For decades, our family has operated a few rice fields in Sibalom, the city of the rice granaries of Antique. Unfortunately, I have to sell the land because our family is giving up farming, realizing it has become a losing business.
I share President Marcos Jr.’s sentiment that agriculture is not just a means of subsistence, but an existential imperative, and that food is not just a commodity, but the very basis of human security. . I want to offer ideas that can contribute to the success of the proposed Masagana 150 and Masagana 200 programs that aim to increase rice production, taking into account lessons learned from the success and failure of Masagana 99.
The biggest problem plaguing our agriculture is the lack of young people to replace aging farmers who are on average in their late 50s. Unless the problem is solved, there will not be enough farmers in the next 12 years. Enrollments in agricultural studies have fallen to just 3% of total higher education enrolments. Young people are reluctant to engage in farming for a living because they lack access to land, capital, technology, markets and other resources. Who will work the land to feed our ever-growing population?
The only way to persuade farmers not to give up and young people to get into farming is for the government to demonstrate that indeed there is abundance and that farmers can get rich through agriculture. ‘agriculture.
Many of our farmers today are marginal farmers who traditionally farm mainly for family subsistence. They are incapable of taking risks in farming or managing their finances. The Department of Agriculture (DA) must take drastic measures to promote marginal farmers by engaging them in agribusiness or commercial farming, where they will raise crops on a large scale to sell and make a profit.
Commercial agriculture requires large capital investments, large-scale farms, reliable irrigation systems, environmentally friendly agricultural inputs, innovative technologies, modern equipment, farm-to-market roads and reliable transport to produce high yields.
The most practical and convenient strategy for AD to transform marginal agriculture into commercial agriculture is to organize farmers into cooperatives. Landowners, sharecroppers, sharecroppers, market intermediaries or traders and capital lenders can pool their land, capital and other resources into cooperatives as a legal entity and engage in commercial farming. The DA will provide and direct all organizational, technical and financial assistance and support to cooperatives rather than individual farmers.
The National Food Authority, which is mandated to ensure the stability of rice supply and price, and to maintain an optimal level of national rice stocks, will purchase rice only from local farmers, mainly cooperatives.
The cooperatives will vigorously persuade young people, especially the children of landowners and member farmers, to study agriculture by providing full financial support, including an allowance for basic living expenses, without reimbursement. Upon completion of the study, graduates are required to take paid agricultural jobs in cooperatives for at least two years. If graduates refuse the jobs, they are required to repay the stipend awarded to them during their studies.
The DA should explore the possibility of expanding the area of rice paddies while increasing yields per hectare. In collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management, the DA shall identify alienable and available land from the public domain and consider acquiring private land, which is vacant, unused or underutilized for the development of productive farms and the use by cooperatives.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute shall develop and promote rice varieties suitable for organic or natural farming, to avoid the use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and other harmful agricultural inputs to the environment, especially those derived from imported petroleum.
Transforming marginal agriculture into commercial agriculture requires a significant shift in traditional mindset, massive mobilization of human, financial and other resources, and support from various national government agencies. Nevertheless, the requirements are undoubtedly achievable.
God has blessed our country with everything our people need to live a life of abundance. Our country is rich in natural resources and our people are talented and hardworking. For many of our fellow citizens, living in poverty is unthinkable and never acceptable.
Molo, Iloilo Town
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