NC auditor questions keeping farm lending unit

RALEIGH, N.C. - A new state audit says North Carolina lawmakers should examine whether a farm loan program generating red ink is worth continuing or revamping.

State Auditor Beth Wood's office released its report Wednesday on the 27-year-old North Carolina Agricultural Finance Authority. State lawmakers created it to respond to a shortage of available and affordable credit for agriculture and farm exports.

The authority funds operations from income it generates from loan interest and other sources. Auditors say its operations for the past four years have cost more than the money coming in, cutting into the cash available for financing agricultural projects. The report says the authority is making a fraction of the new loans it was less than a decade ago but hasn't reduced its staff in line with lower activity.

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