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Young Farmers' Training Program Young Talents are Welcome to Join the Agricultural Industry
The development of agriculture in Taiwan encounters challenges in various aspects, such as aging problem of farmers and scattered arable area per household in the domestic market as well as the competition from free trade movement in the international market. In order to maintain the sustainable development of agriculture and reactivate the fallow land, a complete supply chain from up-to down-stream should be established, and more young farmers should be invited to rejuvenate the industrial structure and accumulate multiple abilities for the future development. As a result, the COA has been devoted to promoting multiple projects to attract young farmers to participate the farm business. For example, the measures include assisting young farmers to go to the industry by providing a comprehensive guidance system in accordance with the need of individual young farmer. Other important measures can be summarized into the followings:
I. Develop professional know-how and offer practical industrial training for young farmers
Integrate 14 agricultural research institutions and district agricultural improvement stations to conduct research, training and promotion programs and establish 14 agriculture training centers, contributing to the founding of The Farmers Academy (http://academy.coa.gov.tw/) in 2011. It offers professional training, and through onsite internship can students gain actual experiences from professional farmers and participate in hands-down agricultural production and management. The knowledge in the classroom is then transformed into useful practical experiences which can lead to the establishment of a systematic step-by-step training program with the ultimate goal of achieving balance between theory and practice.
In 2013, a total of 4,090 students graduated from the 141th training program, among which 2,407 people (59%) were below 45 years old and 111 participants joined farm practice. The program offered effective learning opportunities about agriculture to young students, and advanced continuing education to professional farmers. From 2014 the courses are open in a flexible schedule, with an increase in short-term elective courses in order to encourage more agribusinesses to join the internship program which allows the younger generation to acquire the knowledge on corporate management.
II. Assist young farmers in attaining farmland
Farmlands were reactivated by means of the EzLand banking website (http://ezland.coa.gov.tw/), and the "Small Landlords and Big Tenants" as well as the fallow land adjustment policies. The function of the website and the services it provides will continue to be updated and enriched. As a result, young farmers would be able to obtain or rent the farmlands they need with ease.
III. Offer start-up business funds to young farmers
The loan for young farmers' star-up businesses was released in October, 2012, offering up to NT$ 5 million as the initial capital for farmers to start their businesses with an annual interest rate of 1.5%. The young farmers could also apply for the policy-oriented special agricultural loans, such as management improvement, land procurement, agricultural machineries, compositing loan for farmhouse, and so on. If they cannot obtain enough bank guarantee, the loan managing bank could assist them in getting the required guarantee from the agricultural credit guarantee fund. Should they need further details on the application, the counselors from Agricultural Bank of Taiwan can offer necessary assistance.
IV. Establish local young farmer's service and exchange platform
Advise the city or county farmers’ association to integrate and set up service and information exchange platform for young farmers, investigating the business development of local young farmers for the purpose of offering effective local information, training and guidance service concerning farming. Business cooperation is encouraged to enhance the organization’s overall operational, production, and marketing capabilities so that the guidance and service for local young farmers can be effectively carried out.
In 2013, there have been 14 municipal and county farmers' associations setting up their exchange platform, recruiting over 600 participants with an average age of 35, thus creating an interactive and mutual cooperative environment for local agricultural talents and young farmers.
In 2014, the 15th exchange platform was established and managed by National Farmers' Association which is tasked with the planning and promoting of various activities, including feature exhibitions, promotion of the before, the during and the after of the events, customer management service training course, as well as providing customer management system that aimed to offer multiple resources to local young farmers. This will help solidify their customer base and business revenue. By means of this platform, farmers can cooperate with each other and upgrade their product quality, variety and competitiveness.
V. Promote young farmers' special guidance project
In June, 2013, 100 young farmers with an average age of 33 were selected to join the special one-on-one guidance project which lasted two years supported by 7 district agricultural research and extension stations as well as 2 tea seedling improvement and propagation stations. Depending on individual need, the program offered various services including agricultural management know-how, acquisition of farmlands and capitals, subsidy application for facility, administration and regulation consultation, as well as product marketing design and counseling services entrusted to China Productivity Center. Comprehensive aspects such as production technology, marketing, finance, R&D, institutionalization, and information tools are covered in the program to achieve the goal of establishing stable business operations and innovative development.
From 2014 special guidance projects would be expanded and reinforced by placing the emphasis on guiding the young farmers, integrating horizontal and vertical industries, setting up guidance model for industrial value chain, and holding events such as innovative management competitions. These activities aim to encourage more young talents to organize management teams with each other and present their creativity or cross-field cooperation plan. After being selected, professional consultant groups would assist them in the implementation of their plans in stages for activities such as the organization of feature retailing channel procurement meetings (i.e. organic agricultural products, grain crops, and processed foods). Additionally, the young farmers could take the initiative to contact their counterparts to propose their production plan. The Council of Agriculture (COA) will then invite retailers to pay visits and discuss possible cooperation with these farms. The COA can even organize overseas learning programs for them in order to gain knowledge on industrial chain integration, cross-region cooperation, market analysis and strategies. As result, young farmers will be able to expand the market by broadening their visions at an international level.
VI. Promote the internship program in school of agriculture
Establish cooperation with schools of agriculture to organize summer internship programs which will enable the students to understand their position and ability in the industry. Students can then master their specialties and put what they learned in school into actual practice. A total of 10 departments from 5 schools, naming National Taiwan University, National Chung Hsing University, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, National Chiayi University, and National Yilan University, jointly organized the summer internship program and accepted 39 students to carry out the internship in 19 farms. After the review of the program by the end of period, the result and feedback were both positive. Therefore, the program would be expanded in 2014. In order to increase the scope of the internship, and meet the demand of schools and students as well as the innovation of industrial value chain, agribusiness sectors will be encouraged to join the program in the future.
VII. Promote the increase of agriculture value and the training of innovative talents
Staying in line with the Free Economic Pilot Zones (FEPZs) policy, the COA took the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park as its base for the promotion of investment and value-added agriculture. It is expected to increase the output value of agriculture production and create more work opportunities for young farmers. Currently there are over 800 people working in the park, and nearly half of them are under 40 years old. What's more, through the assistance from R.O.C. Academia-Industry Consortium, over 30 universities and research centers cooperated together to join the training program.
In 2014, the COA will cooperate with the Ministry of Education in launching the talent matching program with National Pingtung University of Science and Technology based on major industries in the park such as animal vaccine. To satisfy the need of human resources in the park, recruitment and training will be integrated as a two-in-one program.
Walk hand-in-hand and advance together—young local farmers association
Due to the similarity of the young farmers' business in Taoyuan County and frequent exchange and cooperation among themselves, Taoyuan County Farmers’ Association (TCFA) mobilized members to investigate into local young farmers' intention to organize a union and held a preparatory meeting to select the cadre members who could assist the management of the union. Thereafter, the young farmers' union would keep an active and direct contact with the County Farmers’ Association regularly to discuss about suitable training courses as well as the short, middle and long term tasks in the future. It aimed to strengthen skill acquisition abilities and exchange experience in the short term perspective, accumulate horizontal and vertical cooperative partnership in the middle process, and promote brand marketing as well as expanding retailing channels in the long run. Besides holding regular gathering events to encourage more voluntary cooperation between young farmers, the project has also established a manpower bank for members to enjoy more flexibility in alternating workers’ shifts, thus effectively achieving the optimization of human resources.