Livestock exhibitors can earn MFA premiums for show-ring success

Raising livestock projects means early mornings, late nights and long hours, but it also teaches life skills and valuable lessons that will set young people up for success in the future. That’s why MFA takes pride in rewarding agricultural youth who work hard and achieve success with their show animals through our Project Premium Program.

As 4-H and FFA members make plans for next year’s shows, keep in mind that special incentives are available for using MFA feeds with your show animals. Bring home a win in the show ring, and you’ll win again with financial rewards from MFA’s Feed Division and your local MFA feed supplier.

Project premiums are $50 for a steer, beef heifer or dairy heifer and $20 for a market hog, market lamb, goat or bucket calf. To participate, animals must be fed a qualifying MFA feed product from weigh-in, and it must be fed at recommended amounts throughout the project. The animal’s initial weight, ending weight and other information must be verified by the group leader and submitted to your local MFA feed supplier.

For project animals that place at the top of county rate-of-gain contests or state or national carcass-evaluation contests, there are additional financial rewards of up to $1,000. There is one project premium and one contest cash prize allowed per participant.

Those interested in the 4-H/FFA Livestock Project Premium Program must visit their local MFA to complete the enrollment and results forms. For more information on the program and qualifying feed products, visit mfa-inc.com/About/Youth.

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Virgina Tech researchers discover method to turn food waste into batteries

What do apple cores, spent grain and walnut shells have in common? They could one day be used to power a data center.

As the world works toward economically and envi­ronmentally friendly ways to power these devices, two Virginia Tech researchers are investigating how food waste and its associated biomass can be converted into rechargeable batteries.

“This research could be a piece of the puzzle in solving the sustainable energy problems for rechargeable bat­teries,” said project co-lead Haibo Huang, an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology. “Demand for these reusable batteries has skyrocketed, and we need to find a way to reduce the environmental impacts.”

The research is funded through a three-year, $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Founda­tional and Applied Science Program with the priority area of bioprocessing and bioengineering. The grant runs through April 2023.

Using carbon derived from agricultural waste to host alkali metal, such as lithium and sodium, the researchers found that fiber components were key to developing a battery anode (the negative terminal on a battery). The waste materials used in this research are abundant and cost-effective, compared to limited resources such as graphite that are commonly used to make battery anodes.

The anticipated initial uses are to provide affordable energy storage solutions for data centers or other large facilities where the size of the battery is not a factor.

In the final two years of the project, the researchers will further test the food-waste-turned-carbon, with feedback from the lab to optimize the battery science. The final step will be an economic analysis on the market feasibility.

“We have the opportunity to solve two urgent issues in two different industries,” Huang said. “A lot of energy is already put into production and transportation in the food supply chain. We must recover the value from food waste. This is the perfect opportunity, as battery production looks for different materials than the traditional carbon.”

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Q & A with MFA

LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR COOPERATIVE LEADERS

This is a continuing series of interviews with MFA Incorporated’s board of directors to help members get to better know their cooperative’s leadership. In this edition, we’re featuring Steve Stone, District 12 director from Galena, Mo., where he and his family run a 400-head cow/ calf operation and grow hay and pasture.

When you look at MFA’s values statement, which one means the most to you and why?
Stone: I believe it’s honesty and integrity, even though team spirit and accountability are close behind. As our values statement says, “Honesty is about what you say. Integrity is about what you do. We will only make promises that we can keep.” I try to live my life that way and wouldn’t want to be involved with a co-op that didn’t share those values. In good times and bad times, the board and employees of MFA are a great bunch of people to work with, all of us focused on the common goal of serving farmers with honesty and integrity in everything we do.

StoneWhat would you say are some of MFA’s most significant changes and achievements since you were elected to the board in 2018?
Stone: The new retail sales structure is probably the biggest change. We’ve also seen some consolidations and location closures as MFA works to be more efficient with its resources and infrastructure. Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and figuring out how to keep stores open and conduct meetings brought changes in how we did business. As a board, we’re becoming really involved with MFA’s audit and risk, governance and strategic planning committees and are trying to establish more open lines of communications with staff. By taking a more active role, it gets us in touch and in tune with people in all areas of MFA—not just sitting in the boardroom.

MFA’s 2021 fiscal year ended Aug. 31 with a strong financial improvement over the past few years. What are some of the key factors in those results?
Stone: A lot of ag businesses have struggled, not just MFA, but we’ve worked really hard to “right the ship.” Many of the issues were out of our control, from weather to grain prices to the overall economy. This year, those factors turned around, with favorable weather and commodity prices, so farmers were able to invest back into their operations. MFA management and staff did a good job of managing expenses and marketing products to the farmers who had extra money to spend. They also did a great job having the products the farmers needed and wanted, even though it wasn’t always easy to keep those on the shelves.

Even with a profitable year, MFA can’t rest on its laurels. What opportunities and challenges does
the cooperative face? How will you and your fellow board members help keep the company on track?
Stone: Opportunity-wise, MFA can work toward generating new business, getting a bigger share of the marketplace and perfecting our new sales structure. The way that I like to be sold is for a person to know what I need and offer services or products without me having to ask about it. That all comes down to customer partnering. The MFA sales staff must work to develop those personal relationships, and those relationships must be measurable, monitored and rewarded. And just like farmers, MFA needs to have the mindset of reinvesting in our infrastructure when we have profitable years. As for challenges, we’d have to be crystal ball readers to know what the weather, trade and markets are going to do. But we do know MFA faces some tough decisions on consolidations and pooling assets to remain efficient and profitable. As a board, our challenge is to support management and staff in their efforts to make 2022 the best year it can be.

What have you learned about MFA during your tenure as director that you might not have learned without the closer involvement?
Stone: I didn’t realize how big and complex MFA was until I got in the boardroom and tried to wrap my head around how it all worked. I still learn new things at every board meeting. Also, I didn’t realize the diversity of agribusiness in the state of Missouri. I’ve gotten to know some of the best people from every sector of agriculture, and it’s been a great experience. I look forward to serving in the years to come.

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