Monthly Archives: February 2014

Finding Common Agricultural Ground in Brazil

By Shannon Douglass and Katie Heger

Members of the Partners in Agriculture Leadership program (Class 7) are in Brazil for seven days exploring and gaining an understanding of Brazilian agriculture. Out of many places that the 10 participants will visit are the American Consulate and the Monsanto corporate office. After the visit we felt the theme of day was common ground. U.S. and Brazilian farmers share many of the same concerns and challenges.

It is interesting that Brazilian farmers are a bit younger – average age of 47- than Americans, but only 30 percent of their farmers hold a college degree. Perhaps the most fascinating, despite the fact that both countries have had or are dealing with biotechnology concerns is that in Brazil, it is old news. With time on the side of biotech only positive impacts of adopting GM seeds have been found. The U.S. and Brazil agree that of upmost importance to is market acceptability.

A striking similarity is the lack of public understanding of agriculture. In Brazil 84 percent of the population lives in cities while most Americans are three generations removed from the farm. Studies of Brazilian children have found that most believe milk is a manufactured product, much like so many in the United States think that milk comes from a grocery store. Agriculture in both Brazil and the U.S. continues to need to sell the story of their farmers.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil

After infrastructure needs, the next biggest challenges that Brazilian farmers face are government regulations/bureaucracy and environmental regulations just like American farmers. Both sets of farmers desire to protect the environment. Both are frustrated when they are unjustly cited for violation of regulation and environmental concern. In Brazil, new projects face a very slow approval process that often takes years to complete.The need to be thorough in research is understood by both the U.S. and Brazil, but “red tape” and public perception often place a hold on advancements in production agriculture for both nations. Additionally, the feeling of overregulation and government oversight is a concern, with farmers and ranchers desiring to operate their farm businesses safely with minimal government involvement.

Brazilian agriculture faces similar challenges of U.S. agricultural companies when searching for employees. Brazil has a shortage of qualified candidates, with employees not wanting to live in rural production areas which lack amenities of cities. This problem is familiar to those involved in U.S. agriculture.

As a result of another full day of our Brazilian education, it is clear that the U.S. and Brazil have several areas where common ground and collaborative solutions can be found. One of the strongest messages is that story of agriculture needs to be shared by both of our countries. Sharing our story and speaking up for our farmers will help with understanding and finding solutions in both nations.

Cheers to finding common ground!

Shannon Douglass and Katie Heger are members of PAL Class 7. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class. Shannon is a first generation farmer farmer with her husband in California. Katie farms with her family in North Dakota.

How Sweet It Is

By Jillian Beaty and Joshua Geigle

Coming from the northern part of the United States, where snow dominates the landscape most of November through March, our friends declared how sweet it is to travel to Brazil during our cold February. True, you’ll hear no complaints from us about the perfect 80-something degree weather! Warm weather aside, Brazil is still a sweet experience.

Our Brazil experience is part of the international module for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Partners in Agricultural Leadership Program or PAL. PAL is a two-year program designed to advance leadership skills in young farmers and ranchers.

PAL Class 7

PAL Class 7

Since arriving, we’ve learned that sugar cane is an important crop in Brazilian agriculture. Here they produce 25 percent of the world’s supply and export 50 percent of their crop. Brazilians aren’t shy about consuming this top commodity, as sweet is the overwhelming taste of many of the desserts, beverages and breads we’ve tried. However, granulated sugar is only one of the uses for sugar cane. Ethanol is also an important product, and here in Brazil they produce 20 percent of the world’s ethanol.How Sweet It Is - Produzir. Conservar. Melhorar Vidas

We discovered the sugar cane production process through our sponsor, Monsanto. Monsanto Brazil focuses on improving the quality of sugar cane in the production of both fiber and sugar, while decreasing loss of productivity through common pests. Their motto: “Produzir. Conversar. Melhorar Vidas.” translates to “Produce more. Conserve more. Improve lives.” Helping small farm holders improve productivity while conserving their environment drives each employee.

But not everything in Brazilian agriculture is sugar and spice. One of Monsanto’s research farms has been plagued by the activist group Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST. In just five days, 800 members of MST destroyed irrigation systems, crops and research facilities. Ongoing efforts to battle this 30-year-old group continue with some small progress. Although groups like MST sour a farmer’s perspective, Monsanto embraced the sweet success of having good safety measures in place to prevent major losses.

A sugar cane field in Brazil

A sugar cane field in Brazil

Whether in Brazil or the U.S., agriculture is a good place to be. Like our counterparts in South America, we produce more, we conserve more and we improve the lives of not only our fellow farmers, but also our fellow consumers. We manage adversity to improve our farming practices and our relationships with consumers. Regardless of your current location in the world or the sugar content of your food choices, agriculture is a sweet spot to work!



Jillian Beaty and Joshua Geigle are members of PAL Class 7. Jillian is a high school agriculture education teacher in Milton, Wis. and is the director of public relations for her family’s agritourism business, Honey Haven Farms. Joshua is a rancher who raises beef cattle, wheat, millet, safflower, alfalfa and corn in Creighton, S.D. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class.