Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jiangxi's Spring Planting Campaign

The Farmers Daily reports that officials in Jiangxi Province are fanning out across the province to make sure farmers plant lots of grain this spring.

The top leadership has figured out that paying farmers a subsidy without regard to what they plant does not motivate them to produce more. So they have come up with an approach that incentivizes the vast rural bureaucracy instead. China's new approach to agricultural policy is to offer enticements to local officials to motivate them make sure grain-planting campaigns are carried out. The article offers a look at this new strategy in action.

Jiangxi officials are promised more favorable evaluations, subsidies, and better chances at getting funds for special projects if they can meet goals for increasing early-season rice planting and total grain area. (This bodes ill for the accuracy of Jiangxi's agricultural statistics.)

Following Spring Festival, the Jiangxi agricultural department sent out 8 survey teams of rural officials to each prefecture and county to gauge farmers' planting intentions, assess growth in spring crops, farm input supply, and the demand and price situation. The survey teams are holding grassroots cadre and farmer meetings, "which are welcomed by village officials and farmer masses."

One of the important tasks is to make sure farmers get their "three subsidies"--a grain-planting subsidy, a "fine seed" subsidy, and general input subsidy--before planting time. This year, the input subsidy will be raised by 7 yuan per mu. Farmers generally get these subsidies based on their land-holding regardless of what they plant (they are distributed in the spring before the crop is in the ground.) But having handed farmers their subsidies, officials have some leverage to harangue them about their responsibility to plant grain. Jiangxi will continue a new subsidy that is linked to actual planting--a subsidy to "large" farmers who plant at least 100 mu of grain.

Duchang County gives an in-kind subsidy to model farmers. Each model farmer got a 50-yuan voucher for buying fertilizer plus a box of borax fertilizer. Four 100-mu large farmers got 4 jin of seed and 50 jin of fertilizer for each mu they plant.

In recent years idle fields have become common as larger numbers of migrants go out to work in cities. Officials are to make sure that no land is left idle and they are trying to reverse the trend toward planting only one rice crop per year. Farmers are being told to plant an early-season rice crop, raise yields, and plant hybrid rice on dry land. There is a campaign to make maximum use of land, plant grain on hillsides, and plant more grain in the Bin and Poyang lake areas. Officials envision a giant rice-growing region.

Better seeds are one of the current emphases. All officials are instructed to have an orientation toward service. Extension agents are instructed to make systematic visits to villages and confirm that the visits are actually made. They are spreading special seeds for early and late season rice, dense-planting, new methods for cultivating seedlings, and 5-unified methods of farmers collectively making plans for planting, doing soil preparation, buying seeds, and planting.

A 50-something farmer named Hu attending a rally in the square of Xishan Town clutches some scientific books and manuals and proclaims that he is glad the cadres came and told him what seeds are good since he had no idea what he should plant.

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