Viewpoint

Key principles help our cooperative succeed

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

I recently attended the Missouri Institute of Cooperatives annual meeting. As part of this event, MIC holds a public speaking contest open to FFA students. Their presentations focus on the importance and impact of cooperatives. The finalists are judged during the meeting, and the winner presents his/her speech at the evening dinner.

I am always impressed by the speaking skills and messages delivered by these young men and women. As I listened to this year’s speech, I made a mental note of three of the seven cooperative principles discussed: 1) democratic control; 2) education, training and information; and 3) concern for community.

Why these three? To be a successful cooperative, I believe we must do these very well. We take a long-term view on each of these areas, but they also command ongoing attention.

Democratic control

As a member of MFA, you are part of the governance process. One member, one vote. Every three years, each of our 14 districts votes for its representative on MFA’s Board of Directors. These directors provide a valuable service on behalf of you, the member-owner. It is a talented group with varying backgrounds.

Historically, turnover on the board has been attributed to term limits. In the next three years, 2018 through 2020, our board will lose eight individuals due to term limits. There will be significant turnover.

Who will step forward to fill these shoes? Good board members should possess these attributes:

  • Passion – care about the purpose of the organization,
  • Experience – not required, but beneficial,
  • Thoughtfulness – the ability to make wise decisions,
  • Commitment – willingness to attend meetings and events,
  • Vision – ability to think beyond today.

Education, training and information

As a company, we are passionate about education and communication. We believe an informed group is an engaged group.

To enhance their skills, many of your elected board members participate in an annual educational forum with five other cooperative boards. They interact with fellow directors and discuss ways to become more effective leaders and increase the value they bring to the boardroom.

Likewise, there are many leadership opportunities within MFA and our communities. For example, our Leadership Corps program is accepting nominations for the next class which begins in July. We want to help foster leadership among our members and provide a forum for them to network and exchange ideas.

A condensed version of our mission statement says “MFA will provide a select number of quality products and services to ensure the continued existence of the cooperative for the economic benefit of our farmer-owners.” We are positioned to accomplish this mission. In offering innovative products and services, some ideas come totally from within MFA, while others are inspired by our members. Advisory boards at Agri Services locations have an important role in the relationship among our retail facilities and members. These boards act as an information center for members and provide managers with valuable feedback.

In addition, we take our message to the membership in a number of ways throughout the year. Producer meetings, seed plots, delegate meetings, our annual meeting, and this publication are all methods used to promote the benefits of doing business with this cooperative.

Education doesn’t stop with members. MFA provides employees with training on products and technology along with development programs to enhance skills. To help our customers benefit and succeed in a changing environment, we must lead, and that takes well-trained employees.

Concern for community

For cooperatives, it’s an obligation, not a choice. In rural America, agriculture has traditionally been the economic strength of many communities. While it is still the strength, its economic impact on the local community has decreased in many cases. As a cooperative, we are proud of the contributions we make back to the communities in the form of patronage (cooperative profits), support for local businesses, wages paid to employees, and volunteer efforts.

MFA was formed 103 years ago to meet a specific need. More importantly, it is structured to adapt to the changing needs of its members. Engaged members, a strong board of directors and focused education and communication will ensure we are around for many years to come.

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