Trump's trade war 'linked to Amazon rainforest destruction'

As unsold U.S. soybeans are stored in silos across the farm belt, Brazilian farmers and corporations scramble to satisfy the voracious Chinese market. The push to break new ground amid President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is putting increasing pressure on the Amazon rainforest and is likely linked to the region’s devastating fires, according to experts.

“There is concern that market pressures related to the disruptions in global trade contributed to the fires in the Amazon,” Paul Murphy-Spooner, the spokesperson for the American Soybean Association, said in an email to HuffPost. 

Brazil is America’s biggest soybean competitor and has stepped up its production now that China has slashed its purchases of U.S. crops in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports. Soy shipments from Brazil jumped 27% from 2017 to 2018. Chinese imports from Brazil in the 12 months through April amounted to 71 million tons — nearly as much as China imported from the entire world in 2014, according to Bloomberg. 

Amid increasing demands for farm products from China, Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has pledged to open up the 2 million-square-mile Amazon forest — including inside protected indigenous areas — to more farming and mining. He has jokingly referred to himself as “Captain Chainsaw.” Many suspect that raging fires in the region, which were largely unchecked for weeks, are part of a strategy to speed up that policy. The Amazon Environmental Research Institute has concluded that the recent increase in the number of fires in the Amazon is directly related to deliberate deforestation, the BBC reported.

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Fire tears through Amazon rainforest
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Fire tears through Amazon rainforest
A tract of Amazon jungle is seen burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
A man works in a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
An tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
A tract of Amazon jungle is seen burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil September 23, 2013. Picture taken September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
A man works in a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
An tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
A charred trunk is seen on a tract of Amazon jungle that was recently burned by loggers and farmers in Iranduba, Amazonas state, Brazil August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
Charred trees stand as a forest fire sweeps through the Vila Nova Samuel region, along the road to the Jacunda National Forest near the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Experts from the country's satellite monitoring agency say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland, but the same monitoring agency has reported a sharp increase in deforestation this year as well. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Fire consumes a field along the BR 070 highway near Cuiaba, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Experts say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland, but the same monitoring agency has reported a sharp increase in deforestation this year as well. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Cattle stand near a wooded area smoldering in the Alvorada da Amazonia region in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they are preparing to help Brazil battle fires burning across the Amazon region and repair the damage as tens of thousands of soldiers got ready to join the fight against blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
A fire burns in highway margins in the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A fire burns in highway margins in the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Firefighters walk across charred land to another area as they work to put out fires along the road to Jacunda National Forest in the Vila Nova Samuel region, near the city of Porto Velho in Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they were preparing to help Brazil fight the fires burning across the Amazon rainforest and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers were being deployed to fight the blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Cattle stand in the field as a fire burns an area in the Alvorada da Amazonia region in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they are preparing to help Brazil battle fires burning across the Amazon region and repair the damage as tens of thousands of soldiers got ready to join the fight against blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Moacir Cordeiro, who works in a local cattle farm, looks on after digging grooves with a tractor in an attempt to keep the flames from spreading to the pasture, as a fire burns an area in the Alvorada da Amazonia region in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. "The problem is that the fire is everywhere. Every place you look there are spot of fire and burn", says the 55-year-old worker. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Fire consumes an area in the Alvorada da Amazonia region, in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. The country's satellite monitoring agency has recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year, with more than half of those coming in August alone. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
An area smolders in the Alvorada da Amazonia region in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Trees are destroyed after a fire in the Alvorada da Amazonia region, in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. The country's satellite monitoring agency has recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year, with more than half of those coming in August alone. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Trees are destroyed after a fire in the Alvorada da Amazonia region in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. The country's satellite monitoring agency has recorded more than 41,000 fires in the Amazon region so far this year, with more than half of those coming in August alone. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Fire consumes a field along the BR 070 highway near Cuiaba, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Experts from the country's satellite monitoring agency say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland, but the same monitoring agency has reported a sharp increase in deforestation this year as well. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Trees are destroyed after a fire in the Vila Nova Samuel region, along the road to the Jacunda National Forest near the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Experts from the country's satellite monitoring agency say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland, but the same monitoring agency has reported a sharp increase in deforestation this year as well. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Embers from a wildfire smolder along BR 070 highway near Cuiaba, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Experts from the country's satellite monitoring agency say most of the fires are set by farmers or ranchers clearing existing farmland, but the same monitoring agency has reported a sharp increase in deforestation this year as well. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
The sun sets amid smoke from forest fires that is leaving behind charred trees in the Vila Nova Samuel region, along the road to the National Forest of Jacunda, near the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they were preparing to help Brazil fight the fires burning across the Amazon rainforest and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers were being deployed to fight the blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Fire consumes a field along the BR 070 highway near Cuiaba, Mato Grosso state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they were preparing to help Brazil fight the fires burning across the Amazon rainforest and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers were being deployed to fight the blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Mario Lobao)
Firefighters work to put out forest fires along the road to Jacunda National Forest near the city of Porto Velho in Rondonia state, in the Vila Nova Samuel region, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they were preparing to help Brazil fight the fires burning across the Amazon rainforest and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers were being deployed to fight the blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Firefighters work to put out forest fires along the road to Jacunda National Forest near the city of Porto Velho in Rondonia state, in the Vila Nova Samuel region, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they were preparing to help Brazil fight the fires burning across the Amazon rainforest and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers were being deployed to fight the blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Firefighters work to put out fires in the Vila Nova Samuel region, along the road to the National Forest of Jacunda, near to the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they were preparing to help Brazil fight the fires burning across the Amazon rainforest and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers were being deployed to fight the blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A line of fire fighting vehicles advance through smoke from forest fires in the Vila Nova Samuel region, along the road to the National Forest of Jacunda, near to the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations said Sunday they were preparing to help Brazil fight the fires burning across the Amazon rainforest and repair the damage even as tens of thousands of soldiers were being deployed to fight the blazes that have caused global alarm. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Trees burn in a wildfire in highway margins in the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A fire burns in highway margins in the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Trees burn during a fire in the highway margins in the city of Porto Velho, Rondonia state, part of Brazil's Amazon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Trees are destroyed after a fire in the Alvorada da Amazonia region, in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
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“Citizens around the world should be concerned by the global environmental and individual health impact of the devastating fires in Brazil, potentially started to clear land for crops and cattle,” said a statement to HuffPost from the American Soybean Association. “Meanwhile, U.S. crops remain unsold.”

Not only do American farmers have soybeans to sell, but also the crops are generally grown under far more stringent environmental standards than in Brazil, according to the association.

“It’s such a waste,” Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, told HuffPost. “We have plenty of soybeans to sell, while you worry that more and more land is being put into production in Brazil to satisfy the market. And the rainforest is so crucially important to the world.” 

The consequences are devastating not only for Brazil but also for the world. The Amazon basin — the globe’s biggest rainforest and home to 3 million species of plants and animals — is crucial to regulating global warming. Its forests absorb millions of tons of carbon emissions each year.

The Group of Seven agreed at its summit in France last week to provide $22 million and other support to Brazil to help with firefighting, which it appears Bolsonaro will likely reject.

Trump skipped the G-7 meeting on climate change on Monday. The president claimed he had other meetings with the leaders of Germany and India. But both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were in the climate change meeting. 

Trump later claimed that he knows “more than most people about the environment.” He noted: “I’m an environmentalist. A lot of people don’t understand that.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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