soybean field

The Changing Face of Leadership: Women’s Expanding Roles in U.S. Soy


Although traditionally viewed as a man’s field, agriculture and the U.S. soy industry have evolved to not only include women, but also to showcase their talent and leadership.
When USSEC held its annual meeting this past week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, grower leader Laura Foell was unanimously elected USSEC chair, marking the first time that a woman has held the top spot.  Appointed to the USSEC Board as a United Soybean Board (USB) representative last year and re-appointed to a two-year term last week, Ms. Foell said it’s a great honor to represent the entire soybean industry.
With a projected record U.S. soybean crop of nearly 4 billion bushels about to be harvested and prices falling as a result, USSEC CEO Jim Sutter said expanding international markets is more critical than ever.  “As we travel around the world, many women are involved in various leadership positions like in China,” he added.
Mr. Sutter said Ms. Foell, who has a deep knowledge of soybean issues, is a great choice to lead USSEC.  “Laura brings a real passion for communicating with people.  She loves to get the message out about U.S. soy.”  He continued, “I’ve been with her with international audiences and she does a wonderful job communicating.”
The Illinois Soybean Association’s Sharon Covert was also tapped for the USSEC board and was elected secretary.  No stranger to the U.S. soy industry, Ms. Covert is one of the Illinois directors for the USB, and has served in various leadership roles for USSEC and past Illinois checkoff endeavors.
In addition to their representation on the USSEC board, women were prominently featured during last week’s 2nd Annual U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange in a general session, “Changing Leadership for Global Food and Agriculture Industries.”  Sara Wyant, the editor/publisher of Agri-Pulse, served as panel moderator with presentations given by Ms. Foell; Teresa Babuscio, secretary-general of COCERAL; and Mariela Urguia, first vice president of AFACA, Venezuela Feed Manufacturers Association.  During her presentation, Ms. Babuscio emphasized that her accomplishments outweigh outdated prejudices.
The program, CommonGroundTM, is yet another way in which women have added their voices to the growing global conversation about soy.  CommonGround™, a partnership between the USB and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), is a national program aimed creating a unified voice for modern agriculture.
The goal of this group of volunteer farm women is to start conversations between the women who grow food and the women who buy it.  The organization strives to get the real story about American agriculture and what goes into growing and raising food to consumers.  The conversation is based not only on these farmers’ personal experience, but also on science and research.
While Ms. Foell hopes her new position can inspire other woman to get involved in commodity groups and take on leadership roles, she wants to be considered first as a farmer leading USSEC.  After her election, Ms. Foell reiterated, “This is not about what’s good for Laura Foell.  It’s about what’s good for the entire industry.”