Carrying the message: Illinois Agri-Women officers elected

The Illinois Agri-Women are led by a leadership team that includes Diana Ropp (from left), past president; Court Hruska, membership chair; Deb Schultz, president; Shelia Hunt, secretary; Eleanor Zimmerlein, vice president-advocacy and Anjie Erbsen, treasurer.

DECATUR, Ill. — Loans from the Farm Service Agency are available to assist those involved in production agriculture.

“We’re here to partner with conventional lenders and I’m a big believer in this because it works,” said John Gehrke, farm loan chief for Illinois FSA. “If you know someone who can get help from the program, carry the message.”

Gehrke, who spoke during the annual meeting of the Illinois Agri-Women, said the FSA works with banks and Farm Credit systems to help traditionally underserved groups including beginning farmers, veterans and women.

“Anyone that can use our assistance, we want them to know how to find us and what we do,” he said.

“A lot of what we do in Illinois is real estate loans and we make operating loans, too,” he said.

“We have a beginning farmer down payment loan where we finance 45 percent of the farm and conventional financing does 50 percent,” he said. “That requires a 5-percent down payment, which gets a lot more people in the market.”

The FSA financing is 1.5 percent fixed for 20 years, Gehrke said.

“That goes a long way to helping cash flows and access to credit,” he said.

Gehrke stressed that FSA is not aimed at competing with commercial lenders.

“We have roughly 5,000 customers that are split in about one-third have direct loans and two-thirds have guaranteed loans,” he said.

“The guaranteed loans are to the Farm Credit system or conventional lenders in your community that allow people access to credit that otherwise couldn’t get it,” he said.

President’s Report

During her president’s report, Diana Ropp said the past two years of serving as the leader of the organization have flown by.

“I’m filled with pride and joy for this organization and I’m so thankful for all of you,” she said.

“The process of bylaw revision and policy and procedures to match the revised bylaws was accomplished under the skillful assistance of many IAW members,” Ropp said.

“The IAW website has become more timely thanks to the hard work of multiple members and the AAW Convention hosted by IAW last fall was a tremendous success.”

Prior to the election for new officers for IAW, Ropp recognized Deb Schultz for her work as the IAW vice president.

“Deb, you are a rock star and this organization is in wonderful hands with you at the helm for the next term,” Ropp said. “I’ll never be able to thank you enough. You coordinated educational and fun tours associated with our meetings and I’m grateful.”

Ropp told the members she looks forward to continuing to work with them in the future.

“I thank you for your support and encouragement during my tenure and thank you for allowing me to be your president,” she said.

“I’ve been thrilled to be the vice president for the past two years and enjoyed working with everyone,” said Deb Schultz. “We have a great supportive team and awesome women to work with.”

During officer elections, the following IAW members were selected to lead the organization: Deb Schultz, president; Kelsey Vance, vice president, Shelia Hunt, secretary; Anjie Erbsen, treasurer; and Court Hruska, membership chair.

For more information about the Illinois Agri-Women, go to

Martha Blum can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 117, or Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Blum.


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