Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15 - Nature Conservancy

This morning I met with David Cleary, Director, Conservation Strategies, Latin America. David is from England but has been living in Brazil for over 15 years. Ironically enough, David is moving to Arlington, MA (his wife is from Milton, MA) in July. David has taken a very enterprise focused approach to his work in Brazil. He works with companies' supply chains in agribusiness to ensure preservation the bio activity and development in Brazil.

Agribusiness in Brazil is very dynamic especially in Southern Brazil where there has been much mechanization and large investments made by enterprises. NC focus and concern has been land use and has been using GeoReference Producer Databases to satellite track changes that may be occurring to land development.

NC feels confident with the food safety and quality and the work to reduce carbon levels as regulated by the government to the producers who face the pressures of their buyers. However, Brazil has many markets who want their exports. Therefore, if a large or small retailer places barriers on a farmer (red lining) in regards to their practices, they will simply find another market. For example, exporting has increased to Russia, India, Saudi and Venezuela, as well as China.

NC is to working with the traders to implement change in land use. NC has had much success working with Cargill in implementing a the land use monitoring system. Other traders have not been so agreeable to work with and have faces pressures from other organizations such as Greenpeace. Brazil's government has worked with the producers to implement changes and technology systems.

Farmers in Brazil, like elsewhere, are conservative and take change cautiously. They must now change quickly to compete with large farm enterprises or be bought by one to be competitive as Brazil becomes the global agricultural power. Their ability and cost to produce - sugar/ethanol, soy, corn, soja, cotton, etc. are better than anywhere in the world. Though US and European subsidize and trade barriers keep their products out of competition.

David's opinion and work are not focused on the small producer or family farm, though there are still many in Southern Brazil. There is no public concern with the small farmers who are producing or being replaced by urban sprawl or large enterprise or with the Buy Local movement (will discuss more later).

Some areas of concern for David are around:
  • unfounded accusations of Brazilian agriculture - the lands of main concern are the Cerrado (Mid-North Country) which has much to offer for agricultural development not as much with the Amazon
  • the ability of the Conservancy to respond to the needs of globalization
  • need to establish a global sharing of best practices and program
  • organizations to work with Agribusiness to provide long term plans for production and environment
  • funding from the Conservancy - currently over 50% of their funding is from the US though they operate globally. David would like to see more in country funding.

I look forward to hosting David and his family at our farm when they arrive in the US. They love Craisins!!!!

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