17 February 2010

CREA - The Structure

CREA (Consorcios Regionales de Experimentacion Agricola or Regional Consortiums of Agricultural Experimentation) is an organization of farmers who work in small groups to improve each farming enterprise. Each group has about 10 farmers. Several groups make up a region. In the case of Sur de Santa Fe, there are 17 groups. The regions make up the Argentina Association of CREA (AA CREA or AACREA).

Each group hires and agronomic advisor who visits each farm once a month and makes agronomic and economic suggestions to each farmer. The farmers (productores) of the group meet once a month to review crop records, etc. (See the post on 12 Feb for more details about a group meeting.) As mentioned in that post, one farmer provides details of the enterprise (crops, yields, expenses, returns, etc.) to the rest of the group. The group reviews the details and makes suggestions and criticisms to the producer.

The region hires a coordinator who helps plan monthly meetings, works with the advisor, and helps coordinate regional research projects. Seed companies pay to have hybrids and varieties entered into large-scale plots that are replicated 12 to 14 times in a region. Farmers also conduct some research with their advisors and with other farmers in the groups. The results of this research are published and discussed at regional meetings. The region hosts three meetings a year, one for corn, one for soybean and one for wheat. Some of the meetings are repeated in a different part of the region. Farmers, CREA members and non-members, are welcome to attend the meetings. A fee is involved.

Each group elects a president to serve for two years. The president attends a monthly CREA regional meeting. The presidents of a region elect a vocal to serve for two years. The vocals attend the regional presidents meeting and a national AACREA meeting once each month. At this point, CREA appears to be a very "bottom-up" approach, where many decisions are made at the local level. Each group pays money to the region and to the national organization. The national organization also organizes a meeting (or two) once a year for all farmers. They conduct some other types of research, such as the impact of agriculture on the economy. I have a meeting next week with AACREA in the City of Buenos Aires and hope to learn more about the national organization.

Each group is responsible for hiring an advisor and setting the wages, benefits, etc. for that advisor. The advisors are part-time for a group. Some advisors work for two groups, but in different regions. Other advisors take on private clients outside of CREA and/or rent land to make additional income. Most advisors begin as assistants for larger groups. Also, many advisors say that they make more with the private consulting than with the CREA, but being a CREA advisor opens the door for them to do private consulting.

The regional coordinator is also a part-time position and private consulting or management of farms are often done to supplement income.

I have been told by people in CREA and out of CREA that CREA farmers are generally larger and generally known to have good farming practices and good business skills. My view of Argentina grain farming is probably a bit skewed at this point since I am visiting mostly CREA farms.

I hope to visit a few other farms while I'm here, so maybe I'll get a bigger picture of agriculture in Argentina.

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