Why Cooperatives Still Matter
February 20, 2022
Written By Jon Ihler
MFA Oil teamed up with MFA Incorporated to Host the Emerging Leaders in Agriculture Conference in January. Both companies have held similar conferences in the past, but this was the first time we combined our efforts. The two-day event brought together enthusiastic young producers from across our trade areas and facilitated discussion on how they can better manage and grow their businesses.
The agenda covered a wide range of topics relevant to farming and ranching operations, including strategic planning, legislative and regulatory concerns, succession planning, how to run your farm or ranch like a business, and best practices for working with your banker. Additionally, participants talked about the value of cooperatives and the role co-op members play.
Agricultural cooperatives were formed out of necessity in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries in response to corporate trusts. Large trusts like Standard Oil Company and U.S. Steel used their size to regulate supply and fix prices on their products. Some trusts eliminated competition and monopolized industries.
Farmers and ranchers needed a solution and found it through collective action. By establishing cooperatives, producers could fully participate in and benefit from the cooperative value-generating activities.
One of the things we talked about with the young farmers attending the conference is co-ops’ role in today’s agricultural economy. What would the marketplace look like without cooperatives like MFA Oil or MFA Incorporated? Would producers still find comparable products, services and competitive pricing?
Would a private or publicly traded company provide the same level of local investment, charitable giving, employment opportunities and income to your community?
And what about representation? Is there value in working with suppliers led by a board of directors made up of farmers who share the same needs and values as you do?
These are questions producers of every age should consider. How we conduct business at MFA Oil is determined by many factors, but it always comes down to what will be best for our farmer-members, our employees and the communities we serve. Ownership and profit sharing through patronage are additional cooperative benefits but certainly not the only things to consider.
There are still many challenges agriculture and farmer-owned cooperatives face. Discussing the value cooperatives bring to the table with the next generation of agricultural leaders and showing them how they can get involved in cooperative governance is crucial to our future. When we work together cooperatively, there’s no problem we can’t overcome. Based on my conversations with the young men and women who attended our Emerging Leaders in Ag Conference, I believe the future of farming, ranching and our cooperatives will be in good hands.