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Talk of the Day -- Mixed views on fallow land revitalization

Talk of the Day -- Mixed views on fallow land revitalization

Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji reaffirmed over the weekend that a fallow farmland revitalization program will be kicked off next year as a major step in agricultural reform. Chen said the total acreage of local rice paddies has decreased from some 600,000 hectares 30 years ago to about 250,000 hectares at present. In contrast, the acreage of fallow farmland has increased steadily since Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002 and has exceeded 200,000 hectares by now. Which large plots of farmland are left idle, their owners can still receive subsidies. "The phenomenon violates the principle of fairness and justice," Chen said, adding that the Council of Agriculture (COA) needs to take actions to improve the situation. However, some farmers have voiced strong opposition to the COA-initiated fallow farmland revitalization plan, saying it marks a reversal in the government's previous "small landlords, big tenants" project. The following are excerpts from a special report in the Monday edition of the United Daily News on the COA's new rural development policy: At present, farmland owners are entitled to receive NT$90,000 (US$3,072) per hectare in two installments annually if their farmland is left fallow. Under the COA's new fallow farmland revitalization project, land owners can only receive NT$45,000 in subsidy annually for fallow farmland. The restriction is aimed at encouraging landlords to plant crops for at least some months instead of leaving their land plots fallow all year long. If landlords are unable to plow their farmland, the COA-backed farmland bank will help mediate leasing deals for them during a grace period from 2013 to 2014. During this period, landlords will be given an additional NT$20,000 in farmland maintenance subsidy. Owners of land plots that are unsuitable for farm produce plantation or are reserved for ecological conservation will be offered NT$68,000 in subsidy in two installments annually. The COA will also help landlords to transform their land plots for other usage. Chen said the new project will need a annual budget of NT$11 billion, the same amount needed for the current project. "The difference lies in that the new project will encourage increase production while the present one only subsidizes owners of fallow land lots," Chen explained. The project will be put up for discussion at an interministerial meeting and then be sent to Premier Sean Chen for final approval. COA officials said that once the Cabinet endorses the project, the COA will sponsor at least 100 community outreach meetings around the country to brief grassroots people on highlights of the projects. The COA estimated that the project will be able to help revitalize 45,000 hectares of farmland currently left fallow. While many young farmers support the new project, some old farmers criticize the plan as a policy about-face. Hsieh Wen-wu, a farmer in Houlung in Miaoli County, said he increased his farmland acreage from two hectares to six hectares two years ago in support of the COA's "small landlords, big tenants" project by leasing four hectares of farmland. "I also borrowed NT$7 million to purchase farming equipment, but now the government changes its policy by cutting subsidies. As farmland I leased can only plant rice, I don't know how to survive under the COA's new policy," Hsieh complained. Under the new project, farmers are encouraged to plant corn, wheat and other crops of higher market value. But many farmers in northern Taiwan said weather and soil in many parts of the north are not favorable for corn and wheat plantation. They urged the COA to take a second thought or offer more innovative options before putting its new project into practice. (Oct. 29, 2012). (By Sofia Wu)


Updated : 2021-01-21 13:53 GMT+08:00