Chesterfield, MO | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2014
Since 1994, John Becherer, M.S. ‘87, has
served as the chief executive officer of the
United Soybean Board. The board consists
of 70 soybean producers appointed by the
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture who are
charged with investing soybean checkoff
funds to benefit U.S. soybean producers.
Becherer oversees the investment of
USB’s $100 million annual checkoff funds
used to develop international and domestic
markets, find new soybean uses, conduct
soybean production research, and
implement communications activities. He
also serves as a spokesperson for the
board, meeting with industry and
government officials as well as soybean
producers and agricultural groups.
A 2009 study determined the soybean
checkoff has returned $6.40 in additional
profits to U.S. soybean farmers for every
Becherer grew up on a farm in central
Wisconsin. His position with the soybean
board allows him to continue his
careerlong interest in helping producers
farm more profitably.
After managing a construction company in Milwaukee for 14 years, Becherer
returned to school to pursue his master’s
degree at Purdue University. In West
Lafayette, Becherer served as senior
director of development and programs for
the Conservation Technology Information
Center, a clearinghouse for technological
information on soil conservation.
What part of your visit back to campus in
March are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to going back to the
AgEcon department to visit with the
professors and students. The department is
multinational in composition and reflects
the global approach I am involved with in
the soybean industry.
Why did you select Purdue as the place to
continue your education?
I chose Purdue because Purdue chose me.
I applied at several universities and Purdue
assured me that if I was serious about
getting a master’s degree, they were ready
and willing to help me achieve my goal.
Were you a good student when you were at
I was an average student at Purdue. I
went back to school when I was 35 years old to get my master’s degree. Having been
out of school for 14 years before going
back was a major hurdle for me to
overcome. After two years, by the time I
graduated from Purdue, I was a good
student on average, based on the overall
time spent getting my degree.
What was the most difficult course you took at
Purdue? What made it so difficult for you?
Math for economists was my most
difficult course at Purdue. After being out
of school for 14 years I felt like I had to
almost start over with math at Purdue. By
my second semester at Purdue I was taking
the graduate level math for economists
course and was overwhelmed. Thankfully,
the doctoral student teaching the course
was willing to assist me and I became
proficient enough to pass the course. What is the best advice you got while you were
at Purdue? Who gave you the advice?
Otto Doering told me he had a feeling I
would be working with farmers after I got
my degree and told me I needed to tell
farmers what they needed to hear and not
what they wanted to hear. As I look back I
feel the advice Dr. Doering gave me is good
advice no matter who the audience is.
What is the best advice you have ever given?
To whom did you give the advice?
I have told many people that the most
difficult thing I have ever done, for myself
and my family, was to get my AgEcon
degree from Purdue. It was also the best
thing I ever did. Based on that, I have
encouraged people to take on difficult
challenges because the rewards can be great.