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MFA's 2020 crop trials provide valuable data for decisions, even without in-person trainings

Every year comes with challenges, and 2020 was certainly no exception. Much of what we do in MFA’s Agronomy Division was put on hold or altered because of COVID-19. Every year, our agronomists and product managers put together extensive trials that range from compari­sons of corn and soybean varieties to applications of fertilizer, fungicide and everything in between. This research allows our team to get first looks and evaluate products to provide solid agronomic information for MFA employees and producers. This gives everyone confidence in the products we recommend or use, because we know they have been proven in the field.

While COVID-19 concerns didn’t stop that important trial work, it did make it more challenging to conduct the in-person training we always hold for our employees and producers. We had to adjust. We hosted smaller group tours and produced training videos. Our annual MFA Training Camp was held virtually so employees could still see, hear and learn about our trials.

Though certainly not ideal, the situation provided insight about how technology now allows for digital training and information-sharing. But, let’s be honest, virtual presentations can’t replace in-person interaction in which you can physically see the products, ask questions and have conversations. We hope tours and trainings can resume in 2021.

In 2020, we conducted trials at two training sites. Our main location is in the Missouri River bottoms outside Boonville, Mo., where we have 20 acres split in a corn-soybean rotation. We’ve conducted trials there for nine years. Our second site, which we’ve used for the past two years, is east of Columbia and consists of 35 acres of corn and soybeans. There, we have designated six of those acres as corn-on-corn and plan to gain more data for this type of rotation.

These training sites give our agronomy team a hands-on approach to testing and product evaluation. As you will see in the results, this time we focused on fungicides and foliar nutritionals. We also conducted va­riety trials for MorCorn, MorSoy, DeKalb, Asgrow, Brevant and NK seeds along with seed treatments, fertilizers and seeding populations for corn and soybeans.

Beyond these two training sites, MFA also conducts numerous replicated and large-scale on-farm trials across our trade territo­ry. In 2020, we had 79 such trials evaluating foliar nutritionals, fungicides, fertilizers and anhydrous ammonia stabilizers. On the following pages are summaries of some of these trials and results of our agronomic research.

CORN HYBRID TRIALS

The MorCorn trials at both our Columbia and Boonville lo­cations were planted on April 20 with a population of 32,500 plants per acre. We tested the same varieties for each trial at both sites. A total of 59 varieties were tested ranging from 104-day relative maturity to 118 days. We tested 11 MorCorn com­mercial checks against 21 experimental varieties and 27 other varieties split among DeKalb, Brevant and NK hybrids. Due to data agreements, the information we can share in this article will be only for the MorCorn varieties and experimentals.

The plot site in Boonville was fertilized with 300 pounds of actual nitrogen in the form of SuperU the day after planting. The plot site in Columbia, however, did not receive nitrogen until the corn was around V5 growth stage, when we applied 180 pounds of SuperU. Even with the late application, we were still able to produce a good corn crop because corn doesn’t use most of its nitrogen until the V6 growth stage.

This demonstrates the importance of getting nitrogen on the field at the right rate and time but also ensuring that it is protected by nitrogen stabilizers to reduce loss before the plant uses it.

Most of our trade territory had a great growing season, and our plot yields show it. At the Boonville site, the top end hit 283 bushels per acre with a couple of experimental varieties, while the low number was an experimental variety at 239 bush­els per acre. In Columbia, the top end hit 262 bushels per acre with an experimental variety, while the lower end was MorCorn 3544 at 212 bushels per acre. Results can be seen in Fig. 1A, 1B and 1C. In addition to our training sites, these hybrids were tested across multiple environments and geographies in 12 oth­er locations within MFA’s trade territory. Fig. 1D shows a yield comparison for hybrids tested multiple times from 2015-2020 at these replicated sites.

SOYBEAN VARIETY TRIALS

The diversity in the MorSoy lineup reflects the diversity in MFA’s trade territory. The portfolio includes soybean matur­ities from 3.6 to 4.9 and seed traits such as LibertyLink, Enlist E3 and Roundup Ready Xtend. We were even able to test some experimental lines of soybeans with the Roundup Ready XtendFlex trait, which was introduced by Bayer this past year. Fortunately, XtendFlex technology was fully approved in August 2020, allowing us to harvest those plots and collect yield data.

The MorSoy variety trial in Boonville was planted on June 3, but we had to replant the early-maturity group 3 beans on June 16. Since XtendFlex soybeans were a stewarded product going into the 2020 planting season, we weren’t able to plant those varieties at this site because it had flooded in the past five years. The Columbia site was planted on June 1, but heavy rains caused poor emergence, and all trials there were replanted on June 17. The population was 140,000 plants per acre.

Overall, we tested 69 varieties including 28 MorSoy commer­cial checks against 17 experimental varieties and 24 additional varieties split among Asgrow, Brevant and NK brands. As with the corn data, we will only be sharing the MorSoy products and experimentals per our data agreements.

The soybean varieties were broken into four trials by relative maturity ranges. The trials include all of the herbicide technol­ogy traits combined, so weed control was maintained with a sound agronomic conventional herbicide program. Results can be seen in Fig. 2A, 2B, 2C and 2D. In addition, these varieties were tested across multiple environments and geographies in 12 other locations. In Fig. 2E, you can see a yield comparison for our commercial varieties tested in 2020 across those sites.

FUNGICIDE TRIALS

Over the years, benefits from foliar fungicides have been well documented, both from a disease control standpoint and positive effects on plant growth and development. Last year at our Columbia site, we began to look at the impact of fungicide by variety. We continued this study in 2020 by doubling the replications of corn and soybean trials. We applied fungicide in the VT-R1 timeframe for corn and R2-R3 timeframe for soy­beans. Fig. 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D show the combined yield for all of the soybean varieties for the untreated block and the block treated with Miravis Top. We realized a 4- to 10-bushel increase on the plots treated with fungicide. The tables for corn are not presented, but we saw an increase of 6 to 8 bushels.

FUNGICIDE TIMING

Continuing our focus on fungicides, we wanted to look at the best timing for application. In our trials, we applied fungicide on corn and soybeans at seven different timings, two at early vegetation stages and five during each of the early reproductive stages. The data shown is a combination of the three trials we have completed in the past two years. As you can see in Fig. 4A, for corn there is a statistically significant advantage to applying fungicide from VT to R2. Soybeans didn’t show a statistically significant difference, but there was trend toward higher yield advantage in the earlier reproductive stages (R1-R3).

SLOW-RELEASE NITROGEN & FOLIAR NUTRITION TRIALS

We have seen the benefits of fungicide, but is there a way to boost the fungicide to provide an even better return? Slow-release nitrogen (SRN) gives us that opportunity by working synergistically with fungicides, most importantly those with strobilurins. SRNs provide an efficient method of delivering low-use rates of nitrogen to the plant when it is being stressed, resulting in more gains at higher N efficiency. MFA’s own Gold Advantage Trend-B is an SRN with added boron, an essential nutrient needed during a crop’s reproductive stages for grain development. However, boron is not very mobile within the plant. When taken up early, boron likely won’t move enough to the areas where the plant most needs it. By applying Trend-B, we are not only providing nitrogen to help the fungicide in­crease plant performance, but we are also helping to provide optimal boron nutrition.

Proper timing is crucial to get the most out of SRNs and fungicides. We have done many studies with Gold Advantage Trend-B as well as fungicides paired with Gold Advantage Corn and Soybean foliar nutrition. The results have been positive. 

This past year in a large-scale farm trial, we saw an increase of 10-plus bushels per acre from a fungicide application. The field was also split with an application of fungicide with Trend-B, which resulted in an additional 4 bushels per acre.

Foliar nutritionals are by no means a way to replace sound soil fertility, but they can enhance the plant’s ability to use readily available nutrients at peak uptake to help produce a top crop.

ARRESTED EAR

While fungicides can pay large dividends, there can be some drawbacks if not used properly. When looking at when and what fungicides to apply, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of using the right adjuvant. Adjuvants are used in almost all tank-mix combinations to improve the efficacy of the pesticides, such as ammonium sulfate (AMS) with glyphosate.

The three main types of adjuvants on most pesticide labels are non-ionic surfactant (NIS), methylated seed oil (MSO) and crop oil concentrate (COC). Each has its own unique properties to improve the efficacy of pesticides. In general terms, NIS products are considered spreaders and help the spray particle to cover more of the leaf surface. MSOs and COCs are oil-based products, allowing for better penetration of the waxy cuticle on the plant’s leaves while also providing additional spreading of the spray droplet.

Most fungicide labels for corn recommend the use of an adjuvant during application—usually an NIS, especially in late applications that likely will be applied by airplane. However, the labels usually caution applicators not to use the fungicide with an adjuvant between the stages of V8 and prior to VT. Use of an adjuvant during these growth stages may stress the plant and inhibit kernel develop­ment, resulting in an arrested ear.

In this year’s crop trials, we looked at the impact of using an adjuvant with the fungicide, Trivapro, at the V14 timeframe in corn. We compared treatment of an untreated check, fungicide only and fungicide with MFA’s adjuvants Astute (NIS), Soy Plus (MSO) and Xpond (high surfactant oil concentrate). The data in Fig. 5A is just from the Boonville site, but we saw the same trends at each location. Compared to the untreated check, all of the treatments with fungicide provided some yield benefit at both application timings. However, in this data set there is a 15-bushel decrease when applying fungicide with NIS prior to VT as compared to application at the VT-R1 time­frame. We saw 3% to 4% arrested ear development in the treatments that included NIS at V14. By having the NIS with fungicide at the proper timing (VT-R1), there was an increase in yield when compared to fungicide only.

This trial emphasized the importance of understanding the growth stage of your crops to help avoid any unneces­sary side effects of applying pesticides or additives at the wrong time.

POPULATION TRIALS

We often get questions about soybean populations and what is considered a viable stand to determine replants. For the past two years, we have conducted trials to determine the impact of plant population on overall yield. Fig. 6A shows yield results from three trials as well as the combined average. The overall results show that planting at least 140,000 plants per acre pro­vides a yield increase compared to lower planting populations. The same trend is true in each individual trial result. Observa­tions of these plots indicated that lower populations actually promoted weed pressure because canopy closure was more difficult.

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Keri Jacobs joins Mizzou in endowed position that supports industry outreach, education

KeriJacobs MFA 7461FARMER-OWNED COOPERATIVES in the Show-Me State and beyond have a new resource for education and training with the recent hiring of Dr. Keri Jacobs as the MFA Agribusiness Chair in the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

The newly created position was endowed by MFA Incorporat­ed, MFA Oil Co. and the MFA Foundation to promote industry engagement and provide service and support to U.S. agricultur­al cooperatives.

In this role, Jacobs will also serve as the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership (GICL) Distinguished Fellow, helping to direct the efforts of this global, research-based executive education center based at the university. GICL was created in 1971 to offer advanced learning programs focused on senior management and boards of directors from U.S. and internation­al cooperatives.

“I’m excited about this opportunity to have a positive influ­ence on cooperative successes,” Jacobs said. “My goal is to not only work with directors and managers but also to help educate non-member farmers and consumers about the cooperative model.”

Prior to joining Mizzou on Jan. 4, Jacobs served as associate professor and Extension economist at Iowa State University and the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives Endowed Economics Professor. She received a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1996 and a Ph.D. in economics from North Carolina State University in Raleigh in 2010.

Jacobs grew up on a diversified farm in eastern Iowa, where her family raised row crops, hogs and cattle. She said her agri­cultural upbringing, combined with her experience in working with cooperatives, have prepared her well for her new role.

“I’m very pro-farmer,” Jacobs said. “I’m a farmer’s daugh­ter. Farmers’ granddaughter. I understand production ag, so I understand its challenges. Focusing on cooperatives keeps me connected to farmers at a different level. The more I learn about co-ops, the more I’m fascinated by the power of this business model.”

Admitting she will be “drinking from a fire hose” as she gets settled into the new job, Jacobs said she intends to spend her first few months in Missouri getting to know the agricultural community and the cooperatives that serve it.

“For me, the best way to learn is to see it, be in it,” Jacobs said. “I plan to make the rounds across the state, just introduc­ing myself, getting to know the people and learning as much as I can. I want stakeholders to understand that I will be a resource they can call on.”

MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil and the MFA Foundation first pledged funds to CAFNR for an agribusiness professorship in 2016. That position was filled by Joe Parcell, director of the university’s Division of Applied Social Sciences. Since then, the MFA Foundation has made ad­ditional investments to the endowment to create the MFA Chair position.

“Cooperatives will continue to play a vital role in both agriculture and the rural communities we do business in,” said Ernie Verslues, presi­dent and CEO of MFA Incorporated. “The MFA family is proud to establish the MFA Chair and fortunate to have someone the caliber of Keri fill that seat. Her knowledge and experience position her to further advance and strengthen cooperatives in Missouri as well as the rest of the country.”

Along with her position as MFA Chair in Agri­business, Jacobs will be working alongside GICL’s executive director, Dr. Mike Cook, in developing and conducting the center’s research-oriented programs. Now in its 50th year, GICL provides a forum for exchange of ideas and knowledge in the specialized field of producer-owned-and-controlled firms. Cook, who has led GICL since 1993, has indicated plans to retire in the near future, and Jacobs will be preparing to transition into that role.

“The programs GICL offers are very advanced, so there will be a learning curve for me,” Jacobs said. “At first, I plan to observe Dr. Cook and make connections, attending GICL board meetings and learning what the educational and research needs are. I’m looking forward to working with cooperatives in a way that is very much geared toward applied agricultural economics.”

Jacobs said she will also be intricately involved with the Missouri Institute of Coop­eratives, an association of local and regional co-ops representing all kinds of member-owned organizations.

“Initially, I’ll spend time focusing on agri­cultural economics, but I hope there will be opportunities with other types of cooperatives,” Jacobs said. “Telecommunications and electric cooperatives are an important part of the rural infrastructure, so they are certainly serving farmers and the agricultural system.”

As an industry resource, Jacobs said she can offer expertise in everything from finance and governance to strategic planning and director development. Plus, she brings an objective mindset to the table to help address the issues cooperative leaders face.

“Ultimately, I’ll count myself as a success if boards think to call me when they encounter challenges in navigating their roles,” Jacobs said. “I feel like I can help directors and managers see things from each other’s point of view. I can be that neutral person in the boardroom to offer a different perspective.”

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New project at MFA in Linn recycles agricultural plastic

Over the past few decades, plastic-wrapped hay bales have transitioned from cutting-edge to commonplace on farms throughout MFA territory. The practice reduces forage drying time, improves quality and protects the bale from weather damage.

Along with these advantages, however, comes a down­side. Proper disposal of the plastic waste is a major problem. An estimated 1 billion pounds of agri­cultural plastic is used every year in the U.S. alone, but very little is recycled. Most is landfilled, buried or burned.

Thanks to a pilot project at MFA Co-op Association in Linn, Mo., local farmers now have a more environmen­tally responsible solution. A new baler that com­presses agricultural plastic wrap was purchased and installed in mid-November, made possible by a $10,000 grant from the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District (MMSWMD). Propo­nents of the program had observed a similar proj­ect under way with dairy producers in Wisconsin, but this is the first of its kind in Missouri.

“We’ve seen a good spark of interest since we got the baler up and running,” said Michael Rost, manager of the MFA Linn facility. “There’s a lot of wrapped hay in this area, and we have tons of plastic that’s been lying around on farms just because there’s no place to take it. There’s a good chance of it ending up littering our fields and waterways. This is a better option.”

Plastic is plentiful on the dairy farm of Alfred Brandt, who milks 140 Holsteins south of Linn. He wraps anywhere from 600 to 1,500 bales of haylage each year and covers his drive-over silage pile with plastic as well. 

With limited disposal options, he’s been burning all that waste plastic—until now. Brandt and his father, Don, delivered their first load to be recycled at MFA on Jan. 14. A month’s worth of plastic filled the back of their flatbed truck.

“There’s too much to put in a little dumpster, and nowhere else to recycle it,” Brandt said. “Anyone who feeds wrapped hay, no matter how good a job you do, the plastic tends to get every­where if you don’t take care of it. So just having a place where somebody can do some good with it, that’s a benefit.”

After two months of operation, MFA has collected about 5 tons of plastic to be recycled, but Rost says he expects that to in­crease as the word spreads. Once 40,000 pounds of compressed bales have been accumulated at the Linn location, Revolution Recycling of Little Rock, Ark., will send a truck to collect it. The recycled material will be turned into plastic pipe for irrigation, benefiting farmers on the back end. While the Arkansas com­pany will not pay MFA for the waste plastic, there will be no charge for picking it up.

“We won’t be making money on this project, but we’re happy to donate some labor to the cause and provide a base of oper­ations to make it happen,” Rost said. “After all, it’s a bene­fit to our farmers.”

Osage County Commissioner John Glavin, who rep­resents the county on the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste board, helped initiate the project in early 2019 along with Lelande Rehard, who was serving as the MMSWMD dis­trict manager at the time. Rost said the project was also sup­ported by the Osage County Extension and Farm Bureau.

“This is a great example of collaboration to reach a shared goal,” said retired Extension Engagement Specialist John Gulick when the grant was approved. “If successful, hopefully the project will be replicated in many agricultural areas of the state.”

Before bringing in their waste plastic to be baled, producers are asked to place it in collection bags provided by Revolution Recycling. This will help officials accurately estimate future costs of similar projects. These waste collection bags are avail­able at MFA in Linn.

However, Rost said that even if producers have not received those bags, MFA will accept any amount of agricultural plastic, even if it’s just a few bales worth.

Plastic bale wrap, silage/grain bags, silo covers, greenhouse film and drip tape are the primary recycling material that will be accepted. The cleaner the wrap, the more effective the pro­cess. Rost cautions farmers to make sure no net wrap or twine is mixed in with the plastic, or Revolution Recycling could cancel its participation.

“The key to making this work is having a place that farmers are already going,” Rost said. “They’ll be able to come here for feed or other supplies, and drop off their plastic at the same time. Someone will be here to help, so it should be a pain-free process.”

Rost is serving as project administrator and hopes that other locations will be identified to expand the recycling’s reach.

“It’s not limited to the Linn area. We’ll take plastic from any farmers who want to bring it here,” he said. “I know there will be some trial and error, but I think it’s definitely going to help the community.”

Producers who want to recycle agricultural plastic are asked to call ahead at 573-897-2157 to ensure MFA staff will be available to operate the baler. Rost requests that recycling only be delivered Monday through Friday because weekends are typically busier for the store.

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MFA leaders reinforce commitment to customers during virtual Annual Meeting

MFA INCORPORATED’S 2020 ANNUAL MEETING on Dec. 1 was like no other in its 106-year history, befitting a year that was filled with unprecedented challenges.

Instead of convening in Columbia the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as usual, MFA directors, delegates and employees were invited to view company updates and financial reports for fiscal year 2020 through an online platform. The virtual annual meeting con­sisted of pre-recorded messages from MFA Incorporated leaders and a special address from Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn.

With COVID-19 case counts on the rise throughout the trade territory, officials say the change in meeting format was made out of consideration for MFA employees, customers and their communities.

“This is a first for us. We’d rather meet in person,” Board Chairman Wayne Nichols said in welcoming the unseen audience. “But when we looked at restrictions on the number of people who could gather in our traditional setting—and when we considered the unknowns we faced going into winter—a non-centralized meeting was the surest course of action we could take.”

The pandemic was just another in a string of difficult situations that negatively affected MFA’s financial perfor­mance over the past two years. While consolidated sales reached $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2020, which ended Aug. 31, the overall result was a pre-tax loss of $15.4 million for 2020.

“Weather, trade issues, devaluation of inputs, low commodity prices and market disruptions from the coronavirus—none of these things have been favorable to the financial perfor­mance of MFA,” Nichols said. “As chair­man of the board, I want MFA members to know that we are closely tracking the economic fundamentals of your cooper­ative. While certain aspects of the past year were unavoidable, we know that loss years are not sustainable for the organi­zation.”

In her report to the membership, Chief Financial Officer Karen White pinpoint­ed three factors that contributed to MFA’s loss in 2020:

Plant food inventory devaluation: Fertilizer volumes were reduced in the spring of 2019 due to flooding and prevent-plant acres, creating a large carryover of inventories into fiscal 2020. Then, wet weather limited movement of that inventory throughout the fall and early spring.

Lower grain volumes: Flooding and prevented planting also led to signifi­cantly reduced production of corn and beans in 2019, which, in turn, meant fewer bushels sold at the elevator.

COVID-19: The pandemic caused uncertainty in the markets, resulting in commodity and livestock values reaching 15- to 20- year lows during the March-through- August timeframe. Many producers turned to lower-priced products, and fewer dollars were spent per acre or per animal.

Despite the loss, White pointed out that MFA’s balance sheet remains solid, and the cooperative has a much more favorable 2021 fiscal year budget, which includes $1.3 billion in sales, a 16% increase over 2020. This number reflects increases in both grain and crop input volumes. If this plan is achieved, MFA would realize a profit of $3.2 million.

“Although this is not acceptable long-term, it is a significant positive step from 2019 and 2020,” White said. “We need profits to sustain and strengthen our position. I believe in our team and have confidence in their ability to meet the 2021 plan.”

Reviewing financial performance by category, White reported that 67 million bushels of grain were sold in 2020, a slight increase from the previous year but well below the 82 million bushels sold in 2018.

“Predictions for fiscal 2021 are signifi­cantly higher,” White added. “Much of our trade territory is looking at a record or near-record harvest, and we anticipate reaching volumes experienced in 2017 and 2018.”

Agronomy sales—which include plant foods, seed and crop protection—were $501 million, an 11% decrease from fiscal 2019. Fertilizer tonnage was negatively affected by wet con­ditions in the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, White said. Seed sales were also down, but crop protection sales reflected increases at both the retail and supply divisions.

Livestock supply sales were slightly higher than 2019, total­ing $152 million, but the increase was tied to how corn is now handled in customer feed mixes, White explained. This area includes feed, animal health and farm supply sales, and all cate­gories were flat to down slightly in sales for fiscal 2020.

Total margins and operating revenues were $189 million, a decrease of $12 million related to the plant food devaluation, reduced grain volume and lower earnings from joint ventures. Working capital was $75 million at fiscal year-end.

Total assets at the end of August were down $40 million to $478 million, due mainly to reduced plant food and crop protection inventories.

“We ended fiscal 2019 with a large carryover of inventories as a result of flooding and prevent-plant acres,” White said. “Due to the reduced demand in the spring of 2019, we weren’t able to move the product. But in 2020, we reduced this inventory.”

White also reported that MFA Incorporated has long-term debt of $81 million, including a term loan with CoBank and the MFA Bond Program. Total net worth decreased by approximately $9 million to $153 million.

White concluded her report by announcing that MFA will return to members 100% of its Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD), estimated at $25 million for fiscal 2020. This deduction is available for members who sold grain to MFA.

CEO Ernie Verslues followed the financial report with a candid discussion of the challenges MFA and its farmers re­cently have faced and outlined steps the cooperative is taking to overcome the losses of the past two years. He said the 2021 budget includes improvements in all key sales areas of the company.

“The theme for fiscal 2021 and today’s meeting is ‘Adapt, Aim, Achieve,’” Verslues said. “2020 has been an almost year-long lesson in adapting because of COVID-19. The impact will min­imize at some point in the future, but there will always be the next event that forces us to adapt. MFA has taken aim on those actions that will drive improved profitability. We know growth is not a given. But together, our member-owners and the MFA team will achieve success.”

Going forward, Verslues said, MFA will continue to focus on customer relationships, striving to hire and develop the best talent in MFA’s trade area. After people, he added, the cooperative’s retail presence is one of its strongest advantages.

“We’ve got the best opportunity of anybody in the industry to influence decisions at the farm gate,” Ver­slues said. “That influence comes from our people, our value-added products and services, our facilities and our financial strength. We continually look for better ways to efficiently service your needs. In some cases, that is different than it has been in the past. It might be done with fewer facilities. The key is to strategically place all of these resources within our trade area.”

The CEO listed other actions to improve profitabil­ity, including competitive pricing that drives sales, adoption of technology that benefits producers and the environment, data management for improved decisions, im­proved member engagement and continued cost controls. All of these efforts, he pointed out, center around the company’s value proposition: Enhancing producer capability and profitability.

“Weather and outside forces will always impact our busi­ness,” Verslues said. “My goal, and the MFA team’s goal, is to minimize the impact to our bottom line. We must be resilient in the face of disruptions and interruptions to our business. The last two years have reduced the strength of our balance sheet— losses always do—but it’s still solid. Now, it’s time to turn the tide.”

In her recorded message to the MFA audience, Missouri Agriculture Director Chris Chinn discussed the challenges COVID-19 presented to the state’s farmers and rural families. From limited meat-processing capacity to milk disposal to pres­sure on rural broadband resources, the department was called upon to handle a number of pandemic-related issues in 2020, Chinn said.

“Even though we’ve had a lot of challenges with COVID-19, there are bright spots,” she said. “One example is our local meat processors. When Missourians went to the grocery store and saw empty shelves, they started reaching out to farmers and ranchers directly to buy their protein. As a result, by June 2020, we had doubled the amount of red meat under state inspection compared to 2019.”

In concluding the annual meeting presentations, Nichols shared an encouraging message for members.

“With recent structural changes and a realistic outlook on volume for the coming year, we believe a good turnaround is underway for this fiscal year,” Nichols said. “We have checks and balances in place, and we are supportive of MFA manage­ment and its employees. The coming year has great promise for all of us in agriculture.”

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