NOTE: The Brazilians are 90% planted with beans, but the second-crop corn area in Mato Grosso, a state that produces more second-crop corn than anywhere else in Brazil, is likely to be down by 800,000 acres this year, as slow rains at soy planting time will mean planters will miss the window for second-crop corn planting in February.
Remember the old days when the guy at the filling station offered you S&H Green stamps for a fill-up? Those were the days when the U.S. led the world in terms of industrial and agricultural production.
Today, they say, China is now the world's fastest growing economy, and Brazil is the world's biggest consumer of agricultural chemicals. It came as a surprise to hear from an exec at Syngenta do Brasil that his profit center actually made more money for the Swiss giant than U.S. sales did.
My how things change. There's no more dish sets to collect with each fill-up of your giant Buick with the wings over the taillights. And Brazil gets the latest award for "poisoning" citizens with the use of ag chem. On the 30th anniversary of the disaster at Bhopal, India, one environmental group claimed Brazilians were consuming nearly 1.4 gallons of ag chemicals annually, as the country had moved into the number-one spot for use of crop protection chemicals, worldwide. In fact, they say, Brazil has held that slot since 2008.
I remember when my old boss at a U.S. commodity trade association called me into his office and dressed me down for writing about how Brazil can—and will—grow and grow and grow in its crop production.
No farmer wants to unnecessarily slop expensive chemicals all over the food supply. In fact, I think farmers are, generally, pretty good folks who just want to make an honest living. I agree with the dozens of farmers I've heard who have said that the use of biotech increases bird populations and the farmers' quality of life (less time in the tractor seat) while cutting costs to deliver a product no different than the conventional crop.
The point is that Brazil is growing steadily as an ag power, and thus using more inputs. There's really no end in sight. Well boys, welcome to our world, where efforts to produce more food become interpreted as a conspiracy to poison the masses.
It comes with being Number One.
The opinions of James Thompson are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.