Transforming Brazilian agriculture: the experience of the Brazilian-American Commission for the Production of Foodstuffs, 1942-1945
Keywords:Brazil, United States, agriculture, Vargas, Rockefeller
Reponses by the Brazilian and U.S. governments to the pressures of World War II fundamentally altered the course of Brazil’s agricultural development. As fears of a European war arose in the late 1930s, Brazil’s political leadership became convinced that collaboration with the United States was essential to boosting the output of Brazilian agricultural and extractive products. The mutual search for ways to increase the output of agricultural and extractive products created an important incentive for wartime cooperation. Importing technical expertise and equipment from the United States became the primary option for Brazilian economic planners while securing Brazil’s support emerged as a political priority for the Roosevelt administration. While the commission was conceived as an instrument for aiding rubber production in the Amazon, Getúlio Vargas’s government transformed it into a massive binational subsidy for the chronically suffering Brazilian Northeast. The joint food production commission also exposed multitudes of farmers to the benefits of increased federal governmental support. Efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture and the commission to introduce even rudimentary agricultural implements led to accelerating the replacement of the digging stick with the hoe and marked the beginnings of more capital-intensive cultivation methods. The linkages between Brazil’s agriculture and the United States also grew, as more Brazilians became aware of the potential benefits to Brazil of the agricultural revolution underway in the United States and U.S. capital related to agriculture would diversify its search for profits offered by Brazil.
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