Q&A with MFA

This is the first in a 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 our two outgoing directors, John Moffitt and Tim Engemann, who reached their term limits in March after serving 12 years on the board.

1. When you look at MFA’s values statement, which one means the most to you and why?

Moffitt: Each of the listed value statements has a degree of importance for the MFA organization to operate as a sys­tem. To me, honesty and integrity have to be at the top of the list for a sustainable business. I feel that if honesty and integrity are where they should be, then personal account­ability will fall in place with most business decisions made for the long-term success of the organization in mind.

Engemann: To me, MFA has always been a company you can trust. If they don’t have the right person to answer your question, they will always find somebody to help. And I always feel like you can trust the answer they give you.

2. What opportunities and challenges do the new MFA directors face?

Moffitt: New directors have a unique opportunity to bring fresh insight to MFA based on their farming and business experiences. They will likely be challenged to become familiar with the financial reporting, including the com­plexities of the various business partnerships and divisions within the whole MFA organization.

Engemann: As farms get bigger, one of our biggest challenges is going to be customer retention. Producers are going to expect more from a service company like MFA. They’re not going to come in and find what they need; we are going to have to go to the customer to find out what they need.

3. What would you say is MFA’s greatest achieve­ment during your time on the board?

Moffitt: I was very proud to be a part of MFA celebrating 100 years in business while I was a member of the board. In addition, MFA continues to evolve with technology to bring new and improved services to its patrons.

Engemann: When I came on the board, I didn’t see near the transparency that I do today. There’s a lot more open conversation about how to do things and how to accomplish things. Nobody’s afraid to admit failure. That’s important, because you can’t fix something if you don’t know what the problem was to begin with.

4. How can MFA help our members through these challenging times in agriculture?

Moffitt: The most important role for MFA to help mem­bers in agriculture any time is to “be there.” Be there in business with the basic philosophy for which it was first organized: consolidating purchasing and marketing power to assist its farmer-members in having more profitable operations.

Engemann: If your service industry has your back and helps you ride out the storm, you’re going to keep doing business with that service industry. If they’re not in the forefront, people don’t have the respect to keep doing busi­ness there. That’s going to be No. 1 for MFA: open communication with our members and support for what they need during these challenging times.

5. What did you learn about MFA during your tenure as director that you might not have learned without the closer involvement?

Moffitt: MFA Incorporated is a large organi­zation that sells in both retail and wholesale markets. Virtually all fertilizer is imported to Missouri from other states or from outside the U.S. Sourcing these inputs requires a lot of lead time with implications on everything from pricing, to transportation to MFA facilities, and finally to applying product to the soil. And in the end, weather can drastically influence the amount demanded by end users and the time frame for delivery.

Engemann: I learned that there are a lot of great ways of doing business than just the ways that we’ve done in our local environment. I was a young director when I came on the board and somewhat naïve about local versus statewide governance. At first, I thought I was just going to represent the things that my district might need. But I learned that it’s not just about them. It’s about the best path that all of us directors can take to make MFA a super great company as a whole. You’ve got to weigh your options. The board has been divided at times, but at the end of the day we were unanimously on the same page to do what’s right for the future of this company.

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Search is on for Century Farms

CenturyFarm MFA 3489If your farm has been in your family since Dec. 31, 1919, you can apply to have it recognized as a Missouri Century Farm.

To qualify, farms must have been owned by the same family for 100 consecutive years. The line of ownership from the original settler or buyer may be through children, grandchil­dren, siblings and nephews or nieces, including marriage or adoption. The farm must be at least 40 acres of the original land acquisition and make a financial contribution to overall farm income.

The program is administered by the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and MU Extension along with Missouri Farm Bureau.

“Family farms have been among our most vital partners since the founding of Extension more than 100 years ago,” said David Burton, county engagement specialist with Uni­versity of Missouri Extension. “The Century Farm program is one way we express our gratitude to those who have contributed so much to Missouri agriculture.”

Applicants certified as owners of a 2019 Missouri Century Farm will be recognized by the local MU Extension center in the county where the farm is located. Appli­cants are presented with a sign and a certificate.

Since Missouri began the pro­gram in 1976, more than 8,300 century farms have been recognized.

The Missouri Century Farm program is now taking appli­cations, which must be postmarked by May 15. Details and a downloadable application form are available at extension.missouri.edu/centuryfarm.

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Keeping it local

Food, beverage and forest product manufacturing in the state of Missouri could soon be a more than $70 billion industry.

A new study found significant potential for transforming Missouri agriculture commodities into value-added products by processing locally. This study was the first step in the Show-Me- State Food, Beverage and Forest Product Manufacturing Initiative, a project of the Missouri Agricultural Foundation. TEConomy Partners, a firm specializing in research, analysis and strategy for innovation-based economic development, conducted the study.

TEConomy proposed three initiatives to grow Missouri food, beverage and forest product manufacturing:

  • Regional Food Systems Initiative, which would deliver compre­hensive, in-depth business development, product development, and supply-chain services to start-up, small- and medium-sized food-processing and manufacturing companies.
  • Foods for Health Initiative, which would develop Missouri as a leading center in the research, development, testing and production of foods linked to healthful benefits.
  • Enhanced Commodity Utilization Initiative, which would add value to Missouri’s major commodities, including livestock, soybean, corn, dairy and eggs.

TEConomy anticipates significant economic benefits if the stra­tegic initiatives are successfully implemented. The impact on Mis­souri’s economy by 2027 is projected to expand total value-added ag/food manufacturing economic activity to more than $71 billion. That is an increase of more than $25 billion beyond projected growth compared with 2017. Successful implementation would also create and support nearly 70,000 new jobs; produce addition­al annual sales and local tax revenue of more than $1 billion and increase agricultural commodity production sales by approximately $1 billion annually to meet new value-added uses.

The next step is to create a statewide task force and convene working groups around each of the three initiatives proposed in the study. The task force will deliver specific recommendations in the next 12 months.

The inaugural guiding coalition for this collaborative initiative involved Dan Cassidy, chief administrative officer of Missouri Farm Bureau; Chris Chinn, director of the Missouri Department of Ag­riculture; Christopher Daubert, vice chancellor for agriculture and dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resourc­es; Sen. Brian Munzlinger; and Gary Wheeler, CEO of the Missouri Soybean Association and Merchandising Council.

The study was funded with a grant from the Missouri Val­ue-Added Grant Program through the Missouri Agricultural & Small Business Development Authority. MFA Incorporated also provided support along with the CAFNR Foundation, Law Firm of Haden & Haden, Missouri Beef Industry Council, Missouri Cattle­men’s Association, Missouri Corn Growers Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Egg Council, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and USDA Rural Development.

The full report is available on the Missouri Agricultural Founda­tion website: https://missouriagfoundation.org/initiatives/.

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