The Brazilian Constitution determines that unproductive properties may be condemned for the purposes of Agrarian Reform. From this arises the question: What exactly are unproductive properties?
The law surrounding the subject considers property unproductive if it does not profitably utilize its land. This classification must be made by a professional by means of an inspection.
In the inspections the inspector first verifies the extent to which the land is being effectively developed in the property; after that he compares the production obtained by the various sources of cultivation and of cattle production on the inspected property, taking into consideration data of the median income of Brazilian plantations in relation to the same products.
A property that utilizes a very small part of its lands or whose income is below the median is classified as unproductive and, therefore, can be condemned for the constitution of registration of Agrarian Reform.
The table containing the indicators of income and cattle productivity was made in the 1970s. Since then Brazilian agriculture has been modernized and become much more productive.
However, the table of indicators has not been modified, and this allows plantations which have already overexploited their properties’ productivity to escape being classified as unproductive.
In Paraná only 8 of 148 property inspections resulted in the property being classified as unproductive. With new indices the result would obviously be much higher.
The outdated indicators lead to delays in the condemnation process and cause owners who fail inspections to dispute the condemnation laws with the government. This raises the stakes for the process of Agrarian Reform and does what it can to render the process slower overall.
In 1999 the Minister of Agrarian Reform carried out studies in order to update the indicators of income (or, “indices of productivity,” as they call them).
Two institutes known for their competency and aptitude undertook the survey: Unicamp and Embrapa. The two acted separately and arrived at practically the same conclusions.
In keeping with the law, the Ministers of Agrarian Development and Agriculture should have issued, as reviewed by the National Council of Agricultural Development, the instruction by INCRA (National Institute of Agrarian Colonization and Reform) to establish the new indicators.
But large plantation owners came together to prevent this from happening.
In the proposal to the Second National Plan of Agricultural Reform, brought to President Lula in December 2003, the need to issue this instruction (p. 38) was demonstrated, with the goal of making possible the implementation of the established record.
But, until now, April 2005, it still hasn’t managed to be issued, clearly due to resistance from the large plantation owners.
When the massacre occurred at Felisburgo, in Minas Gerais, a commission of civil service representatives requested that President Lula establish the indices, as a necessary provision to accelerate the process of Agrarian Reform, which is currently running behind the set goals of the government – goals that are at the median of the goals proposed by the same specialists who improved the Plan.
On the occasion of Sister Dorothy’s assassination, the same commission renewed their request.
The decision they chose to take, however, was not to immediately issue the new indicators based on the studies from 1999, which were already ready, but rather to do a new study. It is reported that this was already done and discussed in the highest spheres of government.
It is hoped that the Lula government will face this veto and issue the new indices, in order not to stay in the same position of past governments, which always cited lack of information to do something other than that which was already being done”
Plínio Arruda Sampaio is the president of ABRA (Brazilian Association of Agrarian Reform) and member of the team that developed the National Plan of Agrarian Reform, which was presented to the government in 2003.