At MFA, we take pride in applying business practices that respect the land, air, water and other resources. In casual conversation, people call that “good stewardship.” If you stop to think about it, stewardship is a bigger concept than what you do at a day-to-day level. Stewardship is thinking about the resources you inherited from previous generations and how you’ll manage them until it’s time for the next generation to take over. It is big-picture thinking.
For all of us in agriculture, that big picture means more than just conservation. We have to make resources work for us. We have to produce the food and fiber the world demands, and we have to do it profitably if we want to give the next generation an opportunity to farm.
As a cooperative, MFA strives to be a good steward and operate all MFA facilities safely and responsibly. Yet, I’m not naïve enough to think that we can achieve perfection in every aspect of stewardship. We are nearing the end of a regulatory dispute in which we found an agency’s opinion to differ from our interpretation of the law. The process reminds me that sometimes the right thing to do is to go above and beyond.
Going above and beyond is precisely how we approach precision agriculture. Our Nutri-Track program emphasizes the 4 Rs, which is shorthand for applying the right nutrient source in the right place, at the right time, in the right amount. At a precision-ag level, it has been a practice at MFA since the 1990s.
Crop-Trak, our scouting and consulting program, gives growers a weekly in-season report on their crops. Consultants let growers know when weeds or pests reach a threshold of economic damage. Again, we want to get the right product in the right place at the right time—and only if it is needed.
As an agricultural retailer, MFA partners with Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources to collect and properly recycle crop-protection containers. The containers go on to be recovered through a national program organized by the Ag Container Recycling Council. MFA volunteers retail locations to be collection points for the program, which offers farmers an environmentally responsible method to dispose of containers.
On the livestock side, MFA has been a leader in designing comprehensive nutrient management plans. These plans are a regulated requirement for larger livestock operations. Our technical staff help producers manage manure efficiently and responsibly. MFA technical staff understand the regulations, and they know agronomics and how to best use livestock nutrients as an asset.
At the end of 2017, MFA joined in a unique agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Together, we formed a position at MFA for a natural resources conservation specialist, a first for the cooperative. The job was filled by Matt Hill, a native of Bowling Green, Mo., and a veteran of MDC. Matt’s charge is to help farmers meet their stewardship goals by working with all three partner organizations to identify conservation methods and funding opportunities that will help improve nutrient management, soil, water, and wildlife. You can read his column on page 24.
About this time last year, Centralia, Mo., MFA Agri Services was awarded the 2017 Environmental Respect Award, a prestigious stewardship award in the agricultural industry. It’s not easy to make the regional finals for the award. Judges reviewed a detailed list of Centralia’s business practices. At the finalist presentation for the award, Centralia came out on top of not just its region, but all of North America. It was a substantial honor for MFA employees at Centralia. MFA’s Chaffee location won the regional award in the late 90s.
You can see that stewardship is important at MFA. However, we can’t rest on our laurels. Like you, our member-owners, stewardship is one of the underpinning values of our business. We will continue to find ways to improve.