May 5, 2011

Cattle Ranching Dominates the Southern Amazon Region

In the popular press it has been said many times that Brazil is burning the Amazon forest to plant soybeans and corn. That is not the case at all. On this trip we traveled across the southern and eastern Amazon region and probably 95% of the deforestation that has already occurred was for the purpose of establishing cattle ranches.

In these reports we talk mainly about crop production, but as I have mentioned many times before, cattle ranching in Brazil occupies three or four times more acreage than does row crops. In the northern reaches of Mato Grosso, the agricultural activity is almost exclusively cattle ranching and in the state of Para it is one hundred percent cattle ranching. Para is one of the two main states in Brazil along with the state of Amazonas that contains the Amazon Rain Forest. It is an extremely large state and only a small percentage of eastern Para has been cleared for agriculture. It's actually quite hilly and many very large rivers course their way through the state on their way to the Amazon. There are many indigenous and nature reserves in the state. The overwhelming majority of the state is still in its natural state.

The state of Tocantins, which is located in the southeastern Amazon region, is nearly all cerrado and the parts that have been cleared are mostly cattle ranches. There are some row crops such as soybeans being planted in the eastern and southern regions of the state, but the number one agricultural enterprise in the state is cattle ranching.

Brazil has millions and millions of hectares of cerradothat could be converted into agricultural production with additionally hundreds of millions of hectares of pastureland that could also be converted to row crop production. Brazil could easily double its production of row crops without ever having to cut an additional hectare of Amazon Rain Forest.