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Amy Berg AgrIInstitute Indiana Agricutural Leadership Trip to Portugal

Amy Berg AgrIInstitute Indiana Agricutural Leadership Trip to Portugal
March 14, 2018 by Amy Berg, Associate
Ice Miller LLP attorney Amy Berg is a member of Class 17 of the AgrIInstitute Indiana Agricutural Leadership Program (ALP), which provides individuals involved in agriculture and related industries and those who serve rural communities with the opportunity to improve leadership skills, gain understanding and develop the expertise needed to provide leadership in public affairs for their businesses and communities.
Every ALP class has the opportunity to travel abroad to learn about other countries’ agriculture industries and cultures. Amy and her recently class traveled to Portugal and Spain. This blog is Amy’s recap of their days in Portugal. Check back for a second blog recapping the class trip to Spain.
Day 2 – Portugal
Our trip started with a visit to the U.S. Embassy located on a historic estate in the heart of Lisbon. During our visit, we met with representatives from the Foreign Commerce Service, Foreign Agriculture Service, Public Relations, and Economics. We discussed the roles of each of these departments in promoting U.S. agriculture goods, trade, and public perception. Currently, Portugal is in a severe drought and the conversation centered on imports of U.S. commodities. Portugal is less restrictive of genetically modified (“GM”) crops and typically bases its imports on price versus GM or non-GM crops.
We visited Lic Óbidos, a family business in operation for more than 70 years that is the biggest producer of sour cherries in Portugal. We toured the facility and learned about the production and bottling of Ginja Mariquinhas, or cherry liquor products, that include a mix of different cherry varieties to maintain consistency. Lic Óbidos produces approximately 35,000 bottles per year and continues to grow. One of the final products is a barrel-aged cherry liquor, which is marketed in parts of the U.S. as Ginja9. 
We then traveled to Peniche, a city along the Atlantic coast of Portugal, to tour the Nigel fish processing facility. At this location, the Nigel facility processes over 200 types of fish from various locations around the world, including frozen and fresh fish. The fresh fish may be wild caught or from aquaculture production. 
Our final stop of the day was a farm near São Martinho do Porto that was started in 1989. The farm is 60 hectares and has traditionally consisted of 70 percent apples and 30 percent pears but has now added strawberries. The farm is near the coast of Portugal where the winds can be strong, so wind breaks are necessary to protect the trees. The farm owner discussed transitioning to organic production and the cold storage systems. 
Day 3 – Portugal
To start the day, we visited Escola Superior Agrária de Santarém, a polytechnic agricultural school that is 130 years old. There are eight agriculture polytechnic schools in Portugal to cover all regions of the country. The school’s program includes professional and applied teaching in agronomy, food technology, human nutrition, animal production, and environmental engineering. The school currently has 700 students, who can obtain degrees at professional, graduate, and masters levels. Students are given the opportunity for field visits and work study.  During our visit, we discussed the Montado rotation utilized in Portugal, which is characterized by the integration of multifunctionality. Generally, this includes controlling shrubs to prevent fires, improving pastures with forage crops, and feeding livestock. This rotation helps restore soil productivity, improves the efficiency of water, improves air quality, and sustains high levels of biodiversity. For farmers in this climate who want to intensify their production, they must resort to irrigation, which is costly but does allow for other crops (such as corn and rice) to be introduced into the rotation.
We then traveled to Companhia das Lezírias, a 18,000 hectare farm on marshland between the Tejo and Sorraia Rivers. The farm is the largest agricultural, cattle, and forest farm in Portugal and is currently owned by the government. The farm raises crops and livestock including horses, cattle, rice, olive trees, cork, eucalyptus, and grapes. As we learned, cork is a very important commodity for Portugal. Cork trees are a type of oak, and Portugal is the leading exporter of cork. This farm has 6,700 hectares of cork trees, and each tree is harvested for the first time after about 30 years with an expectation the tree will reach full production potential after about 50 years. Harvests occur every nine years, and in the life of a tree, it will be harvested 17 to 18 times after which the tree is retired. Cork harvest requires highly skilled workers who are among the highest paid agricultural workers in the world. Cork trees are protected by law and can only be cut down once they have been proven dead. The Portuguese say, “you work with the cork your grandparents left you, and plant more cork trees for your grandchildren.”
Day 4 – Portugal
We visited the Amorim Florestal company near Coruche to learn about cork production. This facility is the largest cork manufacturer in the world. Wine corks are the most important product, and the highest quality cork is used for certain highly-rated wines throughout the world. The lower quality cork is made into many other products, including shoes and insulation material.  After the cork is removed from the tree, planks of cork are placed outside for a year for the sap to fully dry. The wet sap is what allows the bark to be separated from the living part of the tree without damaging the tree. After sitting for a year, the cork is boiled and flattened. Boiling makes the cells larger, makes the product more elastic, and enables the cork to be flattened. Then the cork is graded and put into six categories. Wine corks are made from cork with grades from 1 to 4, and the best quality wine (typically cost at least $150 per bottle) uses cork with grades of 1 or 2.
After the cork factory, we visited a cereal producer near Ciborro, Portugal. This facility buys raw products from Portuguese farmers and creates packaged products for certain local markets, including products for human and animal consumption. The products included various rice products and dried fruit.

Learn more about Ice Miller's Food and Agribusiness Practice here.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances. 

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