Dredging Case Neg Case Frontlines Agriculture Advantage

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Dredging Case Neg

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Agriculture Advantage

The plan isn’t key to solve Amazonian deforestation

Butler 12 (Rhett, Deforestation in the Amazon, 20 May 2012¸http://www.mongabay.com/brazil.html, ZBurdette)
Since 2004 the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has fallen nearly 80 percent to the lowest levels recorded since annual record keeping began in the late 1980s. Importantly, this decline has occurred at the same time that Brazil's economy has grown roughly 40 percent, suggesting a decoupling of economic growth from deforestation.

While this is welcome news for Earth's largest rainforest, it is nonetheless important to understand why more than 580,000 square kilometers (224,000 square miles) of Amazon forest has destroyed in Brazil since 1980. Why has Brazil lost so much forest? What can be done to stop deforestation?

Why is the Brazilian Amazon being Destroyed?

In the past, Brazilian deforestation was strongly correlated to the economic health of the country: the decline in deforestation from 1988-1991 nicely matched the economic slowdown during the same period, while the rocketing rate of deforestation from 1993-1998 paralleled Brazil's period of rapid economic growth. During lean times, ranchers and developers do not have the cash to expand their pasturelands and operations, while the government lacks funds to sponsor highways and colonization programs and grant tax breaks and subsidies to forest exploiters.

But this has all changed since the mid-2000s, when the link between deforestation and the broader Brazilian economy began to wane.

The reasons for the decline in Brazil's deforestation rate are debated, but most would agree that several factors come into play, including macroeconomic trends (a stronger Brazilian currency reduces the profitability of export-driven agriculture), increased enforcement of environmental laws, improved forest monitoring by satellite, new incentives for utilizing already deforested lands, expanded protected areas and indigenous reserves, heightened sensitivity to environmental criticism among private sector companies, and emerging awareness of the values of ecosystem services afforded by the Amazon.

A Closer Look at Brazilian Deforestation (Update: Future threats to the Amazon)

Like other places in the tropics, deforestation in Brazil is increasingly the result of urban consumption and trade rather than subsistence agriculture.

Today deforestation in the Amazon is the result of several activities, the foremost of which include:

Clearing for cattle pasture

Colonization and subsequent subsistence agriculture

Infrastructure improvements

Commercial agriculture


Clearing for Cattle Pasture

Cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. This has been the case since at least the 1970s: government figures attributed 38 percent of deforestation from 1966-1975 to large-scale cattle ranching. Today the figure is closer to 60 percent, according to research by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and its Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). Most of the beef is destined for urban markets, whereas leather and other cattle products are primarily for export markets.
Amazonian biodiversity loss inevitable

Sample 12 (Ian, The Gaurdian, “Amazon's doomed species set to pay deforestation's 'extinction debt'”, 12 July 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/12/amazon-deforestation-species-extinction-debt?newsfeed=true, ZBurdette)
The destruction of great swaths of the Brazilian Amazon has turned scores of rare species into the walking dead, doomed to disappear even if deforestation were halted in the region overnight, according to a new study.

Forest clearing in Brazil has already claimed casualties, but the animals lost to date in the rainforest region are just one-fifth of those that will slowly die out as the full impact of the loss of habitat takes its toll. In parts of the eastern and southern Amazon, 30 years of concerted deforestation have shrunk viable living and breeding territories enough to condemn 38 species to regional extinction in coming years, including 10 mammal, 20 bird and eight amphibian species, scientists found.

The systematic clearance of trees from the Amazon forces wildlife into ever-smaller patches of ground.

Though few species are killed off directly in forest clearances, many face a slower death sentence as their breeding rates fall and competition for food becomes more intense.

Scientists at Imperial College, London, reached the bleak conclusion after creating a statistical model to calculate the Brazilian Amazon's "extinction debt", or the number of species headed for extinction as a result of past deforestation. The model draws on historical deforestation rates and animal populations in 50 by 50 kilometre squares of land.

It stops short of naming the species most at risk, but field workers in the region have drawn attention to scores of creatures struggling to cope with habitat destruction and other environmental threats.

White-cheeked spider monkeys, which feed on fruits high in the forest canopy, are endangered largely because of the expansion of farmland and road building. The population of Brazilian bare-faced tamarins has halved in 18 years, or three generations, as cities, agriculture and cattle ranching has pushed into the rainforest. The endangered giant otter, found in the slow-moving rivers and swamps of the Amazon, faces water pollution from agricultural runoff and mining operations in the area.

Writing in the journal Science, Robert Ewers and his co-authors reconstructed extinction rates from 1970 to 2008, and then forecast future extinction debts under four different scenarios, ranging from "business as usual" to a "strong reduction" in forest clearance, which required deforestation to slow down 80% by 2020.

"For now, the problem is along the arc of deforestation in the south and east where there is a long history of forest loss. But that is going to move in the future. We expect most of the species there to go extinct, and we'll pick up more extinction debt along the big, paved highways which are now cutting into the heart of the Amazon," Ewers told the Guardian from Belém, northern Brazil.

Under the "business as usual" scenario, where around 62 sq miles (160 sqkm) of forest are cleared each year, at least 15 mammal, 30 bird and 10 amphibian species were expected to die out locally by 2050, from around half of the Amazon. Under the most optimistic scenario, which requires cattle ranchers and soy farmers to comply with Brazilian environmental laws, the extinction debt could be held close to 38 species.

Ewers said the model reveals hotspots in the Brazilian Amazon where conservation efforts should be focused on the most vulnerable wildlife. "This shows us where we are likely to have high concentrations of species which are all in trouble, and that becomes a way for directing our conservation efforts. We are talking about an extinction debt. Those species are still alive, so we have an opportunity to get in there and restore the habitat to avoid paying that debt," Ewers said.

The Brazilian Amazon is home to 40% of the world's tropical forest and one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. About 54% of the area is under environmental protection, and in the past five years, stricter controls and better compliance have driven deforestation rates down to a historical low.

The trend towards less deforestation might not last though. Under pressure from the financial crisis, the Brazilian government has proposed a rapid development programme in the Amazon to fuel the economy. The move foresees the construction of more than 20 hydroelectric power plants in the Amazon basin and an extensive push into the rainforest.

Environmentalists are further concerned about an overhaul to Brazil's Forest Code, which is widely expected to weaken the protection of the rainforest, and potentially speed up deforestation once more, according to an accompanying article in Science by Thiago Rangel, an ecologist at the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil. "Extinction debts in the Brazilian Amazon are one debt that should be defaulted on," he writes.

Reducing the rate that extinction debts build up is not enough to preserve the Amazon's biodiversity, Rangel argues. "The existing debt may eventually lead to the loss of species. To prevent species extinctions, it is necessary to take advantage of the window of opportunity for forest regeneration. Restored or regenerated forests initially show lower native species richness than the original forests they replaced, but they gradually recover species richness, composition and vital ecosystems functions, reducing extinction debt and mitigating local species loss," he writes.
The status quo solves their internal link to deforestation

Watts 12 (Jonathan, The Gaurdian, “Amazon deforestation at record low, data shows”, 7 June 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/07/amazon-deforestation-illegal-logging-brazil, ZBurdette)
Deforestation of the Amazon has fallen to its lowest levels since records began, according to data recently released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research.

The boost for the environment comes a week after president Dilma Rousseff was criticised for weakening the forest protection measures widely credited for the improvement, and two weeks before Brazil hosts the Rio+20 Earth summit.

Using satellite imagery, the institute said 6,418 sq km of Amazon forest was stripped in the 12 months before 31 July 2011 – the smallest area since annual measurements started in 1988.

The data continues an encouraging trend. Since the peak deforestation year of 2004, the rates of clearance have fallen by almost 75%.

"This reduction is impressive; it is the result of changes in society, but it also stems from the political decision to inspect, as well as from punitive action by government agencies," Rousseff said.

She was speaking at a ceremony on Tuesday to mark the opening of two new nature reserves: the 34,000-hectare (83,980 acres) Bom Jesus Biological Reserve in Paraná, and the 8,500-hectare (20,995 acres) Furna Feia National Park in Rio Grande do Norte.

To mark World Environment Day, the Brazilian president also signed a number of other measures to expand existing parks, protect areas of biodiversity and recognise the land rights of indigenous communities.

Rousseff said Brazil was "one of the most advanced countries" for sustainable development, but its impressive efforts have been undermined by new legislation that reduces requirements on farms created by illegal logging to reforest portions of cleared land.

Under domestic and international pressure, Rousseff vetoed 12 of the most controversial sections of the revised Forest Code, but environmentalists are furious that many other changes will go through.

The Brazilian government insists that the compromise was a realistic balance of agricultural and environmental priorities. Environment minister Izabella Teixeira says 81.2% of the country's original forest remains – one of the highest levels in the world.

But 10 former environment ministers have criticised the measures as a "retrograde step". In an unusual cross-party collaboration, they jointly signed a letter opposing the change to a code that they described as "the single most relevant institutional basis for the protection afforded to forests and all the other forms of natural vegetation in Brazil."

Economic and technological factors have also contributed to the slowing of clearance rates. The rise in the value of the Brazilian currency and the fall of soya and beef prices in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis eroded the incentive for land clearance for agricultural exports.

Implementing regulations remains extremely difficult in the wild west-like frontiers of the Amazon and the interior forest regions. But enforcement has been strengthened by increasingly precise satellite monitoring by the National Institute for Research in the Amazon.

This November, Brazil plans to launch a new satellite with a resolution of five metres, up from the current level of 250 metres. With close-to-real-time date, the central authorities are able to quickly notify federal police and environment officials about ongoing, illegal land clearance operations.

The government has also responded rapidly and flexibly. After a two-month spurt of clear-cutting in Mato Grosso early last year, it established a task force to strengthen countermeasures and sent 700 inspectors to the region. This year, eight municipalities were added to the list of critical areas, bringing them under closer inspection.

According to local media, the task force has apprehended 325 trucks, 72 bulldozers and 62,000 cubic metres of illegally cut timber and embargoed 79,500 hectares of land in the region.

The environment ministry says further factors in the drop of deforestation are regularisation of land tenure, initiatives to encourage sustainable practices and the expansion of protected areas. According to the UN Global Biodiversity Outlook, Brazil accounts for nearly 75% of the 700,000 sq km of protected areas created around the world since 2003.
US agriculture is high now---disproves their internal link

Neuman 10 (William, “Strong Exports Lift U.S. Agriculture Sector”, August 31, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/business/economy/01exports.html, ZBurdette)
Even as the broader economy falters amid signs of a weakening recovery, the nation’s agriculture sector is going strong, bolstered in part by a surge in exports, according to federal estimates of farm trade and income released on Tuesday.

The estimates confirm what economists have been saying for months: agriculture, which was generally not hit as hard by the recession as many other segments of the economy, remains a small bright spot going forward.

We’re just having a robust rebound in the agricultural sector and promises of more growth,” Jason R. Henderson, vice president and economist at the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said in a recent interview.

The estimates show that American farmers will ship $107.5 billion in agricultural products abroad in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That is the second-highest amount ever, behind the record $115.3 billion in exports logged in 2008, when commodity prices soared as the global demand for agricultural products was helped by fast-growing economies in the developing world.

Next year, exports are expected to total $113 billion. In releasing the data, Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, said exports of grains and meats were leading the rebound. He called the new estimates “very encouraging.”

The export growth is propelled by higher prices for many products, including wheat, whose prices have skyrocketed as drought and punishing heat decimated crops in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Exports to Asia have been particularly strong, and China is forecast to surpass Mexico next year to become the second-largest foreign buyer of American farm products. Canada is the No. 1 export market.

Wheat exports this year are estimated at $6 billion, about the same as last year, as much of this year’s crop had already been sold when prices started to rise. But wheat exports for the fiscal year 2011 are expected to rise to $8 billion, because of higher prices and increased production.

Prices for other grains have risen, too, encouraging farmers.

“The better the demand, the higher the price, and it’s going to put another 10, 15, possibly 20 cents in the price of a bushel of corn,” said Bill Horan, a corn farmer in Iowa. Corn is about $4 a bushel, which is about 50 cents higher than last year. “It means my wife can go out and buy a new sofa, and I can put new tires on the pickup.”

Prices have also risen significantly for cotton, meat and dairy products. Cotton exports are expected to reach $6 billion next year, up from $4.8 billion this year and $3.5 billion last year, on the strength of a large crop here and tight worldwide supplies that have lifted prices.

Despite such increases, prices for most agricultural commodities remain well short of the record levels of 2008. And the price paid to farmers is only a small portion of the end cost of most foods. So economists predict that the prices consumers pay in the supermarket will rise only moderately this year.

Other economic measures were also promising for the farm sector, which accounts for a small fraction of the overall economy but has a strong impact on the well-being of many rural areas, and a ripple effect for suppliers and other related industries.

Total net farm cash income for the current calendar year was estimated at $85 billion, a 23 percent increase from last year and well above the 10-year average of $72 billion.

About 75 percent of farm production occurs on just 271,000 farms, or 12 percent of the total farms in the country. Those large commercial farms were forecast to average $220,000 in net cash income this year, a 22 percent rise from a year ago.

When all farms are taken into account, average farm household income is expected to be $81,670 this year, a nearly 6 percent increase from last year.

Household income for many who live on farms comes largely from off-farm jobs and other sources, like investments. This year, on average, 11 percent of the household income for farm families was predicted to come from agriculture.

Income from both farm and nonfarm sources is expected to rise this year, indicating an overall improvement in the rural economy, officials said.

Joseph Glauber, the agriculture department’s chief economist, said that a strong rebound in livestock and dairy prices had been a major factor in the farm recovery.

Dairy producers were hurt badly in the recession by high costs and low prices, which have recently begun to recover. Cattle and hog producers also struggled with low prices, caused by overproduction. But cattle and hog producers have managed to cut the size of their herds, pushing prices back up at the same time that international demand recovers, Mr. Glauber said.

“Exports are kind of driving our market,” said Jason Anderson, who operates a cattle feedlot in Holbrook, Neb. “Demand is pretty good, and we’ve seen about a $5 to $7 price rally just this month,” he said, referring to the price per hundredweight.

Economists said that the farm sector overall was not hurt as badly in the recession because farmers generally had better access to credit. At the same time, farms over all were not highly leveraged, putting them in a better position to withstand the economic storm.

“The farm economy in rural America has not suffered as severely as the industrial part of the economy and, because of the strong exports, the rural economy is recovering what it lost during the downturn,” said Roy Bardole, a farmer in Rippey, Iowa, and chairman of the Soybean Export Council.
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