Viewpoint: The cooperative structure

Written by Bill Streeter on .

An open fall season kept combines in the fields, grain trucks moving toward elevators and MFA Agri Services people hopping. I spent quite a bit of time in my own fields this fall. It was enjoyable to be able to watch harvest unfold this year in a more organized fashion than last year’s wet fits and starts.

It’s a natural function this time of year to stop and reassess the crop year. I’ve also spent a great deal of time examining the length and breadth of your cooperative to find what we’ve done right and what we should do differently.  I’ve been an employee of MFA Incorporated since the mid-1970s, and I’ve never failed to be awed by this cooperative’s market reach and our underlying philosophy of serving our member/owners.

When I look at MFA, I see a streamlined, complex organization devoted to serving 45,000 active members. For years, we have described MFA as the farmer’s vertical integration into the farm supply and grain business. It’s the farmer’s investment with an opportunity to share in potential earnings. The products, services, facilities and long-range plans are developed with the member/owner in mind.

Whenever I’m asked about MFA, I want to always lead with the fact that your cooperative has the most highly trained workforce in the trade territory. I know that because employee development has been a focus of mine for years. It’s not simply a saying; it’s a practice.

MFA has more Certified Crop Advisers than any private concern in our sales territory. The success of our business depends on people who are highly trained and highly competent. Like you, MFA employees sacrifice personal and family time to make sure the operation runs smoothly. Like you, MFA employees seem to have harvest and spring season programmed into their genetic code.

MFA is built around grain, plant foods, crop protection, seed, farm supply, feed, animal health, transportation and distribution. When I look in-depth, I see an organization with retail services, grain elevators, plant food bulk plants, corporate credit, retail financing, facility engineering, safety, environmental and regulatory.
MFA has not only company-owned locations but locally-owned locations as well. Individuals at our locals choose to do business with us because they believe in and share our mission, and they see the benefits of MFA products and services. Locals are instrumental in MFA’s success, adding volume, driving services and providing direction.
MFA’s devotion to moving product to customers is reflected in the cooperative’s rolling stock that includes thousands of trucks, spreader carts, tanks and wagons, tool bars, and custom application units.

Your cooperative has nearly 35 million bushels of grain-storage capacity. And we devote complex structures to support that grain base. MFA is a full-line supplier of herbicides, insecticides, seed treatments and fungicides for traditional Midwest and Mid-South crops and forages. Add to the mix a full line of seed including corn, milo, wheat, rice, grasses, legumes, soybeans and garden seed.

MFA has constructed a plant foods structure, second to none, that moves product by vessel, barge, rail and truck from production sites or storage terminals in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and several international production sites.
On the livestock side, we have whole divisions designed around a vibrant, essential sector. MFA offers complete lines of livestock equipment, fencing supplies, baler twine and farm-oriented hardware. In addition, our feed division operates mills that manufacture nearly 300,000 tons of feed and help provide MFA with the largest market share of livestock feeds in our sales territory.

To further support that market, our animal health division supplies pharmaceuticals, biologicals, feed additives, instruments and insecticides from major national suppliers.
MFA’s unique Health Track, a weaned-calf marketing program, is celebrating a decade of marketplace experience. Detailed records kept on more than 400,000 head of cattle show the undeniable benefits the program offers to cattle producers.

What’s the unifying theme in all this? Why have I listed all of it? Simple. These pieces are part of a complex distribution and retail system custom designed to be the largest, best maintained and most extensive structure in place in our territory. It exists for one reason.
To make sure you, our customer, our member/owner, have access to product when that product is needed. Keep watching your cooperative. We’re poised for great things.

Bill Streeter is president and CEO of MFA Incorporated.


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