MFA Incorporated is blessed with a strong and able corporate board of directors. These farmers and ranchers from around MFA’s trade territory are instrumental to the success of MFA. Management and members of MFA count on these successful individuals to guide the cooperative’s strategic direction.
That’s one reason management accompanies corporate board members on annual tours of portions of MFA’s operations. In July, MFA’s corporate board, their wives and members of MFA management got on a bus and ventured to the northwest part of our trade territory. The bus took the group through the St. Joseph MFA Agri Services and a couple of our newest operations in Savannah, Mo., and Coin, Iowa.
The tour continued through Burlington Junction MFA Agri Services, followed by the Maryville MFA. The following day the group toured MFA’s operations at Albany, Pattonsburg, Gallatin, Hamilton and Chillicothe.
The purpose of the excursion was threefold: first, at board meetings, management can detail various MFA operations. But nothing serves as well as an on-site visit. No one can bluff an up close and personal inspection of a facility and a chance to visit with store management, staff and local board members. MFA’s corporate board members are no shrinking violets. They asked pertinent and probing questions. The give and take displayed the enthusiasm and professionalism of MFA employees and advisory board members who were present at some of the stops. Corporate board members noticed.
The second reason is to show the extent of MFA’s operations to the board members and how the cooperative is structured to serve the interests of farmers and ranchers. MFA’s corporate board members, over the years, have come from operations in Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas. That covers an array of diverse agricultural sectors. The purpose of this particular tour was to provide an overview of how MFA employs facilities, equipment, products, services and most importantly trusted staff to best serve farmers and ranchers in northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa.
This particular tour highlighted MFA’s efforts in a grain-rich area where MFA is investing in the 110-car shuttle loader near Hamilton that I described in the previous issue. The project, in which we’re partnering with MFA Oil Company, is on schedule. When finished, the facility will consist of 2 million bushels of permanent storage and 1.5 million bushels of temporary storage along with a loop rail siding. It is an impressive sight. No photographs, videos, speeches or presentations, though, quite do the project justice like an on-site visit.
The third reason is every bit as important as the previous two. As I mentioned above, the corporate board’s primary responsibility in any organization is to oversee and approve the entity’s strategic direction. It is critical for board members to understand the business environment in which the company is operating. Management decisions can be firmly placed in context when board members have substantial knowledge on a macro level. These board members are charged with understanding MFA’s operations locally, regionally and territory-wide.
The board’s integral job is to guide and develop beliefs, values and purpose. The beliefs and values depend on and vary with the makeup of the board members. As often stated by Dr. Michael Cook, Partridge chair for cooperative leadership, at the University of Missouri, purpose should last 100 years. Purpose, Dr. Cook notes, rarely changes. And purpose and the strategic direction are board functions.
A large part of MFA’s success over a 100-year period can be attributed to the bright line between those responsibilities of management and board. Without a strong, interested and competent board of directors, MFA would not have achieved the level of success it has. I sincerely appreciate the wisdom and knowledge of MFA’s corporate board members. Please help me in thanking these individuals for their time and service. It is no easy task, especially considering the amount of time and effort it takes to maintain their own successful enterprises.