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Partners in Growth

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Partners in Growth

MFA Incorporated Helps Farmers Develop Long-Term Strategies for Growth

With a 100-year history, MFA understands the importance of long-term strategic planning to achieve growth and brings that expertise to each of its customers, helping them develop their long-term strategies.

“We put farmers first,” says Jarod Graves, general manager of AGChoice’s Rock Port, Missouri, location. “If they’re growing, then we’re growing. We work in partnership with our farmers to help ensure they have the short-term and long-term strategies in place to be positioned for long-term growth.”

MFA celebrated its 100-year anniversary in March, and has experienced considerable growth since its beginnings as a small group of Missouri cooperatives. Operations have expanded into Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The AGChoice locations were acquired as a division of MFA Enterprises, Inc.

Graves has been at the Rock Port location for 14 years, including the past seven years as part of MFA. He manages a 15-person team that strives to be partners their farmers can count on for third-party research, expertise and trust.

“The trust between us and farmers makes for a successful relationship,” Graves says. “We’re committed to growing their business, and our farmers notice. We’re on the farm talking about how we can help, not just what products we have to sell. My goal is for farmers to feel they can count on me for anything.”

To help strengthen that partnership with farmers, Graves spends a significant amount of time keeping up on agriculture news so he can inform farmers of events, programs and new products. For instance, he may ensure they’re informed about a new USDA program they could be taking advantage of, so they have one less worry.

Service is key to MFA’s partnership with its farmers, and developing both short-term and long-term strategies with its farmers helps MFA deliver the best service possible.

The importance of having a long-term strategy has never been more relevant with the recent market downturn. While short-term crop and growth strategies may lead to success briefly, they need to be considered in the context of a longer-term strategy for continued growth and success through tough times.

“With farming, there is no 401(k), so farmers need to always be thinking about how they will support the family down the line,” Graves continues. “There are many factors to take into account long term, including whether future generations will return to the farm or if there are plans to increase acres. You can’t think just year to year.”

Beyond overall growth goals and opportunities, soil health and fertility is one major area that needs to be considered long term. As soil fertility is a major key to profitability, it cannot be overlooked.

“If you take the fertility out of the soil, it takes several years to build it back,” adds Graves. “Without proper management, soil fertility can be lost in just one year. Long-term yields require long-term soil health.”

With lower commodity prices, input costs may be more closely scrutinized. Graves advises farmers to understand and know yield expectations when doing so.

“I work with each farmer to determine their fertilizer needs and a long-term soil fertility strategy,” he says. “If they’re looking to reduce costs, the best place to spend on fertilizer is on the most productive ground. A farm may be able to get by with less fertilizer to reduce costs for a year, but it will need to be added back the next year. It’s all about managing expectations and knowing your soil. If you use less fertilizer for a year, you may not achieve the same high yields.”

Each farmer’s year-long plan is developed with Graves and his team by January or February, taking into account longer-term objectives. However, that plan can quickly change. Each year, there is a new challenge to adapt to that could require a strategy adjustment. It’s throughout these challenges when Graves’ expertise and knowledge of each farm’s challenges and goals comes into play.

“My responsibility is to show farmers all their options and offer solutions,” Graves says. “I thrive on helping farmers succeed and developing a plan for them that works.”

Change is the only thing certain in agriculture. According to Graves, having a long-term strategy and a good team in place to help develop that strategy can help farmers prepare for any change that may come.