March 04, 2024

ICGA honors industry boosters

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Illinois Corn Growers Association recognized five individuals for making significant contributions to the corn industry at the annual meeting Nov. 23.

Honorees were Paul and Donna Jeschke, Mazon, World of Corn Award; Margaret Henry, Mike Plumer Environmental Award; U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, Ethanol Award; and Mike Perrine, Media Award.

World Of Corn Award

Paul and Donna Jeschke are the recipients of ICGA’s top award. The World of Corn Award goes to individuals, organizations, or businesses for making significant contributions to the corn industry.

The special award, now in its 32nd year, was created to recognize the global importance of corn and specifically honor individual pacesetters that have made Illinois a leader in the corn industry.

“Paul and Donna have committed themselves to our organizations and have shown up when and wherever we needed them,” said Randy DeSutter, family farmer and ICGA president.

“Both have led corn farmers through times of transition and growth. Both are excellent examples of the attitude of humility and service that we feel represents the best of Illinois agriculture.”

Donna served on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board from 2002-2012, serving as chair of the board in 2008-2009. Under her leadership, the National Corn Growers Association and the U.S. Grains Council co-located their offices in Washington, D.C., which has resulted in more unified and seamless representation of corn farmers in the United States and around the world.

Paul served on the ICMB from 2012-2021, serving as chairman of the board in 2017-2018. He became an invaluable resource building the ethanol market, developing a knowledge base on the complicated, scientific topic that rivaled that of staff and other farmer leaders around the country.

Together, the team makes an unmatched asset for Illinois corn farmers. They have hosted numerous international trade teams and have been important players in the pursuit of connection with non-farmers in Chicago.

“It is notable that the couple both has interests and skills that benefit our industry and that they both consider it a gift to use those interests and skills to help us all. Their service, their knowledge, their willingness to show up and — last, but not least — their friendship makes them a natural fit for this lifetime achievement award,” DeSutter said.

Illinois corn farmers thank this couple for their 20 years of service and commitment to the industry.

Mike Plumer Environmental Award

Henry, director of Sustainable Agriculture for PepsiCo, was honored by ICGA for her commitment to farmers and their farming practices as PepsiCo considered their own sustainability goals and how to meet them.

PepsiCo has been a partner with Illinois Corn’s Precision Conservation Management program for the past four years. The company enjoys PCM as a trusted farmer partner, as they work to help keep Illinois farmers resilient into the future.

“PepsiCo is going above and beyond the vast majority of sustainability commitments by not only working on our own operations, but also working hand in hand with the farmers who supply us to make progress together on issues that matter to communities worldwide,” Henry said.

“At PepsiCo, we focus on working with our farmers to find ways that sustainability benefits everyone who grows, makes and eats everything from Doritos to Naked Juice, Quaker Oats to Lays Potato Chips and Pepsi to Tropicana.”

PepsiCo is committed to working in partnership with the farmers in their supply chains and views PCM as a critical partner in that journey.

“It is extremely valuable to have the partnership of such an influential company as farmers work through PCM to meet the world’s conservation and sustainability goals,” DeSutter said.

“Without partnerships like PepsiCo and without the staff leadership of folks like Ms. Henry who truly understand farming and farming practices, Illinois farmers would not be making the significant changes on their farms that will impact the way food is grown for the future.”

Henry was born on a dairy farm in Kentucky. She has spent her life and career working to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes for rural communities around the world.

She has bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees from Brown University, training from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in system dynamics and a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University focused on science, technology and environmental policy.

As PepsiCo’s director of sustainable agriculture, she works on their strategy to partner and expand climate resilient and regenerative farming practices around the world.

She believes that the most enduring change comes about when aligning diverse partners with different expertise and driving outcomes through finding shared value from the farmer to the environment to the consumer.

Ethanol Award

Rep. Bustos, D-Ill., is an important partner in ICGA’s goal to build ethanol demand with her bill, the Next Generation Fuels Act. Introduced in August, the bill paves the way for corn-based ethanol to be a fuel choice in America’s clean energy future.

“Cheri Bustos has been an advocate that we can count on when it comes to helping others understand that corn-based ethanol is a clean, climate-friendly fuel. Her legislation is different from other bills in that it recognizes that farmers and rural America can be a solution to our current challenges,” DeSutter said. “Her Next Generation Fuels Act would impact Illinois farmers for the next two to three generations.

“Rep. Bustos has always been a very important advocate for rural America and the U.S. government. She has represented her constituency very well and helped to amplify our voice when we would have been lost in the conversation otherwise. Her contribution to the ethanol industry — and to all of agriculture — has been very impactful.”

When fully implemented, the Next Generation Fuels Action stands to increase long-term annual ethanol usage by more than 5 billion gallons. That’s equal to over 1.8 billion bushels of new annual corn demand.

In 2013, Bustos was sworn into her first term in Congress, representing the families of Illinois’s 17th congressional district. Over the last eight years, she has served on the U.S. House of Representatives Agricultural Committee, as well as the House Appropriations Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Bustos was born in Springfield and is proud of her agricultural roots. She and her husband, Gerry, have three grown children and three grandchildren, all of whom live in Illinois.

Media Award

Perrine of MP Ag Radio, Troy, was recognized for his efforts to promote Illinois agriculture and, specifically, Illinois corn and corn farmers, through coverage in traditional media or through their engagement on social media.

“Mike is one of the true heroes of the Illinois ag media. He’s been through it all, covered it all with accuracy and excellence and set an example that other ag media attempt to live up to. No one does radio broadcasting like Mike,” DeSutter said.

Perrine has a long career in Illinois ag broadcasting, beginning about 40 years ago, becoming the voice of agriculture at WKAN in Kankakee, growing into a position with Agri-Talk and cultivating stories at MP Ag Radio, a company he owns.

Previously, Perrine has been named the Farm Broadcaster of the Year for the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Eastern Region, Top Ag Communicator at the Illinois Commodity Conference and Illinois Soybean Association Communicator of the Year.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Mike throughout my entire career in agriculture. He interviewed me as an FFA state officer in 1976-1977 and he’s still interviewing me today as I’m serving as Illinois Corn Growers Association president. He never tires of sharing the story of Illinois agriculture and that commitment is what we’re celebrating today,” DeSutter said.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor