Celebrating local cooperatives

Written by Kerri Lotven on .

The Freistatt Farmers Exchange is on the main street of Freistatt directly across from the volunteer fire department and a cluster of outdoor post office boxes. Members of the community regularly stop in to purchase a sandwich and chips from the deli counter or a load of feed from the storerooms. Some customers call the store to find out if the mail has been delivered before subjecting themselves to the bitter cold of a winter day. When an ice storm cut power for two weeks a few years ago, the Freistatt Farmers Exchange kept the community supplied with kerosene from an antique pump. These are just a few examples of what some like-minded MFA-affiliated cooperatives across the territory mean to the communities they serve.

In 2016, four MFA local cooperative affiliates celebrated milestone anniversaries. Freistatt celebrated its 50th. At MFA, we often talk about our cooperative history—of the people who recognized the benefit of working together to leverage buying power and their collective voices in the pursuit of “equality for agriculture.” MFA and its local affiliates have always existed to benefit our rural communities, making agricultural goods and services accessible to farmers in the area.

“We’re owned by our members for the purpose of serving our membership and to provide services that aren’t normally available in small towns this size,” Freistatt Farmer’s Exchange Manager Doug Arnett said.

“Our local affiliates often have a long history that directly aligns with MFA’s. When MFA founder William Hirth began proposing the idea of farm clubs, these communities took action and began organizing. Many locations have withstood time, weather and politics to continue serving their neighbors—and that’s worth some recognition,” said Ernie Verslues, President and CEO of MFA Incorporated.

Freistatt Farmers Exchange’s anniversary celebration drew almost 300 people. In a town with a population of 163 according to 2010 census data, those attendees demonstrate the impact this local cooperative still has on its community 50 years later.

Birch Tree

"Being an MFA affiliate helps supply the local community with products that might not be available otherwise in a town this small. I think there is a certain level of trust. People can come in and talk to us and not feel like we're just trying to sell them something. We're in this together. They know we're trying to help because we're members of their community" Lester Jett, manager of Birch Tree said. 









Lockwood Farmers Exchange

"A lot of the reasons we do business as an MFA local affiliate is the tradition and history that MFA embodies" Lockwood Farmers Exchange Manager, Robert Johnson said. "The progress that MFA has made over the last 100 years has changed the face of agriculture. It's a recognized supplier and retailer that has made it known it's out to stay." 









Rhineland Co-op Association #130

"We've been here for 95 years," said Gregg Lamb, the general manager of Rhineland Co-op Association #130. "We have a long history of being with MFA and flying the shield. Being a small co-op, we can't do everything ourselves. By being affiliated with a larger organization, there's a lot more resources available to us." 

Good for the barbecue, tough on producers

Written by TF Staff on .

Consumers should see more favorable prices at the meat counter this year. There will be continued downward pressure on global meat prices during 2017, according to a report from the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Group.

Among the changes in the world market, some consistencies are evident. Rabobank predicts that China will continue to exert a huge influence on global meat markets. The world’s most populous country increased pork imports to record levels in 2016 and Rabobank forecasts these import levels will remain constant this year. China’s beef and poultry imports are also expected to rise.

In the U.S., production is expected to continue growing, but consumers’ appetites are being tested as record levels are reached. The strong dollar and uncertainty over future trading relationships with China and Mexico create potential headwinds for American producers. The U.S. is a leading exporter of pork to China.

Justin Sherrard, Rabobank’s animal protein global strategist, said: “In a market driven by supply, we expect prices to come under pressure—a boon to consumers but a clear challenge for producers and processors. With rising demand, we forecast that China will maintain its 2016 record levels of pork imports next year and could increasingly seek something akin to ‘imports-plus,’ locking in supply as it targets food safety and security for its growing population. Meanwhile, U.S. producers head into 2017 grappling with potential changes to the country’s trade policy and further currency movements. Indeed, with worldwide currency fluctuations depending on political machinations as well as central bank decisions, we are becoming accustomed to expecting the unexpected.”

Elsewhere, Rabobank predicts an increasingly complex production market, making it more challenging for producers to exploit opportunities. They may come under additional pressure to adapt their systems to mitigate threats including the focus on antibiotics use, the attention on livestock as a source of greenhouse gases and growing retailer competition.

An MFA and CAFNR partnership

Written by TF Staff on .

MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil and the MFA Foundation pledged $750,000, payable over four years, to the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources in 2015. The pledged established an endowed professorship that supports education and research. The first professorship role was recently filled.

Joe Parcell, professor and department chair of agricultural and applied economics in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, was tabbed as the first MFA Professor of Agribusiness.

“MFA’s partnership with the University of Missouri began a century ago,” said Ernie Verslues, president and CEO of MFA Incorporated. “We are extremely happy the university selected Dr. Parcell. He is a unique individual, and several of us at MFA have met with him. Joe brings a critical perspective to issues that affect agribusinesses in fundamental ways, not simply rehashing existing data. He is receptive to our ideas as well as the needs of those of us in the business world. He is intelligent in his approach to unearthing data that helps drive smart decisions.

“Dr. Parcell is a good conduit between today’s industry and academia,” added Verslues. “Not just at MFA, but in all areas of agriculture, we’ll benefit from his tenure.”

When the funds reach $1.1 million, the professorship will be converted to a chair.

Parcell is the director of undergraduate studies and adviser chair of agricultural and applied economics. He served as the director of the Missouri Value Added Development Center from 2001 to 2013. The Center was a joint venture between CAFNR and MU Extension.

“The focus is pretty flexible,” Parcell said. “Agribusiness can go so many different directions. We want to work for what’s best for the farmers.

“I’m really just a custodian of MFA’s resources. I’m here to ensure that they get used in a wise way and in a way that is valued by others across Missouri. We’re setting the base. My objective is to take those resources and leverage them the best I can to create even more resources.”

Parcell grew up on a hog farm in Iowa. He and his wife ran a row crop farm for more than 10 years and currently have a farm that they sharecrop.

Parcell earned his Ph.D. from Kansas State University. He has been with the University of Missouri for nearly 19 years, beginning his career as an extension agent. He has worked with farmers on a variety of projects, including price information and agribusiness.

“I have deep roots in agriculture and agribusiness,” Parcell said. “I have always been focused on Missouri agriculture, and this is a tremendous honor and opportunity.

“The intent here,” he said, “is to offer support for agriculture and agribusiness in Missouri. We want to promote agriculture and agribusiness and bring more students into this world.”

One of Parcell’s greatest strengths is mentoring and working with students.

As the MFA Professor in Agribusiness, Parcell will be in charge of several resources. Farmers and students are just two groups Parcell will interact with.

“MFA’s historic relationship with the University of Missouri reaches all the way back to 1914,” Verslues said. “And, really, considering William Hirth first bought the Missouri Farmer and Breeder (currently Today’s Farmer) in 1908, the relationship actually began then, before MFA was even created. From the first date of the publication, Hirth depended on University of Missouri professors to spread information they were developing. The magazine’s cover contained this quote, ‘It is published in the home of Missouri’s great agricultural college and the Missouri Experiment Station and tells you of the many great things which these fine institutions are doing for you. It stands for better crops, for better livestock, for more comfort and less drudgery—in short for a more profitable and pleasant farm life.’ We still operate under those beliefs. So, yes, we are excited.”

GMOs and the environment

Written by TF Staff on .

Using a model to assess the economic and environmental value of GMO crops, agricultural economists at Purdue found that replacing GMO corn, soybeans and cotton with conventionally bred varieties worldwide would cause a 0.27 to 2.2 percent increase in food costs, depending on the region—with poorer countries hit hardest. The study was published in the Oct. 27, 2016 edition of the Journal of Environmental Protection. It reported that a ban on GMOs would also trigger negative environmental consequences: The conversion of pastures and forests to cropland (to compensate for conventional crops’ lower productivity) would release substantial amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Conversely, if countries that already plant GMOs expanded their use of genetically modified crops to match the rate of GMO planting in the United States, global greenhouse gas emissions would fall by the equivalent of 0.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide and would allow 0.8 million hectares of cropland (about 2 million acres) to return to forests and pastures.

“Some of the same groups that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also want to ban GMOs. But you can’t have it both ways,” said Wally Tyner, the James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue. “Planting GMO crops is an effective way for agriculture to lower its carbon footprint.”

Tyner and fellow researchers used the Purdue-developed Global Trade Analysis Project model to investigate two hypothetical scenarios: “What economic and environmental effects would a global ban on GMO corn, soybeans and cotton have?” and “What would be the additional impact if global GMO adoption caught up to the U.S. and then a ban were implemented?”

The model is set to 2011 crop prices, yields and growing conditions and encompasses the ripple effects of how a change in one sector impacts other sectors.

GTAP-BIO predicted a modest and region-specific rise in overall food costs under a global GMO ban, a result of the lower productivity of non-GMO crops. Tyner said people in poorer regions would be most burdened by the price increase, as they spend about 70 percent of their income on food, compared with about 10 percent in the U.S.

Countries that export crops would gain economically by the increase in food prices, while countries that import crops would suffer. As a result, the U.S., despite being the biggest planter of GMO crops, would profit under a GMO ban because of its strength as a crop producer and exporter. China, a major crop importer, would suffer a welfare loss—a measure of economic wellbeing—of $3.63 billion.

Banning GMO crops would also lead to an increase in global cropland of 3.1 million hectares (about 7.7 million acres), as land would be cleared to compensate for the lower yields of conventional crops. Converting forests and pastures into farmland is an environmentally costly process that releases carbon stored in plants and soil, and this expansion of cropland would add the equivalent of 0.92 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Getting out the word on atrazine

Written by TF Staff on .

The personnel situation at EPA might be fluid in the coming weeks. Regardless of changes there however, growers in MFA’s trade territory made their opinion known about proposed changes in long-standing environmental rules for atrazine. EPA recommendations, if implemented as written, would change the agency’s “level of concern” for aquatic life from 10 parts per billion to 3.4 parts per billion, severely affecting the ability to use the proven herbicide.

With much of Midwest agriculture concerned about the recommendation, growers were encouraged to share their opinion during the EPA’s comment period. MFA Agri Service Centers were one place that growers could find cards to fill out and submit as official comments to the EPA. This fall, MFA joined Missouri Corn Growers Association in celebrating the 6,349 signatures gathered in the process. It was a clear message.


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