Sporting Events as Platforms for Ag

Brazilian farmers Hire Pelé to get the word out

As the London Olympics opened, Brazilians seemed distracted. According to one report, some 57% of the televisions in this country were switched on at the time of the Olympic opening ceremonies—but more Brazilian TVs were tuned to a nightly soap opera than to the games. Perhaps the Brazilians should be afforded a break: Viewership will certainly pick up when the sports at which the Brazilians excel - Soccer, judo, yachting, beach volleyball – come on.

And, at the same time, the Brazilians are looking ahead—four years ahead, when the Olympics will come to Rio de Janeiro. And because the Olympic games are a fantastic platform to tell your story, Brazilian producers are all over it. The country's National Agriculture Confederation—to which producers have to pay dues—has hired none other than Pelé, the soccer great, to represent Brazilian Ag to the world as sustainable (whatever that means) and safe. With the Rio Olympics four years away, Pelé can jog at a snail's pace.

But it's not just the Olympics that lie ahead. Two years before that, in 2014, the World Cup will be held in Brazil. Now, if you're not a soccer fan, you probably don't really understand how big an event that is. Try considering the Superbowl—if just about every country on Earth had a chance to field an all-star team to make it to the championship. Then you get the idea.

As a result, even groups with more humble budgets than the National Agriculture Confederation are trying to use upcoming world sporting events to get the message out that Brazil's agriculture is sustainable; that it doesn't come at the cost of knocking down trees in the Amazon; and that farm laborers here don't toil in conditions analogous to slavery. Given that these are all perceptions foreigners – and, most of all, Europeans – have of Brazilian ag, there's a great deal of communicating that needs to be done. And you thought U.S, farmers had it tough with the argument that corn producers are taking away starving Africans' meals so they can fill their trucks with ethanol.

So, this month, as he was struggling to keep on top of Olympic developments, Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo met with domestic biodiesel association members to talk about upping the mandatory biodiesel blend in World Cup host cities, in 2014. The current mandatory biodiesel blend in Brazil is five percent. Biodiesel association leaders want it to jump to 20% — at least in the cites that will host World Cup games.

"It's a great opportunity to take advantage of the World Cup's international exposure to show that this country has sustainable solutions, with the use of renewable energy," one association rep told a reporter. 

After all, BP is using the London Olympics as its platform to push biofuels, and more than a billion viewers worldwide will get the chance to find out about how a beneficent BP is looking into cellulosic ethanol and other renewable solutions, with the company's biobutanol being used to power the Olympic fleet.

And, hey, skeptics: Pelé says he's a farmer. He's got a hobby farm in Rio de Janeiro state. He cares about the image of Brazilian producers!

Brazilian producers are trusting he can transfer that concern to a worldwide audience.  

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