A group of 18 Michigan farmers made a 12-hour flight to Argentina March 8 to 14 as part of the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Agricultural Leadership Exchange. There, the group took in the South American country’s culture, food, landscape and production agriculture.

Co-sponsored by the Michigan Corn Growers Association, the trip started off in a meeting with MAIZAR, the Argentinian Corn Growers Association. Their president, Marcello Morelli, said Argentina’s corn harvest has increased 62 percent in the past five years, with the total corn value chain now representing 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP.

The Michigan delegation traveled to the very fertile Pampas Region to visit El Desafio Farm owned by the Alejandro Calderon family. This 3,000-acre farm includes soybeans, corn, wheat, oats, and green peas.

The diversified farm operation also raises Aberdeen Angus, providing bulls to cattle ranches all over the region. El Desafio Farm also custom plans, sprays, harvests, conditions and transports for other farmers using their own equipment, sending most of their grain to the many grain terminals located about 75 miles away on the Parana River.

Calderon provided a tour of his operation, discussing growing techniques, technology, fertilizer, pests and diseases and yields. His no-till corn production averages 200 bushels per acre without irrigation or subsurface drainage.

The group continued northwest into the Pampas region and entered the Province of Santa Fe to tour a Syngenta corn and sunflower seed plant, which is considered the largest seed production facility in Argentina. It is near Venado Tuerto. At this location, the group learned more about the differences in seed production, storage and distribution compared to Michigan’s large seed corn industry.

The next stop of the trip — the diversified crop and sheep farm of La Constancia, known for their ability to breed National Champion Hampshire Down sheep. While native to England, the operation has had tremendous success breeding multiple national champions of the Hampshire Down breed.

And, as might be expected, no trip to Argentina would be complete without taking a look at the country’s grain export infrastructure. The group traveled to Rosario, the third-largest, fastest-growing city in Argentina, located on the Parana River. Exporting more than 825 million bushels on an annual basis, it’s become known as the grain hub of Argentina, accounting for more than 50 percent of the country’s grain exports.

Considered to be the largest concentration of soybean crushing and export facilities in the world, the Rosario area is home to 29 separate soybean crushing and grain facilities, helping to make Argentina the world’s largest exporter of soybean meal and the third-largest exporter of corn and soybeans.

The group toured the grain terminal of ACA (Asociacion de Cooperativas Agrarias) in San Lorenzo, north of Rosario, which accounts for 18 percent of all grain exports in the area. In addition to soybeans, the facility exported 118 million bushels of corn in 2018.

Taking in 600 semi loads per day, it’s not uncommon for contract truckers and their drivers to wait two or three days to unload during peak harvest season(s).

Michigan’s delegation also paid a visit to the Rosario Board of Trade, the most important grain exchange in Argentina in terms of its volume of operations and its ability to provide reference prices for the national and international markets.

The Rosario Board of Trade also has the distinction of being the one remaining exchange in the world where grain deals are still done face-to-face and with a handshake. The Board of Trade also operates a complex of laboratories which analyze and provide quality certifications for samples of agricultural commodities, soil and water.

The last day of the trip was spent visiting ExpoAgro, the largest farm show and equipment exhibition in Argentina. There, the attendees spoke with vendors, where they compared technology, equipment and rubbed elbows with Argentine farmers in attendance.

With more than 150,000 visitors from Argentina and the world participating in the annual mega farm-show, it spans nearly 50 acres. In addition to displays of the latest technologies in seeds, livestock and equipment, the show also has a livestock auction that sells more than 45,000 head of cattle.