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Farmer investment 'welcome' in Brazil

Updated: 02/17/2011 @ 11:26am

BRASILIA, Brazil (Agriculture.com)--There’s been a misunderstanding in Brazil, individual U.S. farmer investors are welcome, fund investors are not, according to Wagner Rossi, Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture.

This topic has swirled since recent Brazilian government legislation was passed that restricts foreign ownership of agricultural land.

“Foreign investment in Brazil is welcome. People are thinking that no foreign ownership can be involved in agriculture. But, that’s not how it really is,” Minister Rossi told the reporters, in an exclusive interview, along the Crop Expedition Wednesday.

As a result, the Brazilian government is developing new documents that spell out which kind of foreign investments are allowed and which are not. For the first time since taking office in May, Rossi spoke about the new documents.

Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Wagner Rossi (photos by Hugo Harada).

“For instance, those big fund investors are not welcome in Brazil. They are only here to speculate by buying land and then trying to sell it at a much higher price. That is not welcome,” Minister Rossi says. “However, individual farmers that come from the U.S. or wherever are welcome. They help our agriculture grow, they build export potential, so this is all very welcome and we hope those types of investors keep coming to Brazil.

As you drive along BR-020 highway, south out of the Bahia state town of Luis Eduardo, you see farm signs reading, ‘FAZ Indiana’, ‘Group Iowa,' as well as Pioneer and Dekalb seed signs that line the fields.

Michael and Mark Gretter, along with Perry Sieren, are Iowans that farm along BR-020 highway, say they have always felt welcome. “We see it as Americans are guests here. Brazilian farmers are good neighbors and the people are nice,” Sieren says. “Because the U.S. ag industry has improved, and Brazil farmland prices have increased, the buzz of buying here has quieted. You don’t see as many ‘for sale’ signs.

However, Scott Shanks, Fazenda United’s general manager, a mostly U.S. dominated investment group based in western Brazil, says prospective traffic is still just as high as when he came here in 1999.

“We are still seeing U.S. farm groups and farmers come down here to show interest in investing,” Shanks says. “More money is needed now. So, the difference is the farmers are joining together to form a group vs. a smaller individual farmer trying to make a go at it.”

Iowa farmers Michael Gretter, Mark Gretter and Perry Sieren check one of their soybean fields in Brazil. "Brazilian farmers are good neighbors and the people are nice,” Sieren says.

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