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U.S. Farm and Forest Products Groups Lobby for End to Tropical Deforestation

Washington, DC, USA, 26 May 2010 -- /PRNewswire/ -- Leading U.S. farm and forest products groups today called on Congress and the administration to help end tropical deforestation. The groups cited a new report showing that overseas agriculture and logging operations are expanding production by cutting down the world's rainforests, allowing them to flood the world market with cheap commodities that undercut American goods. The report estimates that ending deforestation will boost revenue for U.S. producers by USD 196-267 billion by 2030 -- approximately equivalent to the entire amount projected to be spent by farmers on energy during that time.

At a teleconference to release the report, The National Farmers Union, the American Forest & Paper Association, the United Steelworkers (representing forest products workers), and the Ohio Corn Growers Association called for the protection of tropical forests as part of comprehensive energy and climate legislation and other policies. They noted that the clearing and burning of tropical forests by unsustainable overseas agriculture industries produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, tractors, and farm equipment in the world combined.

"Saving rainforests isn't just for treehuggers anymore," said Fred Yoder of the Ohio Corn Growers Association, immediate past president of the National Corn Growers Association. "It is in all of our best interests to protect forests."

The report, entitled "Farms Here, Forests There: Tropical Deforestation and U.S. Competitiveness in Agriculture and Timber," was authored by Shari Friedman of David Gardiner & Associates on behalf of the National Farmers Union and Avoided Deforestation Partners. It is available at www.adpartners.org/agriculture, along with state-by-state and industry-by-industry data on the effect of tropical deforestation on U.S. agriculture and timber producers.

"American farmers and ranchers know the importance of being good stewards of the land," said National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson, who recently returned from a weeklong trip to Brazil where he studied the interaction between agriculture and deforestation. "With family farmers fighting to hold onto their land, we've got to make sure we're not being undercut by irresponsible practices like deforestation."

The report's section on the timber industry highlights the billions of dollars per year lost to U.S. producers because of illegal logging. The report comes just two days after top enforcement officials in Brazil's Mato Grosso state were arrested for involvement in illegal logging rings.

"Continued rampant illegal logging in tropical countries shows we need to strengthen law enforcement efforts to allow Americans to compete on a level playing field," said Donna Harman, president of the American Forest & Paper Association. "At the same time, protecting tropical forests through offsets can provide an affordable way for the forest products industry and other manufacturers to keep energy costs affordable as we address climate change."

According to the report, tropical forest offsets cut the cost of climate legislation by a quarter to a half. However, although the recently introduced American Power Act includes important provisions aimed at protecting tropical forests, it reduces both public funding and private incentives for tropical forest conservation.

"America is losing many thousands of jobs because of illegal logging and tropical deforestation at a time when instead we should be growing jobs here at home," said Keith Romig, strategic issues representative for the United Steelworkers. "Any climate policy that aims to protect American jobs also has to protect tropical forests."

  Key findings include:

  --  Ending deforestation through incentives in U.S. and international
      climate policy would boost U.S. agricultural revenue by USD 190-270
      billion between 2012 and 2030. This increase includes USD 141-221
      billion in direct benefits from increased production of soybeans,
      beef, timber, palm oil, and palm oil substitutes.
  --  Including affordable tropical forest offsets in U.S. climate
      legislation would save U.S. agriculture and related industries an
      estimated $49 billion in compliance costs due to lower energy and
      fertilizer costs.
  --  U.S. timber producers would see increases in revenue of USD 36 billion to
      USD 60 billion by 2030, with the biggest gains in Pennsylvania,
      Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina.
  --  Soybean-producing states like Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and
      Nebraska each stand to gain between USD 2.6 billion and USD 6.8 billion in increased
      revenue if tropical deforestation is halted by 2030.
  --  Oilseed-producing states across the United States (including Iowa, Illinois,
      Minnesota, and the Dakotas) stand to gain a total of USD 18-40 billion by
      2030 if deforestation is halted.
  --  The U.S. beef industry would gain between USD 53 billion and USD 68 billion by 2030
      if deforestation is halted, with the largest increases in revenue
      going to Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
"Protecting rainforests is a win-win-win for the climate, for American consumers, and for farmers and ranchers," said Jeff Horowitz, founder of Avoided Deforestation Partners.

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