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Rural group presses for debit rule delay

By National Association of Federal Credit Unions (5/11/11)

  MAY 15, 2011 --

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and 13 senators have been urged to support legislation to delay the deadline for the issuance of a final rule on debit interchange in a letter from the National Grange, which describes itself as the oldest rural advocacy group.

The group boasts 200,000 members in 2,700 communities in 40 states. “It remains our mission at the National Grange to support and strive for a strong rural community and we believe this rule will inevitably generate hardships for those dwelling in rural areas,” Nicole Palya Wood, the group’s legislative director, told lawmakers in individual letters urging lawmakers to postpone the Federal Reserve's interchange rule.

Wood noted the “astronomical” rate of debit card usage over the past 10 years and cited data showing 510 million debit cards in circulation just last September. “Reasons for this enormous growth include the convenience of electronic payment, low cost to the consumer, and the appealing choice of using a debit card instead of a credit card, which charges interest, imposes various penalties, and has an overall greater influence on credit ratings,” she wrote.

She added, “If the proposed rule is implemented, banks and credit unions will inevitably end up raising fees to make up for lost funds, and the consumer will pay the price.”

Wood said the debit rule will be “hazardous” to larger, multi-national banks. But small rural banks, which can’t pay for checking accounts and other banking fees, will face the greatest disadvantage. “In addition, many farmers are self-employed small business owners with a large stake in the health and well-being of their community bank,” she continued. “Making it difficult to access convenient, affordable banking services will only further strain the agriculture industry.”

Letters went to Capito as well as Sens. John Rockefeller, W.Va., Bob Casey, Pa., Jeff Merkley, Ore., Kent Conrad N.D., Kay Hagan, N.C., Tom Udall, N.M., Debbie Stabenow, Mich., Mike Crapo, Idaho, Jim Risch, Idaho, Michael Bennet, Colo., Mark Udall, Colo., Dianne Feinstein, Calif., and Mark Pryor, Ark.

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