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December 2018 / January 2019 Today's Farmer Magazine

Pipe dreams The iconic Missouri Meerschaum Company celebrates 150 years by Kerri Lotven

The politics of farmingChinese trade retaliations, new NAFTA and delayed Farm Bill: What’s coming for America’s farmers in 2019?by Nancy Jorgensen

Putting dicamba to the testMFA agronomists study effects of tank-mix partners in off-target movementby Allison Jenkins

Borders in orderPrecision data can help put unproductive acres to work for wildlifeby Allison Jenkins

Star of the showMFA launches new Ring Leader feeds for livestock exhibitors by Allison Jenkins


COUNTRY CORNERResolve to evolve in the new yearby Allison Jenkins

LIVESTOCKLess stress helps cattle weather winter and keep your herd healthy in the cold weatherby Dr. Jim White

VIEWPOINTSupply, demand and relevanceby Ernie Verslues

UpFront/BlogBye-bye, bollwormOrganic acreage rises, non-GMO acreage declinesMissouri makes its mark at National FFA Convention MarketsCorn: Season-final yields expected to be reducedSoybeans: Exports are down, crushings are upCattle: Outlook for 2019: Steady cattle pricesWheat: Weather risks may mean volatile markets Recipes: Cin city BUY, sell, trade at Marketplace Closing Thoughtpeom by Walter Bargen,photography by Kerri Reynolds

Click on the magazine cover above to launch the flip book version of the Dec. 2018/Jan. 2019 issue

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I recently came across a quote from Colin Powell, the four-star general who became the U.S. Secretary of State under George W. Bush. General Powell noted that organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Neither do plans. Theories of management don’t much matter. But endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.

That quote resonated with me because I know MFA has attracted the best people in the industry, as employees, directors and customers. As a result, MFA has the right company culture that is focused on service, training and safety.

The challenge all of us face almost every year is how to manage successfully through unpredictable or adverse weather. Despite the weather challenge, MFA was positioned to excel in the areas in which we had control. Grain revenues, reflecting last fall’s harvest, were down about $8 million.

All of us have been through tough times before. There is no company or system better positioned than MFA. MFA is a team. We are a strong team. But we need to challenge ourselves continually. How can we make this team better? We win together, lose together and succeed together.

Like any successful team, we keep score. MFA’s projected profits for the just-ended fiscal 2016 are $2 million. No one is satisfied with that result.

MFA’s projected fiscal 2016 working capital is $70 million. That’s down $5 million from last year and not where we want to be. Reduced profitability had a significant impact on working capital. Still, net worth is $155 million, which is up $1 million. MFA’s projected fiscal 2016 ownership is 35 percent. Our target continues to be 40 percent. On the bright side, fiscal 2015 earnings returned to member/owners during fiscal 2016 totaled $4.9 million cash back.

So where do we go from here? In simplest terms, agriculture will continue to be driven by change. And judging from our scorecard and our 100-year history, MFA will both lead and manage through change. We will embrace change. And own it.

Change requires humility. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Going forward, change will happen at an even faster pace.

How do we attack this period of rapid change? We will continue to develop a plan while integrating flexibility. We will make decisions and react quickly. There is no substitute for preparation. We will empower our workforce to make critical decisions. We will be innovative. We will live our values. Decisions and actions are clearer and will become automatic if we tie them back to our values of people, excellence, accountability, financial success and integrity.

MFA is meeting change head on. Our rail facility at Hamilton, Mo., will vastly improve MFA’s and the farmer’s position in the grain industry. On the feed side, MFA’s innovation with Shield Technology keeps us ahead of the competition in empowering livestock producers. It improves animal health and rate of gain while reducing the need for antibiotics.

Our precision program, started more than 20 years ago, is recognized as the leader in our trade territory. Precision ag makes up only 2 to 3 percent of total ag input and equipment costs. But, every single element of inputs or equipment is impacted by the continued development of precision ag. That input and equipment market in the United States is $60 billion.

MFA’s branded seed (MorSoy and MorCorn) contains the best genetics and traits in the industry. MFA’s vigorous process of selection and testing works in combination with our training camps to bring data to both the sales force and producers.

All of these allow us to differentiate MFA in the marketplace.

Success is not an entitlement. Success needs to be earned. We will continue to be sensitive to the pressures you face. We will exceed your expectations.

Great companies are innovative. Great companies display superior execution. They do what they say. They deliver superior results for their customers. They find new ways to serve their customers. They have passionate and committed employees who continue to learn and grow.
All of those qualities describe MFA—your cooperative.

The Politics of Farming

Heading into the new year, farmers in our region face challenges from both weather and politics. A drought cut into yield during the 2018 growing season. On the political side, President Trump imposed a tariff on imports from China in July, prompting China to retaliate with a 25 percent tariff on soybean imports. U.S. soybean prices declined by roughly $2 a bushel since March. On top of that, Congress delayed passing a new farm bill by its September deadline, finally reaching an agreement as the . . .

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The star of the show

WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF MFA’s Ring Leader Show Feeds, livestock exhibitors will have new options in high-quality rations for their show animals. Although MFA has offered show feeds for swine, cattle and goats in the past, the Ring Leader brand will be the company’s first . . .

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Missouri makes its mark at National FFA Convention

Austin Stanton of the Centralia FFA Chapter in Centralia, Mo., was honored Oct. 25 with FFA’s prestigious “American Star Farmer” award at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. He was among 16 American Star Award finalists from throughout the U.S. who were nominated and interviewed by a panel of judges. Four were named winners and received cash awards totaling $4,000. According to FFA, American Star Awards are presented to members who demonstrate outstanding skills and . . .

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Putting dicamba to the test

On Oct. 31, the EPA made its much-anticipated announcement that dicamba registration will be extended for over-the-top use on cotton and soybean plants genetically engineered to resist the product.The approval is for two years, and the EPA will consider the issue again in 2020. In its news release, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the registration extension was made because dicamba has proven to be a valuable weed-control tool for America’s farmers........ (NEW VIDEO CONTENT AVAILABLE.)

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  In this issue Click here to see the latest issue of Today's Farmer       Agronomy GuideLearn more about our Agronomy Guide printed guide, mobile app and flip book.  NEW ISSUE LATE FEB. 2019


Noteable Quotes in the Dec./Jan 2019 issue

"We need to tell our story because our story makes us more relevant. Your Thanksgiving turkey is an example. I doubt many people who put a turkey on the table knew where it was raised. ..... "

"When we set up these plots, we had just come out of 2017 season, where we saw a significant amount of off-target movement, and we were looking for reasons why....”

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Featured Videos

Steps in the right direction

When Glory began her first training class at Agape Boarding School Ranch, the 3-year-old mare was wild, nervous and afraid. She didn’t trust anyone. She refused to obey. Her 17-year-old trainer, Hunter Scarbury of Mesa, Ariz., could relate. After all, that same type of behavior is what led him to this rigid residential facility for troubled boys in Stockton, Mo. “Back home, I was skipping school, getting in trouble, and eventually my parents kicked me out,” Scarbury said. “I lived on the streets for a while, and then they decided to send me here to straighten out my life. It was rough for the first few months because I was fighting it, but now  . . .

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Read more: Newhome

Washington, D.C., is not my idea of an ideal trip when the destination means back-to-back meetings with senators, representatives and their staffs. Still, in today’s world, it is a necessary function. Traditional agriculture must always stand ready to provide what we see as common- sense input to policy makers.

The legislative committee for MFA’s corporate board of directors graciously takes the time each year to make this trip. I appreciate their company and their dedication, especially this year when the meeting was held in late June and planting windows had been so short, and in some cases, planting remained incomplete.

Those MFA board members on the legislative committee attending this year and representing your interests were Don Mills, chairman, District 11, El Dorado Springs, Mo.; John Moffitt, vice chairman, District 3, Winigan, Mo.; Tom Dent, District 2, Humeston, Iowa; Davin Althoff, District 9, California, Mo.; Barry Kagay, District 1, Amity, Mo.; and Glen Cope, District 12, Aurora, Mo. MFA’s board represents a cross-section of Midwest agriculture.

Our trip coincided with a conference held by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. The conference brought together nearly 150 board members and executives of U.S. cooperatives.

During the NCFC conference, we heard presentations from subcommittees on animal agriculture, international affairs, food and nutrition, labor and infrastructure, and government affairs. NCFC outlined its 2015 priorities which include support for Capper-Volstead (the antitrust protection for farmer cooperatives), tax issues for agriculture, Farm Credit, USDA, modernization of transportation infrastructure, a national energy strategy and nutrition policy among other items.

Many, if not most, of those attending NCFC’s meeting also schedule time to interact with elected officials. I can assure you agriculture is well-represented in Senate and House buildings.

That is the most positive aspect of the trip. MFA’s board of directors is entirely made up of actual farmers and ranchers. During the meetings with elected officials, these farmers and ranchers effectively communicate concerns experienced by those who work the land daily as well as those of us responsible for managing the cooperative.

From these board members and cooperative executives, key policymakers get to hear perspectives that are too often far removed from life in Washington. Of course, many of these elected officials spend considerable time in the areas they represent, and they represent us well. They know the issues and we convey our appreciation.

MFA’s board members are familiar with crop and livestock outlooks in today’s marketplace. They have firsthand experience with this season’s farm income statistics. They know what’s happening with working capital, projected revenue and financing. They have personal knowledge of cropland values, pasture values and lending conditions affected by this year’s unusually wet planting season.

Although the full planting season statistics weren’t assembled at the time of our meeting in late June, each and every board member knew that plantings of both soybeans and corn were far behind seasonal averages. The row-crop board members were well aware that mid- to late-June soybean planting would decrease yields by nearly 30 percent. And they knew just how much soybean ground on their own farms remained to be planted.

What we try to accomplish in these meetings with elected officials is first to thank those who do represent us well. Just as important, though, we try to meet with and express our concerns to those who don’t share our views. We want them to know we are responsible stewards of the land and individuals with real concerns about modern legislation, regulation and marketplace conditions. Those in opposition need to hear first-hand how their actions or inactions affect agriculture and rural life.

Some of the best conversations come from meetings with those who don’t vote the way we’d like. It gives us an opportunity to explain what we do, why we do it, and the products and practices we use.

MFA is not a political organization. That said, we are not indifferent to what goes on in the nation’s capital. It is in all of our customers’ interests that we express our concerns to these senators and representatives.

We had a lot to talk about: crop and livestock conditions, estate taxes, biotechnology, EPA’s Waters of the United States regulations, EPA’s assault on coal-powered electricity, the federal deficit, regulations in general, food labeling, and the importance of balancing a budget, whether on the farm, in the business or in government.

In short, it was a productive trip. And I want to personally thank each of the board members for their personal efforts in representing MFA and the MFA members in their areas. I hope you will as well

About Today's Farmer magazine

Today's Farmer is published 9 times annually. Printed issues arrive monthly except combined issues for June/July, August/September and December/January. Subscriptions are available only in the United States.

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