Brazil has a terrific opportunity to align its agricultural growth with the protection of its natural resources. According to estimates, Brazil could double its agricultural production using only existing croplands, without clearing any new land.1 The Law to Protect Native Vegetation (Law no. 12,651/2012), commonly known as the Forest Code, is fundamental to encouraging Brazil’s efforts in this direction. Not merely a tool to protect Brazil’s remaining forests, the code could drive intensified land use and provide incentives for expanding agricultural production via productivity gains rather than by clearing new land for crops.

Although it is a federal law, the Forest Code is implemented at the state level, so states’ efforts to regulate and operate its rules and instruments are critical to its success. States must take a series of actions including:

1. regulating environmental compliance procedures, including requirements of the Rural Environmental Registry (Cadastro Ambiental Rural – CAR) and the Environmental Compliance Program (Programa de Regularização Ambiental – PRA), and regulating methods and parameters for restoring native vegetation;

2. setting up information systems that can handle a large amount of data on rural properties;

3. acquiring technical resources such as satellites and cartographic databases; and

4. hiring and training human resources.

To track progress towards the implementation of the Forest Code, it is essential to map, analyze, and continually monitor states’ efforts. This will help identify successful actions taken by states that are further along in the process, with the purpose to replicating those actions. It will also help policymakers create customized strategies to address the specific challenges and profiles of each state.

Various proposals for amendments to the Forest Code have been introduced in Brazil’s National Congress, on the grounds that the law should be modified because states are having trouble implementing it, and rural producers are thus unable to comply with its regulations. But the reality is quite different in most states. Significant efforts are being made to regulate the Forest Code and create a robust environmental compliance system for rural properties. Nearly all states have shown remarkable progress.

Therefore, no change to the Forest Code should be proposed without a careful analysis of its impact on the states’ implementation of the code. Most states have already regulated some aspects of the federal law, often with the active participation of rural producers and civil society. To make a change to the federal legislation that would substantially alter state regulations would be to disregard the efforts and resources that have already been devoted to creating and implementing these regulations.

This document summarizes the main findings and takeaways of a full report (available in Portuguese)2 produced by analysts from Climate Policy Initiative/PUC-Rio (CPI/PUC-Rio). The full report provides an overview of the Forest Code in Brazil’s states, and gives a detailed analysis of regulatory efforts at the state level. It identifies actions already underway in the states, progress made, major challenges and flaws, and primary public policy recommendations.

The full report gives policymakers and others working directly or indirectly on implementing the Forest Code an objective view of how the law is being regulated and implemented in each of Brazil’s states. It will help them identify major challenges as well as opportunities to move forward, and will serve as a guide on how to direct their efforts and available resources. Moreover, the report provides important information not previously available to the public, and will be a tool for transparency and insight into states’ actions. This work is the result of an extensive data collecting effort, including a workshop, questionnaires and bilateral conversations with state-level representatives officials.

1 Antonaccio, L., Assunção, J., Celidonio M., Chiavari, J., Leme Lopes, C., Schutze, A. Ensuring Greener Economic Growth for Brazil. Rio de Janeiro: Climate Policy Initiative, 2018. Available at:
2 Chiavari, J.; Lopes, C. L. Relatório. Onde estamos na implementação do Código Florestal? Radiografia do CAR e do PRA nos estados brasileiros. Rio de Janeiro: Climate Policy Initiative, 2019. Available at:


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