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Q&A with MFA

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.

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