Brazil Gets Serious About Low Carbon Ag

The South American ag powerhouse is sinking over $1 billion into strategies that will lower greenhouse gas emissions

We've heard a lot lately about how saving the world's rain forests will help global agriculture. Now one of the world's greatest Ag superpowers is taking serious steps to become more sustainable.

The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture announced last week that it will provide an initial credit line of $ 1.1 billion over the next ten years to finance rural agriculture activities that use technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Low Carbon Agriculture Program (ABC) aims to reduce carbon equivalent emissions from Brazilian agriculture by up to 176 million tons by the year 2020.

The investment is intended to encourage the increased use of sustainable practices in the Brazilian agricultural sector, considered the fastest-growing in the world, according to a report released June 15 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

FAO-OECD believes Brazilian agriculture will grow by over 40% from 2010-2019, compared to production rates from the base period 2007-2009.

More no-till, please One of the sustainable practices to be funded by the ABC program is no-tillage. With incentives, more Brazilian farmers will be planting directly over the crop residue left from the previous harvest. The government hopes to expand the use of no-till to 82 million acres, up from current levels of 62 million acres.

This increase would reduce emissions by 16-20 million tons of CO2 equivalent over the ten-year period.

The government will provide incentives to integrate several million more acres of crops with livestock and forestry, aiming to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by 18-22 million tons over the same period.

Brazilian farmers often plant commercial forests to supplement their income, and the Ministry of Agriculture has set a target to increase Brazil’s planted forest area from 15 million to 22 million acres by 2020. This will result in a reduction of approximately 8-10 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions over ten years.

In addition to the ABC Program, the Ministry of Agriculture has established other financing lines for sustainable production. The government will provide over half a billion dollars to finance the cultivation of palm planted in degraded areas.

These moves should help everyone - including those of us involved in American agriculture. And it should put more pressure on other countries (including our own) to adopt policies that make agriculture more sustainable. Will we see more incentives for no-till in the next farm bill?

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