South America Calling
Alastair Stewart South America Correspondent

Thursday 10/18/12

Brazil's Government Enacts Forestry Code

After years of debate, Brazil on Thursday enacted a new forestry code that will force farmers to replant trees and brush on around 75 million acres of land but will also provide them with greater legal certainty.

The passage of the new code, which sets out nature preservation rules for farms, was controversial to the last, with President Dilma Rousseff opting to veto more lenient clauses included by the powerful farm lobby.

The vetoes angered farm representatives, with Homero Pereira, a federal deputy for Mato Grosso, talking about contesting the presidential decree in the courts.

But Katia Abreu, president of the Brazil Agricultural Confederation (CNA), was less bellicose, saying the important thing was that the code was now on the books and farmers could start clearing environmental liabilities.

Meanwhile, going to show that sometimes you can't please anybody, leading environmental groups, including Greenpeace, lamented that the code was far too lenient and represented a missed opportunity to end the destruction of Brazil's flora and fauna.

BRAZIL'S NATURE PROVISIONS

Brazil is unique among major agricultural producers in that the onus on preserving nature is on the landowner.

The new law maintains demands that 80% of rural properties are left untouched in the Amazon, 35% in the cerrado region and 20% elsewhere.

Farmers must also maintain river margins, hillsides and hilltops in their natural state, although now these areas can be included in the percentage preservation calculation.

Recuperating this land is going to cost farmers billions of dollars, but doing so potentially lifts a legal axe that has been hanging over their heads for years.

Until the mid-nineties, Brazil's environmental laws were laxly implemented and few farmers took heed. However, environmental authorities began enforcing the rules more strictly in the last decade and farmers got saddled with huge fines.

Faced with the prospect of mass farm bankruptcies, the government suspended the fines. Now, under the new code, as long as farmers sign a commitment to replant the necessary reserves on the property and complete the task in the stipulated timeframe, these fines will be wiped.

Offering this means of clearing legal liabilities will open the way for more investment in agribusiness, farm leaders say.

Posted at 5:10PM CDT 10/18/12 by Alastair Stewart
Comments (2)
I can't help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come for US farmers?! The president of the local Sierra Club insists that they will force farmers to plant stream buffers. Also, I would greatly appreciate Mr. Stewart's thoughts on how many acres of Brazil's crop land will be taken out of production with these conservation measures.
Posted by Curt Zingula at 7:40AM CDT 10/21/12
You ask a very good question about lost productive land due to the Forestry Code changes. I have never heard anybody even hazard a guess at this number but I will have a dig to see if I can find one. Acreage will certainly be lost, although how much depends on implementation, but the farm lobby point out that the legal certainty will allow for greater investments in new production that will go some way to offsetting the loss.
Posted by ALASTAIR STEWART at 10:59AM CDT 10/22/12
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