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Small Landlords, Big Tenant Farmers ˇV New System to Revitalize Farmlands
Founded by seven counties/cities and 43 professional farmers, Taiwan Rice Farmers Co., Ltd. (TRF) recently finalized Taiwan's biggest rice paddy adoption program ˇV My Acre of Rice Paddy ˇV with domestic businesses. Since its inauguration in July 2008, more than 116 businesses have adopted a total of 52 hectares.
TRF is made up of young, professional farmers who farm leased land. They accept businesses and individuals' orders to carry out contract farming and produce quality product. By collaborating with businesses, TRF has found a different channel for production and another outlet for their produce. Meanwhile, the collaboration has also shed light on solving the long-running problem of farmland use.
Problems: Scattered small-scale plots of farmland, aging farmers
Most farmers own small plots of farmland and run their farms as a family business. The problem of scattered small plots of cultivated land has existed for a long time, which raises production costs and reduces profits. The average age of farmers has risen from 58 in 2000 to 61 in 2005, and is detrimental to agricultural development.
Table 1: Statistics on Taiwan's farmers and farms
To revitalize the farm land, the Council of Agriculture has introduced the Farmland Bank to provide information on the purchase, sale and lease of farmland, as well as a platform for their brokerage, so that people interested in selling, buying or leasing farmland can quickly find what they are looking for. ˇ§Small Landlords, Big Tenant Farmersˇ¨ is the outcome of creative thinking aimed at encouraging landlords unable or unwilling to farm to lease their plots to young farmers, agriculture production and marketing groups, farmers' organizations, and farming businesses that are interested, thereby allowing the farms to grow bigger and helping them become professional and efficient in order to compete globally.
Maintaining existing benefits for elderly farmers while utilizing idle land
The principal characteristic of ˇ§Small Landlords, Big Tenant Farmersˇ¨ is that it energizes farmland use, reduces production costs, and adjusts structures of the farming labor and industry. The system provides an open, transparent lease environment and offers incentives such as financing and assistance in production and marketing to allow agriculture operators to reduce costs and put idle land to better use.
Though the system is designed to encourage elderly farmers to retire, their benefits will not change as a result. Experts suggest that elderly farmers be allowed to provide consultative services to the lessees after leasing out their plots and a community living environment suitable for them be arranged so that they are not forced to move away from the farming life they have devoted themselves to.