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2023 in review

Farm Bill focus
A new Farm Bill was top of mind for the agricultural industry last year, with the existing version set to expire at the end of September 2023. Congress failed to meet that deadline and passed a one-year extension. While work on the new legislation progressed, Missouri hosted two farm bill listening sessions: one at the Missouri State Fair in August and one in October hosted by Sen. Eric Schmitt in Columbia. Chris DeMoss, MFA Incorporated senior director of Plant Foods, spoke at the latter event, emphasizing the need for improved transportation infrastructure to help get inputs and farm products to market. As negotiations continue in 2024, producers and ag industry representatives continue to convey the need for a Farm Bill to provide risk management options, conservation funding and other programs.

Shared prosperity
Stewardship of resources is one of MFA’s core values, and our cooperative proudly gives back to the community while helping to develop the next generation of farmers and agricultural professionals. In 2023, the MFA Foundation awarded 274 scholarships to high school seniors totaling nearly $548,000. A separate fund, the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation, distributed $270,850 to nonprofit organizations throughout MFA territory. Grants included $77,600 for community projects, $78,390 for education, $68,200 for public service and safety, and $46,660 for youth activities. Employees at MFA’s home office in Columbia, Mo., also raised $37,000 for Welcome Home: A Community for Veterans, which provides housing, employment assistance and supportive services to at-risk and homeless veterans.

Water woes
Dry conditions have lingered across MFA territory for two years, and the situation has been particularly dire for livestock producers. The drought limited forage production, dropped ponds and creeks to critically low levels and forced cattle producers to sell part—or even all—of their herds. Row crops were hit hard, too, with many growers harvesting a smaller-
than-expected corn crop in 2023. Timely rains improved Missouri’s soybean yield, and, overall, soil health and seed genetics helped produce surprisingly good crops in challenging conditions. Missouri Climatologist Zach Leasor said the state experienced a one-in-20-year drought event in 2023, with the stretch from April through November ranked as the seventh-driest growing season since 1895.

Agronomy advancements
MFA entered a new era in service last year with the opening of two agronomy centers that act as regional hubs and consolidate older, smaller MFA facilities into larger, more modern operations. The River Valley Agronomy Center in Higginsville, Mo., features the largest bulk fertilizer plant in the MFA system with a fully automated, declining-weight blending system. An open house was held at the new center on June 28. Likewise, the Four Rivers Agronomy Center in Ravenwood, Mo., became fully operational in 2023, serving farmers in MFA’s northwest trade territory. Guests attended an open house on Sept. 15 to tour the state-of-the-art complex, which includes a fertilizer plant, crop protection warehouse and centralized seed treatment system.

Smart moves
Whether it’s called “regenerative” or “climate-smart” or similar terminology, momentum is growing to encourage farming practices that lower greenhouse gas emissions and sequester soil carbon—and there are monetary incentives from USDA to support those efforts. MFA is collaborating with the University of Missouri’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture on the Climate-Resilient Crop and Livestock Project, which offers incentive payment programs for implementing practices such as split nitrogen applications, cover crops and rotational grazing.

Tech checks
From targeted spraying systems to drone input delivery, MFA continued to evaluate the latest in agricultural technology in 2023, seeking advancements that could bring value to the company and its customers. In the spring, MFA worked with Sydenstricker Nobbe Partners for a trial run of a John Deere’s See & Spray Ultimate technology, which uses artificial intelligence, computer vision and machine learning to target in-season weeds. A field day on May 9 allowed MFA and John Deere personnel, agriculture officials, industry and university representatives and media to see the technology in action. MFA also began testing the use of drones to spray research plots, plant cover crops and apply fertilizer. The Agronomy Division developed policies to approve third-party companies to offer drone services to customers as MFA assesses how the technology fits into our operations.

Read a related story about the 2023 Annual Meeting HERE.

Read more of the Feb. 2024 Today's Farmer Magazine Issue HERE.

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