Viewpoint

The importance of board service

Written by Bill Streeter on .

Viewpoint

It’s a particularly American practice. Plus MIC Hall of Fame honors individuals.

Chances are if you are a successful farmer or rancher today, you either are serving on a board, have served on a board, have been lobbied to serve on a board, or have gotten awfully good at not answering the phone or door when you suspect board service is the motive. As a modern reality, the number of farmers today is just one or two people short of the number of available board positions. Unfortunately, I’m just barely exaggerating.

Consider for a minute the number of boards needing your service: soil and water districts, electric co-ops, water districts, schools, churches, county, farm supply co-op boards, levee boards, road districts, commodity associations, corporate boards, park boards, cemetery boards, the list goes on.

In all seriousness, board service is a noble and particularly American practice. It gives people a chance to have a hand in their own destiny. Americans, especially rural Americans, have always been motivated to effectively structure the world around them.

Because your services are in demand, because your time is limited (you do have family responsibilities and a business to run) and because you’re a self-motivated individual (what farmer isn’t?), you want to do the best job possible as a board member.

To serve that function, several cooperatives offer board training. All of us at MFA Incorporated take that responsibility seriously. As an agricultural enterprise, MFA Incorporated has a strong reason for offering board training. We ask a lot of our corporate board members. In order for us to remain the leading agricultural cooperative business in our trade territory, we need our board members to understand and approve MFA’s strategic direction. We depend on them to help management operate within the basic beliefs and values of the cooperative. We need them to understand how other cooperatives operate and how we compete with investor-owned businesses. Educated, experienced board members are a critical part of MFA’s success.

We’re not the only ones in the board-training business. The Missouri Institute of Cooperatives does an excellent job. Each year, MIC offers the Emerging Leaders Institute in late January or early February.

The institute is centrally located at either Jefferson City or the Lake of the Ozarks. For about $250, interested individuals can attend the training sessions that last for all of one day and half the next. Scholarships are available. For more information, contact Kristi Livingston at (573) 882-0140 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The institute is designed around director development to promote the exchange of ideas for effective board practices and learning opportunities for directors with various levels of experience. The program is designed to feature timely topics and speakers who bring detailed knowledge, skills and insights on challenging issues.

Put it on your calendar and make plans to attend. If you are interested in learning more about how to be a better board member, MIC’s institute is an excellent choice.

I’d like to point out that at this past institute, seven individuals were inducted into the Missouri Institute of Cooperative’s Hall of Fame. Eight years ago, MIC established the Hall of Fame to ensure a permanent, prestigious recognition of cooperative leaders for future generations.

The effort has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. Including this year’s inductees, 37 individuals have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

The seven honored are: Bill Blakeslee, Mid-America Dairymen; O.B. Clark, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, Central Electric Power and Associated Electric Cooperative; Grover Gamm, Northeast Missouri Grain Processors; Ardel Hackman, FCS Financial; David Jobe, MFA Incorporated; Larry Purdom, Mid-America Dairymen and Dairy Farmers of America; and Terry Heiman, Ag Education, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

If I had room on this page, I’d provide more information on each of these gentlemen. In the interest of space, I’ll limit my comments to David Jobe. He is fully deserving of the honor. I have tremendous respect for David, who retired several years ago as MFA senior vice president of operations.

But his finest tribute, his lasting legacy could be seen seated at the tables during the presentation banquet. Two former MFA presidents and CEOs were there to honor him in addition to me and many members of MFA’s management team. His contributions to MFA Incorporated and its members were profound. Congratulations, David.

Bill Streeter is president and CEO of MFA Incorporated.

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