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2018-The year in review

MoreDataDelivering more data
MFA expanded the partnership between its precision agriculture programs and Adapt-N, a professional software tool that combines advanced crop modeling with soil-type information, field management data and weather to establish in-season, variable-rate nitrogen recommendations. Adapt-N is now available to the entire MFA trade territory. Working in conjunction with MFA’s Nutri-Track and Crop-Trak precision programs, Adapt-N adds another layer of beneficial data for growers by allowing them to leverage field data already available within the MFA system to help maximize yield while minimizing environmental impact.

New nutrition
Two new premium horse feeds—Exceltra and Suprema—were added to MFA’s nutritional lineup. They are the first equine rations to offer MFA Shield Technology. Exceltra is designed for growing, showing and working equine of all ages; Suprema is formulated for the needs of older horses. Both feeds are beet-pulp based and contain low levels of sugars and starches. In addition, the first MFA cattle supplement tub with Shield Technology was also introduced. The new Performance First Tubs are also unique because they are made exclusively for MFA by MFA, rather than a third-party manufacturer.

Dicamba diligence
As concern about dicamba-tolerant technology continued to grow, MFA’s agronomy team took a proactive approach to steward the technology. In 2018, MFA trained more than 1,200 applicators, chemical handlers and retail staff on proper use of dicamba and the Roundup Ready Xtend crop system. MFA also established and scouted a network of “sentinel plots,” and applicators were alerted to stop spraying when the majority of soybeans in their area reached the R1 reproductive stage. The stringent protocol was deemed a success, with a dramatic drop in complaints by MFA customers about off-target crop damage compared to 2017.

Drought relief
After a wet, cold spring, weather woes continued into summer with hot, dry conditions that put much of MFA territory into the worst growing-season drought since 2012. At the drought’s peak in August, more than 88 percent of Missouri was experiencing some degree of abnormal dryness, and both livestock producers and row-crop growers were adversely affected. MFA worked to make sure producers were aware of government relief programs and organized producer meetings to provide information on how to stretch short forage supplies and drought-proof farms for the future.

droneEyes in the sky
Members of MFA’s precision agronomy team earned their wings as certified drone pilots and are now using unmanned aerial vehicles to capture aerial crop imagery to help diagnose insect and disease infestations and nutrient deficiencies. The drones allow MFA agronomists to get an overview of fields and identify potential problems that cannot readily be seen from the ground. Spots of concern will be scouted to confirm the issue. Everyone who operates MFA drones has passed the Section 107 Airman Knowledge Test, received a remote pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration and completed training from the drone supplier.

New nutrition
Two new premium horse feeds—Exceltra and Suprema—were added to MFA’s nutritional lineup. They are the first equine rations to offer MFA Shield Technology. Exceltra is designed for growing, showing and working equine of all ages; Suprema is formulated for the needs of older horses. Both feeds are beet-pulp based and contain low levels of sugars and starches. In addition, the first MFA cattle supplement tub with Shield Technology was also introduced. The new Performance First Tubs are also unique because they are made exclusively for MFA by MFA, rather than a third-party manufacturer.

Commitment to conservation
MFA has long been a leader in promoting practices such as variable-rate fertilizer application, cover crops, nutrient management plans and other environmentally friendly farming methods. Last year, MFA took that commitment a step further by entering into a unique agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to hire our first-ever natural resources conservation specialist. The purpose of the position is to help farmers meet their stewardship goals by working with all three partner organizations. 

Root of the problem
In not-so-welcome news for corn growers, MFA agronomists and the USDA Agricultural Research Service confirmed the presence of northern corn rootworms with an “extended-diapause” trait in northwest Missouri. This genetic adaptation allows rootworm eggs to survive through two winters. Crop rotation is traditionally the cure for rootworm infestations, but extended-diapause eggs lie dormant in the subsequent soybean crop and then hatch when corn is planted again. Hybrid selection and in-furrow insecticides are the best options available to combat these pests, which can cause substantial yield loss and standability issues. If the extended-diapause population continues to increase, MFA agronomists warn that rootworms will have to become a focus of integrated pest management.

Giving Back
In the spirit of cooperation, MFA supports causes, organizations and community activities throughout its trade territory. In 2018, MFA helped raise more than $145,000 to combat childhood food insecurity through the “Drive to Feed Kids” campaign in partnership with Missouri Farmers Care. Additionally, the MFA corporate office raised money for its chosen charity, the Central Missouri Honor Flight. MFA also championed agricultural education, including widespread support of 4-H, FFA and Ag Education on the Move. The MFA Foundation awarded 342 high school seniors $2,000 scholarships, totaling nearly $680,000. A separate fund, the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation, also provides support for worthy projects.

Financial Highlights 2018
Consolidated sales $1.76 billion
Pre-tax profits $8.3 million
Cash patronage and equity retirement $5.1 million
Total margin and operating revenue $223 million
Total net worth $165 million
Total assets $496 million

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Crop insurance quiz

How much do you know about your policy?    

In my 28 years of meeting with farmers, I still come across producers who want to understand their crop insurance better. I’ve often heard comments such as, “You have explained more to us in 15 minutes than we have understood since starting to insure.” Although I am humbled by such comments, I am disappointed that no one has ever explained crop insurance in a manner that they understood. Producers should hold their agents accountable for the service they are paying for.

CropInsurance19bMFA Crop Insurance Principal Agent Mike Smith, center, recently recognized the program’s 2018 top performers, Adam Wiederholt, left, with MFA Agri Services Northwest Group, and Chuck Clark of MFA Agri Services Iowa Group.

How many of these questions can you answer about your crop insurance?

These are 10 valuable things to know about how your policy works:
1. How is your actual production history determined?
2. How is the value per bushel guarantee established?
3. How is my guarantee affected when the prices fall at harvest time?
4. When does my insurance coverage end?
5. What if I lose a complete field to a covered loss? How will I be paid?
6. What if I can’t get all my fields planted?
7. What if I can’t get all my fields harvested?
8. Am I utilizing my crop insurance in the manner it was designed? Am I maximizing marketing opportunities?
9. How much of my crop am I self-insuring?
10. Is my coverage structured in a manner that allows me to withstand a catastrophic year?

These and many more questions can be answered when you have an agent who takes the opportunity to contact you for a consultative appointment. Knowing the ins and outs of your crop insurance could be the most important aspect of your farming operation this year.


Important dates to remember
February 1-28: Price discovery for spring planted crops (differs slightly in some areas).mfacropinsuranceClick to learn more about MFA Crop Insurance
March 15: Spring crops sales closing date (differs slightly in some areas).
April 29: Deadline to report last year’s spring crops production.
July 15: Deadline to report 2019 spring crops planted acres.
October 1-31: Harvest price discovery period for spring crops.
December 10: End of insurance period and last day to turn in a claim.

These are just a few important dates that pertain to spring-planted crops. There are numerous dates involved with crop insurance. Many of the dates are specific to your location. I encourage you to visit with one of our local agents to confirm dates that are important to your farming operation.

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In this Feb. 2019 Issue

Featured Story:
Views from the countryside
Andrew McCrea balances a multi-faceted career
by Allison Jenkins

Country Corner
To stay relevant, never stop learning
by Allison Jenkins

Plotting for pollinators
Grass class
It’s showtime!

Tops in crops
Kevin Moore exemplifies CCA program’s emphasis on knowledge, commitment to growers

2018 MFA Training Camp: knowledge grows here
MFA agronomists share results of 2018 crop and product trials
by MFA agronomy staff

Empower change
Leaders address challenges of 2018, share cooperative updates at annual meeting
by Allison Jenkins

2019: The year in review
From new products and programs to drought relief and community support, MFA made great strides in 2018

Notice of 2019 district meetings of MFA Incorporated (Click for the as-printed notice.)

Understanding equine ulcers
MFA launches Easykeeper HDC for gastric health
by Kerri Lotven

Crop insurance quiz
How much do you know about your policy?
by Mike Smith

Adding clovers now can benefit pastures later
Legumes increase yield, improve quality of grass-based forage systems
by Dr. Jim White

Corn: Trade breakthrough could raise prices
Soybeans: China purchases may strengthen market
Cattle: Beef exports continue setting records
Wheat: Hard wheat prices could see boost

BUY, sell, trade

Brinner time
Click to view the winning recipes this month for breakfast as lunch combinations.

Safety is a priority at MFA
by Ernie Verslues

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Views from the countryside

Whether telling stories or working cattle, Andrew McCrea balances a multi-faceted career.

Everybody has a story. That’s what Andrew McCrea has discovered during his travels as an agricultural leader, speaker, broadcaster and author.

McCrea3McCrea, who serves on his local Agri Services board, was keynote speaker at MFA Incorporated’s 2018 annual meeting Nov. 27. His speaking career began when he was a state and national FFA officer. Since 1996, McCrea has produced “American Countryside,” a nationally syndicated radio program broadcast daily on more than 100 stations plus satellite radio. Even after 22 years and 5,000-plus shows, there’s an endless supply of ideas, he said.

“When I first started the daily broadcasts, I thought, ‘How will we ever come up with enough stories?’” McCrea said. “Well, it’s been just the opposite. Everybody in every place has a story. There are more stories than I can ever tell.”

He may spend his time telling tales about others, but McCrea has quite an interesting story of his own. It’s one of leadership and entrepreneurship, natural-born talent and fierce family ties. The 46-year-old is not only an award-winning broadcaster, celebrated author and sought-after speaker but he’s also a fifth-generation farmer who balances his successful communications career with his cattle and row-crop farm near Maysville in northwest Missouri. The farm was established by McCrea’s great-great-grandfather in 1910.

When McCrea was growing up, his father, M.L., and grandfather, Maurice, ran a renowned purebred Angus business and showed cattle all over the country. Maurice was also longtime beef cattle superintendent of the Missouri State Fair.

“About the time I was born, they got out of the purebred business because of the time and travel involved and got totally into stocker cattle,” McCrea said. “Over time, we’ve slowly expanded both crops and livestock.”

McCrea figured farming would be his full-time career, too, but his involvement in FFA sent him on a life-changing journey. Terms as Missouri FFA president in 1991-92 and then national FFA secretary from 1993-94 required extensive travel, public appearances, leadership training and speaking opportunities—all skills that would serve McCrea well in his next chapter.

“I got involved in FFA because I wanted to farm,” McCrea said. “And it helped me do that. But what I couldn’t see at the time was that it would make me a better leader and give me opportunities to speak that I may never have had otherwise.”

Mcrea2With about half the farm’s 4,500 acres in pasture, there’s a lot of ground to cover when checking or working cattle. That’s why the McCreas usually round them up by horseback. They continually bring in stocker cattle at 400-500 pounds and market them at around 900 pounds.His FFA experiences also sparked an interest in broadcasting, even though he was majoring in general agriculture at the University of Missouri.

“I studied animal science, agronomy and ag economics, and I was already halfway done with my degree when I finished my year as national officer,” McCrea said. “So, for the most part, all of my speaking and broadcast work has been on-the-job training.”

His first radio gig was an internship with the Brownfield Network in Jefferson City during his senior year at Mizzou. When he graduated in May 1996, Brownfield offered him a full-time job.

“I remember riding in the combine with Dad, and I told him I wasn’t going to take the job because I wanted to stay here on the farm,” McCrea said. “He suggested I ask if they could use me part time. When things are slower on the farm in the winter, that’s when Brownfield gets busier with all the farm shows and meetings, and I could be in Jeff City when they send out all their full-timers. I pitched that idea to them, and they agreed.”

McCrea started his run with Brownfield in the fall of 1996, working in the studio three or four days a week, mainly doing the daily market reports. But he had something bigger in mind—a concept that had been brewing since his days as a national FFA officer.

“I had the idea to do this American Countryside program because of all the people I met while out traveling to do speaking engagements,” McCrea said. “I told Brownfield I wanted to do my own show, interview these people and produce a feature for the radio. They said, ‘That’s fine. We’ll give you the free satellite time, but you have to do all the legwork of getting stations to sign up. It’ll just be your deal.’ So I started doing that one day a week, on Saturdays, in October 1996.”

Station No. 1 was KFEQ in St. Joseph. Story No. 1 featured the president of the New Jersey Sweet Potato Association.

“When the first American Countryside program was scheduled to run, I was in Oregon doing a conference for FFA,” McCrea recalled. “It ran at 6:30 in the morning, which was 4:30 Pacific time. I got up early and called home, and my mom put the telephone in front of the radio so I could listen to it. I laugh about that now, but it was such a big deal to me. And 22 years later, I still love doing it.”

McCreaMcCrea, left, checks with farm employee Doug Delaney, who is loading beans for transport to market. Much of the farm’s grain goes to MFA’s Hamilton Rail Facility.A few years into its run, the program’s popularity helped propel it to a daily schedule. When McCrea joined the staff of Farm Journal as a columnist in 2013, he brought the show with him. Being part of the multi-media conglomerate gave him new opportunities in both print and broadcast media. In addition to radio, McCrea now produces a television version of American Countryside that airs weekends on the

U.S. Farm Report and can be seen on RFD-TV. This past summer, he also launched a Farm Journal podcast, “Farming the Countryside,” which exclusively features agricultural topics.
During his broadcast career, McCrea has interviewed Emmy and Grammy winners, all-star athletes, Iditarod sled dog mushers and professional wrestlers. But he said his favorite stories are what American Countryside is all about: “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

“Some are historical, some are quirky, but it’s usually just people who love telling others about their lives and what they do,” McCrea said. “For example, I interviewed a gentleman who was aboard the Enola

Gay when they dropped the first atomic bomb. He was the one who worked on the ignition system and armed the weapon. That was an amazing interview.”

“I also remember visiting Grover’s Mill, N.J., which was made famous by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast,” he continued. “I talked with a lady there who was at church when somebody came running in and told everyone the Martians were attacking. And just recently, I interviewed the curator of the vacuum cleaner museum in St. James, Mo. He was fascinating. That was one of the most fun interviews I’ve done all year.”

McCrea said his speaking and broadcasting careers are inextricably entwined, a proverbial chicken-and-egg scenario.

“Speaking gives me the opportunity to go get the interviews, and the interviews give me a lot of content for speaking. That’s how the two end up working together,” he said. “It’s rare that I make a trip just to speak somewhere or just to interview someone. That’s what made it work initially with Brownfield and now with Farm Journal. For the most part, they’re not having to pick up any travel expense.”

His interviews have also given McCrea material for several books, including “American Countryside,” “The Man Who Was President for a Day” and “God’s Perfect View.” His latest book, “Total Town Makeover,” came out in January and chronicles stories of small towns that have been revitalized by their citizens.

“In a sense, I’ve been working on that book for 20 years and never realized it until now,” McCrea said. “So many of the stories I’ve gathered were people in small towns doing neat things. There are so many people who see their towns vanishing, and hopefully this will help inspire people to do something to change that.”

No matter where he travels, however, McCrea is quick to say that home is his favorite place to be. In fact, he ends his on-stage presentations with a photo of the sign pointing the way to McCrea Farms, where he and his father keep up to 2,000 stocker cattle and raise row crops and pasture on 4,500 acres.

McCrea and his wife, Paula, are raising the sixth generation on the farm with their children, Luke, 11, and Alison, 10. The majority of McCrea’s broadcasts are produced from his “home” studio, which allows him to be more available for his family.

He’s also active in the agricultural industry and his local community, serving as past president of the Missouri Beef Industry Council and currently on the board of directors for MFA Agri Services in Maysville.

“MFA has been very important to our farm, and, as a farmer-owner, I wanted to help serve the co-op in return,” McCrea said. “A large percentage of what we use on our farm comes through MFA, and lot of grain goes back out to MFA, too. We’re on Crop-Trak and Nutri-Track programs, and it would be hard for us to do those things on our own. That’s why it’s important to have a cooperative to help you do that.”

Whether he’s harvesting crops or speaking to a crowd, telling stories on stage or working cattle on horseback, McCrea said he loves his multi-faceted career. He said he plans to keep doing what he’s doing, and “hopefully, do it all a little bit better while still trying to balance that with family.”

“If I went on the road and tried to speak full time, it just wouldn’t work, especially with young kids,” he said. “But even though I love the farm, if that’s what I did full time and never went and spoke, I think I’d feel like a piece of me was missing. I really like the combination, and I don’t think I would enjoy life nearly as much if I did all of one or the other.”

Learn more about Andrew McCrea and his American Countryside broadcasts at americancountryside.com.

You can also find his “Farming the Countryside” podcast at agweb.com.

Click to follow American Coutryside on Facebook HERE.

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About Today's Farmer magazine

Today's Farmer is published 9 times annually. Printed issues arrive monthly except combined issues for June/July, August/September and December/January. Subscriptions are available only in the United States.

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