Cultivating the Relationships Between Minnesota and Mexico: Growth Opportunities for Women in Agriculture

  • By Susan Burns
  • 20 Apr, 2016
Growth Opportunities for Women in Agriculture

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.

Susan Burns with Trade Mission delegates: Reception at the World Trade Center, Guadalajara

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.
Susan Burns at the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Minnesota and Mexico
Photos above (left to right): Susan Burns with Governor Mark Dayton; Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding; Susan Burns with Commisioner Dave Frederickson

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.

Susan Burns at the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Minnesota and Mexico
Photos above (left to right): Susan Burns with Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer; Susan Burns with Jesus Saracho and Lori Stevermer at the MN State Fair post trade mission; A famous cathedral: Gran Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México

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 agriculture. “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 partners.”

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.


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By Susan Burns 26 Oct, 2017
P.S. There has been a lot of discussion on social media about my post on reading fine print  when installing apps, specifically focused on the Grammarly app. Some people have responded with the interpretation that Grammarly can only use your content to correct your grammar and not for anything else.

I disagree. This is not a correct interpretation, in my opinion.

Even though that interpretation may be based on a provision in the TOS that states you keep ownership of
your content, they still have an unlimited, perpetual, royalty-free right to use it. I won’t repeat the prior
post, but do urge you to read it .

Others have suggested that Grammarly’s TOS are typical of SaaS (software as a service) agreements and,
somehow, that makes it okay. The TOS may be similar, but the products aren’t. Grammarly, in my
experience, crawls through everything you type. Everything.

The other argument proposed by someone is that because this is typical SaaS language, they don’t really
mean that they are going to use your content. Really? Then say so in a clearly-drafted, user-friendly
contract a/k/a TOS.

I have not heard of someone successfully arguing in court that even though they agreed to a license of
their product, they didn’t think the person was really going to use it … and therefore, they shouldn’t be
allowed to use it. If you know of such a case, send it my way.

Again, legal ethics prohibit me from using the service. That aside, I don’t choose to give Grammarly
access to everything I type.

As one person put it, “everything ever typed on the computer, so while it runs in the background, it
gathers password, credit card data, shopping habits, text conversations from Facebook, messenger
services, anything you do... recorded and stored.”

Finally, my posts are my opinion and my legal analysis. I am not your lawyer. And, I am not telling you
what to do.

One of my major focus points with clients is clarity. Fabulous decisions come from clarity. Make a
decision that’s right for you.

I love a great discussion! Keep the comments coming.

By Susan Burns 24 Oct, 2017

Recently I was engaged in a Facebook exchange among a group of successful business women. Someone asked for opinions on using Grammarly—an app that is marketed as “A FREE, ACCURATE GRAMMAR CHECKER BUILT FOR EVERYONE.”  

The comments started rolling in: “love it!” “best thing I have used in a long time.” “Cuts my writing time significantly.” And more like that.

I actually had installed the free app a few weeks before to give it a test run. I found it to be a nuisance because that little app was popping up and sticking its grammar-nose in every single thing I wrote. My emails. My blog posts. My word documents. That spelled danger to me, and I immediately deleted it.

My curiosity piqued, I checked the Terms of Service (which, admittedly, I should have done first). Here is what I found:

By uploading or entering any User Content, you give Grammarly (and those it works with) a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free and fully-paid, transferable and sublicensable, perpetual, and irrevocable license to copy, store and use your User Content (and, if you are an Authorized User, your Enterprise Subscriber’s User Content) in connection with the provision of the Software and the Services and to improve the algorithms underlying the Software and the Services. (emphasis added)

Here's what you need to know:

  • Grammarly, Inc. is a Delaware corporation. They include in the definition of “Grammarly” not only the corporation, but also all of its subsidiaries AND other affiliates.
  • The definition of “Software” is “the software.
  • The definition of “Services” is … wait for it … “services.” 
  • And, although it is poorly drafted, it seems to be attempting to include any future Software and Services provided by Grammarly, which you recall also means any subsidiary or affiliate.

What does this mean for you?

It means that if you install Grammarly, whether it’s a free service or a paid service, you are specifically giving an unlimited perpetual license to your content to Grammarly and any company they affiliate with and any of their subsidiaries basically for any service they provide now and decide to use in the future.

That means that if you use Grammarly, instead of your own brain or a copy editor, you are no longer the exclusive owner of your content. That means they can republish, provide to third party affiliates, and use your data and materials any way they see fit.

The bottom line is that Grammarly has access to—and the unlimited, forever—right to use your content. Period.

And, once you install Grammarly, it is everywhere . It pops up in every document you create. Every. Single. One. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.

Of course, lawyers and other professionals with a confidentiality responsibility to their clients are ethically prohibited from using Grammarly. (And, I hope they read the fine print.) But even if you don’t have an ethical responsibility to keep information confidential, do you really want to give up the right to your content?

Think about it! And next time, read the fine print. … or call me, and I’ll read it for you.

‚Äč*This post has been updated here .

By Susan Burns 28 Feb, 2017

The driverless car industry is hot and super-competitive. That’s a given. Here’s what’s not hot if you are Waymo, the self-driving car business that was spun out of Google’s parent company:

By Susan Burns 19 Feb, 2017

Recently, there was a trademark spat between Adidas and Tesla. The story piqued my interest because   the big players make mistakes that are instructive for small businesses (only on a grander scale)—and because it illustrates the importance of brand identity and underscores why it’s smart to register your mark.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened: Tesla filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register its Model 3, three-bar logo as a trademark. If the registration had been for the purpose of using the mark on a car, there would not have been a problem. BUT, Tesla registered to use its three-bar “E” on clothing. Adidas, a company known for rigorous policing of its brand identity, challenged Tesla’s right to register the mark as confusingly similar to the Adidas three-bar logo. Tesla withdrew its application. Adidas protected its three-bar brand identity.
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