June 7, 2012

Forestry Code Calls for 30 mha of Reforestation in Brazil

Under the guidelines recently established by the new Forestry Code, 30 million hectares of land (73.5 million acres) in Brazil would have to be reforested in the coming years. As a comparison, during the 2011/12 growing season, there were 51 million hectares of row crops grown in Brazil (125 million acres).

The reforestation would occur along rivers and streams, on hilltops steep slopes, and in areas deemed environmentally sensitive. A major source of contention during the debate over the new code was the amount of land that must be reforested along rivers and streams. The extent of the reforestation along waterways would depend on a number of factors including: the size of the waterway, the size of the landholding, and the topography of the region. The reforestation requirement could be as little as a few meters on both sides of small waterways up to several hundred meters on both sides of major rivers.

In southern Brazil where there are many small family farms and the topography is quite steep, the landowners are concerned that they may be forced out of business if they are required to reforest a sizable proportion of their landholdings. The Minister of Agricultural Development, Pepe Vargas, recently assured the agricultural community that no family farmers would be forced out of business because of the reforestation requirement, but he did not elaborate exactly how that would be accomplished.

While the new Forestry Code has passed the Brazilian Congress, details of the new requirements are still being worked out and it will probably face court challenges as well.

In addition to forcing landowners to reforest part of their property, the government is also attempting to limit the amount of deforestation occurring in the country. According to Brazil's Environmental Minister, during the period of August 2010 to July 2011 there were 6,400 square kilometers of deforestation in the Lowland Amazon Region, which is 8% less than during the previous year and the lowest amount since the government started tracking deforestation in 1988.