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September 8, 2016

Mato Grosso Legislator Promotes Increased use of Irrigation

In order to make agricultural and livestock operations in the state of Mato Grosso more sustainable, legislation has been introduced into the state legislature to promote the use of irrigation in the state. The proposal is to help farmers more intensely utilize their existing land and thus reduce the pressure to clear new land in order to expand production.

The state of Mato Grosso is Brazil's largest producer of soybeans, corn, cotton, sunflowers, and cattle. The state encompasses 906,807 square kilometers, which is approximately the size of the combined areas of: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. In 2013, only 7.9% of the state was planted to row crops with most of the agricultural land devoted to pastures and beef production. The beef herd in Mato Grosso is approximately 29 million head.

Irrigation is being promoted because the climate of the state is composed of a very distinct rainy season and dry season. The rainy season generally runs from October to April when there is ample rainfall of approximately 60 inches or more and hot temperatures. The dry season runs from May to September when there is very little rainfall but warm temperatures. If irrigation was available, farmers in Mato Grosso could produce crops year round.

An increased use of irrigation could increase sustainability by more intensely using existing land, which is being promoted by the Brazilian government as a way to reduce deforestation. Most environmental groups in Brazil are in favor of that approach.

Backers of the legislation feel that for it to become law, it needs the be publically administered by the state and that the state needs to create environmental licenses allowing for reservoirs of up to 10 hectares and an irrigated areas of up to 120 hectares per producer.