2022 In Review
After two years of rebounding from the pandemic, the agricultural industry faced a relentless series of adversities in 2022. The conflict in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s invasion last February, disrupted energy, grain exports and crop input supplies. Higher interest rates and historic inflation pushed the economy toward a recession. Drought conditions covered a good portion of Missouri in 2022, hitting livestock producers in southern and southwestern portions of MFA’s trade territory especially hard. Transportation saw its own set of challenges, including truck driver shortages, low river levels that affected barge traffic, and a narrowly escaped rail strike. Throughout the economy, the overall labor market remained very tight, one of the biggest obstacles for MFA and other agribusinesses.
Gain for grain
In September, MFA Incorporated acquired full ownership of Northwest Missouri Grain when MFA Oil Company divested its stake in the joint venture just outside Hamilton, Mo. The two companies came together in 2017 to construct the state-of-the-art grain facility with an option in the operating agreement that allowed MFA Incorporated to become the sole owner by purchasing MFA Oil’s one-third interest in the business. Northwest Missouri Grain will continue to provide opportunities for members of both cooperatives to market their grain and maintains MFA Incorporated’s access to end-user markets to the south and southwest, including export markets.
A major milestone for MFA came in late July 2022 when the last of the company’s grain operations were converted to the new Merchant software system. It was the final achievement in a large-scale endeavor that began in late 2012 to replace MFA’s outdated mainframe computer with a modern system that would integrate all the company’s business processes. An implementation team of MFA employees worked with EFC Systems, a software development company based in Brentwood, Tenn., to customize the platforms to fit MFA’s intricate, hybrid structure of company-owned stores, local affiliates and wholesale operations. Merchant Grain streamlines processes for marketing, reporting and accounting and gives customers benefits such as improved access to their grain accounts and detailed reports to assist in financial planning.
Funding the future
Giving back to the communities MFA serves is not only one of the key cooperative principles but also demonstrates the company’s stewardship value. In 2022, the MFA Foundation awarded 245 scholarships to high school seniors totaling nearly $490,000. In addition, a separate fund, the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation, distributed more than $310,000 to nonprofit organizations throughout the territory where MFA and its affiliates operate. Those grants included more than $106,000 for community projects, nearly $67,000 for education, more than $79,000 for food security programs and $58,000 to improve public safety. Employees at MFA’s corporate office in Columbia, Mo., also raised $35,500 to benefit Rainbow House, a children’s emergency shelter and advocacy center.
Fiscal 2022 was a big year for MFA in terms of capital expenditures and repairs. The rebuilding and expansion project at West Central AGRIServices in Adrian, Mo., was completed in June 2022 with a grand opening held in July. The fertilizer building and offices were completed on MFA’s new Ravenwood Agronomy Center, which is designed to centralize operations in the region. The crop protection and seed facilities are expected to be completed early this year. Construction also got under way on the new agronomy center in Higginsville, Mo., which will provide fertilizer operations for MFA’s River Valley Group. Other significant capital projects included upgrades at the feed mills in Walker and Owensville, Mo., and complete replacement of the offices, warehouse and truck scales at MFA Agri Services in Kahoka, Mo. Throughout the MFA system, the cooperative took advantage of two profitable years to invest in new trucks, loaders and application equipment to better serve customers.
To further explore opportunities in the rapidly evolving carbon market, MFA signed a pilot agreement with Indigo Agriculture and is working on another partnership with Agoro Carbon Alliance, both of which would allow farmers to generate certified ecosystem credits from eligible conservation farming practices. This follows MFA’s participation in a two-year carbon pilot with the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium that ended in 2022. MFA is also among a collaboration of agricultural organizations awarded a $25 million grant from USDA’s new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. The University of Missouri’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture will lead the five-year project to encourage the adoption of diverse practices that support climate-resilient crop and livestock systems.
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