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Source: Wells Fargo news release

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), America's No. 1 agriculture lender for 19 consecutive years, has positioned itself for continued growth in the nation's $16-billion nursery and greenhouse industry with the hiring of a leading commercial banker for the expanding sector.

Barry Sturdivant, who since 2000 headed Bank of the West's national Nursery/Greenhouse Agribusiness Center, has joined Wells Fargo's National Food and Agribusiness Division and will lead its initiative with the U.S. nursery and greenhouse industry. The most-recent United States Department of Agriculture Census shows that nursery, greenhouse, and floriculture production grew 13 percent from 2002 to 2007, while sales increased from $14.7 billion to $16.6 billion.

"The addition of Barry Sturdivant reinforces our dedication to growing our agribusiness network," said Rob Yraceburu, head of Wells Fargo's National Food and Agribusiness Division. "Barry brings specialized industry knowledge that will greatly benefit our clients in the sector and support the continued growth of our business."

Sturdivant is a leading authority on the greenhouse and nursery industry and has been published in Grower Talks, Greenhouse Grower, Nursery Product News, Nursery Management Pro, and other industry publications.

"The need for industry expertise, combined with national and local perspective, is rapidly increasing among wholesale nursery and greenhouse growers," said Sturdivant, who will work with local Wells Fargo commercial bankers in their home markets to serve local horticulture businesses.

Wells Fargo's increased resources for the greenhouse and nursery industry follow the bank's recent expansion into food and agribusiness in Eastern U.S. markets. In 2013, the bank announced formation of a National Food and Agribusiness Division to replicate its western specialization to new markets in the Midwest, South, and East.

"Nurseries are emerging from a long and deep recession and must be cautious in growing into their improving market," Sturdivant said. "Frequent and personal contact from local bankers who understand the local economy will better position these operations for success."

For the 19th consecutive year, Wells Fargo is the nation's top commercial bank agricultural lender in total dollar volume, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data for the first quarter of 2014. Wells Fargo has extended approximately $7.2 billion in agricultural loans, nearly 50 percent more than its closest rivals and well ahead of all its commercial banking competitors. In addition, RCIS - a wholly owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo - is the nation's largest crop insurance provider.

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