In a bid to push states in carrying out reforms in the farm sector, the agriculture ministry would soon come up with a revamped model Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, which would delink the provision of contract farming that was earlier included in the 2003 legislation.
The revamped model APMC Act, to be prepared within the next two months, would include single-point levy of taxes, delisting of fruits and vegetables out of the APMC ambit, electronic trading and allowing private players to have their own market yard.
“Having the provision of contract marketing under the ambit of APMC is an issue of conflict of interest. Thus, the states should formulate their own respective laws for allowing contract farming,” Ramesh Chand, member, Niti Aayog, said on Friday after the first national consultation on agricultural reforms. Chand said that the Punjab government has come out with a separate legislation on contract farming which had been circulate amongst states. The multi-prolonged strategy for carrying out agricultural reforms proposed by the Niti Aayog also includes urging states to have their respective land-leasing laws, which would allow tenant farmers accessing institutional bank credits besides other benefits.
The expert committee on land leasing, chaired by T Haque, former chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, constituted by the Niti Aayog recently, submitted the model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016. The model Act seeks to permit and facilitate leasing of agricultural land to improve access to land by the landless and marginal farmers. Around 40% of the farmers in the country are deprived of many benefits because of the absence of tenancy laws.
“The basic idea is to allow land owners to lease out agricultural land to tenant farmers without the fear of losing it. This would allow fallow land to be used productively, enable tenant farmers to invest in the land and also access credit and insurance facilities,” an agriculture ministry official told FE. Madhya Pradesh recently passed a tenancy law for farmers, which had bee circulated amongst the states.
Another key reform proposed by the Niti Aayog to the states is to allow inter-state permit for transportation of wood, to boost the agro-forestry sector. “We need to give thrust to the agro-forestry sector, as at present, more than 40% wood required for industry is imported,” Chand said.
In 2014, the environment ministry, to promote agro-forestry, had issued guidelines to simplify rules for growing, felling and transportation of trees grown on private lands. The guidelines allow farmers and other tree growers to dispose and transport short-rotation timber species grown on their own property and not available in neighbouring forests, with permission from village-level bodies.
The present regulation on the felling of timber and transit permits varies from state to state, which discouraged farmers and tree planters from growing trees on their own land.
The proposed reforms are part of a blueprint drawn up by the Niti Aayog to double rural income in five years as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.