One of the main allies of the president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), for agribusiness, federal deputy Neri Geller (PP-MT) said that the more moderate wing of the sector has already given in and started to seek dialogue with the new government .
“You have to talk. The election is over. If you represent the sector and you are not satisfied with something, with the funding, with the interest rate at 14%, which is absurd, you have to sit down at the table and claim it”, said the deputy in an interview with Sheet🇧🇷
Despite acknowledging that part of the agro is still linked to Bolsonarism, Geller claims to have been approached by associations in the sector and that “those who do not come will be left behind”.
Vice-president of the FPA (Parliamentary Front for Agriculture) and Minister of Agriculture in the Dilma Rousseff (PT) government, Geller was part of the group responsible for reducing agribusiness resistance to the PT during the 2022 election campaign.
🇧🇷Lula was a great partner, he took the sector by the arm and traveled the whole world, opening the market for Brazilian products”, argues Geller, who is also quoted for the Ministry of Agriculture.
eller also defended the most recent version of the bill on pesticides that is being discussed in Congress.
🇧🇷He [o relatório do projeto] brings in its essence the modernization of legislation, more rigor in toxicological tests and, by regulating biotechnology, it will help to reduce production costs, but mainly in terms of the environment, as we are going to have biological control”, he declared.
The parliamentarian had his mandate revoked by the TSE (Superior Electoral Court) in August after the Electoral Public Ministry pointed out evidence of “triangulation of bank accounts”, intermediated by Geller’s son, to capture donations from companies and finance his father’s campaign. He believes he will be able to overturn the conviction and claims that the reversal of his situation is essential for him to assume a prominent position in the next government.
The agribusiness sector was overwhelmingly in favor of Bolsonaro’s re-election. What is the agenda of the elected government Lula to get closer to the sector? I think the first thing is to reestablish the truth. Leave the ideological field and come to practice. Lula was president for eight years and we were able to advance on important issues, renegotiating debts when the sector was practically bankrupt, restructuring all agricultural credit, encouraging investment with subsidized interest rates. Lula was a great partner, he took the sector by the arm and traveled the whole world, opening up the market for Brazilian products. I talked to several leaders. Many of them called me. Many of them who were with Bolsonaro are starting to back down. When we sit down at the table and show that what Lula and the PT government did for agriculture is infinitely greater than President Bolsonaro…
In the campaign, Lula made controversial statements, such as saying that there is a fascist part in agribusiness. Does this hinder the rapprochement with the sector? There were, yes, some radical extremists who made dialogue difficult. And they still exist today. But this is starting to be in the minority. The more moderate ones are already giving in and are starting to talk, like Aprosoja [Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Soja]Abrapa [produtores de algodão]the ABPA [de proteína animal]OCB [de cooperativas]🇧🇷 We are talking to them. So this sector will come inside. And those who do not come will be left behind.
What does it mean to stay behind? A lot of people are already coming. The doors will stay open [para o restante], but time goes by. They could present policies at the government level, present proposals for the sector. You have to talk, the election is over. If you represent the sector and you are not satisfied with something, with the cost, with the interest rate at 14%, which is absurd, you have to sit down at the table and demand it. You have to sit at the table and defend the sector regardless of who the government is.
But there is still a part that is radical, including some businessmen are financing these anti-democratic acts. How do you see this support for these demonstrations? The judiciary needs to act against it. These extremists, who do not respect the law, need to be punished.
You mention entities that are approaching, but the CNA [Confederação da Agricultura e Pecuária do Brasil] was openly in favor of Bolsonaro, and João Martins [presidente da CNA] attacked Lula. Is there room for rapprochement with the CNA? Not all CNA thinks that way. There are vice presidents who are aligned with us. It’s easier for us to bring other people and, with the toughest ones, we wait for the dust to settle.
What are the main proposals that the elected government has for the sector? Advance our production with a focus on sustainability. It is to encourage positive carbon, which is extremely important for the environment to institute a carbon credit policy. This is a debate that we will have to have next year, in the next Crop Plans, including for us to remunerate this, to be an economic asset for the sector. We also want to lower interest rates.
What other priorities do you defend? In Congress, there is the agenda of self-control [autoriza a contratação de empresas privadas para realizar a fiscalização sanitária da atividade agropecuária]environmental licensing and the law on agricultural pesticides, as the report stands [final do projeto]which will regulate biotechnology, which will help the environment and will increase the rigor of toxicological tests.
This project became known as PL [projeto de lei] of Poison. We call it safest food PL. It brings in its essence the modernization of legislation, more rigor in toxicological tests and, by regulating biotechnology, it will help to reduce the cost of production, but mainly in terms of the environment, as we are going to have biological control. It’s almost like an organic farm. And it also brings the release of generic products, which reduces the cost. We have in line today more than 2,000 generics that are not released due to bureaucracy. This will move the Brazilian industry.
If Congress approves this project with the support of the Lula government, could this tarnish Brazil’s image in the international market? We are talking about the version that is in the report. If we do a correct narrative and technically look at the report, it is positive from the point of view of the outward image [exterior]because we are modernizing, we are helping the environment, and having more rigor in toxicological tests.
The environment, apparently, will be the central theme of the government and will permeate several areas. Have you already talked to people from the transition environment? We started now. Have no doubt that we will sit down with the [ex-ministra] Izabella Teixeira, with her own [ex-ministra] Marina Silva — when she entered Lula’s campaign, we were already with Lula.
So will the Lula government have to deconstruct the image that agribusiness is the enemy of the environment? Of course yes. And that’s what we want to do. Anyone who commits an environmental crime, jail. Now, who works within the legality, why not produce?
What will the relationship with the MST be like, which part of agribusiness even accuses of being terrorist? Is there a way to change this view? I think that any government has to talk to all the social movements, in President Lula’s government there was no invasion, there was no agrarian conflict, except occasionally one here and another there. There is no danger, the MST is a social movement like others. Whoever works outside the law has to be punished, like the large and medium-sized producer, if he does illegal deforestation and commits a crime, he has to be punished. Whoever invades productive lands, Lula will not let that happen.
The president says that land invasions have only dropped dramatically under the current government. Get the data. all fake [falso]🇧🇷
Should the Ministry of Agriculture be divided from Agrarian Development? What is your position? I think you can create the [Ministério do] Agrarian Development to have a more specific policy, including with regard to social programs, such as the food acquisition program. But within the government’s concept, I cannot say that now because it is a discussion that is taking place in the transition.
Deputy Pedro Lupion (PP-PR) is quoted to take over the Parliamentary Front for Agriculture and he is closely linked to President Bolsonaro. How should the relationship with him be? We’re already talking. I am vice president of the FPA today. They [membros da bancada] they have a political and ideological position different from the elected government, but they are pragmatic. Our FPA is pragmatic. They will help with agendas of interest to the sector. And, in the agendas that are of interest to the government, little by little they are aligned. We are making dialogue so that in the next eight or ten days the board of the FPA will sit down with [o vice-presidente eleito, Geraldo] Alckmin to help with the transition. I’ve already talked to Alckmin, talked to them, obviously it’s a slow process, it doesn’t happen overnight.
How do you assess the market’s reactions to former president Lula’s statements? Is there an exaggeration? I think it will settle down. What the market needs to understand is that everything that invests in the social returns to the economy, helps in itself to move the economy.
Bolsonaro promised, in 2018, to forgive the debts of Funrural (Rural Worker Assistance Fund), but he did not. Should this be an agenda in the Lula government? This can be discussed. But the promise was made by Bolsonaro. By the way, this is one of the many promises he [Bolsonaro] did not fullfill.
Do you fear that the revocation of the Bolsonaro government’s gun decrees could impact the relationship with the Lula government? Lula has already said that he is in favor of the size [de arma] inside the property. But a person buys eight, ten large-caliber guns, I think it really needs to be reviewed. I support carrying a weapon inside the property, but very strictly outside the property.
You had your mandate revoked by the TSE, which says that there was use of bank account triangulations to capture donations from legal entities to finance the campaign. You appealed against the decision and are cited as a possible candidate to take over Lula’s Ministry of Agriculture. Should this impasse affect your name in the choice? I don’t have a comma to hide. The amounts I received were for soybeans and corn that I sold. It’s a headless thing. My son who runs the business, I emancipated him at 17 years old. I am convinced that in the next few days I will be acquitted. I appealed [embargos de declaração] and went to dispatch with the ministers. I have no doubt that I need to solve this [para disputar vaga no ministério de Lula]🇧🇷
Neri Geller, 54
Federal deputy, farmer and businessman. He was born in Selbach (RS) and moved to Mato Grosso. He was elected federal deputy for the first time in 2007, by the PSDB. He was Minister of Agriculture for Dilma Rousseff (PT). He is one of Lula’s main interlocutors with agribusiness.