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February 28, 2012

Deforestation in Brazil Reduced 80% from Prior Levels

During an environmental conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the Brazilian government stipulated that by the year 2020, the country would reduce deforestation by 80% to an annual rate of 5,400 square kilometers (1.33 million acres). In a recent conference at the London School of Economics, the president of the Brazilian Agriculture and Livestock Confederation (CHA), Katia Abreu, indicated that the country would reach its goal eight years earlier than it had promised.

During the conference, Abreu presented official data from the Brazilian government indicating that in 2010 the deforestation was down to 6,600 square kilometers and that when official data is available for 2011, it would be very close to the earlier promised level of 5,400 square kilometers.

Abreu attributes the main reasons for the encouraging results to better monitoring by environmental agencies and better enforcement of the environmental laws by local, state, and federal agencies. The key to reduced deforestation has been the increased use of satellite technologies which allows environmental agencies to monitor deforestation in real-time. In addition to new technologies, legislation that prohibits the sale of any agricultural products from illegally deforested area has greatly reduced the desire on the part of landowners to clear-cut additional areas of their property in order to increase production. Instead, the goal now is to increase production on existing land that has already been cleared.

In recent years, there has been a stigma attached to agricultural products in Brazil that are produced to the detriment of the environment. Nearly all the commodity organizations in Brazil have developed pro-environmental policies that they are promoting to their members. Brazilian landowners now want to increase productivity on existing land and convert marginally used land to more productive enterprises.

The federal government has been heavily promoting the use of degraded pastures as the primarily source of new land for agricultural production. One of the primary programs that is instrumental in this effort is the ABC Programa (Low Carbon Agriculture) which could bring into production as much as 70 million hectares of degraded pastureland. This program offertes low interest loans and technical expertise for the use of these lands.

Agricultural activities in Brazil occupy approximately 236 million hectares or approximately 27.7% of Brazil's total land area. Another 61% of Brazil is still native forest in one of six different biomes including the Amazon Forest. The agricultural sector represents 20.2% of Brazil GDP, and it employs 37% of the workforce and is responsible for 37% of the country's exports.