What has kept MFA Incorporated in business for 100 years? It’s all about the people, Bill Streeter said.
Streeter, President and CEO of MFA Incorporated, spoke as part of a panel discussion on “100 Years of MFA Incorporated – Proud Past, Bright Future,” Oct. 28 at the University of Missouri. Streeter is the 44th Executive-in-Residence in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and joined CAFNR faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends Oct. 28-29.
The “people” Streeter spoke of include the co-op’s membership, employees and its Board of Directors. Service has always been MFA’s focus, although Streeter says the relationship with its customers has changed in the past 100 years. Loyalty, he said, has been replaced by trust.
“You have to be a business partner with the customer,” he said.
“Trust” also goes back to having an honest reputation in the marketplace. “Don’t tarnish the corporate logo or you will never get it back,” Streeter said.
Streeter and the other panelists spoke of MFA’s role in the history of both Missouri and U.S. agriculture. They also emphasized MFA Incorporated’s ties with the University of Missouri, especially the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
Their intern program, the MFA Ag Experience, draws CAFNR students each year. In addition, professors in the department of agricultural and applied economics have partnered with MFA Incorporated to train mid- and senior-level employees on more aspects of the business, including finance, logistics and human resources, in addition to products and sales training, as the co-op looks to the future.
“We want them to understand what makes the company tick,” Streeter said. “We have a very good relationship with the University and I think it’s going to get stronger.”
Although Streeter said the short- and intermediate-term future of agriculture is bright, he does worry about a few upcoming challenges, including the fact that the nitrogen industry (the primary nutrient used in agriculture) has been exported across the globe. In addition, Streeter questions how sound agricultural policies can be set, when only 2 percent of the voting public are actually farming the land, especially at a time when farmers need to produce more and more food as the world’s population skyrockets.
In addition to Streeter, MFA Incorporated panel speakers were: Janice Schuerman, Senior Vice President, Corporate and Member Services, and Corporate Secretary; Brian Griffith, Senior Vice President, Corporate Operations; Ernie Verslues, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Chuck Lay, Director of Communications.
Streeter is a 1970 graduate of the University of Missouri with a degree in agriculture. He joined MFA Oil Company as a technical sales representative in April 1973.
Since being named President and CEO in 2009, Streeter has implemented enhanced strategic planning for finance, marketing and risk management. Sales have increased 40 percent, and under these plans, the company’s net worth has nearly doubled. He also has guided the company toward a comprehensive employee training program to ensure MFA stays in the lead for agricultural technology and delivers top-tier professional service to its customers.
Streeter serves as President of the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation, President of the MFA Foundation. He is Chairman of the MFA Incorporated Retirement Plan as well as MFA’s 401(k) offering, the MFA Employees Thrift Plan. He serves as a trustee for the University of Missouri College of Agriculture Foundation.
MFA is the oldest regional farm supply and marketing cooperative in the United States. It serves more than 45,000 farmers and ranchers, and supplies feed, plant food and crop-protection products. It has sales of more than $1 billion annually.
Founded on March 10, 1914, MFA (which then stood for Missouri Farmers Association) was organized in Brunswick, Mo., at the Newcomer School. William Hirth was MFA’s founder, serving until his death in 1940. By the 1920s, MFA represented 400 local cooperatives. The cooperative created independent companies to serve its members: MFA Oil in 1929 and Shelter Insurance in 1946.
The panel Streeter headed here at MU helped to kick off MFA’s 100th anniversary in business. In addition to the public seminar, Streeter led several classes across CAFNR and dined with CAFNR student leaders.
The Executive-in-Residence Program was envisioned and endowed by the Robert O. Reich family as a one-on-one interaction offering a rare life experience for students and the executive. The program was inaugurated in February 1997 by faculty and staff as a collaborative learning experience for students, and takes places in an informal environment that allows participation to be spontaneous and infectious.
Previous CAFNR Executives-in-Residence include Michael D’Ambrose, senior vice president of Archer Daniels Midland Company; Richard D. Maltsbarger, senior vice president of Strategy for Lowe’s; William Buckner, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience; and Carl Hausmann, chief executive officer of Bunge North America. Learn more at cafnr.missouri.edu