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We’re still a team built for farmers

MFA celebrates Cooperative Month through collaboration and the long game

If you’ve read this column in the past, it won’t be a secret that I enjoy team sports, especially the teamwork it takes to accomplish goals. I write this just after a weekend when I had the opportunity to attend a University of Missouri football game. It turned out to be one of the best MU Tiger football games I’ve witnessed. With the score tied, Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis hit an SEC record 61-yard field goal as time expired—MU wins over rival Kansas State. The crowd goes wild.

There is no doubt the kicker did his job under considerable pressure. Hats off to him. But from my point of view, we have to look more broadly at the contributions of the whole team that delivered the Tigers to the moment when three points would win the game.
Vince Lombardi, one of the early coaching pioneers in the National Football League, once said, “The achievements of an organization (or team) are the results of the combined efforts of each individual.”

That’s well said.

I believe this is especially true with cooperatives. Cooperatives offer a unique business model that flourishes when you bring together a committed membership and a talented team driven by a passion to serve the member-owners.
October is National Cooperative Month, and your cooperative, MFA Incorporated, is entering its 110th year in business. While the wording has changed over time, our core purpose has remained intact: “Farming and ranching solutions that contribute to the success of our member-owners and their communities while generating profitable growth for MFA.”

How we deliver on that purpose has undoubtedly evolved over time, just as your operations have evolved.

The cooperative’s early years focused on supporting hundreds of locally controlled farm clubs/retail operations. Over time, that model transformed into our current structure, with MFA Incorporated owning the majority of the retail businesses that operate under our signature shield.

In fact, MFA currently holds the distinction of being the eighth-largest ag retailer in the United States and third largest among cooperatives. Yet, to the MFA team, it’s not just about sales dollars and volumes. It is more about being recognized as the best retailer in our trade area.

Our focus is to constantly identify and leverage opportunities that are good for MFA and the producers we serve. MFA offerings must provide growth and profit potential for both. The cooperative and its members both win through strategically located investments and by focusing on technology to do more with less—less equipment and less time demand on our team. We want to serve you, but we also want to provide a better work/life balance for our employees.

Over the past few years, many of you have witnessed or been impacted by changes we have made to consolidate locations and combine operations between locations. The retail model that was built 40, 50 and 60 years ago doesn’t fit the changing agriculture business. Facilities located every 15 or 20 miles are difficult to justify. The efficiencies just aren’t there with the current cost of doing business, both from a capital expense perspective but also the increased capabilities that technology brings.

Change is hard, and these are tough decisions, but we have also found that when we focus on efficiency in an area, in most cases, we can serve you better. MFA’s two new agronomy centers that opened this spring in Ravenwood and Higginsville are proof.

Agriculture is currently experiencing change at a faster rate than any era we’ve witnessed. Let’s not be afraid to accept change that is beneficial to our operations and provides value. Changing times call for changing how we do things. MFA wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the actions taken by past leaders.

It won’t be here tomorrow if we don’t adapt.

Conrad Hilton once made the comment, “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
I agree. And I would add that for a cooperative, what better way is there to do this than together?

-Ernie Verslues
President & CEO
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