This is the first in a series of blogs detailing the events of the American Farm Bureau Federation PALs group trip to Brazil. New posts will be added daily. To read the entire blog on class member Derek Sawyer's blog, click here. Sawyer and his wife, Katie, farm in McPherson County.

Yesterday we arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil to find that our hotel was at the epicenter of a political protest. The Brazilian citizens are embroiled with government corruption involving insider contracts with the government run oil company, Petrobras. The citizens came out in full force; nearly 2 million people protesting the government and calling for the impeachment of Dilma, their President. The protest was a family affair, much different than we might see in the United States. It was more like being at a tailgate party… families, dogs, and vendors flooded the streets in what can only be described as peaceful protest, despite heavy police presence. Brazil is a young democracy that was under military rule until the 1980s, but since becoming a democracy has made dramatic improvement in developing the country. There are still many issues; food insecurity, infrastructure, and at the present a collapsing economy. However, as we learned today, they have made major breakthroughs in agriculture, forest preservation, and climate change.

In a visit with the Monsanto we learned about the impact that they have had in the communities where they are present. Monsanto has 23 community support programs that focus on education, culture, sports, leisure, health, environment and wellness to help the communities where their facilities are located. For the past 16 years they have been ranked as one of the top companies to work for in Brazil. But Monsanto is a for profit company and despite their involvement in and encouragement of community service they have shareholders to answer to. They are a biotech research and development company that focus on promoting sustainable development of agriculture in Brazil. They are in the process of developing a special soy bean seed, INTACTA, for Brazil that focuses on solving the problem of destructive caterpillars; a problem unique to Brazil. Around 95% of Brazilian soybeans are grown using GM seeds, which is their largest export, with 65% going to China.

One lesson learned is that despite what the media says, Brazil is not deforesting the Amazon. Not only that, but the citizens are eager for us to hear about the reforestation and debunk this myth. The Brazilians that we spoke to were unhappy with the image that the European Union has created of Brazil destroying the forest. In the hundred years from 1850 to 1950 Brazilian forests grew by 4.2% while European forests shrunk. Today, the Brazilian government has mandated conservation by as much as 80% of private land that cannot be farmed or turned into anything other than forest reserve. Our visit to Sociedade Rural Brasileira was very informative about some of these efforts and many more.

To read the rest of the blog, click here.