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Like-minded leaders

In a follow-up to what was considered a successful inaugu­ral year, the second edition of the MFA Emerging Leaders in Agriculture conference brought together professional producers between the ages of 21 and 45 for education and networking Jan. 11-13 in Lake Ozark, Mo.

Jointly hosted by MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil, the pro­gram was designed to help young farmers better manage and grow their agricultural businesses while connecting them with like-minded peers. Attendees from Missouri, Arkansas and Kan­sas heard from agribusiness experts and discussed issues and challenges facing agriculture, cooperatives and rural America.

First-generation farmers Thomas and Jaci Salario were among those selected for this year’s event. The young couple, who recently established a cattle ranch in northeast Arkansas, said they had pledged to attend a conference like this every year.

“We want to find continuing education opportunities to help our farm prosper,” Jaci said. “The sessions are great, and meet­ing new people and talking to farmers in different situations is also a good way to learn. If we take away one or two things and implement them on the farm, we’re going to improve and grow.”

The conference kicked off with an opening reception and dinner followed by a high-energy presentation from Damian Mason, who used both humor and realism in his remarks about current issues affecting U.S. agriculture. Mike Way, whose California-based company is the largest year-round grower and shipper of premium bell peppers in the U.S., opened the next morning’s agenda by outlining some ways farmers must adapt to meet consumer demands. He was followed by David Parker, an agribusiness consultant who moderated the entire confer­ence. Parker discussed management techniques that farmers need to know to gain a competitive advantage in the future. 

Adam Jones, MFA district sales manager, shared ways the young producers can success­fully balance sustainability with their farms’ goals. His interac­tive presentation summarized opportunities in carbon seques­tration programs, cover crops, nutrient management and other conservation practices that can benefit farmers and the environment.

For 24-year-old Caleb Miller, who started his own cow/calf and custom hay operation right out of high school, Jones’ session struck home. Miller lives in Sparta, Mo., just outside Springfield, where urban sprawl is creeping closer to his farm.

“In our area, development is really a big problem, so I’ve got to grow as much grass as possible because of the limited amount of acres I can get,” he said. “I’m always looking for ways I can take better care of the land and produce more with less.”

Attorney Connie Haden, a partner at the law firm of Haden & Colbert in Columbia, Mo., discussed the importance of proac­tive farm succession planning. She introduced different scenar­ios involving farm business transference issues and discussed how agricultural operations could be structured for simplicity, liability protection and tax advantages.

“What we’re trying to do here is preserve relationships, and there are lots of tools we can use,” Haden told the group. “I’ve seen farm successions tear families apart, and it’s unfortunate. Often, it’s simply because of lack of communication. These are hard discussions, and it takes time, but it’s time well invested.”

To start the second day of the conference, Parker led a stra­tegic planning exercise for attendees, guiding them through ways to develop a personalized business plan for their farm’s future. The meeting wrapped up with a panel discussion by the conference hosts, featuring MFA Incorporated President Ernie Verslues and Board Chairman Wayne Nichols along with MFA Oil President and CEO Jon Ihler and Board Chairman Glen Cope. The presidents each gave an overview of their respective cooperatives, while the chairmen shared their experiences of serving on the board of directors.

Also on the panel was Dr. Keri Jacobs, MFA Chair in Agri­business at the University of Missouri, who works with a wide range of cooperative entities. In answer to an audience question about why farmers should do business with a co-op, she point­ed to the grassroots leadership that guides business decisions for the benefit of members versus corporate stockholders.

“I’m not pro co-op for co-ops’ sake. I’m pro co-op for farmers’ sake,” Jacobs said. “I think co-ops are the farmer’s snowball’s chance of being competitive in the marketplace. Without co-ops, you end up with privately owned companies who only care about quarterly earnings. If I’m a farmer, I’m hitching my wagon to an organization that is led by farmers and that returns the profitability back to me.”

Each panelist thanked the young farmers and ranchers for attending the event and encour­aged them to have more engagement with their co-ops, whether simply providing feedback or participating in governance.

“One of the reasons our boards are very sup­portive of this conference is to try to motivate you as young people to get involved with your co-op,” Cope said. “That’s the biggest takeaway that I want you all to have from this. If you have an opportunity to step up and be a leader, don’t say no.”

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2022 In Review

Challenges continueFin22
After two years of rebounding from the pandemic, the agricultural industry faced a relentless series of adversities in 2022. The conflict in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s invasion last February, disrupted energy, grain exports and crop input supplies. Higher interest rates and historic inflation pushed the economy toward a recession. Drought conditions covered a good portion of Missouri in 2022, hitting livestock producers in southern and southwestern portions of MFA’s trade territory especially hard. Transportation saw its own set of challenges, including truck driver shortages, low river levels that affected barge traffic, and a narrowly escaped rail strike. Throughout the economy, the overall labor market remained very tight, one of the biggest obstacles for MFA and other agribusinesses.

GrainGain for grain
In September, MFA Incorporated acquired full ownership of Northwest Missouri Grain when MFA Oil Company divested its stake in the joint venture just outside Hamilton, Mo. The two companies came together in 2017 to construct the state-of-the-art grain facility with an option in the operating agreement that allowed MFA Incorporated to become the sole owner by purchasing MFA Oil’s one-third interest in the business. Northwest Missouri Grain will continue to provide opportunities for members of both cooperatives to market their grain and maintains MFA Incorporated’s access to end-user markets to the south and southwest, including export markets.

Conversion complete
A major milestone for MFA came in late July 2022 when the last of the company’s grain operations were converted to theMerchant new Merchant software system. It was the final achievement in a large-scale endeavor that began in late 2012 to replace MFA’s outdated mainframe computer with a modern system that would integrate all the company’s business processes. An implementation team of MFA employees worked with EFC Systems, a software development company based in Brentwood, Tenn., to customize the platforms to fit MFA’s intricate, hybrid structure of company-owned stores, local affiliates and wholesale operations. Merchant Grain streamlines processes for marketing, reporting and accounting and gives customers benefits such as improved access to their grain accounts and detailed reports to assist in financial planning.

BigCheckFunding the future
Giving back to the communities MFA serves is not only one of the key cooperative principles but also demonstrates the company’s stewardship value. In 2022, the MFA Foundation awarded 245 scholarships to high school seniors totaling nearly $490,000. In addition, a separate fund, the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation, distributed more than $310,000 to nonprofit organizations throughout the territory where MFA and its affiliates operate. Those grants included more than $106,000 for community projects, nearly $67,000 for education, more than $79,000 for food security programs and $58,000 to improve public safety. Employees at MFA’s corporate office in Columbia, Mo., also raised $35,500 to benefit Rainbow House, a children’s emergency shelter and advocacy center.

Building boomFert
Fiscal 2022 was a big year for MFA in terms of capital expenditures and repairs. The rebuilding and expansion project at West Central AGRIServices in Adrian, Mo., was completed in June 2022 with a grand opening held in July. The fertilizer building and offices were completed on MFA’s new Ravenwood Agronomy Center, which is designed to centralize operations in the region. The crop protection and seed facilities are expected to be completed early this year. Construction also got under way on the new agronomy center in Higginsville, Mo., which will provide fertilizer operations for MFA’s River Valley Group. Other significant capital projects included upgrades at the feed mills in Walker and Owensville, Mo., and complete replacement of the offices, warehouse and truck scales at MFA Agri Services in Kahoka, Mo. Throughout the MFA system, the cooperative took advantage of two profitable years to invest in new trucks, loaders and application equipment to better serve customers.

PlantinClimate collaborations
To further explore opportunities in the rapidly evolving carbon market, MFA signed a pilot agreement with Indigo Agriculture and is working on another partnership with Agoro Carbon Alliance, both of which would allow farmers to generate certified ecosystem credits from eligible conservation farming practices. This follows MFA’s participation in a two-year carbon pilot with the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium that ended in 2022. MFA is also among a collaboration of agricultural organizations awarded a $25 million grant from USDA’s new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. The University of Missouri’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture will lead the five-year project to encourage the adoption of diverse practices that support climate-resilient crop and livestock systems.

( Click to view alternate view - as printed)

Click to view related story about MFA's year and '22 Annual Meeting.

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The little things count


importantDatesWhen is the last time you sat down with your crop insurance agent and discussed your policy in detail? Regretfully, the answer is likely to be seldom or never. This could leave bushels on the table when it comes to your Actual Production History (APH). For spring 2023, here are some important endorsements to consider for your policy:

Trend Adjustment (TA)
The idea behind trend adjustment is very simple. Technology, genetics and farming practices improve drastically in a short time. The TA endorsement takes your yield from prior production, multiplies the year by a factor the Risk Management Agency (RMA) provides, and adds it to the yield from that year. This can be done on up to 20 years of production on a unit. For example, if you grew 150-bushel corn in 2012 and the TA factor is 1.5, the formula would be: ((2022 - 2012) x 1.5) + 150 = 165 bushels. So, by adding TA, this grower added 15 bushels to the yield for 2012, increasing the approved yield for that unit.

Yield Exclusion (YE)
Have you ever had a year you just wanted to forget? This exclusion was introduced for such years, whether caused by drought, flood or one of the thousands of variables growers face every year. YE will remove a year that the RMA deemed excludable for reasons of extreme circumstances. For example, corn grown in 2012 is excludable for most counties in Missouri. Removing the challenging year from actual production history will increase the approved yield for the unit.

Prevent Plant + 5% (PF)
PF is simple. By paying for small premium increase (usually less than $1 per acre), growers can increase the percentage of payment on a prevent plant from 55% to 60%. For example, in 2022, if you prevent-planted corn with a guaranteed yield of 150 bushels, you would have been paid almost $45 per acre more than at the 55% level (using spring corn price of $5.90). This endorsement is not a fit for every operation but is especially useful for flood-prone ground. In addition, PF can also be elected on one crop and not the other on a policy.
 All these endorsements do impact premium. However, these implications are not charges for the endorsements. Rather, the endorsement is increasing a grower’s guarantee and thus increases the premium.
Visit mfa-inc.com/cropinsurance to find a MFA Crop Insurance agent near you if you have any questions.

Double-crop soybeans insurable by written agreement

The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced a new “streamlined process” to insure double-crop soybeans through a written agreement.

According to USDA, the expanded coverage is an effort to reduce the economic risk of raising two crops on the same land in one year, helping U.S. farmers to increase food supply and lower food costs for American families. 

While the “following another crop” practice was already insurable in some areas, this new initiative expands insurability and makes it easier to insure a second crop where previously unavailable.

Taylor Gilmore, MFA area crop insurance agent, said producers must act fast if they are interested in the double-crop insurance opportunity.

“A written agreement is a request sent to RMA to modify existing terms and conditions for crop insurance,” Gilmore said. “The process for this needs to begin before the first of the year to allow time to get the required documents and information together and sent off to the RMA.”

Once the request has been sent, RMA will reply with an offer, which will include approval or disapproval of the request, the rate, conditions, production guarantee, etc. If the request is approved, then the producer can decide to decline or accept the offer.

The RMA has not, however, released any details on how “streamlined” these agreements will be regarding double-crop soybeans. Gilmore said agents hope to know more before the end of 2022. 

Reach out to an MFA Crop Insurance agent to learn more details, just visit mfa-inc.com/cropinsurance.

New agent serves eastern Missouri

Taylor Gilmore has joined the MFA team as a crop insurance agent for the eastern side of Missouri, including Districts 3, 6 and 10.

TaylorTaylor has been in the insurance business for five years and recently made the switch to crop insurance. A native of Ashland, Mo., she and her husband, Matt, have a 3-year-old son, Weston. Taylor grew up competing in rodeo, eventually focusing solely on barrel racing. She and Matt now raise cattle and crops and still make time to ride horses with family and friends.

Taylor’s experience in insurance and on the farm makes her a welcomed member of our team.
For crop or livestock insurance needs in eastern Missouri, western Illinois and northeastern Arkansas, Taylor can be reached at (573) 476-7440 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Read more in this Dec/Jan2023 issue of Today’s Farmer


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In this Dec 2022 / Jan 2023

Cracking open markets for Missouri pecans
The Show-Me State’s sweet, native nuts have much to offer—no matter how you say it

by Jessica Ekern

Victory in Indy
Missouri FFA members earn top awards at the FFA national convention

by Allison Jenkins

Back to work
Returning CRP ground to agricultural production takes careful consideration

by Allison Jenkins

The little things count

Make sure you have the right endorsements on your crop insurance policy

by Blake Thomas

Feeding the future

Show Me Youth Ag Academy provides immersive education in livestock production

by Allison Jenkins

Doing our part with heart

MFA Charitable Foundation helps fund community projects that support agriculture, education and rural life

by Allison Jenkins

Losing crop protection tools challenges growers

We must seek alternative solutions when proven products can no longer be used

by Doug Spaunhorst

Waste not, want not when feeding hay

Storage, management practices can have significant impact on losses

by Dr. Jim White


Country Corner
Eight billion people and counting

by Allison Jenkins


Ramping up research
MFA is new sponsor of Missouri High School Rodeo
Dairy dominance

Markets - as printed in the magazine
Corn: Final crop estimates among price influences
Soybeans: Export sales remain strong
Cattle: Cattle inventory cycles lower
Wheat: Drought, late planting threaten U.S. crop

Recipes - as printed in the magazine
Recipes - website

Coconut season

BUY, sell, trade

Taking hold of an uncertain future

by Ernie Verslues

Closing Thought
Poem by Walter Bargen
Photo by Jessica Ekern

Flip book of the Dec/Jan 2022 Today's Farmer magazine
Click here or below to view the magazine as printed via a flip book.

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