As the calendar page turns to October, those of us in agriculture are engulfed in one of our busiest times. Depending on your situation, this could include harvest, calving, and fall tillage and fertilizer.
For members of MFA Incorporated and other cooperatives across the United States, October also is recognized as National Co-op Month. The tradition began in Minnesota in 1948 and was recognized nationally in 1964 via a declaration by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman.
Many of you recognize the strengths and see the benefits of cooperatives in your communities every day. You can see them in your agriculture inputs supplier, fuel and lubricant supplier, credit union, utility provider, and ethanol or biodiesel plant—the list goes on. Each cooperative has a different role in your life, but all have a clear focus: they exist to effectively meet the needs of their member-owners.
At MFA, we take that responsibility seriously, and we continually strive to bring value to your operation through our products, services, and expertise. The first of seven basic cooperative principles states that membership in a cooperative is open and voluntary. We don’t take your business for granted. Our talented and dedicated employees work to earn that business through every transaction or interaction.
We recognize that for many of you, operational needs are changing more rapidly than they have in the past. That could include farming practices or buying habits. Agriculture continues to undergo rapid change at all levels. We all conduct business differently than we have in the past. In some cases, we are pushed into change rapidly. Witness the increased adoption of virtual technologies and e-commerce in the wake of the 2020 pandemic.
As a 106-year-old cooperative, MFA has successfully adapted to change throughout our history. We’ve navigated the trends and cycles and continue to be a leader in our trade area.
Successful cooperatives must change over time. They must continue to meet the needs of members. How a cooperative fulfills those needs changes, too. Sometimes change is subtle, sometimes more pronounced. No cooperative can be all things to all people.
Over the past few years, you have noticed MFA’s intentional effort to focus on sales and operational efficiencies, which has included location closures. Our approach to the market is different, but our commitment to the cooperative and its members remains unchanged.
Aside from offering products and services to members, cooperatives are heavily invested in the communities they serve. Our community involvement includes the MFA Foundation, which provides more than 300 scholarships to high school seniors annually. Each scholarship is worth $2,000. Beginning this year, only children or grandchildren (including step-children and step-grandchildren) of MFA members or those with member-level volumes will be eligible for these scholarships.
Fifteen years ago, MFA Incorporated also started a charitable foundation. This foundation supports community projects in rural communities where MFA has a presence. In the past year, over $150,000 was donated to projects related to food insecurity, an issue heightened by the pandemic. We are committed to giving back.
Another cooperative benefit, and one that’s not easily measured, is the legislative support provided on behalf of members. Governmental policies and regulations have an impact on business decisions, both for MFA and your operations. We work individually and with other groups to educate policymakers about the effects their decisions have on our livelihoods. This guidance comes with the understanding that your success on the farm is fundamental to MFA’s success.
Cooperatives are unique because they are owned and controlled by members. In addition to providing a competitive challenge to privately and publicly held companies, cooperatives come with the added benefits of member ownership and a voice in company governance.
All of us at MFA Incorporated stand ready to improve producer capability and profitability. We are poised to continue our efforts in providing a cooperative system that delivers value for both MFA and the members it serves.
Have a safe and productive fall.
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