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February 12, 2019

Brazil Ag Minister to allow Commercial Ag on Indigenous Lands

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The new Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, recently proposed in an interview with Reuters that indigenous peoples in Brazil should be allowed to conduct commercial agriculture on their reserves. Commercial agriculture is currently prohibited on indigenous reserves under Brazilian law. The new Brazilian administration feels the change could go a long way to helping solve some of the economic problems facing these communities.

Indigenous reserves currently compose approximately 12% of Brazil's territory.

Minister Cristina proposes that the indigenous peoples be allowed to conduct commercial agriculture either by themselves or by renting the land to commercial farmers as a way to increase revenue for their communities. If they are allowed to do so, they would need to maintain a minimum percentage of their land in its native vegetation, just like commercial farmers are required to do.

The laws governing the current indigenous reserves are very strict. They prohibit many activities such as agriculture, mining, dams, highways, etc. The Brazilian Congress would need to establish new laws in order to allow for commercial agriculture or other infrastructure projects.

During the presidential campaign, Bolsonaro expressed many pro-agriculture policies including his desire to not allow the creation of any new indigenous reserves in Brazil. As part of his pro-agriculture agenda, President Bolaonaro took away the control of indigenous lands from the Brazilian Bureau of Indian Affairs and gave control to the Minster of Agriculture. The move was met with severe criticism from supporters of the indigenous communities and as a result, the Minister of Agriculture has adopted a more moderate tone.

She indicated that no new reserves would be created only in areas where there is a conflict between the indigenous tribes and local farmers. There are currently local tribes that claim their land was taken illegally by farmers and they are demanding that the land be returned so that a reserve could be created.

She also indicated that in the Amazon region where tribes have little contact with the outside world, they should be protected and she would not be opposed to new reserves under those circumstances.

President Bolsonaro also indicated his desire to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and he appointed a Foreign Minister that does not believe in global warming. He also indicated his desire to end the "industry" of environmental fines. Minister Cristina has also taken a more moderate tone on both of this matters. She feels Brazil will remain in the Paris Accord and that they only want to eliminate environmental fines that do not help the environment.