Feb. 2, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106

WASHINGTON (Feb. 2, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today saluted the growing role of women in agriculture and their invaluable contributions to family farming.

“Women have always played a critical role in family farming, and that role is increasing dramatically as the number of women who are farmers in the U.S. has grown to roughly one million strong,” said Johnson. “Thankfully, the future of family farming in America is in good hands, and that is due in no small part to the growing contributions of women in agriculture,” he said.

In 2007, women operated 14 percent of all U.S. farms, nearly triple the number in 1978. In some states, such as Arizona, female operators comprise nearly half the state’s farmers, although Texas boasts the most female farmers overall.

Johnson noted that many years ago, NFU recognized the important and growing role of women in agriculture – both as leaders and as principal farm operators – and had women elected to leadership positions within the organization as early as 1906.

“NFU, since its founding in 1902, has understood the importance of women having a strong voice in agriculture,” said Johnson. “The organization’s long history of having women in leadership positions and advocating for women’s voting rights, both within the organization and in local, state and national government, has allowed NFU to provide a more progressive and balanced voice for all family farmers for more than a century.”

Johnson also noted that NFU has developed educational programming and outreach tools to identify and empower women to help improve their farming skills. This outreach, which includes business acumen, leadership training and hands-on practical experience, is helping women succeed in their growing role on the nation’s farms and in its farm organizations.

“Each year, NFU hosts an annual women’s conference aimed at providing participants with the tools they need to succeed on the farm and leading farm organizations,” said Johnson. This year, NFU partnered with Annie’s Project, an educational program dedicated to strengthening women’s role in agriculture. The conference, held each January, attracted 50 women from across the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women farmers and ranchers on average are better educated than their male counterparts, with approximately 61 percent of women principal operators having education beyond high school – compared to 47 percent of male operators – and 32 percent having a college degree. “Clearly, women farmers are willing and eager to better their skills and education, and NFU is happy to play a role in that,” said Johnson.

But the growing role of women in agriculture is not limited to just the United States. NFU also is a very involved member of the World Farmers Organization (WFO), an international farm organization which aims to bring together national producer and farm cooperative organizations to develop policies which favor and support farmers’ causes in developed and developing countries around the world.

Johnson pointed out that recent studies report that the majority of the world’s farmers are women, yet many of them face barriers to land ownership, credit and markets not faced by their male counterparts. “NFU will continue to work with WFO to address these disparities, which are particularly worrisome because women are estimated to produce up to 80 percent of the world’s food,” said Johnson.

Each month throughout 2015, NFU will highlight some of its key issues, education initiatives and visions for improving family farming in the U.S. and abroad.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.


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