Farm loan portfolios at the nation's rural-area banks grew for a fifth straight year in 1997, according to an analysis by the American Bankers Association.

At Dec. 31, total farm loans at the 3,095 farm banks had reached $36.7 billion, a 13.6% jump from a year earlier. And with the surge in loan demand, earnings at those banks soared 10.9% in 1997, to $2.1 billion.

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