WASHINGTON -- The secondary mortgage market agency known as Farmer Mac got off the ground earlier this month by placing its first-ever guarantee on securities backed by conventional farm mortgages.

The Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp. guaranteed timely payment of principal and interest to investors in securities backed by a $112 million pool of agricultural real estate mortgages.

The loans were pooled by John Hancock Life Insurance Co., which may now hold the guaranteed securities or sell them to third-party investors.

Farmer Mac was established in 1987 to boost liquidity for farm lenders. Though it has guaranteed securities backed by government farm mortgages, it has been struggling for the past two years to get its flagship program moving.

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