Viewpoint

In challenging times, keep moving forward

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

When MFA closed its books on the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31, 2017, we announced an after-tax profit of $10.2 million. That’s a respectable return given the marketplace challenges that all of us in agriculture face right now.

The cyclical nature of agricultural isn’t new. Like most Midwest farming operations, MFA’s profitability rises and falls in tandem with commodity prices. But that doesn’t mean we can be complacent. It’s not good enough to say that a down cycle will run its course. We have to keep moving forward and seeking improvement to be sustainable for the long term.

MFA has been in business since 1914. We’re proud of that longevity because it shows that we serve a purpose for our members, but a company that operates for such a long span also delivers some crucial lessons. From my perspective, time has proven that three core areas make MFA successful and will ensure our continued success. They are people, operations and financial strength.

It’s not a coincidence that these ideas are covered in MFA’s mission statement: We will generate profitable growth by empowering employees to provide value-added products, services and expertise for the benefit of our member-owners.
In this business, success is mutual, never one-sided.

When it comes to people, you may have noticed that our mission statement mentions both employees and our member-owners. That’s important because our business is based on developing partnerships. That’s where it all starts, and that is the real foundation of success for MFA.

On MFA’s side of that relationship, we know that recruiting, hiring and retaining top-industry talent must remain a focus. We have stepped up efforts to deliver training to our workforce. As agriculture continues to evolve, our expertise must evolve with it.

From an operations standpoint, I will tell you that MFA is committed to long-term improvements. This past year, we opened the MFA Rail Facility in Hamilton in partnership with MFA Oil Company. That high-speed “loop-loader” will deliver efficiencies and marketing benefits throughout our grain system. We can’t duplicate the handling speed and storage space we built at Hamilton, but we will continue to make improvements at key locations throughout MFA’s service territory.  

The products and services delivered by MFA continue to fulfill our mission to provide value-added products. From MorSoy and MorCorn to the latest technologies in crop protection, we know that our member-owners need long-term solutions that benefit their farms. That’s something you have seen with MFA’s precision programs. We were leaders in precision agriculture and developed programs that consider both profit and stewardship early on. The industry’s current focus on putting the right product at the right rate, right time and right place has been MFA’s goal for many years. We’ve also been a leader in the field crop data management that makes this approach possible.  

In livestock, MFA’s proprietary Shield Technology has given our member-owners an edge in production that other companies can’t match. The MFA Health Track program continues to prove that our feed and health protocol can deliver better profits. This year we have a new partnership with ABS Global that adds another layer of value to Health Track calves. And we introduced PowerCalf, a data management tool that provides beef producers with information that will help drive profitability.

I mention here that we have been leaders in these areas because that’s an essential function of your cooperative. It’s an important part of our partnership with you.

When I see MFA at work in that partnership, I can say I’m proud to lead a company that possesses the level of talent and passion for agriculture that I see in our workforce. Our people live the values of the company. They operate with honesty and integrity, embrace innovation and know they are accountable to you and the whole MFA team.

With these values, MFA will continue to bring benefits to our member-owners and build financial strength regardless of uncertainties in the agricultural cycle.

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