Viewpoint

Strength in an uncertain marketplace

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

In early March, MFA held district delegate meetings at five locations around our trade territory. The meetings are another opportunity for MFA staff to interact with member-owners and a key part of cooperative governance. The agenda included a financial update, corporate outlook and discussion of new products and services.

There is always uncertainty for agriculture in early spring, but this year may offer more questions than any year in recent memory. That is additional stress producers don’t need as they continue to face market values for production at levels that don’t provide positive cash flows.

The past year will be remembered for unprecedented consolidation in our industry. All levels of agriculture are looking for ways to create efficiencies and generate additional profits in this challenging ag economy. The impact to MFA and our member-owners will not be known for some time. Strong relationships with our key suppliers will help minimize the impact.

Net farm income continues to fall from its record high in 2013—a trend that has slowed but is not expected to reverse its course in 2017. Supply in most grain and livestock categories is outpacing demand. Increased exports provide the best opportunity to reduce carryover.

As of this writing, agriculture is nervous about exports and overall trade policy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership does not appear to be an option the U.S. will pursue. The longstanding North American Free Trade Agreement has been very favorable for agriculture. Opening that agreement for modification could negatively impact our industry.

Consumers continue to challenge modern agricultural practices. They voice strong opinions through social media. They want to have a say in how their food is produced or raised. We are an industry that has historically wanted to make our own decisions on farming practices.

Activists and regulations have also added costly burdens to both your operations and ours.

No one likes the level of uncertainty agriculture is facing right now, but I believe in the strength of this industry and the people who make it their livelihood. We always find a way to overcome challenges and become stronger.

It’s been said before that, “during bad times one should be preparing for the good, and in good times one should be preparing for the bad.” Many of these challenges have been around for the past several years.

MFA has positioned itself to minimize the impact of many of the uncertainties in the marketplace. We didn’t start last month or last year. It’s an ongoing process.

But it is more than just minimizing the impact. It is about maximizing opportunities. MFA prides itself on being a leader in the industry and the trade territory we serve.

I believe our strength starts with people. A well-informed, trained and challenged workforce is a powerful tool. It creates passion, and passion breeds innovation. Innovation results in products and services that provide value to your operations.

A secondary benefit of many of our innovative products and services is a message to answer the questions raised by activists and environmentalists. Our answer comes in the form of healthier diets for animals that reduce the need for antibiotics. It comes, too, in the form of proper placement of nutrients and crop protection products.

Passionate employees respond with answers. MFA is blessed with a talented workforce. The company is committed to providing this group with the tools necessary for personal development and growth.

This past year we finished upgrades to an existing facility we own in Boonville, Mo., home to the MFA Training Center. This facility is equipped with the space and technology needed for training in all areas of the company. Training is not just talk; we take it seriously.

Before I close, I would like to give a shout out to our board of directors. These 14 gentlemen provide a valuable service to the members they represent. At the district delegate meetings, I mentioned that beginning March 2018, term limits will begin to impact current board members. Over the course of three years, MFA Incorporated will lose eight of 14 board members. We need new leaders to step forward.

Your board is another strength for this organization.

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