Ag Lending? Work with a Leader

Despite the current down cycle in the ag economy, Bell is still very active in the ag market. With that sector of our portfolio continuing to grow, we’ve added a regional ag banking leader to our correspondent team.

Having started with “hay in my hair and manure on my shoes,” Lynn Paulson has had firsthand knowledge of ag economics, through good times and bad.

He’s been financing farm operations and agribusinesses for more than 35 years, but he had an unusual entry into the industry. Lynn worked as a vocational ag teacher after college before returning to the family dairy farm where he grew up. He also went to auctioneer school – and although he hasn’t called an auction in years, he can still rattle off an auction chant without hesitation.

Then in the early 1980s, an electrical fire burned the Paulsons’ dairy barn to the ground and changed the course of Lynn’s life.

From Farming to Finance

Lynn had friends who worked in the Farm Credit System, and he thought the industry might be a good fit for him.

“When I started, I still had hay in my hair and maybe a little manure still on my shoes,” Lynn recalls. “I didn’t know anything about banking, but my experience on the other side of the desk proved very valuable.”

The 1980s were a stressful time in agriculture, and Lynn “learned to swim by jumping into the deep end of the pool.”

“In hindsight, it was the best learning experience I could have ever had,” he says. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Lynn liked being able to use his life experience and understanding of the financial world to help farmers figure out how to be successful.

“I had operations that didn’t survive, but there wasn’t one single operation that failed that didn’t know a year in advance that it was coming,” Lynn notes. “We don’t cut anybody off at the knees. They will know what the consequences are if certain things don’t happen.”

Lynn quickly rose through the ranks, managing multiple offices after just a few years, and he was eventually approached to start a new bank. He turned it down twice before agreeing. Eventually, though, he merged four banks and three holding companies into one company that grew from $13 million to $600 million before he left to join Bell Bank.

“I always knew that if I decided to make a change, I wanted to work for Richard Solberg (Bell’s board chairman and former CEO),” Lynn said. “He had a solid, successful business model, and I wanted to be part of that.”

“A Great Resource”

Today, Lynn is senior vice president and director of agribusiness development for Bell Bank. In addition to working in ag lending, he works with correspondent banking partners and agricultural operations and businesses across several Midwestern states. He has worked closely with Bell’s correspondent banking department for a while and recently, officially became part of the department.

“Over the years, I’ve dealt with just about every aspect of agriculture,” Lynn says. “There isn’t much a correspondent bank could throw our way that I haven’t had some experience in.”

Tom Ishaug, Bell’s correspondent banking manager, says Lynn helps the department with ag underwriting as well as in bank stock parameters and lending.

“Many of our clients are rural banks, and the two things they love to talk about are banking and agriculture. Lynn talks that language very well,” Tom says. “Lynn’s been a great resource for us.”

Lynn is not only an expert in the local ag economy, but he also understands the importance of keeping his finger on the pulse of regional, national and global ag economies.

“What goes on in the rest of the country and the world, it does matter,” Lynn says. “It truly is a global economy, especially in agriculture.”

Bell is committed to its ag customers and has more than $400 million in agricultural loans. 

“We’re able to share our expertise, things we’ve done right, things we’ve done wrong, with our correspondent bank partners,” Lynn said. “I’ve gone through business cycles. We always compare this ag economy to the ’80s; I lived and survived the ’80s. I can share some of those lessons of what to do, what not to do. I also learn a lot from our correspondent banking partners. It’s been a good reciprocal information and knowledge-sharing benefit.”

Shared Knowledge

Lynn shares his knowledge by writing a quarterly publication on agricultural issues called AgViews. He also speaks to financial, commodity and other farm groups on agricultural lending and finance, the global economy and the ag economy. He has audiences fully engaged as he discusses hard-hitting issues like the difficulties farmers, lenders and others now face in the aftermath of super-cycle prosperity.

Dr. David Kohl, an author and nationally known speaker on the economics of farming and agribusiness, has endorsed Lynn as an agricultural speaker.

“Lynn Paulson is an experienced banking practitioner who can relate to a wide range of audiences, including agricultural lenders, producers and agribusiness owners, in a practical manner,” Kohl said. “Lynn is an articulate speaker who is very appropriate for the challenging and changing times.”

Lynn also owns and operates his family’s farm in Benson County, N.D. He grows wheat and soybeans and feeds cattle over the summer.

“It’s back to my roots,” he says. “In the spring, that smell of freshly tilled soil, if I could make a perfume out of that, I would. I understand when farmers say that next to your family, the most important thing is the soil, the land.”

The experience of being a fourth-generation farmer, combined with financing farm operations and businesses for more than three decades, gives Lynn a unique perspective on the agricultural sector’s challenges and opportunities.

“When a storm was coming, my dad used to say ‘there’s storm clouds building in the west,’ ” Lynn remembers. “I’ve got the ability to see when a storm cloud is building in the west earlier than most.”

Lynn is a past member of the American Bankers Association Agricultural and Rural Bankers Committee and currently serves on the North Dakota Bankers Association’s legislative committee.

Lynn is ready to talk ag lending with you and your customers! Just call or email.

Contact Lynn

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