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Q&A with MFA

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 feature Doyle Oehl, District 14 director from Jackson, Mo., where he and his son, John, farm 1,400 acres of row crops, produce 250 acres of hay and run a 120-head cow/calf operation.

When you look at MFA’s values statement, which one means the most to you and why?
Honesty and Integrity. I believe that it is important to promote high standards of integrity in conducting all affairs, honestly and ethically. You have to earn the trust of all the farmers. And if you can’t be trusted by the farmers, you’re not going to have a business.

DoyleOehlWe continue to live and work in unprecedented times, due to the ongoing pandemic and market disruptions it has caused. What can MFA do to help our members through these challenges?
MFA can provide almost all needs to farmers in one stop—feed, seed, fertilizer, chemical, custom spraying and fertilizer spreading, scouting, crop insurance, livestock supplies, fencing and more. By doing this, we can limit their exposure to the public and the coronavirus. When safety measures were put in place this spring, our MFA in Jackson was very cooperative. The employees met us at the door, we told them what we needed, and they would get it all together and load it up or bring it out to the farm. We were also able to do a lot of stuff with our KAM (key account manager) over the phone. We never had any interruptions. Times like this show the value of those relationships.

What are some of the most significant changes for agriculture and MFA since you were elected to the MFA Incorporated board in 2013?
MFA has just continued to grow and add services, such as scouting and crop insurance and Nutri-Track. MFA has demonstrated that it is very prepared to meet continuous changes in seed and chemicals and overcome challenges such as the problems we’ve had with dicamba.

October is Co-op Month, and as a diversified producer and MFA director, what do you think sets our cooperative apart in the marketplace? What keeps MFA relevant to farmers today?
MFA is a true co-op, and it continuously strives to provide all needs for all our members. We also have scholarships to promote our youth and our charitable foundation to help with the needs of our local communities. We not only want the farmers to succeed, but the whole community to succeed. As members of MFA, farmers have a chance to be part of something that gives back, not just to their operations, but to the places where they work and live.

MFA recently completed a challenging fiscal year and announced some retail restructuring to better position the business. As a director and farmer, what opportunities do you see that can allow MFA to better serve members and strengthen the company?
Our past tells us that when farmers struggle financially, so does MFA. As MFA and farmers bond and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, both will be stronger in the end. A big emphasis of our restructuring is to encourage MFA personnel to visit farms more frequently so they can better anticipate needs and assist our producers. MFA is also becoming more tech-savvy. Technology is changing the industry, and farmers can find the support they need at MFA.

What have you learned about MFA during your tenure as director that you might not have learned without the closer involvement?
I have been thoroughly impressed with the diversity and quality of the MFA board of directors. If I am fortunate enough to serve my full 12 years, I will have the honor to have worked with at least 26 outstanding farmer-directors who I am proud to call friends. After serving with the staff and officers of our great co-op, I have been impressed with their dedication and loyalty to MFA. At all levels of our cooperative, we have people who have devoted their lives to MFA, some serving 30 to 40 years or even more. That loyalty and longevity really set us apart.  -TF

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