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Picturing safe practices

MFA youth illustrate ideas to avoid danger on the farm, at the workplace

SHIELD blueNo one can take your place. That was the theme of last year’s National Farm Safety and Health Week, which is observed each September. It’s also a fitting reminder as the busy spring season begins and MFA continues to emphasize safety at work and on the farm.

When MFA relaunched its workplace safety program in 2015 as “SHIELD: Safe Habits Improve Employees’ Lives Daily,” the goal of the behavior-based system was to reduce workplace accidents. The program relies on employees throughout the company being trained to talk about safety with their fellow workers. From truck drivers to office staff to personnel at feed mills and fertilizer plants, MFA employees have many conversations about safe work practices and document those discussions. In fact, some 21,700 safety conversations were logged last year.

The company also continues to remind employees that they have very important reasons to make safety a motivator—children and other family members. That’s why MFA holds an annual Farm Safety Poster Contest to help us picture these positive practices through the eyes of the next generation.
Again this year, we asked children and grandchildren of MFA employees and affiliates to share their ideas about safety on the job and on the farm. All MFA staff members were allowed to vote for their favorite poster in each class as well as choose “Best of Show” through the company’s intranet, myMFA. We’re proud to feature this year’s top entries here in Today’s Farmer.



Best of show

Maggie McDowell
Columbia, MO
A sixth-grader at Smithton Middle School in Columbia, Mo., Maggie is the daughter of Ryan and Carla McDowell. Ryan is manager of California Agri Services.





Grades K-1

Asher Johnson
Birch Tree, Mo

A first-grader at Mountain View Elementary School in Birch Tree, Mo., Asher is the daughter of Justin and Kay-Lee Johnson. Justin is a plant operator at MFA Agri Services in Birch Tree.



EyesOnRoadGrades 2-3

June Roark
Lamar, Mo

A home-schooled third-grader, June is the daughter of Justin and Julia Roark of Lamar, Mo. Justin is a DOT Inspector in MFA’s Safety, Environmental and Regulatory Department.



Grades 4-6

Jillian Roark
Lamar, Mo

A home-schooled fifth-grader, Jillian is the daughter of Justin and Julia Roark of Lamar, Mo. Justin is a DOT Inspector in MFA’s Safety, Environmental and Regulatory Department.

CLICK TO READ the full April 2024 Issue of Today's Farmer magazine.

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Faces of Farming

For the first time in 40 years, the Missouri Pork Association has a new executive director. Scott Hays, a fifth-generation swine producer from Monroe City, Mo., is stepping into the role with the retirement of Don Nikodim, who has led the organization since October 1983. MPA represents the state’s pork producers in promotion, research, education and public policy.

ScottHaysMoPorkScott Hays, a swine producer from Monroe City, Mo., officially begins his new role as executive director of the Missouri Pork Association on April 1.Hays is no stranger to leadership and service to the pork industry at a local, state and national level. He just completed a term as president of the National Pork Producers Council and previously served as Missouri Pork Association president as well. He was raised on a diversified farming operation that included row crops, pigs and cattle. After high school, he spent two years in the U.S. Army and then returned to the farm, where he focused full time on pork production.

He and his wife, Riss, have six children and 12 grandchildren. About a year ago, two of their daughters and one son began managing the family’s diversified swine operation, allowing. Hays to take on the demanding duties of MPA executive director.
He spoke to Today’s Farmer just before starting his new position:

What made you want to be MPA’s executive director?
I come from a long line of family members who have been involved in government, associations and co-ops—such as MFA—and I’ve always seen value in that. I feel like it’s part of my job as a farmer. I’m passionate about the pork industry. I enjoy working with other producers, and I like to dabble in politics, just not enough to be a politician. When this opportunity came about, it checked a lot of boxes. For the first time in 35 years, I was in a position where I could look at doing something different. My kids are doing a great job at home. It’s time for me to get out of the way. If I could have handpicked a job I would like to do—if it wasn’t raising pigs—it would be advocating for the industry.

What value does the association bring to its members?
There’s value in producers collectively doing research and promoting their product. There’s the work of the association in advocacy and trade, which is huge. Did you know we now export pork to over 100 countries around the world? And for me, one of the biggest benefits is the peer group within an association, to be connected with other producers in the industry. To that end, one of my goals is to bring in members and leaders from each segment of our industry, work to understand their needs, make sure they know they are valued by this association and find out how we can bring them more value in return.

What are some issues and opportunities your members face?
Freedom to operate—that’s a big one. It’s important not only for producers but also for consumers. If producers have a choice, then consumers have a choice. Both of those are good things. Producers know what’s best for their farm, their land and their animals. Activists, even the well-intentioned ones, don’t understand. We’re also coming out of the worst economic time since I’ve been raising pigs, even worse than ’98. We’ve had some nice rallies recently, but there’s not a lot of equity in the industry, so keeping the herd healthy is important. A healthier herd helps with labor, sustainability and animal welfare. That’s a big focus for our state and national associations.

Admittedly, Don Nikodim leaves some big shoes to fill. How will you continue that legacy while making your own mark?
I have to say “thank you” to Don. He’s dedicated his entire life to agriculture and been such a great mentor for many of us in the industry. It’s a luxury to step into a program that’s so well run, and I want to build on that. We’ve got a great staff, and we’re excited about working together. I bring national and global experience to the table, but I’m also bringing a personal aspect to this job. I love Missouri’s pork industry, and I want to see it prosper. Like everything, we’re continuing to evolve. Sometimes it’s painful, but change always brings opportunity. I believe Missouri Pork can help identify those opportunities and bring them to our members. That’s my goal.

CLICK TO READ the full April 2024 Issue of Today's Farmer magazine.

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