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Spring forage management

For pasture and hay producers, spring can be the busiest and most important season in determining this year’s plans for sustainable and profitable production. The key ingredients to your spring forage management are ...

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GMO foes know less than they think

The people who hold the most extreme views opposing genetically modified foods think they know most about GMO food science but actually know the least, according to new research.

The key finding of the paper, published Jan. 14 in Nature Human Behaviour, is that the more strongly people report being opposed to GMO foods, the more knowledgeable they think they are on the topic, but the lower they score on an actual knowledge test.

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Featured Recipe

Pretzel Prep - Whether you make this month’s featured recipe or tackle a traditional soft pretzel dough, you’ll likely want to twist the treats into the pretzel classic shape. It isn’t as complicated as it seems. Roll dough into a rope, tapering them slightly at both ends. Form the rope into a “U” shape. Cross the ends over each other twice to form the twist. Bring the ends to the bottom of the “U” and press the tips out. Pretzel perfection!  For More recipes from March 2019 - Click to view the recipe page as printed.

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Behind the beans

Before they ever reach a farmer’s field, MorSoy varieties face an extreme obstacle course to weed out seed that can’t handle the pressure.
First, the varieties must perform well in replicated variety trials across MFA’s territory. Next, the seedstock needs to survive the rigors of production and processing. Even then, there’s no guarantee the beans will make the cut....

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In this issue
 The March issue of Today's Farmer live.
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Agronomy Guide
Learn more about our Agronomy Guide printed guide, mobile app and flip book.  NEW ISSUE IS CURRENTLY ON THE PRESSES

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Noteable quotes from Today's Farmer magazine

"To me, it comes down to some simple facts. Technology is changing rapidly. The industry is changing, and our customers’ operations are changing."

"Looking at N options for spring application, we have to be realistic. We do have other choices. Available nitrogen sources include urea, urea with N-Guard, urea with Instinct, SuperU, UAN and anhydrous. No matter which form you choose, nitrogen stabilizers are crucial to protect your plant food investment.”

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Featured Videos

Steps in the right direction

When Glory began her first training class at Agape Boarding School Ranch, the 3-year-old mare was wild, nervous and afraid. She didn’t trust anyone. She refused to obey.

Her 17-year-old trainer, Hunter Scarbury of Mesa, Ariz., could relate. After all, that same type of behavior is what led him to this rigid residential facility for troubled boys in Stockton, Mo.

“Back home, I was skipping school, getting in trouble, and eventually my parents kicked me out,” Scarbury said. “I lived on the streets for a while, and then they decided to send me here to straighten out my life. It was rough for the first few months because I was fighting it, but now  . . .

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Read more: Newhome

Washington, D.C., is not my idea of an ideal trip when the destination means back-to-back meetings with senators, representatives and their staffs. Still, in today’s world, it is a necessary function. Traditional agriculture must always stand ready to provide what we see as common- sense input to policy makers.

The legislative committee for MFA’s corporate board of directors graciously takes the time each year to make this trip. I appreciate their company and their dedication, especially this year when the meeting was held in late June and planting windows had been so short, and in some cases, planting remained incomplete.

Those MFA board members on the legislative committee attending this year and representing your interests were Don Mills, chairman, District 11, El Dorado Springs, Mo.; John Moffitt, vice chairman, District 3, Winigan, Mo.; Tom Dent, District 2, Humeston, Iowa; Davin Althoff, District 9, California, Mo.; Barry Kagay, District 1, Amity, Mo.; and Glen Cope, District 12, Aurora, Mo. MFA’s board represents a cross-section of Midwest agriculture.

Our trip coincided with a conference held by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. The conference brought together nearly 150 board members and executives of U.S. cooperatives.

During the NCFC conference, we heard presentations from subcommittees on animal agriculture, international affairs, food and nutrition, labor and infrastructure, and government affairs. NCFC outlined its 2015 priorities which include support for Capper-Volstead (the antitrust protection for farmer cooperatives), tax issues for agriculture, Farm Credit, USDA, modernization of transportation infrastructure, a national energy strategy and nutrition policy among other items.

Many, if not most, of those attending NCFC’s meeting also schedule time to interact with elected officials. I can assure you agriculture is well-represented in Senate and House buildings.

That is the most positive aspect of the trip. MFA’s board of directors is entirely made up of actual farmers and ranchers. During the meetings with elected officials, these farmers and ranchers effectively communicate concerns experienced by those who work the land daily as well as those of us responsible for managing the cooperative.

From these board members and cooperative executives, key policymakers get to hear perspectives that are too often far removed from life in Washington. Of course, many of these elected officials spend considerable time in the areas they represent, and they represent us well. They know the issues and we convey our appreciation.

MFA’s board members are familiar with crop and livestock outlooks in today’s marketplace. They have firsthand experience with this season’s farm income statistics. They know what’s happening with working capital, projected revenue and financing. They have personal knowledge of cropland values, pasture values and lending conditions affected by this year’s unusually wet planting season.

Although the full planting season statistics weren’t assembled at the time of our meeting in late June, each and every board member knew that plantings of both soybeans and corn were far behind seasonal averages. The row-crop board members were well aware that mid- to late-June soybean planting would decrease yields by nearly 30 percent. And they knew just how much soybean ground on their own farms remained to be planted.

What we try to accomplish in these meetings with elected officials is first to thank those who do represent us well. Just as important, though, we try to meet with and express our concerns to those who don’t share our views. We want them to know we are responsible stewards of the land and individuals with real concerns about modern legislation, regulation and marketplace conditions. Those in opposition need to hear first-hand how their actions or inactions affect agriculture and rural life.

Some of the best conversations come from meetings with those who don’t vote the way we’d like. It gives us an opportunity to explain what we do, why we do it, and the products and practices we use.

MFA is not a political organization. That said, we are not indifferent to what goes on in the nation’s capital. It is in all of our customers’ interests that we express our concerns to these senators and representatives.

We had a lot to talk about: crop and livestock conditions, estate taxes, biotechnology, EPA’s Waters of the United States regulations, EPA’s assault on coal-powered electricity, the federal deficit, regulations in general, food labeling, and the importance of balancing a budget, whether on the farm, in the business or in government.

In short, it was a productive trip. And I want to personally thank each of the board members for their personal efforts in representing MFA and the MFA members in their areas. I hope you will as well

I recently came across a quote from Colin Powell, the four-star general who became the U.S. Secretary of State under George W. Bush. General Powell noted that organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Neither do plans. Theories of management don’t much matter. But endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.

That quote resonated with me because I know MFA has attracted the best people in the industry, as employees, directors and customers. As a result, MFA has the right company culture that is focused on service, training and safety.

The challenge all of us face almost every year is how to manage successfully through unpredictable or adverse weather. Despite the weather challenge, MFA was positioned to excel in the areas in which we had control. Grain revenues, reflecting last fall’s harvest, were down about $8 million.

All of us have been through tough times before. There is no company or system better positioned than MFA. MFA is a team. We are a strong team. But we need to challenge ourselves continually. How can we make this team better? We win together, lose together and succeed together.

Like any successful team, we keep score. MFA’s projected profits for the just-ended fiscal 2016 are $2 million. No one is satisfied with that result.

MFA’s projected fiscal 2016 working capital is $70 million. That’s down $5 million from last year and not where we want to be. Reduced profitability had a significant impact on working capital. Still, net worth is $155 million, which is up $1 million. MFA’s projected fiscal 2016 ownership is 35 percent. Our target continues to be 40 percent. On the bright side, fiscal 2015 earnings returned to member/owners during fiscal 2016 totaled $4.9 million cash back.

So where do we go from here? In simplest terms, agriculture will continue to be driven by change. And judging from our scorecard and our 100-year history, MFA will both lead and manage through change. We will embrace change. And own it.

Change requires humility. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Going forward, change will happen at an even faster pace.

How do we attack this period of rapid change? We will continue to develop a plan while integrating flexibility. We will make decisions and react quickly. There is no substitute for preparation. We will empower our workforce to make critical decisions. We will be innovative. We will live our values. Decisions and actions are clearer and will become automatic if we tie them back to our values of people, excellence, accountability, financial success and integrity.

MFA is meeting change head on. Our rail facility at Hamilton, Mo., will vastly improve MFA’s and the farmer’s position in the grain industry. On the feed side, MFA’s innovation with Shield Technology keeps us ahead of the competition in empowering livestock producers. It improves animal health and rate of gain while reducing the need for antibiotics.

Our precision program, started more than 20 years ago, is recognized as the leader in our trade territory. Precision ag makes up only 2 to 3 percent of total ag input and equipment costs. But, every single element of inputs or equipment is impacted by the continued development of precision ag. That input and equipment market in the United States is $60 billion.

MFA’s branded seed (MorSoy and MorCorn) contains the best genetics and traits in the industry. MFA’s vigorous process of selection and testing works in combination with our training camps to bring data to both the sales force and producers.

All of these allow us to differentiate MFA in the marketplace.

Success is not an entitlement. Success needs to be earned. We will continue to be sensitive to the pressures you face. We will exceed your expectations.

Great companies are innovative. Great companies display superior execution. They do what they say. They deliver superior results for their customers. They find new ways to serve their customers. They have passionate and committed employees who continue to learn and grow.
All of those qualities describe MFA—your cooperative.

Ron Plain is a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri. He analyzes beef
markets regularly for Today’s Farmer. We asked him to forecast the road ahead for beef.

1. What do you project for beef prices this year?

Last year we reached record high prices by a big margin, and 2015 will be another good year. The supply side should prompt continued strong prices; I expect a tad fewer cows to reach the market as producers save cows and heifers to grow their herds. The U.S. reduced its herd due to drought over the last few years, and there’s no way to grow the herd quickly. It takes about two and a half years from the time you save a heifer to slaughtering her calf. On the demand side, with the strong dollar, I’m not optimistic that exports will help prices much.

2. What do you expect as far as demand?

Retail beef prices have doubled since mid-2002, and Americans are eating less beef. In February, ground beef averaged $4.24 per pound nationally, and choice sirloin, $8.19. People are least willing to give up ground beef. We’re grinding an ever-larger share of the carcass; 42 percent was normal in the past. Today we grind 55 percent.

3. What about feed prices?

We saw the second record corn harvest in a row last fall, and feed prices continued to decline; $6 corn is a thing of the past. But if it’s hot and dry this summer, prices could change in a hurry.

4. How will the Checkoff’s Beef Quality Assurance program impact the industry?

BQA will play an important role in making sure cattle are well cared for and that we’re delivering a safe, quality product to the consumer.

5. What type of cattle will we be raising?

There’s a trend toward quality. Quality calves today are worth $800 the day they hit the ground, and people are willing to spend more on bulls and artificial insemination. As far as breeds, Black Angus has been leading for 25 years and that doesn’t seem to be changing.

6. What’s up with pasture?

We depend heavily on grass for mama cows. For several years now, many farmers have been converting pastures to crops to capture high grain prices. History shows that switching crop acreage back to grass takes decades. This mostly occurs when farmers get older and slow down; then they might consider converting marginal acreage to forage. However, I see pasture looking much better than five years ago. These days, people have more money to spend on fertilizer, controlling weeds and brush, and installing fences and water sources for rotational grazing.

7. If you were a producer, what would you do to reduce risk?

Grass is the primary ingredient in beef. I would ask myself, what could I do to improve forage and ensure adequate feed? Can I bale more hay, apply more fertilizer or plant better seed? Can I convert some pasture to a new nontoxic fescue variety, or rotate cattle through pastures with a variety of grass types to ease digestive problems caused by regular fescue?

8. What’s your best advice for beef producers?

These are the good old days. Prepare for prices to go down. Take today’s profits and upgrade herd performance through improved pasture and herd genetics.

About Today's Farmer magazine

Today's Farmer is published 9 times annually. Printed issues arrive monthly except combined issues for June/July, August/September and December/January. Subscriptions are available only in the United States.

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