Iowa soybean farmers in soybean field in Brazil

(Photo: Aaron Putze/Iowa Soybean Association) From left: Tim Bardole, Brent Swart, Robb Ewoldt and Warren Bachman

ISA directors reflect on time in Brazil

March 11, 2022 | Aaron Putze, APR

Iowa Soybean Association Directors Robb Ewoldt, Brent Swart, Tim Bardole and Warren Bachman and CEO Kirk Leeds participated in a two-week fact-finding mission to Brazil in early February. The itinerary included:

  • Tours of several modern and highly diversified and efficient farms in west central Mato Grosso (including the world’s second largest soy operation). The farms specialized in soybean, cotton, corn, sugar cane and cattle production.
  • Tour of a John Deere implement dealership in Campo Novo and sugar cane ethanol plant operated by Coprodia (will soon be opening a corn based ethanol operation, perhaps in May).
  • Visit with representatives of Federation of Agriculture of Mato Grosso (FAMATO) and Aprosoja (soybean and corn farmers association of Mato Grosso) at their respective headquarters in Cuiaba.
  • Tour of the Amazon River near Manaus by boat (major export route for Brazilian soy and other agricultural commodities).

The following are insights captured from ISA leaders’ conversations and observations

"The talk in Brazil is all about infrastructure and the need to improve as they still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go. It’s common to see semis hauling 2,000 bushels, one after another and giving what little asphalt they have in place a pounding. It doesn’t hold up, especially with the amount of rain they get. Even the good stretches are rough. And when a road deteriorates, sometimes for miles at a time, it can take years for it to be repaired." - Tim Bardole

"Rail is a big deal for Brazilian farmers and the private sector is taking it on. Government will say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ rather than developing the plans and paying for the infrastructure. More rail is going to mean Brazilian farms can get the crop moved thousands of miles to export terminals and to foreign buyers faster than the current 48 days." - Robb Ewoldt

"Brazilian farmers are maximizing the sun, water and farm ground in ways you have to see to believe. On Thursday, they’re harvesting soybeans, and on Monday, planting corn. Then, as soon as corn is harvested, they’re seeding pasture so they can increase cattle numbers. Agriculture never stops in Brazil." - Warren Bachman

"Sustainability is a big part of every farm and not just the mandated percentage of land that must be retained as legal reserve. Even then, farmers are doing more than what’s required. For example, if it’s 35%, they’ll do 38%. You’ll find sustainability is a priority throughout the farm, including hydro, solar and no-till. Come to think of it, I didn’t see one piece of tillage equipment during our time in Brazil." - Brent Swart

"Keep a close watch on the evolution of relationships between the Brazilian and Chinese governments and, by extension, progress of China’s investments in Brazil’s infrastructure. It will be interesting to see if Brazil embraces close partnerships with China. If they do, the country will quickly have the resources to address their one major impediment to global competitiveness – poor or in many cases, non-existing infrastructure." - Kirk Leeds