As I sat to write this column, the press was delivering a stream of promising headlines. The long-awaited U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed the Senate, clearing its way for final passage. The trade deal between China and the United States reached what looks to be positive ground.
Both agreements come from negotiations farmers and agribusinesses have closely watched due to their obvious impact on trade and markets. It’s worth remembering, though, that no one thing will wash away the challenges our industry has faced in the past 18 months.
During his presentation at MFA’s annual meeting, Seth Meyer, associate director of the Food and Agriculture Policy Institute and research professor at the University of Missouri, talked about trade. He told attendees that while trade sanctions had hit U.S. soybean exports to China hardest, we should not expect an immediate rebound from a new trade deal.
Meyer pointed out that, even with a new trade agreement, a considerable amount of demand uncertainty remains, especially for soybeans. Whether that uncertainty is from African swine fever in China decimating feed demand or shifting soybean supplies during the trade war, Meyer expected the muddled demand picture to carry through at least the rest of 2020.
Whatever happens, these trade deals are object lessons about the need for agriculture to share its voice. If you have heard me speak publicly, you know that this is a recurring theme from my perspective.
Agriculture was a driving voice for these trade agreements. In some cases, our voices were heard a little late in the process, but we did have an influence. Your grassroots feedback to policy leaders made a difference.
Of course, aside from international trade, agriculture faces additional market challenges.
On the positive side, we all know technology has increased the effectiveness of modern agriculture. We are more productive, efficient and environmentally responsible than ever before. It’s a story we are trying to tell.
But that is not the loudest message.
Marketing-as-science opinion brokers along with hostile environmental and animal-rights activists pose an increasing threat to what we do. There are many organizations within these well-funded groups whose reason for existence is to be a voice—a loud voice.
Agriculture won’t drown out these voices, but we can use our own. MFA continues to speak for the industry by working in conjunction with other entities such as Missouri Farmers Care, Farm Bureau, commodity groups and other professional organizations specific to all sectors of agriculture.
But as an organization, MFA’s voice begins with you, the member-owners.
Whether it is trade or the right to operate, our voices are essential. That’s something to remember each year at MFA’s district meetings.
At the end of this month, MFA members will vote in five elections and welcome three new members to the corporate board of directors. Two incumbents are running unopposed. These elections are one way you have input into MFA. You can see the candidates on page 13.
In the spirit of celebrating those who have helped guide the company, I think it is right to honor the MFA board members who will retire from the board this month, all of them due to term limits:
- Barry Kagay serves District 1 and lives in Amity, Mo.
- Casey Spencer serves District 4 and lives in Faucett, Mo.
- David Callis serves District 8 and lives in Sedalia, Mo.
The past 12 years have required a commitment on the part of each of these gentlemen. They’ve had to spend time away from their operations to fulfill their responsibilities to this cooperative.
Because of their leadership, it’s safe to say I’m a better CEO, and MFA is a better organization.
As we go into district meeting season, remember what it means to represent agriculture and what it means for everyone in the industry.
This is your cooperative. You own it. It plays a role in your operations and the communities where you live. You have a voice in it. And your voice is needed.
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