Recently, three Wisconsin students traveled to Brazil as part of the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership Program. The program is sponsored by The Grains Foundation as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. Students involved in one of the 16 Consortium of Collegiate Agricultural Organizations are eligible to apply to travel as part of the I-CAL experience.
The I-CAL program travels to a different destination in the world each year. The program focuses on giving college agriculture students a firsthand look at agriculture in another country. I-CAL emphasizes looking at the global marketplace and how the United States can compete and work with other nations to meet the growing demand for agricultural products around the world.
Participants from Wisconsin include Samuel Tauchen of Bonduel, Tina Holst from Chilton and Ethan Giebel of Lyndon Station. Tauchen is a senior attending the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where he is majoring in agricultural education. Holst is a 2013 graduate of the UW-Platteville with a degree in agribusiness and an emphasis in communications and marketing. Holst currently works for Pioneer Seed as an emerging leader with the corn production agronomy department in Durant, Iowa. is a senior agricultural education major at UW-Platteville.
In total, 12 college students with an agricultural major are selected from across the nation to participate in the program. In addition to Wisconsin, this year, participating students hailed from California, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
While in Brazil, students were able to tour farms, research facilities, food production sites and historical points of interest. Brazil's agricultural research institution, Embrapa was selected as one of the group's visits. Dairy industry research in the laboratories and on Embrapa's farms has been beneficial in boosting dairy production in Brazil. Touring a dairy foods production vocational school gave a different perspective of education in a foreign country. The emphasis of the school was for students to learn the trade of manufacturing dairy products.
A visit to a hog grower's cooperative showed students how farmers have worked together to develop a market for their product while promoting the pork industry. Touring a sugarcane mill gave a firsthand look at the entire sugar production process from cane to processed sugar. A large-scale flower farm tour showed the process of growing beautiful flowers that would be sold locally and globally.
Brazil is a major competitor of the United States when it comes to exporting agricultural products. Availability of pastureland and tillable soil make Brazil one of the world's leaders in food production. By limiting the use of genetically modified organisms, Brazil has cornered the European market. Current projections show Brazil overtaking the U.S. in soybean production within the next five years as more land goes into crop production and yields continue to improve.
The growing middle class in Brazil and abroad has created demand for Brazil's agricultural commodities, especially meat and dairy products. With so many factors in favor of Brazilian agriculture, it is easy to see why South America's largest country is the third largest producer of agricultural goods only after the United States and the European Union.
"The I-CAL trip to Brazil was an irreplaceable experience full of fascinating culture, outgoing people, and most notably, a magnificent agricultural industry," said Holst. "I now see that the passion for feeding our world is shared across continents; demonstrating the need for knowledge of global markets, international trade, efficient production, and communication."