Steps would be announced in the budget for revision of existing schemes and to bridge the gaps in distribution, storage and marketing systems to make agriculture a remunerative profession

To woo the numerically strong farming community in the next Assembly elections, the government has proposed to make several new proposals, including payment of crop insurance premium and free SMS to farmers on commodity prices, in the State Budget for 2013-14.

A couple of days ago, Minister for Agriculture Umesh Katti had placed several farmer-friendly proposals in pre-budget meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and the latter has shown interest to accommodate them, a senior official in the Agriculture Department told The Hindu.

As over 150 taluks have been declared drought-hit in 2012, several constraints dampened the growth of farm sector. Steps would be announced in the budget for revision of existing schemes and to bridge the gaps in distribution, storage and marketing systems to make agriculture a remunerative profession, the official said.

“The 2013-14 Budget on agriculture contains thinking on new dimensions for integrated development of farmers and other families engaged in agriculture and allied activities in the State,” the official said.

The government is mulling over providing crop insurance to cover to all small and marginal farmers the next crop season (kharif season 2013). If the Government included the crop insurance proposal in the budget, it would be benefit 55 lakh small and marginal farmers in the State. It is expected provide the Bharatiya Janata Party the much-needed electoral boost ahead of the elections.

The insurance scheme envisages payment of premium by the government for all major crops cultivated by farmers during the kharif, and rabi seasons.

It would cost the State exchequer Rs. 400 crore a year, but it is expected to provide the much needed relief to farmers during adverse climatic conditions. Now, payment of crop insurance is mandatory only for farmers, who have borrowed loans.

Currently about 10 lakh farmers, most of them owning vast tracts of land, obtain insurance cover for their crops.

Free SMS

It is proposed to provide free Short Message Service (SMS) on commodities and weather to cellphones of farmers to enable them to get fair prices. The proposal on providing free SMS to farmers would cost the State Rs. 10 crore a year. The price information is expected to improve farmers’ ability to negotiate with buyers and to enable them to bargain better prices. Information on weather is expected to help farmers reduce crop losses due to extreme weather events such as storms.

Allocations to agriculture would cross Rs. 20,000 crore this year. The State Budget for 2012-13 set aside Rs. 19,660 crore for agriculture and allied activities against Rs. 17,857 crore in 2011-12.

Allocations would increase for implementation of the Bhoo Chetana scheme meant for boosting yield in dry-lands areas, upgradation of markets, stock of fertilizers and revolving fund, sources said.