What Is True and False in Rep. Aldo Rebelo's Proposal About the New Forest Code in Brazil

By 2050, with the world population reaching 9 billion people, Brazil will take a leading role to meet the demand of the planet. As the president of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), representing one third of the Brazilian workforce -- comprised of rural workers and millions of farmers -- I am favorable and have urgently been voicing the need to update the Current Brazilian Forest Code, which was created back in 1965.

Much is being said about the New Forest Code. Changes per se are difficult and obviously we are facing resistance, both domestically and internationally, even though the current Forest Code code is obsolete and does not encompass the true needs of a global food producer. However, what is true and what are misconceptions about the code?

1. "The proposed changes will increase the deforestation in Brazil"


The current legislation allows deforestation. The problem is that most of the deforestation is done beyond the limits that the law permits and sometimes even in unsuitable areas for agricultural and livestock activities. This happens, unfortunately, due to the lack of government supervision. Today, almost all deforestation, mainly in the Amazon, is illegal.

2. "The deforested areas are sufficient for the expansion of agricultural production."


It is possible to multiply food production in Brazil without advancing on forests. The deforested areas are sufficient enough for increasing agricultural production. In the short run, productivity gains in agriculture, especially in livestock, are the key to it.

3. "The proposed changes are being made to benefit the larger producers."


The law applies to everyone. However, the changes primarily benefit small farmers, who must comply with the requirements of PPAs (Permanent Preserved Area), and with the legal reserve on their property if deforestation has occurred until July 2008.

4. "The Forest Code is being updated to meet the interests of large producers."


The Code is being updated to adapt to changes, which were made in the last decades in agriculture and livestock in Brazil. The approved proposal made by the House of Representatives and currently being debated in the Senate does not encourage deforestation. It is not meant to "undo" the current Forest Code, since many of its provisions will remain intact. Moreover, most is its provisions have yet to be approved by the Congress and still be included in the Constitution.

5. "Deforestation in the Amazon will increase."


The Forest Code does not make room for deforestation. The percentage of legal reserve, which includes areas already that were already opened, with the exception of areas of less than 4 modules, are the same of the present legislation.

6. "The proposal will give amnesty environmental crimes."


There is no amnesty whatsoever granted to environmental crimes. Instead of amnesty for environmental crimes, there are administrative fines for settlement obligations that require the landowners to be in compliance as the Federal Decree 7029 of December 2009 already states.

7. "The new code will free up steep slopes, hilltops and riparian forests for economic exploitation in all cases and this will pose many problems."


The use of these areas will be submitted to the decision of the Environmental Program (PRA).

8. "The Proposal of the Deputy Aldo Rebelo ends with the PPAs (Permanent Preserved Areas) and Legal Reserves."


The report maintains the concepts of Permanent Preservation Areas (PPAs) and Legal Reserves.

9. "If the proposal of representative Aldo Rebelo is not approved, food production in Brazil will plummet."


According to the current law, 90% of Brazilian farmers will not be in compliance with the law since June 2011, when the Legal Reserve deadline expires, under Decree 6514, 2008. Credit limits and sales may cause food production to plummet.

10. "Brazilian Congress cannot change the current Forest Code".


Not only it can, but it also should. Large part of the Forest Code is now the result of authoritarian and bureaucratic processes that do not take into consideration science and the historical occupation of the country. The Forest Code is now virtually a temporary measure, which has yet to be voted and cannot be halted even by constitutional order.