Brazil has become an agricultural powerhouse in less than 40 years. In doing so, the country has utilized technology, capital and labor to clear and farm vast stretches of Savannah and forests.
This week we are talking with Chris Clayton, Ag policy reporter with DTN and Progressive Farmer Magazine. Clayton observed Brazilian agriculture as he traveled throughout the country this month. He says farm laborers are now protected by laws that require farmers to pay on a specific scale.
“They have a lot of specific rules and laws on work labor requirements and this is one of the things that farmers are trying to loosen in terms of regulatory requirements on pay and overtime. They’re very specific in terms of how many hours a week can be worked, and so if you’re working two hours and then you’re rained out the rest of the day, the worker still gets paid for that full day. If you’re working them over 40-four hours a week, you better pay overtime. If you’re working them after noon on Saturday, you gotta pay overtime. They’re not paid very much overall, the minimum wage translates out to, roughly three-hundred dollars a month, but with overtime they can make up quite a bit. But the people on the farm look to have a lot of season workers. It takes them a lot of time to teach workers how to use the big machinery they have, so they want to keep their workers,” Clayton said.
Clayton also addressed the way large operations handle large numbers of employees.
“A few of them – large operations – have full teams of people who will be focusing on planting cotton on a given day, on a particular acreage, while having another group of people who are harvesting on a particular day. You have another group of people who are working in the cotton gins, and so they literally have full small towns set up for these workers with housing, education and transportation back and forth to town, things like that to try to satisfy all their labor needs,” Clayton said.
“The farmers, the US farmers, were impressed by that,” Clayton said. “I think the workers there probably had a better deal than say the H-2A workers might have in the United States in some ways.”
Brazil went from no regulations 20 years ago to a worker police force that fines growers for violation of laws.
Brazil’s new president may loosen the rule for farm laborers to a more moderate level.
AUDIO: World of Agriculture