- Associated Press - Monday, September 18, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Michelle Paulus made up her mind on a career in agricultural lending well before college.

The Lincoln resident and University of Illinois senior in agriculture and consumer economics was among U of I and Illinois State University students at the Ag Banking Conference of the Illinois Bankers Association, held Aug. 23-24 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. This is the second year students have been invited to the conference as part of efforts to ease a developing shortage in farm banking as baby boomers reach retirement age.

“Hearing a lot of real-life experience is beneficial. It’ll better help prepare me for my career,” said Paulus, who added that she has started her job search in preparation for graduation in May.

“I was born and raised on a hog farm in Lincoln,” Paulus said, “It’s where I developed my passion for ag. I specifically want to be in ag lending. I’m open to options.”

Agricultural lending faces the same aging demographic as the general farm population, said Bill Wagner, chairman of an agriculture education subcommittee for IBA.

“We’re getting older, the baby boomer generation. We thought this was a good opportunity to show them (students) the opportunities out there,” said Wagner, a veteran lender with First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust in Decatur.

Lending is only one of the possibilities, said Scott Rhoads, chairman of the IBA ag committee. There also are farm services, credit agencies, management companies and financial analysis, said Rhoads, who is with Carrollton Bank.

“We’re often talking about millions of dollars. You can make or lose a lot of money in a hurry,” Rhoads said. “We are looking for people who have a real feel for numbers and the industry.”

ISU students Sam Johnson and Fatima Mohammed plan to take their studies in agriculture and finance back to their homes in Guyana. Both are first-year students.

“We are more interested in the financial management and analysis, when it comes to farming,” Johnson said. “In my country, agriculture is a small-scale business. We need more financing when it comes to agriculture. It’s something I want to take back.”

Mohammed said while the scale of U.S. agriculture is much larger, the lessons of finance and investment could help boost farming in Guyana.

“It’s one of the reasons I came here. I think I can make a difference,” Mohammed said. “Banking and financing is really new to them (farmers in Guyana).”

More than 200 agricultural bankers were at the conference, said IBA spokeswoman Debbie Jemison. Jemison said ISU students were added this year based on the response from U of I students invited in 2016.

“One of the challenges of our member banks is attracting quality employees to the banking industry,” Jemison said in a statement. “We feel that inviting college students interested in ag banking to our program will give them a good introduction to the industry.”


Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/2xqekrH


Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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