Feature

Winning with Cooperatives

Written by Trina Stumpe on .

Delivering value to members and communities

In celebration of Cooperative Month, each year Today’s Farmer prints the winning speech from the Missouri Institute of Cooperative’s annual meeting. This year’s winner was Trina Stumpe of the Sullivan, Mo. FFA chapter. Trina is the daughter of Kevin and Barb Stumpe of Leslie, Missouri. She is working toward a degree in Agribusiness Management and a minor in Communications at the University of Missouri- Columbia. After graduating, she plans to move back home and someday raise a family of her own on a small farm. Her advisors are Travis Kramme and Robbie Richter.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This famous quote describes the benefits of an individual contributing to the greater good of his country. The same idea embodies the cooperative spirit. Just as President Kennedy summoned Americans to experience the rewards of taking ownership in their nation, cooperatives invite citizens to experience the benefits of participating in a cooperative.

Cooperatives follow seven principles that the founders created to ensure its members’ interests and well-being were in constant consideration. Co-ops are democratic, member-controlled organizations that express their independence and autonomy. They are voluntary and practice open membership to all in need of their services. All members’ economic contributions are proportionate to the services or product used. Cooperatives educate and train the general public through their members, elected representatives, managers and employees. Not only do cooperatives have a concern for their community, they also practice cooperation among other cooperatives through local, national, regional and international cooperative structures.

Many years ago, cooperatives were created on the same basic principles as our great country—with the people’s best interests in mind. In a cooperative, members collectively own the business. As a result, cooperatives operate their businesses with the kind of integrity that comes from working every day in direct contact with the company’s owner. 

Years ago, rural citizens pulled together to establish cooperatives in their area in hopes of reaping the benefits of quality products at reasonable prices. Members still strive to maintain the foundation of these organizations. They actively participate in governing the cooperatives as they were originally designed. Although many improvements and technological advances have transpired since the conception of the first cooperative, the morals, values and principles on which cooperatives were created remain the same. Cooperatives are self-governing institutions run by the members, for the members. They are voluntary organizations that provide open membership to anyone in need of their services. Every member, regardless of their gender, race, religion or financial status has an equal voice in co-op policy and procedure. Since the members share the control, they are able to hold each other accountable for all decisions. As consumers, my family and I find that a cooperative’s mission to provide the best possible services to its members at the lowest costs holds true. Their accountability to members is continuously demonstrated by their customer-oriented approach to daily tasks as well as their open door policy.

Cooperatives are innovative organizations that strive for continuous improvement. They work through local, national, regional and international levels to ensure they are kept up to date with all of the latest news and technology. Electric cooperatives are easily recognized because of our daily need for their services. However, there are hundreds of other services we utilize each day without realizing that they are part of a cooperative. Today over 48,000 co-ops assist their members in banking, healthcare, farming and everything in between. Ocean Spray, MFA Incorporated, Welch’s, and Land O’Lakes are a few examples of other cooperatives in the United States today. Electric cooperatives educate patrons on all aspects of electricity and the new power opportunities that are becoming increasingly available every day. Many utility companies now give consumers an option to pay a surcharge for electricity produced from renewable resources rather than coal, gas, oil or nuclear energy. Some companies are able to construct a generation facility to produce this green electricity on their own, while others enter the open market to buy wind, solar or hydroelectric power from producers. Alternative energy sources bear a higher initial cost. However, to environmentally conscious consumers, the benefits outweigh the expense. Cooperatives use progressing technology to cultivate new solutions each year. The cooperative’s goal is to make the world a better place one step at a time through innovation.

Cooperatives are not large, money-hungry, stockholder-owned corporations attempting to maximize profits at the consumers’ expense. In fact, they are just the opposite. Cooperatives provide at-cost services to their members. They also offer programs such as Farm Safety 4 Just Kids. This program is provided by Farm Credit Services to educate the youth of America on safe farm practices. The Farm Safety 4 Just Kids website is available to all and teaches animal, ATV, chemical and grain safety. They are sure to make learning fun using educational games, puzzles and quizzes. Co-ops also encourage involvement in the community. Our local MFA cooperatives work relentlessly to educate and support the general public. For example, MFA awards scholarships every year to students who plan to further their career in the agricultural field. MFA Incorporated sees that we are the future of agriculture and are more than happy to aid us in our future endeavors. MFA also mails and provides online the monthly magazine you hold in your hands, which educates consumers on the latest issues facing the livestock and agronomic industries. It also provides information on legislative issues such as Proposition B and fresh-from-the-farm recipes.

MFA also supports the Missouri 4-H, FFA, and Young Farmers Associations both morally and financially. MFA’s involvement and commitment to our community is admirable!

I have drawn many parallels between the individuals involved in the inception, preservation, and advancement of cooperatives and our great nation. The co-op method collaborates all components necessary for the success of a strong organization, community, and country. Our lives in this great country have been enhanced by the expertise of our cooperatives and their plan to involve their members. It is now time for us to ask not what our cooperatives can do for us, but what we can do for our cooperatives.

2011 MFA Foundation Scholarships

Written by TF staff on .

Established in 1958, the Foundation is a nonprofit, philanthropic organiza- tion. Its primary purpose is to provide educational opportunities to high school seniors in the MFA trade territory. Since 1965, the Foundation’s
foremost mission has been providing MFA Foundation scholarships, which have provided financial assistance to more than 10,000 students totaling more than $11 million.

One scholarship is offered annually at each high school where a participating MFA Agri Services Center, MFA Oil Company propane plant, MFA Oil Company bulk plant or other MFA agency is located.
Local committees select the scholarship winners, who are announced at gradu- ation ceremonies. The majority of the scholarships are $2,000 and may be used at any college or university.

Overall, this year some 335 high school seniors received scholarships co-sponsored by the MFA Foundation and local MFA locations. These scholar- ships were worth more than $670,000.

Here are this year's MFA Scholarship winners;

Demand pushes farm earnings

Written by Mitch Morehart and Timothy Park on .

When harvest wraps up, the three key U.S. farm sector financial indicators are expected to improve in 2011, a reflection of the crop year and demand for commodities.

Net farm income (a measure of profitability that accounts for inventories and capital consumption), is forecast to reach $94.7 billion in 2011, up nearly 20 percent from the 2010 forecast, and the second highest inflation-adjusted value for net farm income in the past 37 years.

Net value added, USDA’s measure of agriculture’s contribution to the U.S. economy’s production of goods and services, is forecast to rise by $18.4 billion (14.2 percent).

Net cash income (a measure of the ability to pay bills and make payments on debt) mimics these increases and is projected to increase $7.3 billion (8 percent).

Getting there
Crop receipts are expected to rise over 14 percent ($24.1 billion) in 2011, led by sales of corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat. Rising cash receipts for cattle and calves are expected to increase livestock receipts by 3 percent ($4.3 billion) in 2011. Government payments paid directly to producers are expected to total $10.6 billion in 2011, some 12.7 percent less than in 2010.

But income is chased by outlays. Total production expenses are projected to jump $20.2 billion (7.0 percent) in 2011, accelerating from a relatively modest 2 percent increase in 2010.

The increase in cash receipts and expenses will affect crop and livestock farms differently. Even though the principal expenses for each type of farm are going up nearly the same (crop-related expenses should increase around $4.2 billion while livestock-related expenses should increase $4.4 billion), cash receipts are forecast to rise much more for crop producers than for livestock producers. As a result, farm businesses that specialize in the production of cash grains, soybeans, and cotton could see average farm incomes rise over 20 percent in 2011. Farm businesses specializing in livestock production, on the other hand, will likely see lower farm incomes this year, as livestock-related expenses (particularly in feed which represents more than a third of total operating costs) increase more than cash receipts.

With prospects for higher incomes for crop producers, the real (inflation-adjusted) value of farm assets and equity are projected to rebound past 2007 levels. Farm sector assets are expected to rise by 6.1 percent in 2011, while farm debt is forecast to increase by less than 1 percent. As a result, the real value of the farm sector’s equity (assets minus debts) is forecast to exceed $2 trillion for the first time since 1979 and 1980.
 

GPS threatened

Written by Steve Fairchild on .

Earlier this summer, MFA’s Precision Agronomy Manager, Rick Greene, offered comments to the FCC concerning a potential threat to GPS signal from an effort by LightSquared to deploy wireless broadband. The terrestrial-based system would provide internet service across the continent, and the spectrum that LightSquared intends to use has potential to disrupt GPS signal, rendering existing GPS equipment ineffective.

Greene reminded the FCC that the advancement of broadband should not be at the expense of GPS devices used by farmers, emergency responders, aviation, military and other civil engineers that use GPS.

“MFA has over 700,000 acres in GPS-sampled nutrient management, 9.5 million acres covered with RTK correction, and have sold almost $20 million dollars of GPS equipment to farmers that will be directly affected by LightSquared’s project.

“The technology has helped farmers improve their environmental stewardship while gaining economic efficiencies through more precise fertilizer application. ‘Precision agriculture’ will have to grow if America’s farmers are going to meet increasing demands for food while facing pressures to reduce their environmental footprint.”

Greene joined other GPS users, including Garmin, Magellan, John Deere, Caterpillar, CNH, Trimble, AgLeader in asking the FCC to resolve interference issues before granting LightSquared access to public spectrum.

Public comment on the issue closed in July. But the issue is still in play.

As this issue went to press, Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley continued to push the FCC for a clearer picture on what would happen to GPS equipment if LightSquared was given license to populate the spectrum it seeks to use for wireless broadband service. For its part, LightSquared suggests that GPS equipment has been manufactured ignoring certain specifications that would have made it less susceptible to interference from nearby signal.

For a good primer on the subject, visit http://www.gpsworld.com and type “GPS Grassley” in the search box.
Contact your federal congressional representative or senator if you’d like to provide input.
 

Getting the best education for your money

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

The economics of ag school

Jessica Roland recently spent four years at the University of Missouri in Columbia, her hometown. MU worked out great for her—she graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in food science and immediately landed a job with Danisco USA Inc., one of the world’s largest food ingredient companies.

Quade Bigler didn’t plan to attend college, but he recently entered his second year at State Fair Community College (SFCC) in Sedalia, where he’s majoring in agriculture. He’s glad he decided to give it a try.

“You can’t get a good job without an education,” said Bigler.

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