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Provisional Measure 910 can intensify the land tenure crisis and stimulate illegal deforestation

The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture – which gathers more than 200 representatives, of agribusiness, environmental defense entities and academia, that seek to promote the conservation and sustainable land use in the country – understands that the land tenure legalization of public lands occupied for decades is an essential step towards eliminating conflicts, providing legal security, allowing the economic inclusion of rural producers, promoting social justice, and allowing good governance in Brazilian territory. Land tenure legalization also promotes efficient land use, stimulates owners to do long-term investments, and allows the identification and punishment of those responsible for environmental infractions.

However, instead of proposing measures to update and improve the management of land tenure bodies in order to promote an efficient legalization that respects safeguards, the government has chosen to present Provisional Measure 910 of 2019 (MP 910) to the Congress. This measure regards “land tenure legalization of occupations located in areas of the Brazilian Federal Government.”

The changes in current legislation promoted by this Provisional Measure go in the opposite direction of what is expected in the process of land tenure legalization in the country, especially in the Amazon. By authorizing that recent illegal occupations (until December of 2018) are legalized, including the occupation of large areas (up to 2,500 hectares), MP 910 is validating criminal practices of land grabbing and stimulating its occurrence in the future. It is sending criminal groups the clear message that crime pays off.

The justification presented by the Federal Government to extend the deadline from 2008 to 2014 or 2018 has no foundation since it disregards Forest Code’s time marker for environmental regularizations, which is July 22, 2008¹. Also, the Provisional Measure intends to give more advantages to those who already received the property title but haven’t been paying what they owe for the land or are not compliant with the obligations imposed. In predicting soft billing rules for defaulting owners and changing once more renegotiation deadlines, the provisional measure discredits that such rules will continue to exist or be enforced. This stimulates more defaulting and rural violence.

Another serious problem is the stimulation of public land grabbing generated by the expectation of obtaining titles for recently occupied areas and through the trade of lands below market value. The illegal expansion over public lands means a loss of over 70 billion reais to public funds². MP 910 practically annuls the possibility of stopping the expansion of the agricultural frontier over native vegetation areas. Currently that is a very serious problem. According to MapBiomas, more than 90% of the deforestation happening in the Amazon is illegal. Also, according to data from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), 35% of the deforestation in the Amazon (2018-19) occurred in public lands subjected to land grabbing³. The profitability of the invasion business, deforestation, and the trade of public lands will continue to induce a disorderly expansion, one without agronomic or environmental reasonability, based on power, and not following the best project for land use. In the short term, this scenario will drive away investors and buyers of our agricultural commodities4, and, in the medium and long term, it will create problems to agricultural production by interrupting natural cycles that guarantee rainfall in most of the country. Therefore, in addition to the agricultural sector itself, it harms Brazilian society as a whole.

In extending titling by self-declaration to properties of up to 15 fiscal modules – without the need for an inspection by public authorities – MP 910 will facilitate fraud and increase land tenure conflicts. The example of the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), which is self-declared and encompasses more than 90% of rural properties in the country, shows what can happen if this alteration is approved: 95% of registered properties present some kind of overlap with other properties5. Therefore, to promote titling without an inspection, in this scenario, will aggravate the current situation. Tools such as the use of satellite images are not able to verify who is promoting the occupation, or if the occupation is tame and peaceful. According to the Tribunal de Contas da União (2014)6, the Brazilian federal accountability office, although occupations above 4 fiscal modules represent only 4% of all the properties titled by the Program Legal Land, they account for 30% of all titled area.

For these reasons, we understand that MP 910 cannot be approved as it is written. The changes it brings do not help land tenure legalization and the proper use of the Brazilian territory, but lead to an increase in land grabbing and the speculative deforestation associated with it.

For this reason, we consider that it is essential to guarantee the following:
a) Deadlines to regulate public land tenure are not altered, maintaining, at least, the same as the one of the Forest Code – July 22, 2008;
b) The possibility of legalization without the need of inspection is maintained only for the occupation of areas of up to 4 fiscal modules and mandatory inspections are determined for all properties in which the CAR is: i) canceled, or ii) with partial or total overlap with another registered property;
c) Before the legalization of land tenure of areas with deforestation, the legality of such deforestation has to be proved and, in case it is illegal, regardless of previous sanctions, the legalization can only occur after inspection. Besides, they will need to adhere to the Environmental Regularization Program (PRA), in which case, the title will have to be issued with conditions regarding the implementation of the PRA;
d) The deadline for defaulter renegotiation is not extended, maintaining this possibility only to titles issued until December 22, 2016, as it is established in the recently approved Federal Law 13.465/17. Also, in default cases, the rules of debt execution predicted by the Central Bank are applied, with the execution after 90 days of default of only one installment.

About the Brazilian Coalition
The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture is a multi-sector movement that was established with the goal of proposing actions and influencing public policies that would lead to the development of a low carbon economy, with the creation of quality jobs, stimulus to innovation and Brazilian global competitiveness, and generation and distribution of wealth for the whole society. More than 200 companies, businesses associations, research centers and civil society organizations have joined the Brazilian Coalition – coalizaobr.com.br/en

¹ CHIAVARI, Joana; LOPES, Cristina Leme. Nota Técnica. Medida provisória recompensa atividades criminosas: Análise da MP 910/2019 que altera o marco legal da regularização fundiária de ocupações em terras públicas federais. Rio de Janeiro: Climate Policy Initiative, 2020.
² BRITO, Brenda et al. Stimulus for land grabbing and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental Research Letters, v.14, n.6, p.064018, 2019
³ Available at: https://ipam.org.br/35-do-desmatamento-na-amazonia-e-grilagem-indica-analise-do-ipam/
4 Available at: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mercado/2019/12/investidores-boicotam-o-brasil-por-preocupacoes-com-desmatamento-na-amazonia.shtml
5 SPAROVECK, G. et alii. Nota Técnica preliminar sobre o anúncio de Medida Provisória de regularização fundiária autodeclarada.
6 TRIBUNAL DE CONTAS DA UNIÃO. Relatório de Auditoria de Conformidade no Programa Terra Legal Amazônia, TC 015.859/2014-2, Fiscalização 402/2014, Relator: Ministro Weder de Oliveira.

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