January 20, 2009

Bertini Talks Ag...and Politics

Enrique Bertini points out some
features of his planting equipment.
MONDAY, JANUARY 19—Up early for a three-hour flight to Rosario, a port city in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina. First stop was at Bertini Equipment Manufacturing, a leading maker of no-till planting and seeding equipment. Enrique Bertini, Sr. came to Argentina from Italy when he was 12 years old and built his business at a time when there were dozens and dozens of small equipment manufacturers.

Then in the late 1980s came no-till practices in an effort to address soil quality issues being created by double cropping (issues such as lack of organic matter and severe soil compaction)—and many of the factories were shut down. Bertini, however, had anticipated this change and was positioned to capitalize on this new farming method. Nearly all crop farms in Argentina now use no-till. When no-till was introduced, organic matter in the upper profile of the soil was around 2%. Now it’s closer to 6-7%.
David Merrell (NE) inspects a planter
at the Bertini plant in Rosario, Argentina

Most of his equipment is sold in Argentina, but he also sells to Russia, France, Bolivia, Colombia, and other nations. We toured the factory, which makes many of its own parts. The tire-kicking farmers in the group gave the Bertini equipment high scores for quality and innovation.

As mentioned earlier, Argentina is in the middle of its worst drought in 40 years. Corn harvest typically starts in March, but Bertini says there will be little corn harvested. Bertini says he won’t sell many planters this year. He has about 60 dealers, but only 10 to 15 sell a significant amount of equipment.

Jim Robbins (IL), Bert Vandenberg (IA), Roger Knoblock (IA)
and Gary Schmalshof (IL) lis
ten as Enrique Bertini
talks about his no-till equip
Enrique Bertini spoke passionately about his business, but he became truly animated when he began talking about the federal government. “We have a communist government that wants to give free food to people who don’t want to work,” Bertini said. “Our president is disconnected from the world. The people evidently want a terrorist government.”

Bertini railed against what he considers a punitive tax on agricultural products. For instance, soybeans for export are taxed at 35% of the grain’s value! The rate is 21% for corn and wheat; and 25% for sunflowers. In March, the government proposed an increase to 42% for soybeans as well as other increases—and farmers took to the streets. “The proposed tax increase was an affront to farmers,” he said.
Paul Taylor (IL) listens as Enrique Bertini
shares his thoughts on the Argentine ag market.

The next presidential election is in 2011, and Enrique Bertini hopes his company can survive that long, what with the drought and government policy. The former mayor of Rosario, Dr. Hermes Binner, is now governor of the state of Santa Fe. Bertini calls him an honest man and he feels that Binner may well run for president. Binner has been vocal about his disagreements with federal farm policy and, as a result, the federal government has withheld some dollars from the state.
Yes. More meat. The cook samples his own fare
as he prepares lunch for us at the Bertini plant.

1 comment:

  1. I am beginning to think a cave man would love the four food groups in South America: Bone-in Beef; Boneless beef; Beef on a stick; and all of the above grilled vs. smoked. Very entertaining and informative reporting on this trade mission.