TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Landing in southern Idaho as a newbie credit officer in 1979, Dave Stout knew nothing about milking cows or the financial needs of dairymen.
And Idaho was not the behemoth milk producer it is today.
Back then, the state had 141,000 cows and produced 1.7 billion pounds of milk annually to rank as the 18th largest dairy state. Today, the state’s dairymen tend about 600,000 cows, producing 14.7 billion pounds of milk and vie for the No. 3 spot in the nation.
Stout was not only part of that phenomenal growth, he championed the financial backing that would fuel it.
After graduating from the University of Idaho in 1978, he landed a position with the Federal Land Bank, which later became Northwest Farm Credit Services.
“When I got to Gooding, the dairy industry was just kind of getting going in the valley. My boss at the time … did not want to do dairy loans,” he said.
Seeing opportunity, both in the industry and lending, Stout didn’t let up on trying to convince him that dairy was a good bet.
“We had pretty good discussions about it, and finally he agreed that we should get into dairy lending and that it had a pretty bright future for the Magic Valley,” he said.
But the dryland farm boy from Genesee, Idaho, knew nothing about dairy operations. Local dairymen mentored him and taught him about the business.
In 1987, he moved to the company headquarters in Spokane, Wash., to further his career. But he was only there nine months before the farm financial crisis put him back in the field to help the company survive.
“The company survived under new leadership and did very, very well,” he said.
Farm Credit’s philosophy of working with farmers — who are willing to work with the company — through tough times remains a tenet of how he does business, he said.
But the company’s philosophy changed after the 2009 dairy crisis.
“The company wanted to reduce exposure and back away from the dairy industry a little bit,” he said.
It was a tough pill for Stout to swallow, and he became frustrated and discouraged.
“We worked hard to build that dairy business. We built a very good portfolio that I probably had my heart and soul in,” he said.
His wife, Londa, told him he needed to make a change or retire, reminding him “it was not my bank,” he said.
Rabobank approached him about switching companies not long after, but it was a tough decision. He had worked with Farm Credit for 33 years. The company had treated him well, and he was loyal.
But he hit it off with then Rabo AgriFinance CEO John Ryan and liked his leadership style. The CEO asked what it would take to get Stout on board. The answer was being able to bring his team — loan officer Jon Maughan and financial specialist Maria Deschane — with him.
“I wouldn’t have come without them,” he said.
Ryan approved and told Stout to go build business.
That was 2011, and Stout transitioned from being determined not to let Rabo get a foothold in the area when he worked with Farm Credit to building that foothold.
“Jon (Maughan) and I knew everybody in dairy and quite a few farmers, and we were able to start building business,” he said.
Rabo’s business in Idaho has grown ever since, from nine employees when Stout took the reins to 32 today.
“Our growth has been pretty phenomenal. In seven years, we’ve grown to about the same size as Farm Credit,” he said.
That success comes from great staff — those who took a leap of faith and switched companies with him and the young staff he’s been able to hire and “teach all my bad habits,” he said.
But he’s winding down his career. He was 55 when he went to work for Rabobank and promised the company he would give a year’s notice before he retired. He did that last August and turned down the company’s offer to be its new business development manager, saying it wouldn’t be fair to take the position knowing he was retiring.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work 40 years with two very good ag lenders and spend most of my career in the Magic Valley,” he said.
He also feels fortunate to have worked with great staff and customer-producers who have treated him so well, he said.
He’s seen a lot of changes in agricultural financing over 40 years, but it’s still all about building relationships and trust, he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a people business,” he said.
Business: agricultural financing
Career: Northwest Farm Credit Services, 1978-2011, credit officer, regional credit officer, dairy team lead and vice president; Rabo AgriFinance, 2011 to 2016, team lead and vice president, Twin Falls, 2016 to present, senior relationships manager and vice president, Twin Falls
Education: Bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from University of Idaho, 1978
Home: Kimberly, Idaho
Family: Wife, Londa — “the best thing that ever happened” to him — children Kelly and Clay (both graduates of Stout’s alma mater, University of Idaho)