Panel on farm income: Need law to facilitate land pooling

Times of India, January 20, 2018

Flagging how small size of land holdings adversely impact farm production and income, a central committee has strongly pitched for land pooling which would allow farmers to join hands and become a bigger entity under a proposed law.

The move will not only help them increase farm productivity through operational efficiency using scientific methods of farming but also arm them with a bargaining chip to sell their produce as a bigger entity at remunerative prices in the open market.

The committee on doubling farmers’ income (DFI), which has been working on various proposals since April 2016, in its latest report also suggested bringing enabling legislations, such as land lease and contract farming acts, in states to guard interests of land owners who decide to go ahead with land pooling.

The committee, chaired by senior IAS officer Ashok Dalwai, has recommended five key steps to deal with the problem of division and fragmentation of land holdings.

Besides suggesting a law on land lease, the other four suggestions which can assist farmers in tackling the problem of small land holdings include contract farming through a separate legislation; encouraging farmers to go for farmer producer organisations (FPOs) as a common interest group like a private company and developing accurate and approved land ownership records with GPS to deal with issues of civil disputes; and developing land markets through digital geo-tagging

The latest report, released last week, has examined the structural weakness and reforms needed in the agricultural system in the country. The suggestions assume significance given the dominance of small and marginal farmers who account for more than 86% of the total number of landholdings in the country. In fact, majority of them are marginal farmers who have land holdings the size of less than one hectare. “The volume highlights how the assets, people and regulations can accelerate the necessary changes in the agricultural system,” said Dalwai in preface of the report.

Since land is the principle asset of a farmer, the report noted that the small size of a farmer’s land holding has become a major concern. “The viability of farming and the income that a farmer earns thereof are posing a challenge,” said the panel’s report.

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