Before it failed in April, New Frontier Bank in Greeley, Colo., was one of the nation's largest lenders to dairy farmers. So a month after it went bust, the Congressional Oversight Panel, the watchdog for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, held a hearing in the bank's hometown to find out if the failure was an isolated event or if it signaled broader problems in the agricultural economy that might require a TARP-like rescue of farmers and ranchers.

After hearing rival bankers label many of New Frontier's borrowers as "unbankable," the panel concluded that New Frontier fell victim to its own mismanagement. Still, the overseers heard enough from farmers and bankers to confirm their belief that the robust farm economy was weakening and, in late July, issued a report warning of a rough road ahead.

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