Guangdong Province is introducing a new compensation mechanism for protecting agricultural land designed by the province's land resources department.
The province will give a subsidy of 30 yuan each year for each mu of land maintained as "basic agricultural land." The subsidy applies to fields included in land use plans of prefecture-level governments. Last year Guangdong had 39.8 million mu (6.55 million acres) of basic agricultural land. That includes land converted from other uses and amounted to 84% of the province's cultivated land area (耕地面积).
In a group of richer prefectures like Guangzhou, Dongguan, Foshan, and Zhuhai the provincial government pays only half of the 30-yuan subsidy. If the land has been rented out to a company or some other entity, the subsidy can come from the rental payments. Localities can offer a higher subsidy if they want. Some localities are reportedly giving subsidies of 200-300 yuan. The subsidy is no longer given if the land is used for nonagricultural construction. Local governments have been ordered to implement the system by the end of 2012.
The subsidy is paid to the entity that holds the rights to the land, either the village collective or the household. In many villages in Guangdong land has been pooled and contracted out by bid to be farmed.
In Zhongshan City, it has been suggested that rice paddy land be given 250 yuan/mu and other agricultural land 150 yuan/mu annually. In one town of Zhongshan, land rents far exceed the proposed subsidy which is called "a drop in the bucket." A farmer in Shenwan Town said that you can earn 3000-4000 yuan from growing rice on a mu of land [sounds quite high], but you can earn ten times as much rent (30,000-40,000 yuan) using land for a factory. The farmer says land used for agriculture is mainly used for fish ponds or livestock, and the soil quality has declined.
The local land bureau in Zhongshan says they have already set up a system for assessing agricultural land, and land protection has been included in the job evaluations of township government personnel.