In 2007, when pork prices were soaring to record highs Chinese officials rolled out a half-dozen pig subsidies and sent rural bankers to knock on doors offering villagers loans to build pig farms. Now--exactly ten years later--the manure from these farms has become a severe pollution problem. The same officials are paying farmers to demolish their farms and either move them out of sight in the hinterland or find another way to make a living.
The Masses Daily reported a story from Shandong Province's Liangshan County last month that shows not everyone is happy with the farm-closure campaign at the local level, and not everyone is getting compensated for destruction of their property.
In Han'gai, a town in Liangshan County, there are about 200 small-scale hog farms. All of them are about 500 meters from villages, but local people still complain about the smell and large numbers of flies. The main concern, however, is the large volumes of untreated manure that washes into rivers and streams during heavy rains. Concern about water pollution is especially acute here because the eastern south-north water diversion channel passes through this county, so officials worry that manure from farms pollutes the water being channeled to the parched north.
Last year the farmers in Han'gai Town were given notice that they would have to close. Officials advised them to switch to growing vegetables, mushrooms or something else. Farmers inquired with local officials about compensation for demolition of their farms and were dismayed to find they would receive none. The Han'gai farmers asked why hog farms have been banned in the entire town while surrounding towns had banned farms only in certain areas. "What are we farmers supposed to do?" asked the frustrated Han'gai farmers.
A local official said the compensation is only given to farms that are scaled-up and had gone through proper procedures. Since there were no such farms in Han'gai Town, no compensation would be paid.
State Council regulations outlining the livestock farm environmental makeover issued in 2013 stipulate that the county or higher level of government should compensate farms demolished or moved due to changes in industry plans, land rezoning or rectification programs. The Masses Daily reporter remarked that the local official's explanation shows that the regulations are fictitious.
A separate article says that compensation in most places falls far short of generous compensation standards in Tianjin Municipality that have been widely circulated on the internet. In another county in Shandong, farmers receiving no compensation have not paid off loans for farms that are now being demolished.
The Masses Daily article then explains that the farm-closure campaign is aimed at weeding out small-scale farms that do not adequately treat and utilize manure from their pigs. The environmental remediation favors large scale farms because they have the capital to build manure treatment, storage and processing facilities to utilize manure as raw material for bioenergy and fertilizer.
A new round of subsidies is targeted at large-scale hog farms. The 2013 State Council regulations endorsed support for scaled-up, standardized farms and encouraged backyard farms to shift toward concentrated modes of production. This year Ministry of Agriculture plans to build 500 model hog farms of 5,000 to 50,000 head which can get subsidies of 500,000 to 1 million yuan. Gansu Province announced aid of 100,000 to 250,000 yuan for farms of 1000 head or more. Big companies like Wens Group, Da Bei Nong, Zhengbang, and COFCO have planned projects to produce millions of hogs in northeastern and southwestern provinces that have been designated as suitable for expansion.
The Masses Daily reporter judges that denying compensation to small-scale farmers is unreasonable. A lawyer quoted in the article suggests farms ought to receive compensation just as homeowners should be compensated for demolition of their property.
The Masses Daily surmises that the conflicts between farmers and government over demolition procedures and compensation have grown to a point where they cannot be resolved. The reporter opines that "Farmers are facing a life-or-death game," where they face the loss of their means of livelihood.