Dr. Todd D. Davis
The 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” has a moment where a ghostly baseball player asks Kevin Costner if this baseball park in the middle of a cornfield is heaven. Mr. Costner replies that it is not heaven – it is Iowa. Based on general appearances it could also be Argentina.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know Argentina’s agriculture, agribusiness, and policymakers over the last fifteen years. As a native Iowan, I have always been amazed at the similarities of the Argentine pampas with the rich, prairie soils of Iowa. Consider the photos of two soybean fields – one is from Argentina and the other from my family’s farm in Iowa. Can you identify which field is in either country?
At the farm-level, Iowa and Argentina are interchangeable. You see that both have flat, prairie soils. Both have adopted a no-till or minimum till glyphosate-resistant soybean production system. Both have very similar yield potential. Both farms have access to the same seed companies, chemical companies, and machinery companies.
Beyond the farm gate is where the similarities end. While in Argentina, we will visit with farmers, agribusiness, and policymakers to understand the factors that support US agriculture and those factors that limit or punish Argentinian agriculture. The study of supply chains will help us understand the importance of a low-cost and efficient transportation and logistics channel to keep exports competitive in global markets.
We will also talk with farmers to learn more about how they manage their farm business. How do they finance their production? How do they manage yield risk and price risk? Are their supporting institutions like the Land Grant University system to help farmers with applied research and Extension information? How effective are commodity organizations or farm organizations in lobbying the Argentine government on behalf of the farmers?
This year’s course will be the fifth time I have taken students to Argentina. The personal and intellectual growth in both the students and instructors continues to amaze me. I am excited to share once again this learning experience with future leaders in American agriculture.
Last year’s visit witnessed the excessive late summer rains in Argentina that contributed to massive flooding and abandonment of corn and soybean fields on the cusp of starting harvest. The weather events in Argentina and Brazil in 2016 provided a much-needed boost to the US corn and soybean futures market. Will we see something similar this year? The importance of the answer to that question is one reason we study Argentina’s agricultural system.
By the way, the photo on the left is from Argentina, and the photo on the right is from Iowa.