Board trip highlights scope of MFA's operations
Effective corporate oversight is important in today's business environment. To effectively function in this environment, MFA benefits from an engaged and informed 14-member board of directors, each of whom has proven his worth in various fields of agriculture.
At MFA we rely heavily on our board of directors-not in day-to-day operations but in corporate oversight and guidance on matters crucial to MFA's future success. That said, it must be noted that corporate board members benefit from seeing the scope of MFA's operations.
Our enterprises span several states. To effectively serve all of those enterprises, MFA must offer a wide variety of services and perform better than the competition in a variety of geographic areas.
To help our directors understand the complexity of MFA's operations, MFA's senior management joins the board members on a tour each year to a different sector of our territory.
In July, our board tour involved the eastern portion of MFA's trade territory. The group first visited the Mexico, Mo., MFA Agri Services Center, which is located 20-some miles above I-70 and approximately 90 miles west of St. Louis.
The Mexico MFA Agri Services Center is in Audrain County. The majority of the crops in its territory are corn, beans and some wheat. Audrain County has about 43,800 head of cattle.
Located on the same property is one of MFA's feed mills. It's a state-of-the-art operation that provides farmers and ranchers with beef, swine, dairy and mineral products. The mill is also one of our most automated. Technology enhances competitiveness. Situated on Highway 54 and a rail line, the mill is served by both rail and truck.
The Mexico mill features an automated system complete with a robot for loading, stacking and bagging. The system moves 17 to 18 50-pound bags a minute. Not only does the robot reduce worker injuries, it offers speed and concise stacking on pallets. The system increased daily throughput by 20 percent.
From the Mexico facilities, we traveled to MFA's plant foods terminal at Palmyra on the Mississippi River a few miles above Hannibal. That facility is served by rail, barge and an NH3 pipeline. The terminal features a new 18,000-ton storage dome and handles DAP, MAP, urea and potash.
On the same site is an MFA crop protection warehouse with bulk storage of 40,000 gallons and enough square feet to house millions of dollars' worth of product.
In addition, our group visited the BASF agricultural crop protection facility adjoining the MFA facilities. BASF welcomed our group and provided us with a detailed tour of the plant.
The next day, our group toured the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. The center describes its organization as a world-class, not-for-profit scientific facility dedicated to improving the human condition through plant science. It lives up to its billing. Its more than 175 scientists work in a collaborative environment that is structured to "help feed the hungry, protect and restore [the] environment, and aid in discoveries that will lead to more sustainable energy sources."
From there, the group toured Monsanto's research facility in south St. Louis. The complexity and scope of Monsanto's research is breathtaking. While there, we heard from researchers who explained that Monsanto operates from the perspective that to keep up with world population growth, farmers will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in the past 10,000 years combined.
To meet that challenge, Monsanto researchers focus on ways to genetically enable plants to use less nutrients and water while producing greater yields. Its mission is to apply innovation and technology to achieve those results. An up-close-and-personal look at their research showed just how innovative those individuals are.
Our final stop was the Rhineland and Hermann MFA Cooperative #130, a well-managed and innovate local cooperative. With Rhineland on the northern side of the Missouri River and Hermann on the south, MFA Cooperative #130 serves area farmers who grow corn, beans, wheat and milo and raise hogs and cattle.
MFA Cooperative #130 serves as an excellent example of the strength and innovation embodied by the local cooperative structure that is so vital a part of the MFA system. It was one of the highlights of an eventful, informative trip that is structured to help show directors the complexities and scope of the system that is your MFA.
Bill Streeter is president and CEO of MFA Incorporated.