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Policy stresses rural reform

By Chen Tian Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-20 0:43:02

China pledged to ensure national food security, deepen rural reform and accelerate the modernization of its agricultural industry by suggesting a slew of key work points in the year's first policy document released Sunday.

The document, dubbed the "No.1 Central Document," was issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. It has focused on rural and agricultural issues for 11 consecutive years.

This year's work points stress the importance of maintaining agriculture as the foundation of the national economy and eliminating the shortcomings of the current agricultural system and mechanism.

The document suggested eight points, such as improving the national food security system and strengthening the protection and assistance for agriculture, to deal with China's "three rural issues" - agriculture, countryside and farmers.

The "three rural issues" encompass a set of daunting problems, which include obstacles to realize large-scale, standardized production and address the farmers' low income and deficiency in social welfare. This last could threaten China's stable economic development.

Li Guoxiang, a deputy director of the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times Sunday that this year's document has covered all urgent problems pertaining to China's countryside, and will perform as the country's most crucial and comprehensive guide for rural work in 2014 and beyond.

"The document addresses the priority to ensure national food security and the consolidation of urban and rural development. It also aims to improve farmers' livelihoods by stressing the need to deepen rural land reform and upgrade the agricultural management system," Li said.

Farmers' creativity will be respected, and efforts to experiment with innovative agricultural methods that suit the local circumstances will be supported with the precondition that a "bottom line" is maintained, the document stated.

An opinion piece from the Xinhua News Agency interpreted the bottom line as not ruining the collective ownership of rural land, not diminishing the farmland and grain output and not hurting the interests of farmers.

A new system, which allows farmers to get subsidies directly from the government when the market price of their products falls short of the pre-set target price, will be rolled out in the country, the document said.

China Central Television (CCTV) interpreted that the authorities will also explore a system which links farmers' production with their subsidies, and both systems have the potential to increase farmers' income.

A major obstacle for farmers in increasing their productivity is the difficulty of achieving large-scale, standardized production, Zhang Yuanhong, another agricultural expert at CASS, told the Global Times Sunday.

"It's hard for farmers to obtain financing to support mass production due to the lack of governmental subsidies and agriculture-targeted commercial channels," Zhang said.

The document, in response to that problem, said farmers could use their land as collateral for funding on condition that the ownership and use of the land remain unchanged. That, CCTV said, will allow farmers to consolidate large parcels of land and aid industrialized agricultural development.

Also, when the farmers' land is expropriated, the document said, they should not only receive compensation for the land, but also be assisted with their housing, social welfare and career training needs.

A long-term mechanism for sustainable development needs to be established, the document said, adding that the farmers and authorities should consider the restraints of limited land and scarce water when furthering agricultural development.

Zhang said sustainable social and economic development in rural areas should also be a crucial part of the long-term mechanism.

"The country should make sure that farmers can make a profit by working in agriculture, and educate them with advanced management and technological skills," Zhang said.

"Also, rural infrastructure, such as water pipelines, electricity grids and entertainment facilities need to be developed to retain farmers in the countryside and attract urban residents to participate in agricultural activities."

The document also said that the central and local governments will increase their efforts in supporting agricultural insurances, and increase the insurance coverage of rice, wheat and corn.

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