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Work the plan

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

MFA serves farmers and ranchers through a system designed for success

It is my honor and privilege to serve as MFA’s new president and chief executive officer.

I come from a small dairy farm in a rural community outside of Jefferson City. I have served your cooperative in different capacities during my 27-year career at MFA. I have audited local cooperatives, served as retail controller, as regional manager, and as senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Bill Streeter, who officially retired the last of February, left your company in excellent shape. MFA is profitable, its balance sheet is strong, and plans for strategic growth are open and active. Bill has always been a strong proponent of participatory management. The entire executive team at MFA has been closely involved in setting goals and objectives as well as planning appropriate strategies.

You can expect no immediate changes at MFA since an effective plan is in place, and all of us are working that plan. That said, farmers and ranchers are well aware of the constant change that is today’s agriculture. Agriculture has always faced uncontrollable factors like markets and weather.

While the executive team continues to work MFA’s operating plan, MFA will also pay close attention to challenges and opportunities. As they arise, MFA will be prepared to respond appropriately.

On the page facing this one, you’ll notice the resolution passed by the MFA corporate board of directors that commends Bill Streeter. The board passed it at the Newcomer Schoolhouse, just north of Brunswick in central Missouri, during a celebration held there July 22, 2014. MFA traces its origin to a meeting by seven farmers in that building.

In part, the resolution recognizes Bill Streeter for “improvements in MFA’s financial performance, services, and the professionalism of MFA’s work force.” The board also commends him for positioning MFA for another “relevant and successful 100 years.”

MFA is indeed positioned to be relevant and successful, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Bill Streeter.

MFA has a very sound system for success: MFA’s supply operations and retail operations complement one another to form an entity larger than either retail or supply individually. MFA is a system designed to earn producer business and benefit those producers.

I worked several years as a regional manager. In that job, I couldn’t help but notice the MFA Agri Services in the region were stronger as a group than they were as individual locations. They were stronger still with the backing of MFA’s supply operations and marketing.

That’s the beauty of the MFA system. It allows MFA to spread fixed costs over a wider area while helping employees better serve farmers and ranchers individually.

Properly employed, the MFA system has allowed the cooperative to serve its farmers and ranchers for more than 100 years. The system includes local cooperatives, company- owned Agri Services Centers, partnerships, and other business structures designed to enhance products and services. Add to that the best distribution and retail system of any company in the trade territory, whether livestock or grain.

MFA will continue to look at growth opportunities within the trade-territory. The health of MFA is dependent on sustained, smart growth. The important focus, though, must be on profitable growth. To sustain that growth, MFA will continue to hire and train the best in agriculture. A highly-trained workforce is mandatory in today’s complex agriculture. MFA’s customers deserve no less.

One certainty is that producer operations will continue to grow. With this growth comes a challenge to support producer needs on a timely basis. MFA will meet that challenge through appropriate investments. MFA spends more than $20 million per year investing in the business through improvements in facilities and equipment.

Farmers and ranchers today are also aware of the government’s oneway regulatory ratchet. Regulations regarding all aspects of agriculture, including product movement, will continue to come under scrutiny as agriculture moves forward. More products and practices will fall under new and stricter guidelines.

MFA will meet this growth, too, and continue to be positioned to provide timely products and services. The process will require stretching capital expenditures and lease limits. Those decisions will continue to be based on creating the best returns for both customers and MFA.

Again, growth, whether on the farm or at the cooperative, must be the result of strategic planning and informed decisions. Team MFA is prepared to meet the challenges.

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