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Corn+Soybean Digest

If At First You Don't Succeed ...

Last May, Brazilian farmers, soybean researchers, seedsmen and others formed a soybean association to "represent the interests of the soybean sector." Or rather, they pulled an old association out of mothballs, dusted it off, and set about the business of organizing themselves.

Abrassoja, as the new entity is called, is a resuscitation of an older entity (also called Abrassoja) formed in 1990.

After a big launch event, the old Abrassoja never really got off the ground. Intended as a lobby organization to help reduce tax burdens and increase rural credit, the organization never saw a groundswell of membership to finance pro-soybean activities.

So what's different this time around? According to interim executive director Ebeon Vaz Ferreira, record-low Chicago prices this year are turning the once-difficult job of producing soybeans here into a mission impossible.

"We've got to do something," he says. "It's a serious problem."

The new Abrassoja, to be funded by donations from other agricultural associations, cooperatives and individual farmers, is already knocking on doors for financial support. The (state of) Parana Rural Society is one donor.

"There are a number of entities supporting the rural sector," says Ferreira. "But financial participants believe that an entity like Abrassoja, devoted to soybeans, would be more effective."

The new Abrassoja was launched at the Brazilian Soybean Congress in Londrina, in the state of Parana. And before long, some were making comparisons with the American Soybean Association and United Soybean Board.

Jose de Barros Franca Neto, who sits on the committee that's drawing up the organization's bylaws, cites the U.S. soybean industry's new-uses research, as well as domestic and international marketing activities, as a model for what Abrassoja could become.

"In Brazil," Franca says, "producers could have a similar capability, principally in regard to gathering resources for the soybean sector."

With no state or national checkoffs in place, and funding strictly voluntary, an Abrassoja with such capabilities could be a far-off dream.

For now, though, says Ferreira, the group will focus on lobbying to reduce taxes and the high cost of inputs while fighting for more ag credit. Step two, he says, would be to "serve as a link" between industry, government and universities in order to "drive" soybean research in the right direction.

Still, a Brazilian soybean association working to develop new uses and build domestic consumption could benefit U.S. growers by taking some Brazilian beans off international markets. Brazil exports far more of its soybeans, soymeal and oil than does the U.S.

Brazilian soybeans offer a couple of further advantages to European and Asian customers: They are lower in foreign material, and - so far - they're sold as free of genetic modifications.

If this new incarnation of Abrassoja fares better than its predecessor, Brazil may begin encouraging greater consumption of its own soybeans. But for the time being, organizers have plenty of other difficult targets to hit before setting up a checkoff-style organization.

Nonetheless, Abrassoja organizers are thinking big. As Ferreira says, "Our biggest challenge is to make soybean farming profitable."

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