On March 11, farmers with the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association embarked on a 12-day market study mission of Brazil, a major competitor of international sales to the U.S. The purpose of this mission was to gain a better understanding of Brazil’s role in the worldwide market of agriculture. The in-person mission allowed first-hand insights of strengths and challenges in Brazil’s agricultural industry.
Sustainability in Brazil
By Rachael Vonderhaar, who farms with her family in Preble County and serves on the Ohio Small Grains Checkoff Board
March 15, 2016
As we start off on our 3- to 5-hour bus drive this morning (the wide time range due to rough infrastructure and heavy truck traffic) to tour Brazilian farms, I realize I have time to review my notes from the last couple of days. Our days have been action packed and long, which equals a migraine for Rachael. I am doing much better now as I am able to read and type on the bumpiest roads I have ever been on. I am definitely appreciating the air conditioning on the bus.
Yesterday, we visited with Cid Sanches, Director of Aprosoja, Mato Grosso. Aprosoja is a soybean association formed in 2005 to unify the voices of the farmer to the federal government. Thirteen Brazilian states have Aprosoja Associations. Each state’s agriculture picture is unique and it’s hard to find a unified national voice across all agriculture.
Soybeans are first crop here and corn is a second crop, which means, corn is planted behind the harvest of the soybeans. The growing season is long enough to raise and harvest two crops in one season in the same field following each other. Sometimes cotton is grown as the second, or double, crop.
Cid mentioned several goals Aprosoja is working on for the farmers:
1. Communication with the federal government
a. Labor Laws
b. Production Loss
2. International policy
a. Land use
c. Infrastructure/ Transportation
3. Educating Farmers
b. Farm Safety
4. Coordinating Research
Comparatively to the U.S. Ag landscape, Approsoja is doing the work of our checkoffs, The Ohio State University Extension, and farm associations/organizations like Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association. Brazil has 22% of the world’s crop producing land and 12% of the world’s water, which is a lot of financial opportunity. However, the lack of infrastructure holds the Brazilian agriculture sector from reaching its full potential. Several groups, including the Chinese government, have tried to work with the Brazilian government to build railroad infrastructure to get crops to the ports more efficiently, but there is a current law that prevent any roads or rail from crossing state lines unless owned by the government.
Brazil has partnered on public private partnerships in the past, but only when the government owns the final product. The Brazilian government has allowed several entities to explore rail construction options, but no progress has taken place. Conservation is also a big part of the conversation as to why the infrastructure is a challenge.
- Aprosoja has a lot of work to do with such a large list of topics.
- I have a lot of respect for the Brazilian farmers and the patience they have for dealing with lack of infrastructure and government struggle (there were large protests/demonstrations that took place on Sunday demanding impeachment of the current President).
Marco Reis joined us this evening for a presentation and dinner. Marco represents Alianca De Terra, a not-for-profit committed to working hand-in-hand with the Brazilian farmer and sustainability in three specific areas:
1. Environment — conservation, fireprevention/fire brigade, and soil health
2. Social –sharing cattle genetics and agricultural practices with native and indigenous people
3. Production — gathering information for research, profitability and traceability
Alianca De Terra helps to provide education about conservation to the new farmers. They also work with RTRS (Round Table on Responsible Soy) which represents: the soy value chain, responsible soy production, and works with the European market on negotiations. Alianca De Terra is working hard to educate on the understanding the value of conservation and the long term value of “producing right.” Brazil has strict restrictions on clearing of land for agriculture and the value of conservation. Alianca De Terra helps to make sure all farmers are using good land stewardship practices. The most interesting detail of the night was that small scale ag in Brazil is in the most need for education on good stewardship practices.
Marco shared the story of John Carter moving to Brazil and starting his soybean farm in the wilderness of northern Mato Grosso. I am not sure I have the grit to make that kind of leap in life, but what an exciting adventure. The Brazilian government did a social outreach program giving 600 families 100 hectares each so they may start farming. Our presentation was followed with a buffet meal at a Brazilian steakhouse and a lot of good conversation and debate.
I am thankful to farm in United States. I am thankful to farm in Ohio. I am thankful for our infrastructure, and now I am even more driven to be vocal for maintaining it. I am thankful for the Extension services, checkoffs, and commodity associations who divide and conquer agriculture obstacles we face everyday. I am thankful for my opportunity to learn first-hand about Brazilian agriculture after reading about it for years in grain market reports.
Fields as far as you can see
By Eric Neer, who farms in Champaign County and serves on the Ohio Corn Checkoff Board
March 18, 2016
For our last day in the state of Mato Grasso, our group pulled together for a few new experiences. After waking up and hearing that my roomie didn’t have hot water for a shower at the hotel, I crossed my fingers and hoped that the remainder of my day would be better than the first 15 minutes. I was in luck! I found a hot shower within the first few minutes and currently relax at the hotel after an eye-opening day of visits.
Our day started out with our group loading the bus in Primavera do Leste, and driving west to Bom Futuro, a farm near Campo Verde. The farm name stands for Good Future, originated in the 1980s as a partnership between four original members. While we didn’t gather a good indication of their original scale, it was hard to believe that they currently farm over 1 million acres in several states. With 5,300 employees, they grow soybeans, cotton, eucalyptus trees (fuel source for dryer), and corn while also utilizing fish farms, cattle grazing, and hydroelectric energy to balance out their operation.
It was easy to feel the shift in scale as we drove past a paved air strip on our way to the farm’s movie theater for our introductions. One of their many agronomists then provided a tour of the 225,000-acre farm in Campo Verde. The 4.5 million-bushel storage site was impressive. Eleven combines prepping for soybean harvest in the same field was also impressive. It became evident that we would have a challenge trying to describe the scale and vastness of the opportunities to our friends in Ohio.
Picture yourself driving from Cincinnatti to Cleveland and finding nothing but gently rolling ground, fantastic soils, year round warmth, and acres upon acres of corn, soybeans, and cotton. Keep in mind you are on a two-lane road and haven’t spotted a single house. Now imagine that those crops have the potential to increase yield by a factor up to two times at any given moment.
This potential opportunity is the true indication that we better prepare for as farmers in Ohio. While we strive to improve our own farming operations, we must also ask ourselves how we could adapt if world supply of corn increases at a faster pace than we traditionally expect. As we look towards our future, let’s be sure to keep one eye on building demand, serving our customers, and helping nourish the world.
Capturing maximum sunlight
Stacie Seger, Communication Manager, Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association
March 18, 2016
While visiting farms today, the common theme was clear: maximize the amount of energy (sunlight) you can capture. Land never sits idle.
The grain farm we visited today was about 3,000 acres and had only been in production for two years. We watched as he harvested soybeans with three combines and across the red dirt driveway planted corn in the field he harvested yesterday. It was fascinating to learn that most of Brazil did not start double cropping until 1990. Although we have actually seen more on-farm storage than we thought we would, this young farmer was storing soybeans in bags until the two new grain bins by his shed were finished.
Working to diversity how he captures energy, the 3,000-head beef producer we visited had his farm on a cycle of three years of cattle pasturing on elephant grass and then a year of soybeans as first crop and corn as second crop. His beef-crops rotation is unique and progressive. His 500-hectare farm is currently outlined into 50 to 60 hectare pastures where he moves his cattle on a 7-day rotation. All of the fence posts will be pulled out when it’s time to plant soybeans and corn.
The state of Mato Grosso do Sul is currently changing to grains, ethanol (sugarcane), and eucalyptus production from beef cattle region due to land prices. It will be interesting to see how this young grain state looks in a few years.
For more from the trip, visit ocwmarketmission.wordpress.com.