a growing need for financial vehicles to expand credit availability to those agricultural industries that have sound financial fundamentals due to the broader trends underway now, such as the deleveraging of capital. These trends will likely have the effect of reducing credit availability from traditional lenders to the agricultural sector. This presents opportunities that Farmer Mac is actively pursuing.

"There will also be opportunities for loan growth in the rural utilities segment, a new area for Farmer Mac as a result of the legislative expansion of its charter in May 2008. Farmer Mac expects to continue the growth it experienced in this sector during 2008 in providing financing to rural utilities lenders. Farmer Mac expects that demand for rural utilities loans will be robust, particularly as the industry adds significant new capacity for the first time since the 1970s. Furthermore, additional power transmission lines will need to be constructed as the development of wind and solar power plants increase the demand for means to transfer power from the source of clean power generation to the ultimate consumer. Farmer Mac's ability to participate in the growth of the rural utilities portion of its business will be limited by Farmer Mac's limits on borrower exposures and its overall risk tolerance. Public policy shifts in the energy sector may also alter Farmer Mac's opportunities in this area, as electrical power generated by and for rural electric cooperatives tends to be biased toward coal as a fuel."

Farmer Mac is a stockholder-owned instrumentality of the United States chartered by Congress to establish a secondary market for agricultural real estate and rural housing mortgage loans and rural utilities loans and to facilitate capital market funding for USDA-guaranteed farm program and rural development loans. Farmer Mac's Class C non-voting and Class A voting common stocks are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols AGM and AGM.A, respectively.

SOURCE: Farmer Mac via PR Newswire.