Story highlights

Brazil¹s Congress postpones vote on controversial forest code for a week

Rural lobby in Brazil's Congress is demanding more protection for farmers

Environmentalists are concerned ecological gains could be threatened

Amazon rain forest is huge -- roughly half as large as the United States

Sao Paulo CNN  — 

Brazil¹s Congress postponed a vote on Tuesday on a controversial forest code, which has pitted farmers and ranchers against environmentalists.

According to state-run Agencia Brasil, the vote was rescheduled for next Tuesday so the government can try to secure support for the current text.

Lawmakers are still sharply divided, with the rural lobby in Congress demanding more protection for farmers who have cleared land and environmentalists accusing the government of repealing landmark laws.

Over the past decade, Brazil has cracked down on clear-cutting, especially in the biodiverse Amazon rain forest, reducing the rate of deforestation by 80%.

Environmentalists are concerned that some of those gains could be threatened if the new legislation is passed. The bill eases limits on deforestation and extends an amnesty to some developers who cut down trees illegally in the past.

Still, it is more eco-friendly than an earlier version of the bill that was supported by the rural lobby in Brazil¹s Congress.

The Amazon rain forest covers a huge area, roughly half as large as the United States, with about 60% of it in Brazil.

It is estimated that nearly a fifth of the Brazilian forest has been lost since 1970.

Initially cleared by loggers, much of it was turned into pastures and farmlands as Brazil went from being a food importer to a global agricultural powerhouse.