The strength of a cooperative like MFA Incorporated is through its bonds to agriculture, farmers and the industry that supports them. MFA has spent its long history developing a system that gets farmers what they need when they need it. From the beginning, working with locally owned, independent cooperatives has been an important part of that process.
Local cooperatives that align themselves with MFA are a employing one of the key principles of cooperative business—working with other cooperatives to benefit the membership.
“We’re proud to partner with MFA,” said Gary Heldt, manager of Cooperative Association #130 at Rhineland, Mo. “We call ourselves MFA, we wear the brand—there is an MFA shield on our employees’ shirts.”
Heldt pointed out that cooperation between local cooperatives like Rhineland and regional cooperatives like MFA Incorporated provides mutual benefits. For Rhineland Cooperative Association #130, there is access to the buying power that MFA Incorporated brings in procuring plant foods and crop protection products, merchandising grain and acquiring other goods and services. MFA Incorporated benefits from the relationship because the committed purchasing from local cooperatives helps allow for even more bargaining power in the marketplace.
“Aside from the products we carry, one of the things that we can do is leverage our local presence with the expertise in agronomy or nutrition from MFA’s technical staff,” said Heldt. “It’s a strong combination; it’s the kind of cooperation that benefits all of our members through market access and pricing.”
Affiliated local cooperatives in the MFA system each have a unique and rich history of farmers working together to establish a cooperative presence in their neighborhood. MFA Incorporated is helping celebrate that history by noting significant anniversaries. Twelve local affiliates will have celebrated their 90th anniversary by year’s end. We will highlight more in coming years.
Farmers Exchange of Birch Tree Cooperative Association No. 213, Birch Tree, Mo.
Bolivar Farmers Exchange, Bolivar, Mo.
Dallas County Farmers Exchange No. 177, Buffalo, Mo.
Producers Grain Company, El Dorado Springs, Mo.
Farmers Produce Exchange of Lebanon, Lebanon, Mo.
Producers Exchange No. 84, Lincoln, Mo.
Lockwood Farmers Exchange, Lockwood, Mo.
Lohman Producers Exchange, Inc., Lohman, Mo.
Farmers Elevator & Produce Company No. 53, Memphis, Mo.
Cooperative Association No. 130, Rhineland, Mo.
Cooperative Association No. 2 of Washington, Washington, Mo.
Cooperative Association No. 86, Aurora, Mo.
The Seven Principles of a Cooperative
1. Voluntary and open membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership.
2. Democratic member control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives, members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are organized in a democratic manner.
3. Member economic participation
Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. They usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing the cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.
4. Autonomy and independence
Cooperatives are autonomous organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.
5. Education, training and information
Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. They inform the general public—particularly young people and opinion leaders—about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
6. Cooperation among cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.
7. Concern for community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.