A federal judge said Friday that he will rule soon on whether the Farm Credit Administration may let its members lend money to companies that service farmers.

Judge Stanley Sporkin of the U.S. District for the District of Columbia made his comments near the conclusion of a two-hour hearing on a lawsuit filed by the Independent Bankers Association of America and the American Bankers Association.

The trade groups are upset over a rule that took effect in March that lets Farm Credit System lenders offer loans to businesses that supply products to farmers, such as equipment dealers and seed companies. They charge the agency lacks the authority to expand its mission. Previously, member institutions only could extend credit directly to farmers, who used the funds to buy livestock, seed, and equipment.

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