Q&A with MFA director Frank Schieber
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 Frank Schieber, District 1 director from Stanberry, Mo., where he runs a diversified farming operation with row crops, hay, pasture and beef cattle.
When you look at MFA’s values statement, which one means the most to you and why?
Schieber: I would say accountability. When I sit in the boardroom, I realize I’m representing the members. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we are member-owned. But we also have the responsibility to keep MFA strong and profitable for years to come. As a board, we have to make hard decisions, but we always do it with what’s best for the co-op and the members in mind.
The agriculture industry remains volatile as we start the 2023 spring season. How can MFA help farmers navigate through these challenges?
Schieber: In farming, there’s always some challenge. It’s never easy. Just like this past year, the north had a good growing season, while the southern part had severe drought. Inflation has been one of the biggest concerns for me and the board, and there’s sticker shock on the inputs we sell. MFA has to balance keeping products there for the members but also staying competitive in the marketplace. We’ve got some great people in charge of that, and I think they’ve done a good job in a difficult situation. Hopefully, we’ll have good weather and good crops this year. Usually, when farmers are profitable, MFA is profitable.
A new Farm Bill is being devel-oped this year. What are some of the priorities it should include?
Schieber: It’s important to keep a strong safety net for farmers, and I don’t want to see the government going overboard on regulations, especially on theenvironmental front. Farmers are the best stewards. We want clean water. We want clean air. We want to take care of the land. But I guess I don’t worry as much about the farm bill as I do about the over-regulation we’re seeing. Europe has restricted the use of atrazine. Canada wants to reduce nitrogen fertilizer emissions by 30%. We’re feeding a growing world, and the more limitations farmers have, the harder it’s going to be for us to keep producing. I would like to see less regulation and more common sense.
You farm in the district that will be served by MFA’s new Ravenwood Agronomy Center. What will a facility like this mean to the growers in your area?
Schieber: As a co-op, we have to be very efficient with our assets but also stay up to date with what we offer our members. The Ravenwood facility is one way to do that. Centralizing fertilizer and crop protection services is much more efficient than working out of facilities spread all over the area. Having a state-of-the-art facility that can fill a 24- ton tender in 10 minutes will allow us to better serve our members. It’s also going to help us better manage all the regulatory requirements instead of trying to keep multiple places in compliance. Plus, equipment is getting more and more expensive, and having one central location will help us keep up with technology. It’s a different way of doing things, and change is hard for a lot of people. But MFA has to move forward to position ourselves for the future.
What have you learned about MFA as a member of the board of directors that you might not have learned without the closer involvement?
Schieber: I knew MFA has a great group of employees here locally, but as I’ve had a chance to go out and meet people at other MFA locations around the state and at
the home office, I’ve realized that there are good people throughout our company at all levels. They work hard,
and they want what’s best for the farmers. I also didn’t realize the scope of community support that MFA gives corporately, such as the MFA Charitable Foundation grants. I always encourage nonprofits to go on the website and apply (mfa-inc.com/charity). Overall, it’s been a joy to be on the MFA board and work with the other directors. We have a really cohesive group that’s very engaged. Wayne Nichols, who is just retiring as chairman, is one of the best men I’ve ever met. It all comes down to people. You can have the best equipment, the best facilities and the best products, but if the people and the leadership aren’t there, you’re not going to be successful. You’ve got to have good leadership, and I think we have that at MFA.
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