Montana State University

Obama intends to nominate MSU economist to Farmer Mac board

February 5, 2010 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


MSU economist Myles Watts. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- President Obama intends to nominate Montana State University economist Myles Watts to the Farmer Mac board of directors, the White House announced Thursday evening.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Watts will serve the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Farmer Mac, for an indefinite number of years, Watts said. Farmer Mac is similar to Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae, but the government corporation is focused on agriculture. Congress created Farmer Mac to improve the availability of long-term credit for America's farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, businesses and communities.

Jeff Jacobsen, dean of MSU's College of Agriculture, said Watt's nomination is a reminder and excellent example of the high quality faculty at MSU.

"Dr. Watts has rigorous quantitative skills and knowledge that will serve the Farmer Mac program and us well. I can guarantee that his experiences on the board will be brought back to the classroom to enrich the student experience," Jacobsen said.

Watts said he was recommended to Obama by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), minority leader of the Senate.

"They basically tried to find somebody with a strong background and knowledge in both finance and agriculture, and my name came up," Watts said.

The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee will hold confirmation hearings, then the U.S. Senate will decide whether or not he will be appointed to the Farmer Mac board, Watts said. The Agriculture Committee is headed by U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat from Arkansas. U.S. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana is one of the 21 members of the committee.

If his appointment is approved, Watts said he will be one of about 15 members of the Farmer Mac board. The board generally meets six times a year in Washington, D.C., to address a variety of issues relating to lending practices and policies, Watts said. He expects the major issues coming up will deal with ag business loans.

"As close as I can tell, this organization is in much stronger shape than the Fanny Mae or Freddy Mac," Watts said of Farmer Mac. "Agriculture has done relatively well in the last several years. We don't have a lot of bad credit at the farm and ranch level. Farmer Mac is also involved with agricultural business loans which may be affected by the recent general economic downturn."

Watts came to MSU in 1978 and served 17 years as head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics. His current responsibilities include classroom teaching, research and outreach education. Watts has served in various editorial capacities for the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics. He has also received multiple honors and awards from professional associations, including the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Western Agricultural Economics Association.

He has advised many governments and private organizations, including large international reinsurance companies on an array of financial issues, mostly focusing on agricultural insurance. He serves on a variety of nonprofit economic education groups as a board member or in other leadership positions. His family still owns and operates the cattle and wheat ranch where he was raised in southeastern Montana.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu