Today Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) announced the introduction of the FOREST Act, an updated version of a bill first introduced in 2021. The bill would prohibit imports of agricultural commodities produced on illegally deforested land – the single biggest driver of tropical rainforest destruction – while creating new avenues for the U.S. government to engage with and support producing countries to address deforestation. It would also oblige companies sourcing from regions where deforestation and associated crime are rampant to trace their high-risk commodity supply chains back to their origin and show that the goods were produced in compliance with local laws.
The FOREST Act is supported by a broad range of U.S. environmental, human rights, anti-corruption and faith-based civil society organizations, as well as U.S. businesses and industry associations that understand the importance of preventing illegally produced goods from entering the U.S. market, which would also shield American producers from unfair competition.
The U.S. is a significant market for imported commodities and associated products linked to deforestation and human rights abuses, such as palm oil and rubber from South East Asia, cocoa from West Africa, and cattle from Central and South America. The U.S. is, for example, the second largest importer of cattle products – mainly beef and leather – from Brazil, where the vast majority of deforestation violates the country’s laws protecting the environment and the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities.
The FOREST Act introduction follows recent action by the European Union to close its borders to agricultural goods sourced from recently deforested land, and in line with increasing global recognition of the role unregulated international trade is playing in driving deforestation and environmental crime around the world.
Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency U.S. made the following statement:
“This groundbreaking bipartisan legislation, if enacted, would establish the U.S. as a leader in global efforts to halt deforestation and associated environmental crime, while ensuring that responsible, law-abiding U.S. businesses do not face unfair competition from illegally produced goods entering the U.S. market. This legislation is a win for American consumers and farmers, the world’s forests, and the livelihoods, biodiversity and climate these forests support. There is no time to lose; we urge Congress to swiftly pass the FOREST Act.”