MEET PAUL ELLINGER
Paul Ellinger has been a member of the farmdoc team since its inception in 1998. Ellinger works with other farmdoc team members to develop and monitor FAST Tools.
“It's been a long history of development,” said Ellinger. “We make sure the FAST enterprise is functioning, trying to assess the demand for different types of tools. We modify them, trying to determine which is more effective for lenders, which is more effective for producers, and then we coordinate those tools. The tools that lenders use to make decisions are often going to be comparable to the tools farmers use. We want them to be able to coordinate their efforts without tremendous cost to either group. That's a niche that hasn't really been satisfied.”
The other main function of the FAST enterprise is training. Ellinger and other team members take the FAST Tools into the field, meeting with farmers and lenders for hands-on computer training that Ellinger feels is particularly critical.
“We set up a computer lab and the farmer and lender can ‘test drive' some of the tools, asking questions and getting immediate feedback,” he said. “Individuals are sometimes nervous about utilizing spreadsheets and they're often quite surprised at the ease of use and applicability of the tools. Once we get past that initial hurdle, these meetings really help the participants help themselves. So we not only use the Internet to deliver this information, we also have some face-to-face training, and I think it's a nice combination.”
Finance is the second area that Ellinger works in. “We utilize Illinois Farm Business Farm Management data to establish benchmarks for farmers,” he said. “We recently put up a publication that highlights the financial characteristics of Illinois farms, what the different benchmarks are by size of farm, type of farm, and so on.”
Future plans for the Finance area include a column that will help producers understand their financial condition - what types of things they should consider as they prepare their financial statements, and how best to represent that information to the lenders.
Ellinger is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and the Department of Finance. He oversees the agri-acccounting program, advising 80 students and teaching two courses in agri-accounting and agri-finance. He is also co-instructor for an experiential learning course in Farm Policy and Leadership.
Recently, Ellinger has been involved with the Office of International Programs and Studies, working with Chinese bankers who are in the process of revising their banking system and are interested in learning more about the banking system in the United States .
“I've made a couple of trips to China , and they bring groups here. We're doing some outreach training, and it's been interesting to try and understand the differences in their lending and risk management practices and the Chinese culture.”
Ellinger grew up on a farm near Pontiac , and has been at the University of Illinois for most of his professional career. He received his undergraduate and master's degrees in agricultural economics, and later went on to obtain his PhD in finance.
“Apart from three years I spent as an assistant professor of ag economics at Texas A & M,” Ellinger said with a laugh, “since high school, I've either been paying U of I, or they've been paying me.”
Ellinger is married with two children, and his hobbies include running (he's run marathons in Boston , New York , Chicago and Columbus ) and tennis.
He also enjoys computers and says being part of the farmdoc team has been a good outlet for many of the members.
“Even though we're trained economists,” he said, “we've got a little ‘computer geek' in us, and this is a great way to apply that interest.”
To learn more about Paul Ellinger, visit his homepage here.
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