LEGISLATING “NEW PHILIPPINE AGRICULTURE”

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THE farmers’ children are no longer interested in farming but would rather work in CALL CENTERS. This is the observation of Sen. Cynthia Villar, newly appointed chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and fisheries and would like to do something about it. 

It is also for the same reason that Sen. Villar has instructed TESDA to accelerate its FARMING SCHOOL PROGRAM for the training of young farmers. 

The same has been observed among the "sacadas" of sugar farms. There are now less farm workers in sugar plantations because their children that are now working in CALL CENTERS are now financially supporting their parents and  have asked them to stopped working in the farms which are backbreaking. 

The same is true in the grains industry for which reason you now see harvesters and machine transplanters working in the rice paddies. 

Unfortunately, it is again the capitalist that profits in the paradigm shift similar to the millers. 

This phenomenon must now be arrested otherwise we will have a food crisis with the farmers selling their farms for other uses even if they are irrigated or less productive  because of the absence also of farm family labor.

Reason for this is the waning interest of the youth of our land especially the sons and daughters of our farmers to continue with farming as a livelihood. It is for this reason that a farmers’ federation has proposed to TESDA to train the youth into FARMTECHS (Farmers as Technicians with Skills) 

The other reason is the absence of farm credit (even from the 5/6) because farming is not a lucrative business for which reason the banks shy away from lending to the farmers. under PD 717. Thus only the government can help encourage the youth to go back to farming. 

The government however is wanting in innovative ideas to revolutionize Philippine agriculture and with the billions of pesos that is budgeted to reach the farmers, they are still "boxed in" to the "dole out" systems. 

Recent reports show that only 2 out of 10 farmers is reached by government programs. 

A new approach to create a New Philippine Agriculture (parallel of the outmoded program strategies of the DA) and "get out of the box" of government policies and dole out programs is in order. 

PROJECT A.S.A. (Agribusiness Systems Approach) is now being proposed by a farmers’ federation where government funds could be transferred as seed funds to a federation of farmers and return the same amount of money to the government to be able to replicate in other areas. 

In effect the P 50 B that may be allocated by DA for this year could become P 100 B funds next year (without additional budget from Congress) and P 200 B in the third and also provide our farmers with a modern farming system, mechanize their farming methods (and get out of planting and harvesting by hand) and have "value adding" by having their own rice mill complex. 

In addition, using renewable energy technology, we can now irrigate (electrigation) rain-fed farms and have two to three crops per year and generate our own clean energy from our agri-waste. 

This method can easily double the production in any area of the country where it will be implemented.

This approach is now called GET SMART FarmS (Green Energy Technology for Systematic, Modernized Appropriate Rural Technologies for Farmers Sustainability). This is now also in line with the SUSTAINABLE GOALS of the U.N. 

With the legislative powers of her Committee on Agriculture (which should not follow the bureaucratic approach to agricultural development under a "dole out mentality to "totally" benefit our small holder farmers) Sen. Villar can easily introduce a NEW PHILIPPINE AGRICULTURE including the funds needed for it. 

(This column was initially maintained by VL Sonny Domingo  a farmer leader and now a member of the Board of Agriculture, as GRAIN OF SALT at the Green and Gold of U.P. College of Agriculture, then as FOODLINE at the Manila Chronicle. It now appears in this magazine as a continuing advocacy of the columnist to bring to the attention of leaders and policy makers the real score in the development of the natural resources of the country and the disadvantage sectors. Publisher)