May 12, 2016

Officials in Brazil Worried that this might be a Bad Fire Season

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

As the weather in Brazil transitions from the summer rainy season to the dry season, various Brazilian organizations are ramping up their efforts to help prevent unauthorized burning and deforestation during the dry season, which generally runs from May to September. The goal for federal, state, and local governments is to have zero illegal burning and deforestation in 2016.

State and local officials in central Brazil are especially concerned about fires this year due to the hotter than normal and dryer than normal weather experienced during this growing season. Many regions in central Brazil experienced hot and dry conditions in November and December and then again in March and April. Officials are concerned that there is an inordinate amount of dry vegetation that could be subjected to fire.

In recent meetings held at the office of the Environmental Secretary for the state of Mato Grosso (Sema), officials from the Agricultural and Livestock Federation of Mato Grosso (Famato) met with state Fire Marshals, state environmental officials, and environmental organizations to develop a Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation and Fires in the State of Mato Grosso (PPCDQ/MT).

The use of fire to conduct illegal deforestation is an ongoing concern in the state. Most of the illegal deforestation is conducted by subsistent farmers who clear and burn the vegetation for their small family farming operations. The other major source of burning is from ranchers who burn off their dry pastures during the dry season in order to stimulate new pasture growth for their cattle.

The illegal use of burning in the state is also considered a public health matter as well due to the increased levels of particulates in the air. That is why numerous organizations join together every year to combat the practice. The effort this year is being joined by State Departments of Health, Education, Planning, Cities, as well as the Federal EPA, the Public Lands Ministry, the Justice Department, local mayors, environmental organizations, and representatives of various producer organizations.

In the state of Mato Grosso for example, unauthorized fires in rural areas are generally prohibited from June 15th to September 15th, but last year the prohibition was extended for two 15-day periods until October 15th due to delayed onset of the summer rains. A limited amount of burning is permitted in rural areas, but the burning must be preapproved by Sema. In urban areas, all open burring is prohibited year round and intentional burning is considered a crime. Many of the fires in the forests of Mato Grosso are the result of authorized fires that get out of control.