Hola from South America

Meet our newest blogger - an Illinois boy farming and writing from Tocantins, Brazil

Military brats moved from town to town more than I did through grade school, junior high and high school - but not a whole lot more. I gained a lot of experience standing before classrooms full of blank faces, providing the rundown of who I am and what I'm doing here in your community - and hoping, in the back of my mind, that I'll fit in.

So here I am again – this time, hoping to add some value for Farm Futures readers.  My name is James Thompson and I've lived in Brazil for 14 years now. Before that, I traveled here frequently from the United States, helping companies and producer associations open up markets for U.S. agri-food, and writing for agriculture and business publications in the U.S., Australia and Brazil.

I also bought some virgin land up in northern Brazil, in the state of Tocantins, a few years back. That's turning into a long-term project. We were allowed to clear 65% of the 1,400-acre tract (the ground is sandy enough and roots are shallow enough that we could do almost all of it with two tractors and a heavy chain). We put up some fence, dug a well, put up more fence  - and ran out of money.

I've seen that happen when folks get a hold of land at a good price (In my case, it was about $93 per acre.) They spend just about all they can beg, borrow or steal on the land itself. And, like me, they figure the cash for operational expenses will come. From somewhere.

So the land is rented right now to a cattleman, who's running a few head on it. The cattle are over there now while I stand in line for lottery tickets, reading and writing about soybeans hitting new highs.

Given the fact that Brazil's got more than 310 million acres of degraded pasture sitting idle, rent per head of cattle comes to about six bucks per month, per head. And that means I've got plenty of time to think about what I'd like to do with this blog.

In a country with an active land redistribution program, where diesel fuel costs about $4.50 per gallon, where all gasoline is at least 25% ethanol at the pump, and where it typically takes four years to bring a steer to market weight, things ag are a little different here. So how do the Brazilians do it?

I hope to share how agriculture works here in Brazil, as this blog unfolds in coming months. Let me know what you think. I'm glad to field your questions at [email protected].

Go ahead - ask the new kid!

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