Involvement is our best investment

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

I’ve been associated with agriculture for most of my life—my early years spent on the farm and the last 31 years with MFA Incorporated. The challenges facing farmers and ranchers right now are as tough as I can remember.

One of the most significant long-term issues facing agriculture is trade. Trade policy and our relationship with our major trading partners represent a great deal of uncertainty. The President’s approach to strengthening U.S. trade has pushed livestock and commodity values to lows not seen in several years. These price declines can be traced directly to tariffs imposed on U.S. agricultural exports.

In late June, MFA’s legislative committee was in Washington, DC, to meet face-to-face with policymakers on trade, the farm bill and other topics specific to agriculture, cooperatives and rural America. This event is organized by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) of which MFA Incorporated is a member. Your board, as well as the NCFC staff, ensures that congressmen and women understand our shared concerns.

MFA actively supports this organization and its core values—farmer ownership and control of production agriculture; continued economic viability of America’s farmers and ranchers; stewardship of natural resources; and vibrant rural communities.
NCFC’s efforts are critically important as most of our trade territory is also currently impacted by high temperatures and limited rainfall. In fact, the most talked about “D” word this year is drought, not the crop protection product.

Livestock producers are facing hay crops that are as low as one-third of a normal year’s and pastures that can’t support their cattle. Some producers talk of herd reductions at a time when cattle prices are low. Grain producers in most areas are faring slightly better but won’t know the true impact until harvest.

As my wife tells me, only one person knows how the weather will turn out. As for the trade impact on values, time will tell.

Closer to home, MFA spends considerable time and money supporting the agricultural industry and the communities we serve. From a local standpoint, our employees are leaders in community projects, commodity organizations and youth programs such as FFA and 4-H. They want to be a part of strengthening rural America.

At the corporate level, MFA is actively involved in Missouri Farmers Care, a joint effort of Missouri’s farming and agriculture community. The organization is focused on promoting the continued growth of Missouri agriculture and rural communities. Its body of work encompasses legislative issues, ag education, Agri-Ready County designations, the Leopold Conservation Award and the Drive to Feed Kids campaign.

The MFA Foundation, a combined effort of MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil Company and our local affiliates, annually awards in the neighborhood of $900,000 in scholarships and educational assistance. The primary recipients are seniors at high schools in local MFA communities—the $2,000 scholarships are typically the highest awarded. The Foundation’s fund balance is supported by unclaimed equities along with annual earnings on its investments. The Foundation is positioned to continue strong support in the future.

A separate fund, the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation, provides monetary support for worthy projects within the geographic area served by MFA. Funds are available for programs to build knowledge and leadership skills of rural youth, agriculture and cooperative education programs, and organizations active in solving community problems and improving quality of life. Grant requests require an employee sponsor and total almost $150,000 annually.

MFA’s core purpose is to provide farming and ranching solutions that contribute to the success of our member-owners and their communities. As you can see, our efforts don’t stop with our product and service offerings. Community and industry involvement represents an opportunity to expand MFA’s impact on rural America. And that’s a responsibility we take seriously. 

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