WASHINGTON - President Clinton has named Billy Ross Brown chairman of the Farm Credit Administration.

Arkansas banker William Bowen, a personal friend of the President's, is rumored to have turned the job down first.

Mr. Bowen had been campaigning for the chairmanship of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The White House is expected to fill that post next week.

"In a way, I am absolutely delighted that Bowen did not take the job, because that means to me his hat is still in the ring for FDIC chairman," said Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the independent Bankers Association of America.

Other Contenders

But while in New Hampshire last spring, President Clinton said Chris Gallagher, a lawyer and campaign adviser there. was his leading candidate.

Recently, sources in the administration have indicated that two women candidates had become the leading contenders. Naming a woman would have allowed Mr. Clinton to make good on a campaign pledge to put more women and minorities in key positions.

The Farm Credit Administration is an independent agency that regulates the Farm Credit System, a government-sponsored enterprise that competes with the nation's 4.000 agricultural bankers. Outstanding farm debt last year was $140 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Rural Credit Source

Congress chartered the Farm Credit System in 1916 to provide credit to farmers. It consists of 14 banks and 243 local credit associations that lend to farmers, ranchers, and rural cooperatives.

The Farm Credit System raises money on Wall Street at rates close to those on Treasury bonds. As of June 30, it had $62.7 billion in assets, including $52.7 billion in loans.

Mr. Brown, a former Oxford, Miss., cattleman and cotton farmer, has been a board member since November 1990. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Before his appointment to the board, he was a longtime board member of the First South Production Credit Association, a large farm credit institution in the Southeast. First South, based in Jackson, Miss., holds about 94% of Farm Credit System assets in Mississippi. Louisiana, and Alabama, said Mary Kay Thatcher. a Farm Credit Administration spokeswoman.

Several sources who follow the Farm Credit system said privately that Mr. Brown is known as the least articulate of the board's three members.

|Street Smarts'

"Billy Ross Brown may not be the world's greatest public speaker, but he has the kind of street smarts it takes to make the right decisions." said Ronald K. Ence. the IBAA's director of agricultural finance. "His institutional experience, his back-ground with cooperatives, and his relationship with the other board members should serve him well in his new capacity."

The current chairman, Harold B. Steele, has been in that post since October 1989. He is expected to step down soon and return to farming.

The other board member, Republican Gary C. Byrne, joined in December 1991. His term expires in 1996.

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