South American soybean powerhouses are coming on strong.

Farmers are talking about Brazil at almost every ag event I attend. This winter, in fact, swarms of U.S. farmers headed south to check out South America's production capacity and infrastructure. Both are improving at amazing rates. (See page 12 and SoybeanDigest.com for a firsthand account.) This year, Brazil should produce a record 1.3-billion bushel soybean crop.

The gap that has traditionally separated U.S. production and marketing from that of Brazil and Argentina has narrowed tremendously.

Brazilian farmers now have almost the same technology we have. They have big equipment, big trucks and access to the same seed and chemical technology that we have. In some cases, they often have a price advantage.

So is it possible that the LDP program has turned into the only thing that U.S. growers have as an advantage over Brazil? Its land and labor costs probably won't change much in the next few years. But with the new U.S. farm bill in progress, is there any guarantee that the LDP program won't change?

In the U.S., economists report that about half of U.S. farm income comes from government payments. That's not the case in Brazil, however. They're already operating without government help and have a more market-driven structure.

For some progressive U.S. farmers, that region holds an attraction, like the Old West once did for early pioneers. Several I've talked to no longer look at Brazil as their competitor, but are trying to figure out how to capitalize on this new frontier.

So as the new farm bill progresses, just how much government help do you think U.S. farmers should get? Now's the time to let your congressmen know.

New Managing Editor

Brad Frisvold, a native Minnesota farm boy, joins the ranks at Soybean Digest this month as managing editor. Brad's been on both the newspaper and public relations sides of ag journalism and we're confident his background in the seed and chemical businesses will be a big plus for the job.

Neil Tietz, managing editor for eight years as well as editor of Hay & Forage Grower magazine, moves full-time to that growing publication. We wish Neil well and thank him for all his help and guidance.