In this research we consider the impact of export-driven, soybean agriculture in Mato Grosso on regional economic growth. Here we argue that the soybean sector has served as a motor to the state’s economy by increasing the demand for services, housing, and goods, and by providing a source of investment capital to the non-agricultural sector. Specifically, we show that each square kilometer of soybean production supports 2.5 formal sector jobs outside of agriculture, and the equivalent of approximately 150,000 US in annual, non-agricultural GDP. We also show that annual gains in non-agricultural employment and GDP are closely tied to soybean profitability, and thus vary from year to year. However, while this article highlights the potential of the agricultural sector as a driver of regional economic growth, it also acknowledges that this growth has been sustained by profits determined by externally set prices and the rate of exchange, and that future growth trajectories will be susceptible to potential currency of market shocks. We also show that while Mato Grosso’s economic growth has come at a significant cost to the environment, value added by the agriculture sector, directly and indirectly, has surpassed the value of the CO2-e emitted through land clearings.

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Copyright © 2015, PLoS One. This article first appeared in PLoS ONE 10:4 (2015), e0122510-e0122528 .

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