One of the guiding principles in MFA’s values statement is accountability. It’s a value that drives behavior for all of us at MFA. In our values statement, the entry for accountability states:
“We accept personal accountability to meet business needs. We will treat the company’s assets like our own and take action with the company’s long-term success in mind.”
At MFA’s district delegate meetings the last week of February, I shared a perspective on the rapid pace of change in agriculture. To position MFA for the future, we need a strong working relationship between senior management and your directors.
MFA Incorporated’s board of directors, an essential part of this team, is undergoing significant turnover. Directors are limited to four, three-year terms. In March 2018, three board members reached term limits. This year, two additional board members retire due to term limits. Another three will reach term limits in March 2020. In total, at least eight of MFA’s 14 board members will be replaced in this 24-month period. That is change at a rapid pace.
Change is uncomfortable for most everyone. However, change is manageable when you recognize that it is coming, understand it and prepare for it. MFA’s board has spent time addressing the potential impact of significant board turnover.
While term limits are bittersweet, your board believes they are healthy to MFA as an organization. Each change brings new ideas and new energy. Members of the board also believe there is a pool of qualified candidates available to fill the void. Three capable candidates were elected last year. This year we add two more. I hope you will join me in welcoming Jim Novinger of Kirksville, Mo., who was elected to represent District 3 in the northeast part of the state. Also welcome Steve Stumpe of Leslie, Mo., representing District 10 in east-central Missouri. As John Moffitt and Tim Engemann retire from the board after 12 years, I offer them thanks on behalf of MFA. Their insight has been valuable.
One of the seven principles of a cooperative is democratic control. It specifies that members have the opportunity to participate in the governance of their cooperative. At MFA, your voice is represented through our 14 directors, a board of farmers and ranchers from our trade area. They are good businessmen and know firsthand the opportunities and challenges each of you face.
Strong governance is the heart of any thriving and sustainable cooperative. Proper oversight ensures the board is accountable to the membership and that a strong management team is in place. It ensures management is actively participating in developing the company’s strategic direction and making business decisions in the best interest of the member while ensuring the long-term success of the cooperative.
A seat on board of directors of MFA Incorporated comes with a great deal of responsibility. It requires more than just attending six board meetings each year. MFA is a modern agribusiness and complex organization. Understanding its operations takes time and effort.
At MFA, management provides an extensive orientation program for new directors. Directors learn how each operating area impacts the overall organization. A peer-based training program is also available to board members. For that program, MFA teams with six similar cooperatives for a three-day session. The program is designed explicitly for co-op boards to interact without management present. This is a real opportunity to strengthen personal skills and understand how other boards approach governance.
MFA’s board uses a committee structure to better focus on specific areas of governance. Standing committees are: Audit/Risk Management, Legislative, Scholarship, Charitable Foundation, and Executive. These important topics deserve dedicated time—committee sessions take place outside regular board meetings.
Your cooperative’s board members understand their role and expectations. They are engaged, passionate and committed to the mission of MFA Incorporated. They know our mission is only accomplished through a team approach—everyone accepting accountability and working together for the same goal.
The spirit of accountability and teamwork at MFA may be best described by Vince Lombardi, who said, “Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
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