Challenges–A Letter from Mark Fenner, MFA Oil President & CEO

By MFA Oil President and CEO Mark Fenner – Published in the Winter 2019 issue of Momentum magazine.

How often have you thanked the good Lord above for the challenges you face daily? I’ll be the first to admit that it may seem counterintuitive to be thankful for our challenges. Challenges can cause stress, high blood pressure and other issues. They really are no fun at all. But in a weird way, we really should be thankful for challenges.

A perfect example was an 18-inch snow storm we recently experienced in mid-Missouri. I knew a significant snowfall coming, so I bribed a couple of mechanically-skilled buddies to help me in get my snow blower ready to go. While I admit I did little myself to fix the snow blower, I was proud of the fact I’d addressed the issue before the snow came. And come it did! Unfortunately, one of the belts went flying in about 20 pieces and the blower quit working. I was still forced to shovel the majority of the drive, in spite of my preparation.

As you may recall, MFA Oil had multiple challenges last year implementing our new IT system. This frustrated customers and employees alike. We’ve committed to fixing these issues, and the system is running much smoother this winter. We thank you for the patience you’ve given us, and I hope you see we were sincere about our desire to improve upon our shortcomings from last year. While none of us wish to relive those painful days, I do believe we are a better company for going through it. The process helped us identify some talented employees who are problem solvers, and it humbled us. It made us realize that despite this company’s success since 1929, there are no guarantees we’ll be successful in the future.

We understand farmers and ranchers are facing many of their own challenges these days. Low commodity prices the past four years have left little room for profitability. In response, many of you have bought cheaper seed, cut back on inputs and delayed equipment purchases to weather the downturn. I admire your commitment to feeding the world despite the risks you face.

The beauty of our cooperative system is that we are all in this together. Because we are owned and governed by farmers and ranchers, our success as a company means dividends for our farmer-members. Since 2009, MFA Oil has returned more than $120 million in patronage dividends to you, our owners. And despite the challenges we encountered in the past fiscal year, we remained quite profitable and will soon be paying $8.4 million back to our members who do business with us.

For fiscal 2018, we’ll be paying $.061 per gallon on gasoline and diesel, $.133 per gallon on propane and $.462 per unit on lubricants. The majority of the patronage (60 percent) will be paid in cash and the remainder (40 percent) will be held in equity. So while we know you face financial challenges on your farm or ranch, we are hopeful this may provide some measure of relief to you.

Although it may be hard to see our present challenges as opportunities, I believe that’s exactly what they are. Whether it’s taking a hard look at our businesses to identify areas for improvement or simply getting in some unscheduled exercise because your snow blower breaks down, there’s almost always something beneficial that comes from a good challenge.