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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) Jerry Gaffner, an Illinois soybean farmer, pays close attention to conditions in South America when he is trying to determine the timing for marketing his soybean crop. And here’s why: America’s agricultural dominance has eroded. Brazil now controls 43 percent of the soybean export market - up from just 12 percent 30 years ago - so it can sway global prices in the blink of an eye. It is now the world’s biggest soybean exporter and projected to be the world’s second-largest corn exporter this season. Russia now beats the U.S. in wheat. “We’re going to have to learn the table manners of sitting at a bigger table,” says Gaffner, adding, “that’s hard for our psyche.” It’s a reversal for the U.S., which has long regarded itself as the world’s breadbasket. And it’s affecting American farmers, as a diminishing share of global trade and ample harvests have fueled a multi-year downturn in crop prices; some farmers are going out of business. Rural communities are likely to bear the brunt of this downturn, this article notes, and anxiety over the U.S. role in agricultural trade has grown in recent months. If there is a silver lining, it’s for the American companies, such as Monsanto Co., Deere & Co. and Mosaic Co., which sell genetically engineered seeds, satellite-guided tractors and fertilizers to farms outside the U.S. Brazilian farmers like Bruno Gilioli, who grows soybeans, are using high-tech machinery and advanced seeds. His farm has grown 10-fold since the 1990s. Back in Illinois, Gaffner is using 10-year old farm machinery and doing whatever he can to keep costs down on his 1,000 acres. Income in the U.S. farm sector is expected to decline for a fourth year this year, to half of what farmers earned in 2013. Growers are adding more soybean acres, hoping that robust demand from China will make soybeans more profitable than corn. Jim Sutter, the chief executive of the U.S. Soybean Export Council, says the future for American soybean farmers may be in dedicating more fields to specialized soybeans, such as those tailored to yield healthier oils for processed foods. “Twenty years from now we may not be focused on squeezing more bushels out of each acre but on growing a more nutrient-dense crop,” he said.

Posted April 20th, 2017
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