Senator Ramon ‘’Bong’’ Revilla Jr. warned on Monday that the country may reach a critical shortage of farmers in just 15 years if no mechanism is put in place, such as the creation of Magna Carta of Young Farmers, to encourage the young generation into farming and achieve food production and sustainability in a bid to address the ageing population of agricultural workers.
Revilla, in filing Senate Bill (SB) 1422, an Act Providing for the Magna Carta of Young Farmers, said there is a need to “fully utilize and maximize the capacity and potential of the youth in promoting and improving the country’s agriculture industry.”
The government should encourage young people to engage in agriculture by establishing mechanisms for the promotion and protection of their rights, given the fact that the average age of Filipino farmers is 57 years old, he said.
Assuming the average life span is 70, the Philippines may reach a critical shortage of farmers in just 15 years. Farmers are getting too old for what is back-breaking work. Ironically, the children are not keen on taking over their family farm for lack of interest or incentive or both, he noted.
“We have to encourage our millennials to go into farming. The average age of farmers is 57. And we have to import farm produce for our tables. We remain an agricultural country and importation of agricultural products should be minimized,” Revilla said.
“Through appropriate education and training, coupled with sufficient support for technology, credit and capital, the new generation of creative and innovative millennials will become active agents of achieving our goals for food production and sustainability,” he said.
SB1422 proposes how the young farmers and fishers will gain access to market, prices, services provided by the government, and new technologies such as online businesses, telecommuting, and online procurement
It will also institutionalize young farmers’ representation in various decision-making and agricultural policy-making bodies initiated by the government and private sector.
As defined in the bill, a “young farmer” refers to an individual whose primary source of income comes from agriculture, with an age range of 15-35 years old, is owner, tenant, lessee, or worker of the land which he personally cultivates and tills.
The state shall ensure equal access to quality education and training of young farmers and encourage partnership and linkage with state universities and colleges (SUCs) on information and technology transfer to young farmer individuals and organizations.
Revilla’s measure also exempts young farmers from paying donor’s tax provided that the lot they will inherit from their parents will not be sold but rather kept and maintained for at least five years for them to continue the legacy of farming.
The proposed Magna Carta of Young Farmers is one of the priority legislation in the last years of the Duterte administration, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).