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Articles from 2001 In May

-----Travel Diary, Day 6

Venado Tuerto and Rosario, Argentina

Wednesday – January 31

Our tour guide in Argentina was Jorge Caxenave, son of the under secretary of agriculture. He frequently used a cell phone on the bus anyplace we were in the Pampas. A person can drive all day and the topography is the same everywhere - miles and miles of mostly flat prairie. Most of the equipment was Class, New Holland, John Deere and Argentina companies. We saw lots of Dekalb and Roundup Ready signs.

Non-farm Commercial Stop #1

This stop was at the headquarters of a major farmer cooperative at the edge of Venado Tuerto. This is one of the major cooperatives in Argentina. They have 60 grain elevators and 20,000 farmer members. The average member farms 60 to 70 hectares (148 to 173 acres). They said their total storage is 1.5 million tons (55 million bushels of soybeans). Last year they stored 2 million hectares (nearly 5 million acres) of grain production in all their elevators. They also process soybeans, make livestock feed, and operate in the export market, and 30% of the members are farming 10% of the land. Bigger corporations and groups farm ninety percent of the land.

They have 26 centers and each center has a board of nine directors. Each board reports to the central board of twelve directors. The directors elect a president for the co-op. There is one delegate per 100 members. I am sending you material on this cooperative. Each dot represents a location of an elevator.

Took pictures of Roundup and other chemicals in their warehouse. They said they have only been fertilizing soybeans for about three years. In this area they said they were using 40 to 50 kilograms per hectare (35 to 44 pounds per acre) of nitrogen and 70 to 80 kilograms per hectare (62 to 71pounds per acre) of phosphorus. Sulfur is needed as well as other micronutrients such as manganese. No potash is applied.

Typical corn fertilization is 150 kilograms per hectare of nitrogen (134 pounds) and 80 to 100 kilograms of phosphorus per hectare (71 to 89 pounds). pH is a little low on most area farms. Cash price at this co-op is $2.96 per liter for Roundup ($11.20 per gallon). Roundup not paid for until March (harvest time) is $3.06 per liter ($11.58 per gallon). This cooperative is a big supplier of credit for these small farmers. This allows the member farmers to avoid borrowing through banks.

Seed corn cost is $64 to $68 per 20 kilograms (44 pounds) bag containing 80,000 seeds.

Not much lime is used yet in this area. We saw various trucks on the road. We were told they were hauling wheat or soybeans from last year’s harvest.

We left the cooperative for our continued trip to Rosario. Perhaps 10 miles from Rosario we drove onto what would be a 4-lane Interstate by-pass. I saw one train moving across the countryside with numerous grain cars.

Rosario in on the Parana River and is about 120 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. The river can handle ocean-going ships with a draft up to about 32 feet. I took a couple of pictures of one large terminal with ships in the background. As we left Rosario the next morning for Buenos Aires, I counted at least 3 or 4 soybean processing facilities along the river. We did not stop at any of the facilities because we had two scheduled for visit in Brazil.

We checked into our hotel in downtown Rosario, which is a big city with over a million population. As you drive into the city, you see all standards of housing from some of the worst slums to very nice homes. The shopping street located 2 blocks from our hotel was very modern. If it weren’t for the Spanish signs, you would have thought you were on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Apparently the office workers were going home about the time my wife and I walked through the area. I saw dozens and dozens of beautiful women of Italian lineage, apparently going home from work. And this was one of the few times I did not have my camera with me!

For other diary entries, click on the entry day(s) below.

Day 1-2

Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9

This online exclusive is being re-published with permission from Soybean Digest . Some minor revisions have been made by BEEF magazine editors.

For 2002 Travel Plans to South America see:

Fish First?

Hundreds of Western ranchers and farmers have their backs against the wall after a ruling by a federal judge diverts their irrigation water to protect "endangered" fish species.

An epic water war has precipitated in an arid region straddling the Oregon-California border. For the Klamath River Basin the question is a contemporary one: water for agriculture or fish?

The fight for the Klamath water has been simmering for years between the agriculture community and those who want the fish protected.

This spring the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) implemented an interim water management plan that allocated nearly all water in the Klamath Irrigation Project to supporting two species of endangered sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake, the project's primary reservoir.

The decision also will maintain streamflows for threatened coho and chinook salmon in the lower stretches of the Klamath River.

Local salmon fishermen, Indian tribes, the Wilderness Society, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and other groups have worked to see the irrigation water shut off to more than 1,500 basin ranching and farming families.

After providing for the needs of the fish, the BOR had no water left for 90% of the 250,000 acres of land irrigated by the Klamath Project.

The fight came to a head in late April. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken denied a last minute plea to restore irrigation water in the Klamath Basin, citing treaty obligations with two tribes and the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) protection of endangered fish.

She advised ranchers to give up their several lawsuits and seek a long-term solution through negotiations.

Judge Aiken wrote that while it is clear that the farmers face severe economic hardship, the threat to the survival of the fish is greater. And under treaty obligations to the Klamath and Yurok tribes, which have cultural and economic ties to the fish, and the Endangered Species Act, the bureau had no choice, she said.

Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe sympathizes with the ranchers and farmers. "But their use of the limited water available in the Klamath Basin needs to be reduced," he says.

"It’s no secret that this calamity is due to a shortage of water and an abundance of government regulation," says Lynn Cornwell, Glasgow, MT, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. "The culprit in this case – as it has been in many others – is the Endangered Species Act – simply put, the most sweeping and destructive set of government regulations affecting wise land use management in this country."

The NCBA has sent a letter to the President asking his help in the Klamath. But local producers show little enthusiasm in government assistance. Without income from production, there’s not much interest in things like low-interest federal loans.

"Let me make something very clear – it’s not in our nature to ask the government for help in running our cattle operations," explains rancher Mike Byrne, Tulelake, CA.

"We’d just as soon be free to manage as environmental and economic conditions permit," says Byrne. "But, the government got us into this mess – and now they can help us get through it."

According to the court ruling, the BOR violated the Endangered Species Act by continuing to supply farming irrigation without first studying the needs of the fish, and they cannot deliver water to the irrigation system until they come up with a plan to protect the fish.

"Farmers can get by in a hard year with drought assistance from the federal government," explains Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "However, fish have only one river, and if they go extinct they are gone forever, and so are the communities which depend upon them for food and for their livelihoods. There are a lot more jobs at risk here than just farm jobs."

Excerpts from Judge Aiken’s Ruling

"While the court sympathizes with the plaintiffs and their plight, I am bound by oath to uphold the law. The law requires the protection of suckers and salmon as endangered and threatened species and as tribal resources."

"Under the ESA, BOR must not engage in any action that is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a threatened or endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of the critical habitat of such a species."

"Finally, BOR must also consider the rights of Indian tribes who hold fishing and water treaty rights in the Klamath River Basin."

"The court recognizes the harm that could be suffered by the plaintiffs and surrounding communities. However, the court must balance that harm against the harm to the suckers and salmon, those who rely on the fish, as well as the public interest."

"The NMFS and FWS have determined that continued Project operations will cause jeopardy to the continuing existence of the suckers and coho salmon."

"Given the high priority the law places on species threatened with extinction, I cannot find that the balance of hardships tip sharply in plaintiffs’ favor."

"Plaintiffs’ contract rights to irrigation water are subservient to ESA and tribal trust requirements."

Judge Aiken’s complete ruling can be found at: Scroll down to: Order Denying Plaintiff Irrigation Districts' Request for Injunction (#112 - 30 April 30, 2001).

Q & A Fact Sheet About BSE

Update On Public Lands In The Courts

Forest Roadless Area Proposal Blocked

A federal judge in Idaho recently blocked a U.S. Forest Service roadless area proposal less than a week after the Bush administration reluctantly agreed to go along with the rule drafted during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge concluded that the road building ban, if allowed to take effect, would cause "irreparable harm" to the timber industry and to state and local officials who are concerned about the need to properly manage forest grazing and logging activities and cull the forests to avert devastating forest fires.

Upon taking office, the Bush administration put the rule on hold as part of a larger review of Clinton administration regulations and executive orders.

Federal lands grazing interests have long opposed the road building ban because it could inhibit grazing development and restrict present grazing activities in millions of acres of the nation’s forested areas, says Jason Campbell, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Public Lands Council.

Ag Secretary To Review Forest Rules

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman recently announced plans to review and possibly alter the new forest planning and monitoring regulations. The planning rules effectively place ecosystem health above all other concerns, including multiple use. The current rules, issued in November by Clinton, limit use, access and other activities in national forests if forest managers believe those activities might permanently harm the agency's goals of ecological sustainability.

The Forest Service report concluded that the rules issued by Clinton were impossible to successfully implement. The review concluded that certain portions of the rule needed to be revised, including sustainability, viability, contribution of science, monitoring and the transition between ongoing forest planning and the new rules.

Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Ranchers

A federal judge affirmed recently that grazing is the "status quo" on a Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment in western Wyoming. In holding off the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s (WOC) bid to remove grazing from the allotment, the ruling also preserved the due process rights guaranteed ranchers by the Taylor Grazing Act.

WOC filed a lawsuit late in May alleging the BLM was in violation of rangeland health regulations. It also filed motions to prohibit several ranching families from turning sheep and cattle herds onto the Smiths Fork allotment this year.

The wildlife group failed to convince judge Frank Brimmer that the BLM was in violation of grazing standards and that "irreparable harm" would occur if the livestock continued to graze the allotment.

According to testimony, ranchers would have been compelled to sell whole herds of cattle and sheep had the injunction been issued. Because WOC was attempting to alter the status quo – the status quo being grazing – it was required to prove that the elements of its argument weighed "overwhelmingly and compellingly" in WOC’s favor. In his decision, Judge Brimmer held that none of WOC’s arguments outweighed the arguments and interests of the permittees.

-----Travel Diary, Day 5

Pergamino and Venado Tuerto, Argentina

Tuesday. Jan. 30

As we left Pergamino, I saw many large fields that were planted in double crop soybeans. The prairie Pampas is too flat to use tile drainage because there are inadequate ditches to dump into. Some small fields were flooded out. We entered the providence of Santa Fe at 9:15 a.m. The view was - more of the same Pampas prairie. Once again, we saw lots of double crop soybeans. We saw several fields of seed corn, and it was usually planted under center pivot irrigation systems. We drove past a Morgan seed facility (I believe this is Mycogen now). We hardly ever saw farm buildings. Houses and buildings are few and far between, and those that are there are hidden in small groves of trees.

Farm Visit #2

This farm is 1,400 hectares (3,459 acres). Two family members own the property and have a manager to operate it. Rotation is soybeans-corn-wheat-double crop soybeans. The farm has 250 Holstein milking dairy cows and 20% of the land is devoted for dairy production. They have no-tilled everything for about 6 to 7 years. Because of the warm climate, seed emergence is not a problem with no-till. Again, this farm is farmed with custom equipment. They said 50% of the area is custom planted and 80% is custom combined. Although they had some alfalfa, they said it is not common since they went to soybeans-corn and the use of fertilizer quite a few years ago (similar to the Corn Belt history).

I finally learned what they call what looks like Canada thistle. They are called Cardos Thistles. We continued to see them along the roadsides. They said they need 7 tons/hectare (111 bushels/acre) of corn to breakeven. Land prices in this area are $3,500 to $4,000/hectare ($1,416 to $1,618/acre). He said prices got as high as $7,000/hectare ($2,832/acre) when soybean prices were high. He belongs to a group of 1,200 farmers called CREA. They have 13 groups, and they visit someone’s farm once a month to analyze his business.

All grain on this farm is trucked to Rosario. He said it costs him the same to take a ton of soybeans to Rosario as it costs a ship to haul a ton of soybeans from Rosario to China. It costs him $3/metric ton (8¢/bushel) to truck to Venado Tuerto (his nearest town). Then it costs $11/ton (30¢/bushel) to haul 100 miles to Rosario.

He is paying about $2.50 to $2.80/liter for Roundup ($9.46 to $10.60/gallon). He uses his own Roundup seed with no tech fees. Most farmers that we talked to said this is a common price and practice in Argentina. He said his input costs are $90 to $100/hectare ($36.42 to $40.46/acre). Yield average is around 3 tons (44.6 bushels/acre). Moisture at harvest is typically 17% to 18% for both corn and soybeans.

He says his breakeven yield is 1.7 tons (25.3 bushels/acre). The farm is 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from Venado Tuerto. The road was sand all the way, and this was typical as soon as you left the highway throughout the Pampas.

He applies 50 to 60 kilograms (110 to 132 lbs.) of nitrogen fertilizer/acre and 70 to 100 kilograms (154 to 220 lbs.) of phosphorus/acre. The Pampas soils are high in potash and very little potash is used. He uses some sulfur and tries to return the nutrients taken by the crop. Soil tests are taken the same as U.S. and his pH is around 6.0 to 6.2. The manager’s name is David Mathew. He took us to the farmhouse where we met the owner. She was 89 years old and came to Argentina from Britain in 1934 as young girl when her father settled the farm. She has to go to the nearby village to get her mail and the daily paper. She said the economy was very unstable until about 1988 or 1989 when the government changed from military rule. She said it is much more stable now that the peso is tied to the U.S. dollar.

The manager, Dave Mathews, has been with this farm for seven years. He has an ag engineering degree and farms additional land himself and for his family.

They are planting no-till. Corn (maze) and wheat were their main crops 25 years ago and 40% to 50% of the farm was in pastures. This farm had a sandy loam soil texture. He said the soils in the area get sandier the farther south you go. As we left the farm, the wind became quite steady, and it was very humid with the temperature in the low 90s.

As we drove the roads, we saw lots of kids. School was out for summer vacation from December to March. They get a two-week winter vacation in July.

Farm Visit #3

Afternoon of January 30. We ate lunch at this farm. It was a relatively small farm with many enterprises such as corn, soybeans, small sow herd, small sheep flock, and some chickens. This farmer was well in his 60s. His grandfather developed all of the area farmland in 1912. They all came from Italy. His grandfather brought wood on the ship because there was no wood in the prairie Pampas at that time. He couldn’t get off the ship and was sent back to Italy because of yellow fever in the country. He later came back and settled on this farm.

He is trying to earn additional income by having tourist groups come to his farm for a tour and lunch. His son helps him farm, but he has a job in town teaching in order to survive. With the Argentina laws the farm was divided down through the generations and now his first cousin farms about 400 acres across the road. Most of the farms in this area are only 100 to 200 acres and the bigger farms are buying up the smaller farms. He said the Mormon Church owns 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) across the road. The farmer said the Mormons operate it with custom equipment. The farms in this area receive about 1,013 millimeters (40 inches) of rain/year.

I went into some detail about this stop, not that this individual was a top-notch soybean farmer, because he was not. In fact he was a marginal farmer hanging on by trying to come up with alternative ways to add income to the farm. We were told there are quite a few farmers in the Pampas in similar difficulty. The small U.S. "family farmer" is not the only one with financial stress and concerns about surviving on the farm.

We returned to Venado Tuerto and checked into our hotel. Venado Tuerto’s population is about 59,000. A side comment. Most of the retail stores in Argentina including those in Pampas prairie towns open about 10 a.m. Then they all close from about 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and re-open at 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Most people don’t eat until 8:30 p.m. or later. Most restaurants don’t open for the evening meal until 8:30 p.m.

For other diary entries, click on the entry day(s) below.

Day 1-2

Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9

This online exclusive is being re-published with permission from Soybean Digest . Some minor revisions have been made by BEEF magazine editors.

For 2002 Travel Plans to South America see:

-----Travel Diary, Day 4

Buenos Aires, Pergamino, Argentina

Monday – Jan. 29

We arrived at the Liniers Livestock Market in Buenos Aires at 7:30 a.m. Today, they received by truck, 8,736 heads, and 1 fallen and 6 dead (insurance covers the dead). All the cattle are sold by 9 a.m. To view the yards, we walked above the yards on catwalks. At various locations, 20 or so buyers would also be walking along above the cattle with an auctioneer. He would be auctioning each pen and each buyer would be making his bid. As soon as the auctioneer had reached the high bid, he would slap his stick on the rail and they would move to the next pen. A runner took the data to a local phone where it was reported to the central office - the information was then entered into their main computers.

All cattle are trucked in the night before. An average of 200,000 head are received per month or about 50,000 per week. Almost all were either Hereford or Angus. All cattle are sold for slaughter, and 90% is consumed domestically and 10% exported to Europe. The sold cattle are transported 30 to 60 kilometers (18 to 37 miles) to slaughter plants. According to the stockyards individual who guided us, this market sets the price for neighboring countries. Argentina or any of the surrounding countries do not have any foot-and-mouth disease or mad cow disease.

There are about 50 commission companies at the yards. Some companies represent the sellers and some represent the packers. The seller pays a 3% commission to market his cattle. The auction company represents the farmer. If the buyer doesn’t pay, the auction company has to.

When the cattle leave the farm they must travel with two certificates. One is for health, and the other is for taxes and brand certification. The stockyards typically sell 10,000 head per day. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday are the big days. The cattle arrive between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and are unloaded at the dock. A computer keeps track of the cattle throughout the duration from arrival to departure.

Once the cattle are auctioned, gauchos (cowboys) move the cattle to the scales for final payment weight. We viewed the computer data that is provided to both the buyer and seller. Extensive information is available. Although this market seems very large, only 20% of the daily cattle sales of Argentina go through Liniers Livestock Market. The other 80% are sold through local auctions or directly from the farmer to the packer. Only a small amount is slaughtered by the farmer. The Buenos Aires stockyards reminded me of the old Chicago Stockyards of 60 years ago on the near south side of down town Chicago on Halsted Street. I was at the Chicago stockyard on many occasions. The difference is that everything is computerized now.

Argentina has about 50 million head. Domestic consumption fixes the price. Per capital beef consumption is about 67 kilos (147.7 lbs.).

We left the stockyards about 9:30 a.m. and entered the main highway for our trip to the Pampas area – the real reason for our trip to Argentina. As we settled into the seats on the bus, we soon saw a large supermarket that buys and slaughters about 10% of the Argentina beef. Across the road was a large Wal-Mart store and just a little farther was a large roadside billboard advertising Coke.

We were on a five- or six-lane highway similar to our Interstate highways, and the turnoffs and entrances are built similar to those in the U.S. Buenos Aires has suburbs similar to those in the U.S. I saw lots of U.S. company signs and General Motors and Ford car dealers. About the only way I knew I wasn’t in some area of the U.S. was the fact that all the signs were in Spanish.

As we got farther into the Pampas, we saw vast open areas of gently rolling but mostly flat topography. You could see for miles and miles. There are a few trees and small woods and brush here and there. On several occasions, I felt like I was traveling through the boot heel of Missouri or the northeast Arkansas Delta country. Other areas seemed like the open cattle country of central and northern Florida.

Once we left the metropolitan area, we drove west from Buenos Aires on an excellent two-lane blacktop highway. We met many livestock trucks loaded with cattle. Later we stopped at a gas station to use the restrooms and get a Coke or bottle of water. If I hadn’t known different, I would have thought I was at a new convenience gas station in the U.S.

We saw thistle patches (looked like Canada Thistles) along some areas of the roadsides. But I never saw any in the crops or pastures. We saw lots of DeKalb seed signs in front of corn and soybean fields, and we went past a good size DeKalb plant. We saw several sunflower fields, chicken barns like in the U.S. and lots of quarter horses. Practically all fields are fenced with four or five strands of wire (not barb) to keep the cattle in.

Farm Visit #1

Our first farm stop was at a farm near Pergamino, Argentina. An absentee owner who is a lawyer and lives in Buenos Aires owns the farm. The farm is set up as a corporation – as are many of the Argentina farms. An on site manager with a business degree lives on the farm and oversees the daily and weekly activities. He provides operating budgets and income and expense reports to the owner. The farm is about 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres). Like many of the Argentina farms, this farm is all custom farmed. All the planting, spraying, fertilizer application, harvesting and trucking of crops is done with custom hired equipment and labor.

All soybeans are rotated in a corn-soybean-wheat-double crop soybean rotation. We saw different fields with lots of double crop soybeans at various heights from waist high to 5 or 6 inches tall. This indicates that they had planted into wheat stubble over a several weeks period. They carry crop hail insurance. This farm had on farm storage for most of their crop production. Many of the farms in the area do not have on farm storage, and they must go directly to the port at harvest (Rosario). The manager said the railroads are not good in this area and trucking is the preferable way to transport the soybeans.

Row width of corn was 70 cm (27.6 inches). The manager indicated that he thought 50% of the planting and spraying and that 80% of the harvesting is custom. He said the farms are getting larger.

The manager had a cell phone with him, and he says all the custom machine operators have them. He said it is easy to find the custom people when he needs them. He has two-way radios within the farm. He uses the Internet frequently for agriculture information, weather and the markets.

We left the farm and proceeded to Pergamino and checked into the Hotel Fenicia. This was the poorest hotel we stayed at. The rooms were extremely small along with an old window air conditioner. You got from the lobby to the room by walking or riding a really old elevator that only held one person and his baggage. The town’s population is 79,000. The main street shopping area was similar to any Midwestern city of that size.

For other diary entries, click on the entry day(s) below.

Day 1-2

Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9

This online exclusive is being re-published with permission from Soybean Digest . Some minor revisions have been made by BEEF magazine editors.

For 2002 Travel Plans to South America see:

US Probably to Limit EU Meat Import Ban

New Livestock Reports Prompt Gripes, Changes Due

-----Travel Diary, Day 3

Day 3, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday – Jan. 28

City tour of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is the 10th largest metropolitan area in the world with 12.5 million people. It is the capital of Argentina and it is on the Atlantic Ocean. It is a very modern city with heavy traffic of cars and buses. There are many large banks in the city and the retail stores look very much like the U.S. We stopped at the McDonalds and Burger King to get ice cream and soft drinks. Argentina currency is peso’s and one peso is worth one U.S. dollar. Thus, prices for food, clothing, computer gadgets, etc. are very similar to U.S. prices. According to information given to us, the government tied their currency to the U.S. dollar in order to gain stability.

Computer access was available in several of the hotels that we stayed in. So those of us that use e-mail and the Internet were able to communicate with families at home in the U.S. I was able to keep up with the obits, Purdue Basketball, and the commodity and stock markets on a daily basis. In both Argentina and Brazil, we saw hundreds of people with cell phones. Our bus drivers, our local tour directors, the government officials and the farmers we met, all had cell phones. The under secretary’s wife had a call come in while we were eating. She was embarrassed that she had forgotten to turn her phone off before we sat down. One of the things that really hit me was the fact that I could sit in an Argentina or Brazilian hotel and read the CBOT prices, the hometown weather and the same agriculture web sites that I read in Lafayette, IN. For anyone who thinks isolationism is the way to go, all I can say is the World Wide Web will never ever allow it.

We saw all standards of living as we drove through the city. What we saw in Buenos Aires is what you would see in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.

This online exclusive is being re-published with permission from Soybean Digest . Some minor revisions have been made by BEEF magazine editors.

For 2002 Travel Plans to South America see: