End the Cycle of Deforestation and Human Rights Abuses in Nicaragua.
Support the FOREST Act

Open Letter to the 118th Congress

We the undersigned are united in our urgent call for Congress to support passage of the Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade Act (S. 2950 and H.R.5508)—known as the Forest Act—to help end the cycle of deforestation and human rights abuses in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is home to an intensifying environmental and human rights conflict fueled by state violence and a lack of rule of law-incentivizing illegal cattle ranching in one of the last remaining rainforests in Mesoamerica. Ranchers are aggressively turning protected lands into cattle pasture, threatening the lives and livelihood of the indigenous communities. As a result, the country has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation and has lost nearly 60% of its forests over the last 40 years. 

Meanwhile, the key commodity raised in the rainforests—conflict beef—is making its way to the dinner tables of unsuspecting Americans. In 2021, the US was the largest importer of Nicaraguan beef, accounting for 42% of exports by weight and 49% of exports by trade value, providing the Ortega regime with a steady source of revenue. In the face of grave human rights violations, Nicaragua saw a record increase in beef exports between 2018-2021.

Despite legislation that prohibits illegal settlement and supply chain traceability programs, the Nicaraguan government turns a blind eye to the situation. Strict censorship and NGO suppression further enable the government’s lack of accountability. The lack of judicial independence has also undermined the ability of civil society organizations and indigenous communities to hold illegal ranchers accountable for the damage caused by their activities. 

Now is the time to support legislation to end these destructive practices—to protect the environment, the indigenous people of Nicaragua, responsible businesses, and American consumers who are unwittingly contributing to the deforestation and violence.

As one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of agricultural commodities, the United States must play a key role in setting standards for trade and finance that promote good governance and protect people and the ecological integrity of the world’s remaining forests. The European Union and the United Kingdom have recently put in place regulatory measures to reduce the negative impacts their trade in agricultural commodities is having on forests and other natural ecosystems. The United States risks becoming a dumping ground for commodities linked to crime if it doesn't also take steps to keep illicitly produced goods out of its markets.

As a critical step in reducing our footprint on the world’s forests and fighting corruption and crime abroad, including in Nicaragua, we urge you to enact the FOREST Act, which includes provisions to:

  • Prohibit agricultural commodities, including beef, produced on illegally deforested land from entering US markets;
  • Require companies to carry out and report on risk-based due diligence, including supply chain traceability, on imports of commodities linked to deforestation;
  • Increase U.S. engagement with and support for countries taking meaningful steps to improve governance and reduce deforestation;
  • Strengthen tools to tackle deforestation-related corruption and financial crime; and
  • Establish a federal government procurement preference for zero-deforestation products.

We look forward to working with you to advance these measures as part of a broader policy and regulatory agenda to safeguard Nicaragua’s and the world’s rainforests, inhabitants and ecosystems for the sake of our climate, our health, and the future of our planet.

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