Mar 1, 2009

Farmers Manifesto - 2

You would recall a few days back we had talked about the Farmers manifesto. I am now bringing the 2nd part of the manifesto before you. This deals specifically as to what should the government do or in other words what do we expect the government to do.

It suggests a three-pronged approach. The most important being to set up an Income Commission for farmers. It is now being increasingly realised that there is no way other than to provide direct income support to farmers to turn farming into an economically viable enterprise. After all, farmers produce economic wealth for the country. It is time the nation compensate them adequately. This is a small price that the nation must pay for the food security that farmers have ensured for this country. The people who produce food for the country cannot be allowed to go to bed hungry. They are the annadata

I don't want to repeat what is there in the manifesto. Here is the 2nd part:

What should the government do?

§ The government should articulate a clear vision for sustaining agriculture and agriculture-based livelihoods. The stated goal should be to make farming viable for small, marginal and medium farmers. This should signify a clear departure from the thinking of Vision 2020, whose premise was that more than half of the farmers should move out of agriculture.

§ A three-pronged approach should be taken to realize such a vision.

A. Ensuring sustainable income and livelihood security for all farmers: So far, the government support to agricultural sector has been mainly through input and output subsidies, and price support mechanisms. Experience shows that product (agricultural) prices alone cannot meet the income needs of the farmers especially small and marginal. The government policies should be designed explicitly to ensure a living income for all farmers. Options such as direct income support to farmers should be availed of, in addition to proper implementation of the existing mechanisms like price support.

B. Proactive promotion of sustainable agriculture practices: A major cause of the extreme distress among small and medium farmers is that agriculture has become a high-stakes gamble due to dependence on costly inputs. Overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has also resulted in salinization, loss of soil fertility, pest immunity and damage to ecology and health. Therefore sustainable agriculture approaches such as organic farming and non-pesticidal management should be seen as a solution to both the economic and ecological crisis in agriculture. This is also an imperative of the era of climate change that we are experiencing.

C. Recasting Support Systems and Organizing and strengthening farmers’ collectives: Farmers’ collectives can be organized at a similar scale and in a similar manner as women’s thrift groups have been organized in the state. The farmers’ collectives would help in more planned cultivation at village level, better organized storage and marketing, and implement measures to retain more profits with the farmers rather than the middlemen.

What follows is a more detailed articulation of these demands.

A. Ensuring sustainable income and livelihood security all farmers:As the National Commission on Farmers has stated the main goal should be to improve the economic viability of farming by ensuring that farmers earn a “minimum net income”, and ensure that agricultural progress is measured, by the advance made in improving that income. The government should appoint an Income Commission for Farmers as a statutory body which examines the real income of farmers every year across the state. The Commission then comes up with specific recommendations to ensure that farmer families are assured a minimum income. To achieve this, the Commission should use a multi-component approach which includes:

1) Remunerative prices for agricultural produce: The prices for agricultural commodities should be based on the real cost of production and linked positively with inflation. The current MSP determination does not ensure remunerative income to farmers, unless an explicit policy is adopted such as (C2 Cost of production + at least 50% as profit) as recommended by the National Farmers’ Commission. The determination of support price should be done transparently at the state level and recommended to the CACP. The MSPs should be announced before the crop season begins.

Most importantly, the announced prices (MSP etc) should be properly implemented by timely intervention and procurement by the government. The government should set up a state-level Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission and Price stabilization fund which enables such intervention.

2) Labor wage support for all agricultural operations: Today we are in a ironic situation where agriculture workers are unable get employment and farmers are unable to afford agriculture workers due to increasing costs of living. The government should provide input subsidy in the form of labor wages (up to 100 days in a calendar year) to the farmer to monetize the use of family labor or to pay external labor engaged on the farm. This should include all agricultural operations from sowing to harvesting. This can be operationalized on similar lines as NREGS, or by suitably increasing the number of days covered under NREGS and extending it to agricultural work. This will also provide additional help to the agriculture workers in the villages.

3) Increased rural employment opportunities: By systematically promoting post-harvest operations and value addition enterprises at the village level, the net income of farmers can be directly increased. By promoting agriculture-centered small scale rural industry, the rural economy can be given a big boost, correcting the rural-urban imbalance and migration.

4) Direct Income Support: Even if the above measures are all implemented properly, analysis shows that farmers would still not get a living income. For the Income Commission to ensure the target income to each agricultural family, it is essential to provide direct cash payment to make up for the shortfall.

This should be in the form of a fixed amount per family, given to all cultivators including tenant farmers. This direct cash support, together with other measures, should ensure that every agricultural family can maintain fair living standard. This could be set at Rs.15000 per family and revised every year by the Commission. Direct income support is dealt with in more detail in Annexure 1.

5) Improving social security measures: Provide social security measures like pension, insurance etc for farmers and agriculture workers.

B. Promotion of sustainable agriculture/ecological farming

Most of the government intervention and support as part of the Green Revolution has gone to farmers practicing high-input chemical agriculture. We are now seeing the consequences of indiscriminate promotion of chemical farming, both from an economical and environmental point of view. For small and marginal farmers in many parts of India, low-input sustainable agriculture methods have been shown to give better income security and food security, and also improved soil fertility.

Government should promote sustainable agriculture to maximise the local resource use and provide support to the farmers. Farmers adopting organic/ecological farming should also receive financial support from the govt for their own input use
restrictions on the agrochemicals banned world over

Ban on GM crops till their biosafety is proven beyond doubt.
50 % of the research investments in agriculture institutions should be earmarked to organic farming

50 % of the demonstrations by department of agriculture should be on organic farming
public institutions like APSSDC should be revived and decentralised with transparent functioning and accountable to farming community

Farmers training centres should be equipped to run courses on organic farming and experienced farmers should be used as the resource persons

C. Organizing and empowering farmers’ collectives

Organized communities have proven to be more effective in planning and managing their resources and livelihoods, lobbying for a policy change and securing their entitlements. Appropriate institutional systems for each of the purposes need be established.

o Planning and managing their resources and livelihoods
o Capacity building, sharing knowledge etc
o For delivering financial support instruments like subsidies, loans etc
o Marketing operations and increasing collective bargaining power
o Creating value addition and processing infrastructure at village level

(to be continued)

2 comments:

Sridhar said...

Devinderji,

Can we not put together one Farmers manifesto for the nation, based on this, and actually publish it. I am sure there will be lots of small and large farmers organisations who can then write to the future MPs and PMs that this is what they want implemented. I for one can help in this process. But can you take the second step as well. This blog being the First !!

Rajan said...

The fanifesto is a clear approach towards farmer's welfare but irony is that it doesn't suit the interest of our lawmakers coz they wish to see our 'annadata' always as 'Yachaks'.