Despite some worries, agriculture and community banks "are a strong partnership" in Wisconsin, says Daryll J. Lund, the new executive director of the state's small-bank trade group.

The Independent Community Bankers Association of Wisconsin is holding its annual conference this week in Lake Geneva, Wis.

"Ag is one of the largest industries in our state," Mr. Lund says.

"Community banks have played a large role in it, and I think will continue to."

Wisconsin's well-known dairy industry has been transformed in recent years.

Many producers have expanded while upgrading their technology.

"Just like the banking industry is changing, the agriculture industry is changing," Mr. Lund said.

But concern is growing among the state's community banks that expansion loans are getting too big for individual banks handle.

"Some of those expansion loans are pushing their limits," Mr. Lund conceded. Still, "I think that working together they're able to make those type of loans," he said.

"Community banks will continue to be partners with those operations," Mr. Lund said.

The trade group official expresses optimism about community banks in the Badger State.

"They are very healthy and they are very competitive," he said.

"The numbers look very good for community banks. Just within the last two years we've had 10 new charters for independent banks in the state. We see it as a viable industry for years to come."

Wisconsin ranked among the top 25 states in bank return on assets in the first quarter, according to data from Sheshunoff Information Services Inc., at 1.27%.

Banks in the state with $1 billion of assets or less returned 1.18% on average.

The trade group has taken no position on the key national issue of interstate banking.

Over the next year, though, it will monitor the early effects of the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Act.

Mr. Lund came to the group from the Wisconsin Agribusiness Council, of which he was president and chief executive.

The council represents such farm-related businesses as feed and chemical companies and implement dealers.

Earlier he was associate director of government relations for the Wisconsin Bankers Association, overseeing government affairs and education and membership activities.

In his new post he succeeded David Glomp, who left in May after five and a half years to start a media consulting business.

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