I’m a farmer and agronomist in Campina da Lagoa, in the western Paraná state of Brazil. I hope to share with you soybean and farming-related concerns from a Brazilian farmer perspective, or at least my perspective, in this and future issues of the Corn & Soybean Digest.

We’ve farmed here since my great grandfathers arrived from Italy in the late 1800s. My father and I grow 1,500 acres of no-till soybeans and 150 acres of corn for silage; and recently added a 500-cow dairy enterprise to diversify our income. We also have business in housing construction and land development.

Western Paraná is the breadbasket of Brazil. Having abundant rain and no dry season allows three crops in 13 months with short-season varieties. Land averages U.S. $10,000/acre. In the past 20 years, a huge number of small farmers sold their land and moved to bigger cities; their farms were not large enough to support families. That’s why I diversified my operation.

Our home state of Paraná is No. 2 in soybean, No. 1 in corn, No. 1 in poultry, No. 1 in hogs, No. 3 in sugarcane and No. 3 in milk. Almost everything here is no-till.

Western Paraná has rain throughout the year; 72 in./year. January is the wettest month and August the driest one, but even then we may have 3 in. of rain. Frost can occur once or twice during winter.

Our custom is to plant soybeans in September or early October and harvest in January or early February. Then plant corn after that and harvest in July. Soybeans are our most important crop. A severe drought cut our crop by 50%.

I call the shots in my farm but I’m not sure I’m happy about that level of responsibility. I am lucky because I attended to college; 99% of Brazilian farmers did not. It’s common to see big farmers that only finished elementary school, although that’s changing with the younger generation.

 

Great Expectations

As I write this, farmers here dream about next summer’s crop; Chicago makes us dream (and have nightmares, too) once in a while.

 Most farmers here already contracted their beans for the next crop. The magic number is U.S. $11.50/bu. (locally, roughly equal to $14.50/bu. Chicago price), and that price was already reached in June.

As of July 20, they offer U.S. $13.88/bu. (local), for the soybeans we will plant in September; much more than we ever dream. This dream will become a nightmare if farmers assume prices will remain high and buy new machinery and pay high rents: That happened in 2004/2005 crop. As you can imagine, they are out of business now.

Hope is our fuel, and caution should be our last name.

 

Corn & Soybean Digest welcomes Marcelo Favarão, farmer and agronomist, who will share his Brazilian perspective periodically on soybean farming there.