Poor Brazil. Once one of the stars of the up-and-coming BRIC economies, everything seems to be heading south now.
After public protests over vast public spending on stadia for the 2016 Olympics, the Zika virus hit, threatening to curtrail crowds and revenue this summer. Meanwhile Uncle Sam slowed the presses printing U.S. dollars, making everything bought in Brazilian reals that much more expensive. To make matters worse, Brazil’s lower house of congress voted for impeachment against president Dilma Rousseff, for what some have described as minor fiddling with the books rather than high crimes and misdemeanors. The senate takes up the matter and is expected to weigh in by mid-May.
Brazilian farmers were expected to organize a tractorcade protest last Sunday, which is a little surprising. Farmers may be the group least harmed by the Brazil’s current woes. It’s the one industry that continues to shine.
Sure, China seems to be slowing down its economy, but it’s not like they’re out of the market. And, while a rising U.S. dollar makes Brazilian farmers’ input costs more expensive, it also makes their soybeans more valuable at harvest. What’s more, they’re actually finding a home for a bit more of that second-crop corn that we’re used to seeing piled under tarps next to the grain storage facilities for lack of a place to put it (see my last blog.)
For what it’s worth, it’s nearly impossible to say what would happen in the short term, in terms of agriculture—or anything else—if Rousseff is impeached. Like in the United States, an impeachment is no more than a formal indictment, but unlike the U.S., President Rousseff would have to cede power to her vice president for 180 days while the Senate trial takes place. And the veep is from the PMDB party, famous for having no rigid principles other than forming coalitions—whether with the right or with the left—to take part in governing.
So while my old Ouija board is probably still somewhere in the back of the closet, I don’t really need it in order to guess the acting president would keep doing pretty much what the administration has been doing, agriculture-wise.
The friend of my enemy…
That said, it was reported up to 15 buses of bean and cotton farmers from Mato Grosso state showed up in Brasilia the day of the vote in order to help push the current administration out—not because President Dilma herself has been so bad for agriculture, but because a high official in her Workers’ Party recently announced that members of the landless movement should squat on and take over the farms of any congressperson voting in favor of impeachment.
Even if the vice president has no real agenda other than political power, he’s got to be better than a president whose close supporters push for the occupation and takeover of your farm.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.