A delegation of leaders from the US National Farmers Union visiting Brazil this week said Wednesday they hope they"ve established a better understanding of agriculture in the two countries after meeting with farmers and agricultural leaders in a nation the Americans describe as an emerging agricultural powerhouse.
"We all lose if we continue to be competitive to the point where we end up on the bottom trying to become the low cost producer," said Dave Frederickson, NFU president, in a telephone press conference from Porto Allegre in southern Brazil.
Frederickson and several state Farmers Union presidents met with processors, government officials, and Brazilian farm group leaders. They visited a 75,000-acre farm north of the capital, Brasilia.
"How do you level the playing field, that"s what we"re here to find out," added North Dakota Farmers Union president, Robert Carlson.
Interest rates for borrowed money run about 30% in Brazil, Carlson said, but labor is much cheaper. At the large farm the group visited, workers earn about $175 a month plus some benefits, Carlson said. Farm to market roads are of very poor quality, he said.
Brazil"s growing soybean crop looked good, the Farmers Union leaders said. Frederickson said he thought the fields on the farm his group visited would yield 40 to 45 bushels an acre.
William Westman, a USDA-Foreign Agriculture Service official in Brazil who joined the news conference, said that soybean rust will have an effect on yields in that country this year.
"As far as we know soybean rust is prevalent throughout the country," he said.
Indirectly, rust may cut yields by about 10% from what had been expected earlier in the season, he said. That"s because, with soybean prices low when Brazilians planted, many growers cut back on fertilizers in order to be able to afford fungicides to spray for rust.
Estimates of this year"s crop in Brazil now range from about 58 to 61 million metric tons, he said. That"s down from 64.5 million metric tons projected in the USDA"s January 12 supply and demand estimate.