Among the biggest challenges for agricultural banks these days is figuring out a way to keep their farm customers in business.

With prices for corn, hogs, soybeans, and other commodities falling well below their five-year averages, farmers' net income in 1998 dipped for the second straight year, according to the Department of Agriculture. Net income, which peaked at $55 billion in 1996, tumbled to $44 billion last year and is projected to fall again in 1999.

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