Brazilians will be going to the polls next Sunday to choose their new president. The front-runner is the far right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro, a congressman who has said that Brazil’s environmental policies are “suffocating the country.”
He has not laid out a detailed plan for agriculture, but he has repeatedly expressed his disdain for environmental regulations. If elected, he could have a very significant impact on environmental rules which then could directly impact agriculture. Here are a few of his proposals:
* Fold the Environmental Ministry into the Agricultural Ministry.
* Reduce penalties for farmers/ranchers who violate environmental laws.
* Reduce funding for environmental projects.
* No more forest land demarcated as indigenous reserves.
* Threatening to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Under a Bolsonaro administration, there would certainly be reduced efforts for conservation and sustainable agriculture and more emphasis placed on land clearing for increased grain and livestock production.
Until recently, Brazil had been a leader in the fight against deforestation because that is one the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions from Brazil. Deforestation rates had been declining, but that trend has been reversed in recent years due to reduced funding for the Environmental Ministry resulting from a severe recession.
Brazil is the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and deforestation, agriculture and oil production are top sources of Brazil’s emissions. The goal in Brazil was to end illegal deforestation by 2030, but that goal would be in serious jeopardy under a Bolsonaro administration.
The Soybean and Corn Producers Association of Mato Grosso (Aprosoja) claims that Brazil already has the strictest environment regulations in the world and they are proposing relaxing some of those regulations especially those that mandate that a percentage of the land must be maintained in its original vegetation.
One program they particularly dislike is the Amazon Soybean Moratorium. This a program in which grain companies agreed to not purchase any soybeans or other agricultural products produced from areas that were illegally cleared. When this program was started more than a decade ago, it was hailed as an example of how the agricultural sector could work together with commercial grain companies and environmental groups to promote more sustainable agriculture while minimizing its impact on the environment. They are also upset over a similar moratorium being proposed for the cerrado regions of Brazil.
The bottom line is that agricultural groups in Brazil feel that a Bolsonaro administration would be much more receptive to their concerns and their desire to roll back environmental regulations. This could unleash increased deforestation, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and increased competition for American farmers. More land being cleared in Brazil would mean more production of soybeans, corn, cotton, cattle, poultry, hogs, etc.