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.
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.