‘Set up Farmers Income Commission’

K. Krishnankutty, chairman of the subcommittee for the draft agriculture development policy of the State, has urged the government to bring in legislation in the next session of the Assembly to implement its major recommendation of Farmers Income Guarantee programme.

He told The Hindu here on Friday that Kerala, which had created history in bringing major reforms in the agriculture sector such as the land reforms Act, should take the initiative in passing the Farmers Income Guarantee Act to assure all farming households a decent income to meet the basic living expenses. He said a statutory Farmers Income Commission should be established to ensure the accountability for thousands of crores of rupees being spent in the name of farmers.

The measures should include Minimum Support Price (MSP), procurement at remunerative price, price compensation, marketing and credit support, crop insurance, disaster compensation, and producer bonus for rain-fed and ecological farmers, Mr. Krishnankutty said.

The policy statement said that “if the vision envisaged in the policy document is to be accomplished, the farmers in Kerala should be assured an income to the tune of that received by Class Four employees in the State Service.” The National Farmer’s Commission has stated that “Progress in agriculture should be measured by the growth rate in the net income of farm families … moving away from an attitude which measures progress only in millions of tonnes of food-grains and other farm commodities,” the Agriculture Policy statement said.

Mr. Krishnankutty said that as per the National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector report (NCEUS-2007), real income of farmers has stagnated, with the average being Rs.1,650 per family per month as against the family expense in the villages of Rs.2,150 a month. Even at such below-poverty level consumption, the average family still spends more than it earns, thus getting into debt.

He said that in spite of the promised price support, the government often intervenes to keep prices low for the consumers and industry. This is a reason for not providing adequate MSP to farmers. Farmers did not want the burden of providing affordable food to people upon them, the State and nation should bear it, he said.

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