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Across the Editor's Desk: Would you trade farms for Brazil?

Agriculture.com Staff 02/16/2006 @ 2:31pm

Farming is a vocation deeply rooted in the permanence of location. Farm families rarely move their operations to a new location a thousand miles away. The exception would be farms squeezed out of expanding urban areas.

"When you marry a farmer, you may get to choose who you marry, but you don't get to choose where you live," the wife of a farmer once quipped at a farm meeting.

While mostly confined to bloom where they're planted, farmers are curious about farming in other parts of the country and the world. The curiosity is as old as the Bible.

Numbers 13:19-20 tells us, "What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land."

Occasionally a farmer will yield to the adventure of starting over in a new place far away. As a farm boy in the 1950s, I vividly remember the photos and cover story, "Yanks in Australia," in a farm magazine. My young mind was filled with visions of joining these former U.S. farmers who moved to Australia!

I also remember reading of farmers who moved to the frontier of Alaska. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, some U.S. farmers chose to help grow capitalism as well as crops and livestock in the newly independent states.

In recent years, the expanding ag production clout of South America, particularly Brazil, has fascinated many U.S. farmers. While few Americans have moved there, some U.S. farmers have invested in Brazilian farming operations.

Consultant Michael Cordonnier has closely observed the development of South American agriculture for more than 30 years. In January, speaking at a meeting of Hurley & Associates in North Dakota, he gave an insightful overview with pictures of farming in South America.

He told of the rapid expansion and enormous potential to develop lands and expand production. He said that farmers are among the most respected citizens in Brazil.

He also observed that paved roads, schools, health care, and emergency services are poor quality if not missing altogether in rural areas. "Brazilians are in awe of the U.S.," Cordonnier says, "especially as they see the services that our taxes pay for."

Later, I asked the 180 farmers how many would rather be farming in Brazil than in the Dakotas or Minnesota. No hands went up.

Loren Kruse can be reached at loren.kruse (at) meredith.com.

Farming is a vocation deeply rooted in the permanence of location. Farm families rarely move their operations to a new location a thousand miles away. The exception would be farms squeezed out of expanding urban areas.

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