January 22, 2009

Smack in the Middle of the Drought

Gustavo Miroglio leads the team
through a drought-ravaged cornfield.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21—A short flight—and a landing on another grass runway (this one felt as if it were a washboard) as we visit San Andreas de Giles and the integrated farming operation of Gustavo Miroglio. His grandfather started farming in 1915, and now Gustavo’s two sons are helping with the operation

Gustavo began in agriculture in 1969, raising poultry with his father and two brothers. In 1990, he began grain farming—soybeans, corn and wheat. He raises 2.5 million broilers each year and the chickens eat 100% of his corn crop. But after seeing the effect of this 100-year drought, his chickens may be going hungry this year if they have to rely on his corn. There has been no rain—not a drop—in this area since November 28. They had a hard frost on November 15.

Gustavo is a realist, however. “My job is to do the right things at the right time. I cannot worry about the weather because I cannot control it.” But Gustavo, who manages the multi-enterprise operation, definitely controls what he can control. Ask him any number—and he has it in his head. He knows his breakevens (10 tons per hectare on corn, for example…and this year his corn will yield 6 to 7. Not good.) He knows his soil pH, his organic matter, his nutrient levels, etc. etc. In other words, he’s pretty much like any of the successful farmers on our bus! On a side note, the soil numbers are very similar to those in many areas of the Corn Belt.
There has been no rain in this area since the
end of November, reducing Gustavo's
yields by 40% or more.

Gustavo has a poultry operation, a feed mill and his cropping operations. He also plants his own test plots using hybrids from companies we’ve all heard of as well as a few local varieties. He prefers to do his own test plots so he can see how they perform under his specific management practices. While he shares his results with the seed suppliers, he also “controls what he can control” in the test plot environment.
He recently created a new office downtown in this well-kept community of 23,000. The office is in a building that used to be his grandmother’s home. In fact, in the backyard is a rose bush with a real family history—it is the rose bush his grandfather brought to his grandmother’s home when he proposed to her decades ago.
Paul Taylor (IL) gets a closer
look at Gustavo's cornfield.

From Gustavo we heard the same frustration with “Cristina” and the taxes and policies of the national government. Farmers pay high taxes on inputs and on the commodities they grow. But in spite of the drought, land appears to be holding its value at this time—about $3500 per acre.

Gustavo was gracious with his time and honest with his answers. Members of our team pretty much felt as if Gustavo Miroglio was a smart farmer and that the challenges and opportunities facing growers are very similar in Argentina and the United States.

Gustavo listens intently as one of the
corn growers on our team asks a question.

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