Sun, Dec 28, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Farmland bill would be bad news for farmers

By Hsu Shih-jung Lai Tsung-yu Yen Ai-ching 徐世榮 賴宗裕 顏愛靜

In a changing economy and society, many farming villages are in dire need of assistance from the government and the public: The welfare of these villages must not be overlooked.

We have been very disappointed by the draft farming village revitalization bill, which passed an initial review by the Economics Committee, because the law would likely do farmers yet another disservice — depriving them of their rights in the name of revitalization.

The bill was not drawn up with farmers in mind. It focuses on developing land in rural areas in a way that could actually force farmers off their land. Land could be obtained through expropriation and farmland consolidation with the goal of building “farmhouse-style villas” intended for urbanites.

This proposal is an extension of attempts by construction companies and other interested parties to get around Article 18 of the Agricultural Development Act (農業發展條例), which protects farmland.

But the bill is designed neither to protect farmland nor develop agriculture. It would allow local governments to recklessly designate land for development and would significantly reduce high-quality farmland.

In turn, the nation’s food self-sufficiency would worsen, which would threaten our agricultural industry.

We are concerned that if most of the nation’s farmland is reserved for construction, the agricultural industry could die out, which would damage the environment and the cultural values of farming communities.

The bill would constitute a major encroachment on the ownership of private land.

If a farmer’s land fell within a zone that had been marked for “village revitalization” by the government, his or her land would likely be expropriated.

What must be asked is whether the public would have a say in the designation of revitalization zones.

It is necessary to consider the planning and organization of these zones, whether land would be expropriated with the public’s best interests in mind and how landowners’ rights could best be protected in the case of disagreements.

While the most important issues to consider are left unclear in the bill, the government authorities are endowed with enormous power.

Constitutional Interpretation No. 409 clearly states: “As the expropriation of land is by its very nature a significant encroachment on the property rights of the people, the requirements and procedures of expropriation should be comprehensively laid out in laws concerned with it. Purposes and end uses should be specified and standards for balancing public interests and justifying emergency expropriation should be provided in the legislation.”

Although the Council of Grand Justices said that any regulations concerning land expropriation should be laid out in full, this bill is a step in the opposite direction.

The passing of this draft could very well result in a situation in which the nation loses its farmers, farmland, agriculture and farming villages. We are very worried that our farmers may lose all their property rights.

In addition to expressing solemn opposition to this bill, we would like to urge the Executive Yuan to withdraw the draft immediately.

The government should instead propose a bill that has the best interests of farmers, farmland, the agricultural industry and farming villages in mind.

Hsu Shih-jung, Lai Tsung-yu and Yen Ai-ching are professors in the Department of Land Economics at National Chengchi University.

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