Under the Dome

State auditor questions future of little-known agricultural loan program

State Auditor Beth Wood is questioning whether an obscure agricultural loan program run by the state should continue, saying it's operating at a loss and issuing few new loans.

The N.C. Agriculture Finance Authority issued four new loans totaling $622,670 in 2012 and one new loan for $590,000 through the end of February. All told, the agency administers 47 loans with seven staffer, down from 169 loans at its peak in 2004, state auditors found.

It has operated at a loss for four straight years at about $270,000 a year.

Auditors questioned whether the authority was "cost effectively meeting its legislative mandate, saying if the authority is abolished by the legislature, it could return $1 million to the state's bank account.

Created in 1986 within the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the authority is led by 10-member board that includes Commissioner Steve Troxler. It was formed to fill a void in agricultural loans and now administers loans for farm ownership, agribusiness projects and disaster relief.

Frank Bordeaux, the authority's executive director, issued a response saying he disagreed with the suggestion that the organizations purpose be re-evaluated. He said the organization has helped increase farm income and preservation and emphasized that all loans are up to date or paid in full.

He wrote that the agency has made adjustments, cutting two employees and creating a website to increase awareness about its programs. Read the full audit and response here.

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