Santa Rosa-based American AgCredit announced Monday it will merge with a Kansas agricultural lender, creating one of the largest Farm Credit cooperatives in the United States.

The joint co-op, which will be headquartered in Santa Rosa, will have $4.8 billion in assets and 6,430 members.

The acquisition of Farm Credit of the Heartland, based in Wichita, Kan., is the fourth since 2000 for American AgCredit. It will make American AgCredit the seventh largest of the 90 cooperatives that comprise the Farm Credit System.

?The merger with Heartland will diversify our risk and at the same time strengthens our core structure, allowing us to respond to regulatory and competitive demands more efficiently,? American AgCredit CEO Ron Carli said in a statement.

American AgCredit first approached Heartland about the merger a year ago, Carli said. The Wichita cooperative, which has about 60 employees, reported $976 million in assets in the first quarter of this year.

American AgCredit is more than three times larger, with 214 employees and $3.9 billion in assets.

The new association will operate under the name American AgCredit, Carli said. The deal is effective Nov. 30.

Founded in 1916, the Farm Credit System is a network of borrower-owned cooperatives that provide lending and other financial services to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners across the United States.

?We believe the combined organization will be financially and operationally stronger than either Association individually,? according to a statement issued jointly by both lenders? board of directors.

?Combined, they will be better positioned to deliver competitively priced credit and related services, continue a cash dividend, and provide a well-capitalized Association that can withstand cyclical downturns, adverse weather conditions, or other factors that depress the profits of our members,? the boards said.

Between 2000 and 2005, American AgCredit acquired Central Valley Production Credit Association, Farm Credit of Southern California and AgCredit Financial, of Nevada.