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  • MFA Incorporated, a grain marketing and farm supply cooperative based in Columbia, Mo., recently announced a joint venture with MFA Oil Company, a farmer-owned energy supply cooperative, to build a shuttle-loader facility on the Union Pacific Railroad approximately 5 miles east of Hamilton, Mo. The grain-handling facility will consist of 2 million bushels of permanent storage and 1.5 million bushels of temporary storage along with a loop rail siding to accommodate a 110-railroad-car “shuttle” unit. Once completed, the structure will allow farmers in north central Missouri and southern Iowa to deliver crops to a modern, high-speed grain facility. Its rail siding capacity will provide new efficiencies to MFA Incorporated’s grain division as well as access to new markets.

    “Logistics are a key issue in the grain business,” said MFA Incorporated Director of Grain Operations Mitch Dawson. “For MFA, this is the culmination of a multi-year process during which we evaluated the needs of our grain system. We identified this facility as a strategic improvement that will help us provide needed service to our owners and customers in a large part of our northern trade territory.”

    Situated on Highway 36 in Caldwell County, Mo., the shuttle-loader facility will take advantage of an improved four-lane highway, close proximity to north-south traffic on Interstate 35 and direct access to the Union Pacific Railroad.

    Adam McIntyre, regional manager for MFA locations in the area, sees the shuttle loader as a year-round asset for producers. “There is a lot of grain produced in north central and northwest Missouri, and harvest is a critical time for farmers. MFA’s investment in the shuttle loader will directly benefit farmers by providing them a place to unload quickly during peak harvest season. It also helps relieve harvest-time pressure on existing MFA grain receiving facilities throughout the region. During the high volume of harvest, we can move grain from smaller elevators to the shuttle loader to keep local storage capacity available. It will also be a great asset in the sense that the shuttle loader adds value to farms throughout the year as an additional marketing option for their grain.”

    “Farmers favor facilities like this one because of the efficiency of large-capacity grain pits and high-speed conveyors to move the grain into storage,” said Dawson. “The facility is capable of moving 60,000 bushels per hour as farmers deliver grain. That means farmers will be able to unload as quickly as their trucks allow.”

    A 110-car shuttle will hold approximately 420,000 bushels of corn or 380,000 bushels of soybeans. “Much of the grain will be sold to poultry markets in northwest Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas,” said Dawson. “Some new markets we can reach include terminal markets in Arizona, California and Mexico. The facility will also provide MFA an efficient means to deliver northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa grain to terminal markets in U.S. Gulf region.”

    The joint venture between MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil Company brings resources and expertise from both cooperatives and a significant investment in local communities. The facility will be operated by MFA Incorporated and is expected to bring five full-time jobs as well as seasonal part-time jobs to the region.

    “This is a unique opportunity to aid local farmers by improving the transportation infrastructure in northwest Missouri,” said Mark Fenner, President and CEO of MFA Oil. “We’re always looking for ways to support our existing customers and attract new ones and this joint venture with MFA Incorporated will help us do both.”

    “The shuttle loader helps fulfill our mission,” said Ernie Verslues, President and CEO of MFA Incorporated. “MFA was formed more than 100 years ago to address a lack of buying power and market access for farmers. We still take that mission seriously. This facility fits MFA’s vision to grow in strategic, profitable ways that enhance the economic well-being of our member/owners,” he said.

    About MFA Incorporated: MFA Incorporated, founded in 1914, is a farmer-owned cooperative serving more than 45,000 farmers and ranchers. Directed by its board of farmer/owners, MFA seeks to make the cooperative responsive to the changing needs of the business of farming. The company provides grain marketing, agronomic inputs and services, feed, animal health products, farm supplies, precision agriculture solutions and financing services to farmers in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa. These products and services are offered through 145 MFA Agri Services Centers, as well as some 24 local affiliates with 20 branches and a wide network of local, independent cooperatives and dealers. For more information, visit www.mfaincorporated.com

    About MFA Oil Company: MFA Oil Company, formed in 1929, is a farmer-owned cooperative with more than 40,000 members. MFA Oil is the seventh largest propane retailer in the United States. The company supplies fuels, lubricants and propane to customers in Missouri, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming. Through a subsidiary, MFA Oil operates Break Time convenience stores in Missouri and Arkansas, Jiffy Lube franchises in central Missouri and Big O Tires franchises in Missouri and Arkansas.

  • Chances are, you didn’t get into farming for the opportunity to lead a team.

    In fact, you probably never envisioned a future in which your job would require you to access a small club of confidants just to be able to grow a crop.

    Yet here you are, inundated with the latest data and technologies, engulfed by new ideas.

    Dr. Matt Clover, manager of Research and Alliances at The Mosaic Company and an industry veteran, has several tips that can help farmers manage their teams.

    “The age of simple trial and error is certainly over,” says Dr. Clover. “Technology on the farm has changed so dramatically, from the equipment used to the hybrids planted, the chemicals purchased, the fertilizer being used, and the way any of these are being put on the soil.

    “That has created a need to involve more people in your operation,” he continues. “All of a sudden, it’s not just talking to the university extension office, it’s reaching out to other people, maybe even the companies producing the products, or the salespeople within those companies, to really try and get the information that’s needed to make an informed decision.”

    According to Clover, the advancement of agricultural innovation has resulted in a greater need for farmers to have sound, credible relationships with their retailers. Having assistance in weeding through the amount of information and new products available to institute new or adapted strategies can pay tangible dividends. And working with your retailer in this manner can also help create systematic efficiency in your decision-making process.

    “Many retailers have become a one-stop shop,” Clover explains. “And growers should remember that while you can buy your seed and all your inputs through them, you can also depend on them for the latest information and research. They’ve got certified crop advisors [CCAs] on board. If you have questions, you can go in there and ask.

    “If you’ve got all of your data from your yield monitor, your seed and rainfall, you can send it back to them, and they can crunch all those numbers for you. They’ve really become that one-stop shop for the grower.”

    The cornerstone of any successful partnership is an open line of communication. That’s equally true in farming, where goals and opportunities change like the weather. And often because of it.

    This situation emphasizes the importance of consistent conversations—the type that builds trust and improves efficiency.

    “It’s very important that growers are in regular contact with their retailer, to keep them informed of their operational goals and any changes that might affect their strategies,” Clover says. “Because in the end, the grower sets what they truly want to achieve. The retailer or the CCA should understand that grower. Not just what his operational goals are, but really know his preferences and what drives him.

    “Think about when you call most customer service lines,” he advises. “They’re trained to tell you what you need to know, or at least what they think you need to know. But in the end, how often do we feel like that company doesn’t care about us? They have absolutely nothing invested in us. I don’t feel like there’s any help there. A partnership shouldn’t feel like calling the customer service line.”

    Consistency of those conversations with partners, paired with history, can create an effective long-term business relationship that proves profitable for both parties.

    “I think that local relationship shows you that this person knows me, they know what I want to achieve,” Clover adds. “So, as a farmer, I’m going to look at the information that they’re giving me. And, number one, I’m going to believe what they’re telling me, because I know they want me to be successful. And also, they want my business again next year. If they’re telling me the wrong thing and it doesn’t work out, that might change that relationship. So I think in the end, you have that personal relationship. The grower feels like the retailer or the CCA is really looking out for their best interest—the grower’s best interest. And you’re going to have that relationship to go forward in years to come. “

    A recent survey of more than 400 North American farmers, conducted by The Mosaic Company, revealed that they place the highest level of trust in independent crop consultants when gathering information that affects soil fertility decisions. When asked to rank the trustworthiness of the sources they use to gather info on soil fertility, farmers ranked independent crop consultants (92 percent) just ahead of their own farming experience (89 percent), then local university extension specialists (85 percent).

    Clover indicates one of the ways a local retailer or CCA adds value is by weeding through the wealth of information available on new products and practices, and then providing a list they would actually recommend, along with a third-party point of view.

    “When we look at all of the options that we have available to us as growers, in the end, we want to be picking the right combinations of hybrids, traits, genetics and fertilizer,” Clover says. “We don’t want to be planting the wrong hybrid for a specific location, using the wrong herbicide or insecticide or failing to alter our fertilizer plan based on sound data. Number one, it might just be a waste of money in the end. Number two, maybe it’s going to cause irreversible injury that’s going to hurt our yields.”

    “So having somebody who is really vetting that information for you is huge. Knowing each of the products and what differentiates them and what makes them right or wrong for a certain acre is imperative. Having that person who has gone through the products, vetted them all, and can provide the two or three best options for you on that farm, couldn’t be more important than it is today.”

    Jeff Meyer, the general manager at MFA Northwest, considers it a top priority to keep up on trends and new products—not to mention products that have yet to make it to market.

    “That helps me since I deal with farmers on a day-to-day basis as far as making fertility recommendations, crop plans, chemical recommendations and helping them devise a plan for the whole year,” Meyer explains. “To do that, I try to stay relevant by reading magazines, such as CropLife, or going to extended trainings that MFA puts on,” Meyer explains. “I also attend University of Missouri Extension meetings. Anything I can do to try to keep current on new and exciting products coming down the pipeline that can assist farmers is an important part of my job.”

    This article originally appeared in Unfenced, a publication from the Mosaic Company

  • The staff at the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri spent early spring talking about the institute’s newly released annual baseline report. In March, the report was delivered to Congress, and FAPRI staff members followed up by offering much of the same information at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research Center.

    “We are looking at several years of pretty tight financial situation for U.S. agriculture,” said Pat Westhoff, director of FAPRI at the University of Missouri. “Farm income is less than half of the 2013 peak, and we expect it to remain low for the next several years.”

    Westhoff said the huge drop in prices for many major commodities has driven income down and will keep it down.

    “Crop prices are well off the peaks that were established in the 2012 drought year. On livestock, we had peak prices in 2014 that have also come down very sharply,” he said. “We’ve had some cost reductions, but not nearly enough to offset the decline in receipts.”

    The FAPRI baseline uses a model with different variables to project a range of market outcomes for 2017-2025. Westhoff said some of the resulting 500 outcomes are much higher or lower than the averages in the report. The baseline has corn prices averaging less than $4 per bushel. While there might be short crop years where prices could spike, Westhoff expects prices in most years to be closer to current prices than the record prices of 2012.

    On corn specifically, FAPRI-MU crop analyst Scott Gerlt pointed out that world production has been on the rise for the past three years with increased stock levels as a result. Also contributing to supply pressure has been a dedicated push in production by Chinese farmers.

    FAPRI analysis shows that the marketing-year average price for corn fell from $6.89 per bushel in the drought year of 2012-13 to an estimated $3.60 per bushel just three years later.

    “The 2012 drought year was the last peak in crop prices, and it’s been downhill since,” Gerlt said, adding that there is nothing in the near term outlook to suggest they will increase sharply soon.

    Westhoff told Congress that he expects the story to be similar for other crops. “For the next few years, we expect wheat, soybean and cotton prices to all average near 2015-16 levels, but with considerable annual variation. Population and income growth around the world contribute to rising food, feed and fiber consumption, but global crop supplies are projected to be adequate to meet that demand, even at prices well below the 2010-12 peaks. The United States faces continued strong competition from Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Ukraine and other exporters, and demand growth in China may be slowing.”

    Cattle, hog, chicken and milk prices have declined because of increased production and weak export demand. The strength of the dollar is a factor in the drop in exports. While it’s very difficult to predict any change in the value of the dollar, Westhoff doesn’t expect the dollar to stay as strong as it was last year. Modest increases in net farm income are projected in the baseline report, but when adjusting for inflation, 2025 net farm income will be about the same as it was in 2015. While this year’s baseline may not be as important to Congress, since the next farm bill isn’t slated until 2018, it does offer information for producers. Westhoff said the data can help farmers decide which crops to grow and what investments to make and equip farmers to deal with risk by knowing both what is likely and what is possible.

    Also addressed in the baseline report are the Agricultural Risk Coverage payments established in the 2014 farm bill. ARC payments are triggered when revenue falls below certain levels. Payments are expected to decline rapidly after this year because the moving average of past prices used to compute guarantees will decline.

    During the period of high prices, many farmers invested in land and equipment to increase the productivity of their operations. Sharply lower commodity prices may make servicing the debt more of a challenge. With farm income below peak levels and interest rates forecasted to increase, Westhoff said there will be continued pressure on farm finances and farm real estate values.

  • This spring, retired President and CEO of MFA Incorporated Bill Streeter was inducted into the Missouri Institute of Cooperatives Hall of Fame.

    Streeter was recognized for a career devoted to cooperatives, a career he began with MFA Oil in 1973. Shortly after that, he oversaw the transfer of the chemical division to MFA Incorporated. In 1978, Streeter became manager of farm supply at MFA Incorporated. By 1982 he was promoted to sales manager and then vice president of corporate sales in 1986, and senior vice president of MFA’s Agri Services division in 1999.

    The corporate board selected Streeter as President and CEO of MFA Incorporated in March 2009.

    In remarks preceding Streeter’s induction, MFA president and CEO Ernie Verslues said that Streeter recognized the importance of investment in people and training. He noted that Streeter’s legacy would continue at MFA through comprehensive employee training programs and processes Streeter set in motion.

    During his time in leadership positions at MFA, Streeter focused on three fronts: a customer-centric approach, an intense balance sheet focus and a participative management structure that required his executive staff to make decisions and stand accountable for results.

    Joining Streeter in the Missouri Cooperative Hall of Fame for 2016 were Jim Edwards, a long-time member of the Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers board, and Jim Jura, former CEO of Associated Electric Cooperative.

  • Buchanan County, Mo., equine enthusiast McKell Norris was recently awarded the 2016 MFA Western Saddle. The MFA Saddle Award is awarded annually at the Missouri 4-H State Horse Judging Contest, and Clinic held in the spring. The award is given to the Missouri 4-H member aged 14 years and older participating in the Missouri 4-H horsemanship program who demonstrates knowledge and skills in horsemanship and horse science, the ability to share the knowledge and expertise with other members and the commitment to better their community. The saddle competition is open to 4-H youth 14 and older.

    Norris noted in her application, “All of my work with horses both in the broader community and my local club has made me a better-rounded person. I have the time-management skills necessary to keep up with both schoolwork and horses, the same skills required for handling both college and a job. More specifically, my study of equine science has better prepared me for the STEM career I wish to pursue.”

    Norris, daughter of Todd and Angie Norris of Easton, Mo., will graduate from high school in 2018 and plans to major in biochemistry and equine science. She hopes to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    This saddle is a part of a complete line of equine products available through MFA.

  • Ripples from President Obama’s cabinet trip to Cuba could have positive effects for U.S. agricultural producers. During the trip, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several measures to foster collaboration between the U.S. and Cuban agriculture sectors.

    While in Cuba, Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA will allow the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs and 18 Marketing Order organizations to conduct authorized research and information exchange activities with Cuba. These groups, which are responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the world in support of U.S. agriculture, will be able to engage in cooperative research and information exchanges with Cuba about agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable natural resource management.

    Commodity groups in the United States reacted favorably to the news. USDA will review all proposed Research and Promotion Board and Marketing Order activities related to Cuba to ensure that they are consistent with existing laws. Examples of activities that may take place include the following:

    • Provide nutritional research and guidance and interact with the Cuban government and industry officials at meetings regarding nutrition and Cuban regulations.
    • Conduct plate waste study research in schools to determine what kids eat and what they discard, leading to improved nutritional information.
    • Provide U.S.-based market, consumer, nutrition and environmental research findings to Cuban government and industry officials.
    • Study the efficacy of water disinfectants to eliminate/inactivate bacteria on commodities.
    • Test recipes and specific products among Cuban consumers of all ages, with the goal of increasing product development and acceptance.
    • Conduct consumer tracking studies to measure attitudes for specific commodity consumption and purchasing habits.

    While most U.S. commercial activities are prohibited, the Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000 permits the export of U.S. agricultural commodities, though U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba are limited by U.S. restrictions on government export assistance, cash payments and extending credit. U.S. agricultural exports have grown significantly since trade was authorized in 2000. In 2014, Cuba imported over $2 billion in agricultural products including $300 million from the United States. However, from 2014 to 2015, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba fell 48 percent to $148.9 million, the lowest since 2002, giving the United States just a 10 percent market share as Cuba’s fourth largest agricultural supplier, behind the EU, Brazil, and Argentina.

Featured IN THIS ISSUE

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In the May 2016 issue

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MFA Incorporated announces construction of rail facility near Hamilton, Mo

MFA Incorporated, a grain marketing and farm supply cooperative based in Columbia, Mo., recently announced a joint venture with MFA Oil Company, a farmer-owned energy supply cooperative, to build a...

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Partnerships: Access new ideas through y…

04-05-2016 Hits:401 Blog Contributed Article - avatar Contributed Article

Partnerships: Access new ideas through your most trusted advisor

Chances are, you didn’t get into farming for the opportunity to lead a team. In fact, you probably never envisioned a future in which your job would require you to access...

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