When we arrived at INTA, the National Institute for Agriculture, I immediately noticed that a sign was posted that said “Centro de Capacitcion; Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.” I later found out that a group that was working on sustainable agriculture practices with Dr. Borlaug once visited, which I thought was neat since he is an iconic legend from Iowa and someone who I admire.
While at INTA, we listened to a panel of speakers who discusses various topics. Since my class topic is rural Argentina (we have to look into a specific area of interest before and after the trip) I was specifically interested in how agriculture has affected rural Argentina and how women are involved in agriculture.
INTA was created in 1956 to help agriculture research improve rural life. One thing I found very interesting that the term “agriculture” does not mean everything involved in agriculture, it only implies to crops. Livestock is the term to describe animals and agriculture was never used to describe livestock.
70% of INTA is funded nationally, with tax dollars from imports into the country. Originally it was funded with export taxes, comparable to the commodity check offs United States agriculture uses.
Unlike the United States, where extension is involved with land grant universities, 30% of INTA works with local universities. There are about 313 extension agents with over 40,000 farmers who participate.
The trends occurring in United States agriculture are also occurring in Argentina. Over 30% of farms have disappeared over the past few years. Argentina does have a national program that helps fund family farms but they do not have an official definition of a farm, which makes a farm hard to define. With over 50% of Argentina’s land being rented or share cropped, most farmers do not feel a connection to the land.
The most interested thing I learned was that most farmers live in town. Not only is it cheaper, but also it is a better way of life. Schools and roads are not up to high standards in the country. Often times there is no electricity in rural Argentina and no high schools are available to youth. As people live in town, they loose interest in farming and young people are not encouraged to farm.
Sustainability is a huge problem in Argentina. Crop rotation is not used, so soybeans on soybeans may deplete the soil, but also leads to weed resistance. The soil only has 2.7% of organic matter, and ideal is 4-6%. Prices of the crops are going to have to change or farmers will not change their practices to improve sustainability.
Another issue they have is people opposing pesticides and fertilizers. They do use less fertilizer than the United States, and most of the nitrogen that is tested comes from organic matter. Although fertilizer is a hot topic, the demand for organic or free range has not become popular. Only 2% of people will pay a price increase for free range chickens.
I thought it was great to hear that INTA is helping families by working with them to raise chickens and crops that were provided by INTA. This increases their health and way of life. I was also glad to hear that women are becoming more common, especially in INTA. About 40-50% of the institute are women, and that is changing rapidly.