Spring is finally here!
As we get ready to enjoy the most productive season of the year, it seems appropriate to highlight the major role of women in agriculture, and in the economy of Minnesota in general.
Last August, I had the opportunity to participate in a trade mission to Mexico with Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton, and 43 other delegates. The purpose of the trip was to enhance the trade relationship between Minnesota and Mexico in the areas of education, manufacturing and agriculture.
Particularly noteworthy is that this was the Governor’s first trip to Mexico. Prior to the trade mission, Governor Dayton expressed the goal of the trade mission “… to establish and build relationships that will help Minnesota companies and producers increase their exports to Mexico, and in doing so, create more jobs here at home.”
One of the highlights of the trip for this daughter of a farm girl was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Dave Frederickson, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and Enrique Martinez, Minister of Agriculture of Mexico, focused on promoting gender equity and empowering women in agriculture. This Memorandum acknowledged the differences between men and women in agriculture, and how those differences affect productivity and food security.
Women in agriculture in Minnesota and Mexico face significant challenges that affect their professional development — despite the importance of their contribution to the economy.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, 6,370 Minnesota farms are operated mainly by women. Most of those farms (5,298) are fully owned by women. The product of their labor has a market value of $400 million a year. The purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding is to help women by encouraging them to work together to overcome obstacles that prevent their full development and career growth. Not only women in agriculture working on their own farms, but also career development in agribusiness, providing services to farmers, products such as fertilizers, agrifeeds, doing research, or helping farmers manage their farms through financial or insurance services.
Women have always been a critical part of the global food chain.
In rural communities, women have been responsible not only for maintaining the household, but they have also been in charge of planting vegetables in their home gardens, raising chickens, turkeys, goats, and other small livestock. These activities supplement the nutrition of their families.
Currently, women have a wider participation in crop production and organic and sustainable agriculture. In some countries, their contributions, involvement, and responsibilities are actually expanding to outpace that of men in the industry.
More and more food and agriculture-related companies such as Pepsi, Mondelez, and Campbell Soup, are directed by women. There are several female Deans of Agriculture in universities. However, there are still gaps between men and women in areas such as education, healthcare, credit options, land, technology, and training programs that could help women secure and improve their participation in agriculture.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed last August is a major step toward the development of new opportunities for women in the business of agriculture and to further develop the economies of Minnesota and Mexico and their close and important commercial relationship.
Lori Stevermer, President of Minnesota
Pork Producers Association, was part of the trade mission. Ms.
Stevermer noted that women have become more visible in the agricultural field
during the last 10 to 15 years, taking leadership roles, whether on the farm,
in sales, or in agribusiness. That said, she saw a need to have more women as
leaders in their own companies. She also saw the same tendency in Mexico, and
noted the importance to provide support and knowledge to Mexican women in
“Mexico will continue to be an important trade partner for us,” she said. “One-quarter of the pigs go to the export market, and it will be a higher percentage in the future […] There’s already a lot of trade between Minnesota and Mexico; the pathway is open, and that’s good.” “A lot of trade” may be a bit of an understatement. Minnesota’s exports to Mexico increased 255 percent between 2004 and 2014, and in 2014 Mexico surpassed China and became Minnesota’s second largest export market.
With this increase in exports and Mexico’s proximity, it plays a key role in the development of our state’s agricultural industry.
After the trade mission, Governor Dayton committed to lead another trade mission to Mexico in the near future, commenting: “Our trade mission to Mexico was the most productive trade mission that I have been involved with. As our second-largest export
market, and the world’s 15th-largest economy, Mexico is a ripe opportunity for
Minnesota businesses and farmers. “
Trade mission participant, Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer, showed his support at the Federal level, stating: “As our state’s second largest export market, Mexico’s
investments in their infrastructure and manufacturing base provide tremendous opportunities for Minnesota. By expanding ties and improving coordination […], we
can strengthen our state by creating mutual growth and commercial success as
The Memorandum of Understanding can be a critical factor in the development of a great partnership between women in agriculture in Minnesota and Mexico.
Because of this Memorandum, we hope to see more gender equity, more women pursuing careers in agriculture, and more opportunities for their professional growth, which will consequently allow the agricultural industry in both countries to grow as well.
This is such a great opportunity for Minnesota women in agriculture to expand their operations, both locally and to consider expansion to Mexico. If you’re a woman in agriculture, think about it. And, it goes without saying that it’s of utmost importance to take care of the legal aspects of your business before considering an expansion. By having your legal I’s dotted and T’s crossed, your business will be protected, the expansion process will be smooth and more efficient, and it will be easier to obtain the necessary permits and licenses to operate, avoiding fines and unnecessary delays. Contact a seasoned business strategist and legal advisor, to help you with your expansion plans, and get ready to grow your company.