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Rousseff Says She May Veto Brazil Bill Forgiving Logging

May 26 (Bloomberg) -- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she may veto part of a bill approved by the lower house that pardons loggers and farmers who illegally deforested land, including parts of the Amazon rain forest.

Speaking to reporters in Brasilia, Rousseff said she opposes the amnesty granted by the lower house to loggers, and will work with the Senate to alter the law.

“I have the prerogative to veto it,” Rousseff said. “If I judge that anything is damaging the country, I’ll veto it.”

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon jumped almost sixfold in March and April from the same period last year, led by the destruction of trees in Mato Grosso, the country’s biggest soybean-producing state. Environmentalists have been fighting farm groups to block the bill since it was introduced in 2009. If senators amend the bill, it will return to the lower house before being sent to Rousseff for her signature.

The legislation, which alters parts of Brazil’s 1965 forestry code, contradicts Brazil’s pledge at a 2009 climate-change summit in Copenhagen to slow the pace of deforestation in the Amazon and reduce carbon emissions, the head of Greenpeace’s Brazilian forest preservation campaign Marcio Astrini said yesterday.

“I don’t know if Dilma supports the bill, but I know that this bill is against Dilma’s pledges to control emissions and reduce deforestation,” Astrini said in an interview yesterday.

Beef, Soybeans

Brazil is the world’s biggest beef exporter and has the largest soybean crop after the U.S. Soy output will increase 7.2 percent this year to 73.7 million tons, the Agriculture Ministry said this month. Mato Grosso, which produced 27 percent of Brazil’s last soybean harvest, will boost production 8.8 percent to 20.4 million tons, according to ministry figures.

Environment activists Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo were killed in an ambush May 24 morning by gunmen in Nova Ipixuna, Para state. The couple protested against illegal extraction of wood in the region. Rousseff has asked the federal police to take over the case.

Under amendments to the bill, which was approved by the house in a 410-63 vote, state governments would have the authority to determine which parts of their land owners need to preserve or recover. The legislation also prevents the government from fining farmers who cleared parts of the Amazon, a national preservation zone.

Deforestation in the world’s largest rain forest increased in March and April to 593 square kilometers (229 square miles), about the size of Toronto, from 103.5 square kilometers in the same period last year, the National Institute for Space Research said May 18. In January and February, 19.2 square kilometers of forest were destroyed.

Tropical forests are disappearing at a rate of about 13 million hectares (32 million acres) each year, or an area the size of Greece, according to a United Nations Environment Program report published May 6.

To contact the reporters on this story: Carla Simoes in Brasilia at csimoes1@bloomberg.net; Matthew Bristow in Brasilia at mbristow5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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