Brazilian co-op officials visit CHS Board member farm
Illinois farmer Tracy Jones, center, a member of CHS Board of Directors, answers questions about his grain and cattle operation and the U.S. cooperative system from a group of co-op officials from Brazil during a recent tour.
By Matthew Wilde
Leaders from 30 Brazilian cooperatives recently visited the northern Illinois farm of Tracy Jones, a member of the CHS Board of Directors, to learn about the U.S. cooperative system and American agriculture.
The cooperative officials, representing businesses with revenues exceeding $30 billion, toured Jones’ grain and livestock operation in late May 2023. In recent years, the group has visited farms, cooperatives and agribusinesses in Europe and China.
During the two-hour farm visit, the Brazilian co-op representatives – some are also farmers – peppered Jones with questions about his farming operation, what services CHS provides and how the cooperative benefits his farm. Jones farms 3,300 acres of corn, soybeans and winter wheat. His family operation near Kirkland also includes a 1,200-head beef feedlot.
Brazil is the world’s largest corn and soybean exporter and the U.S. is No. 2 for both crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CHS has grain and fertilizer operations in Brazil.
Jones says it’s important to exchange information and ideas with his Brazilian counterparts face-to-face. He has visited Brazil twice, most recently in March 2023 with other CHS Board members, touring farms, ports and cooperatives. Jones says hosting the tour is another learning opportunity and a way to repay the hospitality he received on his South American visit.
“It’s always amazing what we can learn from each other, comparing and contrasting agricultural and cooperative systems,” says Jones. “U.S. infrastructure is much better than the infrastructure in Brazil and the proximity to markets for U.S. farmers is a big competitive advantage. In Brazil, some people truck grain 1,000 miles to market on bad roads, while I can haul corn 25 miles on good paved roads to the CHS ethanol plant at Rochelle, Ill. At the same time, the potential growth of cropping acres in Brazil is staggering, and farmers there can grow two crops a year. That’s hard to compete with."
According to a 2022 USDA report, Brazil uses 63.5 million hectares (nearly 157 million acres) for crop production, and the country has more than 410 million hectares (more than 1 billion acres) of potential arable land.
Many of the Brazilians who visited Jones’ farm are leaders in agricultural cooperatives that buy and sell grain and crop inputs. Some of the co-ops are diversified operations that include grain and livestock processing and food production.
Touring U.S. farms and cooperatives gave the Brazilian visitors a glimpse into the future of ag, the tour organizers say. Fernando Degobbi, CEO of Coopercitrus in central Brazil, says the perception of U.S. agriculture in his country is often different than reality, so talking with American farmers and cooperative officials is a vital learning experience.
Coopercitrus sells fertilizer, chemicals, tools and equipment. The co-op also processes coffee, sugar and soybeans. Coopercitrus revenues hit $1.2 billion in 2022.
Degobbi says many people involved with agriculture in Brazil think American farmers buy most of their ag inputs online. Jones was asked about his buying habits. He responded by saying some farmers do shop online, but he prefers to buy from cooperatives that provide trusted agronomic advisers to help with purchasing decisions and crop plans to boost production and profit potential.
“I learned that U.S. farmers see value in crop input recommendations and services from co-ops,” Degobbi says. “It shows me that providing digital platforms to buy products is important, but we also need to invest in technical expertise.”
Since CHS is worldwide grain supplier and has operations in Brazil, Jones says the opportunity to share information with ag officials from other countries is invaluable.
“We create connections to empower agriculture,” he adds. “As a northern Illinois farmer, I can reach end users in China and other countries. CHS helps me do that.”
Watch a short video about the visit: