It's not a repeat of the 1980's farm crisis-yet. Recent reports show a decline in the performance of the nation's 3,000 farm banks, but say that 1980s-sized problems are not expected.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has warned that financial institutions lending to those affected by low farm commodity prices showed signs of rising credit losses. The FDIC report also warned of "significant risks" to farm banks if low prices and "uncertainty" about federal farm programs continued.

A report from the American Bankers' Association showed that farm banks increased their agricultural lending in 1998, with total outstanding agricultural credit increasing for the sixth consecutive year.

The ABA survey showed a still-favorable assessment of asset quality for the banks' 1998 numbers, with the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans rising only 0.1 percent (0.3 percent in 1997; 0.4 percent in 1998). However, farm banks have begun to set aside increased reserves to cover potential credit problems. Those loan-loss provisions have increased by 25.6 percent. The ABA survey is further evidence agriculture is not keeping pace with the rest of the American economy.