I had dinner with a Mato Grosso farmer visiting Illinois and Indiana last week, and he said some of his neighbors had planted soybeans already.
That was a few days ahead of the ban on farmers having live soybean plants on their farms—the no-soy period, which is a ninety-day period in which the government aims to deny dry-season hosts to the Asian Soybean Rust fungus.
"Ah, but the soybeans won't come up until after September 15," the farmer told me, explaining how to beat the ban.
Many Brazilians—especially in Mato Grosso and Paraná states—are eager to get short-cycle beans in just as early as they can so that they can still get a good corn crop in after those beans get harvested, and before the next dry season descends on Brazil.
High prices, the flash drought across the rest of the Midwest, and earlier Brazilian rains this year have some South American farmers scrambling to get into fields as soon as possible. One would think all Brazilian producers are already out planting. But it's not true. I called Olavo Borges who produces soybeans and sugarcane in Minas Gerais.
He said what goes on in the top two soybean states isn't necessarily indicative of the rest of Brazilian soybean country. "Around here," he says, "it doesn't do you any good to try to plant before October 20. The only guys planting right now (upon the ending of the no-soy period) are those guys with irrigation."
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And it's not as though he'll plant more soybean acres this year in response to a shorter 2013 U.S. crop. "I don't have land for that," he says. It's only in places like Mato Grosso, where there is a lot of degraded pasture available, that more land can go into beans. Mato Grosso, in fact, is slated to increase its soybean area by 5% this season. Number-two soybean state Paraná is slated to increase its soy planted area by 4%, while cutting the main-crop corn area by 18%.
Over in Minas Gerais, though, Borges is locked in to a contract with the local distillery to plant the same amount of sugarcane as last year.
So while there is talk of Brazil once again out-producing the U.S. in soybeans as a result of North American weather difficulties, no all Brazilian farmers will be able to take part in soybean expansion—no matter how early some of those guys in Mato Grosso can get their planters rolling.