Wanted: The farmers’ champion

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

IT is heartening to learn that Fourth District’s Cong Toff de V has refiled his Magna Carta for Young Farmers in the 18th Congress which was unacted on in the previous Congress. 

Perhaps, the bill may never be passed because the intended beneficiaries are invisible to both the government and the economic planners. The agri sector never had, nor was it ever given a face – that of the impoverished farmer. Our national government has always left the agri sector to its means, to be exploited by unscrupulous traders, that include smugglers, as long as they continue to produce the basic commodities. 

In fact, the only time the agri sector, meaning, the farmers, gets any attention is when prices spiral, or their produce are wasted by calamities.  But even then, when calamity hits a region or province, there are only three items that make the headlines: number of evacuees, damage to infra and agri products.  The news is about the number of hectares affected and how market prices will be affected by the expected drop in the supply of rice and vegetables.

Did we ever read anything in the national news about the number of farmers who lost their produce, their personal losses that pushed them deeper into debts with loan sharks? None!

Did we hear of any amount of assistance from national or local governments given displaced farmers who not only lost their farms but heir houses as well? None. Government reports out number of families given shelter and food but nothing specific about the farmers who lost both their produce and homes!

So more than the proposed Magna Carta for Young Farmers that needs to be passed today that will hopefully entice young people to become farmer-entrepreneurs, the agri sector needs a proactive champion… a champion who will push for the all important support that farmers need –  the very same benefits and privileges listed in De Venecia’s bill.

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ANYTHING BUT TO BE A FARMER. When was the last time we heard of farmers who were able to recoup their losses from flooding because these was the crop insurance that covered their losses?

This ugly situation alone for farmers is enough for farming parents to encourage their children to become nurses, lawyers, engineers, caregivers, accountants, computer programmers, etc… anything but to take over their farm lot as farmers.

Even the sensationalized land reform hardly made any difference in farmers’ lives who were made to believe that their emancipation would free them from the shackles of poverty. Alas, little did the beneficiaries know that for them to enjoy the supposed game-changing reform, they need vital support from government, something that their counterparts across the world enjoyed. Without the subsidies, keeping a land title did not make any difference except to be given the opportunity to mortgage the farm that attaches a high interest.  In economic parlance, all that the farmers got from land reform was a psychic income – to be the owner of the small parcel of farm land.

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LIFE-LONG LEGACY. In fairness, the Espino government has been very responsive in providing support where it could, i.e., planting inputs, irrigation, and to some extent mechanized farming services. 

Given what I’ve seen and heard so far about Guv Pogi, about being single-minded on anything he focuses on like sports development, I pray he will consider being the farmers’ champion in the province, provide the vision and political will to lift our farmers to become the most successful entrepreneur farmers in the region.

He can take a cue from what Cong Toff’s proposed Magna Carta seeks for our farmers. In fact, there is something that can quickly give farmers that farming can be a profitable livelihood. Talk crop insurance!

He can start linking the Crop Insurance of the Philippines with mayors to determine the level of protection that their farmers need against calamities. The provincial government can study and present a schedule of counterpart from the provincial government to cover premiums of land reform beneficiaries in the province to induce mayors to join the bandwagon.   

After the crop insurance is in place, his administration can learn from best practices of foreign governments in promoting the agri sector, meaning the farmers plight.

Pangasinan farmers’ champion is a legacy that will be for keeps, and will surely lead to being the PH farmers champion!

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BY THE WAY, The PUNCH family is bigger than ever. Already on board to give our readers wider coverage of news are: Ahikam Pasion, Melody Valenton and Helen Martin to reinforce our regulars: Ding Micua, Eva Visperas (for PhilStar Wire Service), Nora Dominguez, Jesus Garcia Jr., Willie Lomibao, Jojo Riñoza, Cesar Ramirez and Rey Zambrano.

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