Blairo Maggi becomes Brazil’s interim Ag Minister

Blairo Maggi becomes Brazil’s interim Ag Minister

Brazil impeachment could mean greater voice for ag

While most of the intricacies of foreign country ministries and politics is of little interest to outsiders, your ears might perk up at this overseas act of political theater.

With Brazil’s president impeached, the vice president takes over for the next six months or longer. Thing is, the vice president is from a different political party than President Rousseff, and he’s cleaning house among ministries. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party is about as leftist as you can get, and had allied itself with the much more centrist PMDB party. As a result, the PMDB’s Michel Temer takes over as Interim President.

Blairo Maggi, the world’s largest soybean farmer, now takes over as Brazil’s top ag official – at least for six months, anyway. Photo: Elza Fluza, Agencia Brasil

And it looks like Temer has no plans to be a mere placeholder for the next at least 180 days during which impeached President Rousseff has to step away from the levers of power while Brazil’s senate decides whether or not to convict her on the impeachment charges.

Golden Chainsaw

One result: our old friend Blairo Maggi is taking over as interim Ag Minister.

You may remember Maggi as formerly the world’s largest individual soybean producer. Or later as governor of Brazil’s largest soybean-producing state when Greenpeace awarded him its “Golden Chainsaw” award for the rainforest destruction going on in Mato Grosso. Or it could be that you recall him from more recent years when he was elected to the federal senate, and got active in transportation issues—improvements in highways, railroads and waterways being issues of keen interest to producers.

As Ag Minister, Maggi replaces Katia Abreu, a large producer herself whose farmland was even at one time occupied by the Workers Party-supported Landless Movement. The fact she accepted the post under a Workers Party government stunned many farmers at the time, but there was hope in that producers might, with her, have their own voice at least heard in a Workers Party administration.

The issue may be less one of having a pro-producer voice in the Ag Ministry than having someone to listen harder to that voice, and in a local interview, Maggi himself indicated that he felt the new, interim government might bring Agriculture into that inner circle of ministries earning the Brazilian president’s attention (Brazil has 24 ministries, plus a number of secretariats and agencies that are ministries in all but name.)

What to look for?

So as a result of a pro-producer voice having the ear of a more middle of the road president, I am looking for:

-Efforts to ease corn imports, as Brazil’s poultry and swine sectors are looking at tight stocks this year

-Acceleration of the approval of new crop protection products as needs arise

-More time for indebted producers to repay their government-backed cropping loans

-Greater consideration for the demands of ag production in presidential decisions pitting the Ministry of the Environment against the Ministry of Agriculture. Mind you, we’re not talking about a sudden massive rewrite of current environmental legislation, but rather a greater consideration of the needs of producers while considering the grace period allowed for farmers to get their properties up to snuff in terms of environmental setaside laws and such.)

-Bigger push toward subsidizing crop insurance, at least for the producers in Brazil’s South, who are more subject to freezes, hail and frost.

Time, of course, will tell. If President Rousseff is cleared of her impeachment charges, she and her team could be back in six months. And there’s only so much you can do in six months, right?

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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