The trees are full of buds across Central Illinois right now, but producers can’t get in and plant without paddling a dinghy out into the fields. April, it has been said, is the cruelest month, and that’s never been more true than in the Midwest, where I’m spending my first spring in years. Despite the frustrations with so much rain, I am enjoying that spring here is a well-defined season, different from the others.
That’s not so true in Brazil, where most places never get frost, much less snow.
But there are other, less obvious, differences between Brazil and the States aside from the weather. One big difference is the way producers are seen by the public. A study was just released down there indicating that 81 percent of the 616 Brazilians interviewed say agriculture is important to the national economy. All interviews were with people living in major cities.
And, among those same urbanites, the profession of “farmer” was ranked as the fifth most important job of all, behind doctor, teacher, fireman and police officer.
Now, how do you think that survey would come out in the United States?
But despite the fact that Brazilians find agriculture important economically, they still neither understand it much, nor are very interested in the topic of agriculture. And that’s especially true in the biggest cities—São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
While those metropolises are, ironically, among the largest food consumers in the country, 57% of survey participants said they weren’t interested in any of the topics or issues that affect agriculture.
And therein may lie the challenge for Brazil’s producers. Sure, farmers are viewed as important economically. But that could change if an issue seen in the cities as pitting agricultural production against, say, environmental issues, were presented to urbanites.
While you may be jealous of the high regard Brazilians appear to have for farmers, keep in mind that producers there remain vulnerable. Brazilians like farmers in a “fuzzy” and friendly way. But they don’t know or care about the issues farmers face in making a living and putting food on the table. That may sound pretty familiar to American farmers.
It’s easy to get excited about the buds on the trees. But if you’ve been through a Midwest winter before, you know an ice storm could be just around the corner.