The MFA Incorporated Board of Directors has two new members after district meetings and elections were held in the last week of February.
Jim Novinger of Kirksville, Mo., was elected to represent District 3. He and his wife, Lanna, have a son and a daughter, and run a diversified row-crop, beef cattle and feedlot operation. Novinger replaces outgoing director John Moffitt of Kirksville, whose term ended in March.
“MFA has been part of my family’s operation since I was a kid, and I want to see it succeed,” Novinger said. “It’s important that we look for ways to keep something local to provide the services and products we farmers need. I don’t like to do things halfway. I’ll put my whole heart into being an MFA director and use what almost 40 years of hard knocks has taught me to do what I can for the co-op.”
Steve Stumpe was elected as the new director for District 10, filling the position vacated by Tim Engemann of Hermann. Stumpe and his wife, Cathy, have two daughters and a son and raise beef cattle and hay on their farm in Leslie, Mo.
“The rate of change in agriculture is not going to slow down; it’s only going to get faster,” Stumpe said. “That’s our challenge. Can we accept technology and make changes that are positive for us as producers and positive for MFA as a company? I believe MFA has been on that track, and no other company in the state of Missouri is set up to handle those changes and deliver the technology to us.”
Also re-elected to their positions on the MFA board were Tom Dent, District 2, and Doyle Oehl, District 14. Members of the corporate board are eligible to serve three-year terms and are limited to four consecutive terms. Operating under those rules means that three more of the 14 members will leave the board due to term limits by March 2020.
In addition to elections, the February meetings in each of MFA’s 14 districts gave farmer-owners a chance to learn about the cooperative’s financial progress, hear from management and operating divisions and get updated on highlights from their respective regions.
This is the first in a series of interviews with MFA Incorporated’s board of directors to help members get to better know their cooperative’s leadership. In this edition, we’re featuring our two outgoing directors, John Moffitt and Tim Engemann, who reached their term limits in March after serving 12 years on the board.
1. When you look at MFA’s values statement, which one means the most to you and why?
Moffitt: Each of the listed value statements has a degree of importance for the MFA organization to operate as a system. To me, honesty and integrity have to be at the top of the list for a sustainable business. I feel that if honesty and integrity are where they should be, then personal accountability will fall in place with most business decisions made for the long-term success of the organization in mind.
Engemann: To me, MFA has always been a company you can trust. If they don’t have the right person to answer your question, they will always find somebody to help. And I always feel like you can trust the answer they give you.
2. What opportunities and challenges do the new MFA directors face?
Moffitt: New directors have a unique opportunity to bring fresh insight to MFA based on their farming and business experiences. They will likely be challenged to become familiar with the financial reporting, including the complexities of the various business partnerships and divisions within the whole MFA organization.
Engemann: As farms get bigger, one of our biggest challenges is going to be customer retention. Producers are going to expect more from a service company like MFA. They’re not going to come in and find what they need; we are going to have to go to the customer to find out what they need.
3. What would you say is MFA’s greatest achievement during your time on the board?
Moffitt: I was very proud to be a part of MFA celebrating 100 years in business while I was a member of the board. In addition, MFA continues to evolve with technology to bring new and improved services to its patrons.
Engemann: When I came on the board, I didn’t see near the transparency that I do today. There’s a lot more open conversation about how to do things and how to accomplish things. Nobody’s afraid to admit failure. That’s important, because you can’t fix something if you don’t know what the problem was to begin with.
4. How can MFA help our members through these challenging times in agriculture?
Moffitt: The most important role for MFA to help members in agriculture any time is to “be there.” Be there in business with the basic philosophy for which it was first organized: consolidating purchasing and marketing power to assist its farmer-members in having more profitable operations.
Engemann: If your service industry has your back and helps you ride out the storm, you’re going to keep doing business with that service industry. If they’re not in the forefront, people don’t have the respect to keep doing business there. That’s going to be No. 1 for MFA: open communication with our members and support for what they need during these challenging times.
5. What did you learn about MFA during your tenure as director that you might not have learned without the closer involvement?
Moffitt: MFA Incorporated is a large organization that sells in both retail and wholesale markets. Virtually all fertilizer is imported to Missouri from other states or from outside the U.S. Sourcing these inputs requires a lot of lead time with implications on everything from pricing, to transportation to MFA facilities, and finally to applying product to the soil. And in the end, weather can drastically influence the amount demanded by end users and the time frame for delivery.
Engemann: I learned that there are a lot of great ways of doing business than just the ways that we’ve done in our local environment. I was a young director when I came on the board and somewhat naïve about local versus statewide governance. At first, I thought I was just going to represent the things that my district might need. But I learned that it’s not just about them. It’s about the best path that all of us directors can take to make MFA a super great company as a whole. You’ve got to weigh your options. The board has been divided at times, but at the end of the day we were unanimously on the same page to do what’s right for the future of this company.
If your farm has been in your family since Dec. 31, 1919, you can apply to have it recognized as a Missouri Century Farm.
To qualify, farms must have been owned by the same family for 100 consecutive years. The line of ownership from the original settler or buyer may be through children, grandchildren, siblings and nephews or nieces, including marriage or adoption. The farm must be at least 40 acres of the original land acquisition and make a financial contribution to overall farm income.
The program is administered by the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and MU Extension along with Missouri Farm Bureau.
“Family farms have been among our most vital partners since the founding of Extension more than 100 years ago,” said David Burton, county engagement specialist with University of Missouri Extension. “The Century Farm program is one way we express our gratitude to those who have contributed so much to Missouri agriculture.”
Applicants certified as owners of a 2019 Missouri Century Farm will be recognized by the local MU Extension center in the county where the farm is located. Applicants are presented with a sign and a certificate.
Since Missouri began the program in 1976, more than 8,300 century farms have been recognized.
The Missouri Century Farm program is now taking applications, which must be postmarked by May 15. Details and a downloadable application form are available at extension.missouri.edu/centuryfarm.