Illinois corn farmer Paul Jeschke attended his first U.S. Grains Council (USGC) meeting in the late 1970s but did not become more involved in the organization until his wife, Donna, was elected to the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. After 10 years of attending meetings alongside her, Jeschke himself became a delegate and was recognized for his own five years of service during the organization’s 15th International Marketing Conference and 58th Annual Membership Meeting in Houston, Texas, earlier this year.
Throughout the years, Jeschke said the Council’s global network of staff and consultants has stayed top-notch and one of the best parts of the organization.
“I am so impressed with the people – that is the highlight for me,” Jeschke said. “Last meeting, meeting the new people we have brought on in addition to the more tenured folks, I am real impressed with the quality of folks that the Council is able to attract to work for us.”
Jeschke farms an hour and a half from Chicago with his wife, brother-in-law, nephew and part-time helpers from the agriculture program at the local junior college. In addition to this family operation, Jeschke has been actively involved in the development of the ethanol industry by working to build an early plant, owning stock in several ethanol plants and advocating for ethanol-related legislation at both the state and national levels.
As a result of his experience, Jeschke was a natural fit when the Council started the Ethanol Advisory Team (A-Team). He explained ethanol has been one of the greatest rural revitalization projects in recent history, and now he has helped expand those efforts through the Council’s export promotion program, supported significantly by the state corn organizations like the one Jeschke represents.
“It is extremely heart-warming to see how strongly the commodity organizations are stepping up to the plate to expand the role the Council is able to play in exports,” Jeschke said.
Jeschke has seen how that investment pays off firsthand through travels overseas with the Council to China, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. He said he believed that the most outstanding aspect of the Council’s work in each country was once again the excellent overseas staff.
“What sells – price or the relationship?” Jeschke asks. “As competitive as the world is, most of the time price is fairly similar. And so, a lot of times, that relationship can be the difference in whether someone buys from you or not.”
“The people we have overseas understand that and work extremely diligently and extremely well on developing those relationships. The people are the strongest point of the organization, as I see it.”
In August 2017, the Council asked Jeschke to once again expand his experiences by serving as the chair of the Value-Added A-Team, the Council’s advisory group on grain co-products like distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS). He explained he has shifted his leadership from providing insights built on his own experiences to asking probing questions, consensus-building on discussion topics and generally serving as a good moderator.
“I am just as enthusiastic being a DDGS promoter as I was an ethanol promoter,” Jeschke said. “It all comes back to the Council’s people and the knowledge and information shared from those folks.”