Brazilian Congress approves new Forest Code

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Brazilian Congress approves new Forest Code

Brazil's approval for a new forestry code has been hailed as a victory for both agribusiness and the environment by Congressman Aldo Rebeldo, website reported.

The new legislation has changed the 1965 code, which had recently caused concern for growers after it was brought to light they had been farming on areas that were officially classified as permanent preservation areas (APPs) for decades.

The new amendment 65 states that APPs will remain, with restrictions of 10 meters from riverbanks in areas where there is already farming, while there will be 15-meter limits from old forest that is at least 30 meters high, the story reported.

"We are regulating 90% of the farms in this country that were illegal and maintaining the Permanent Protection Areas, something that nowhere else in the world has," Rebeldo was quoted as saying.

There were 273 votes for the amendment in Congress while 182 were opposed, with many critics highlighting farmers would be harmed, citing examples of the state of Santa Catarina where around 80% of farms were on protected land.

A key point of conflict for the bill was that power to act on APPs would be given to the states, with many hoping the activities allowed in APPs would be chosen by presidential decree. The wording of the text states landowners will need to adhere to the Environmental Regulation Programme (PRA), which will be put enforced by the unions and states.

Deputy Federal Leader Cândido Vaccarezza said the amendment was a 'shame' for the country.

The new amendment allows for the maintenance of plantations for 'woody' species such as grapes, apples and coffee or silvicultural activities on APPs, while the government must provide a financial support program for smallholders and family farmers to maintain and restore the reserves.

The story reported international pressure against deforestation had accelerated discussions on the matter over the last two years.

The amendment still needs to be passed by the Brazilian Senate and then President Dilma Rouseff, but she has claimed she would veto the law as it would grant amnesty to farmers who deforested the Amazon.

Prominent Brazilian environmental activists Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo were murdered shortly after the bill was passed, showing just how controversial the issue has become.

Related story: Forest Code sparks alarm for Sao Paulo banana growers


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