As the public pays attention to the issue of the subsidies for elderly farmers, attention should also be given to their care. What they want most of all is a safe environment in which they can enjoy their old age. The government should therefore review and adjust current agricultural policies in accordance with international norms, spending less on personal subsidies and more on the improvement of farming villages. Elderly farmers could then have higher leisure, social, medical care and living standards, and they would be able to live with dignity.
In order for them to enjoy happy lives together with their families, the government should create job opportunities in rural areas and improve the production environment and techniques to attract farmers’ families back to rural areas where they can inherit their parents’ farmland and continue tilling the land. This could also help resolve the labor shortage in rural areas.
Although the government offers many subsidies to farmers, their livelihood mostly depends on non-agricultural income. The cruel reality shows the shortcomings of the current agricultural production system, as subsidies are hardly beneficial to narrowing the income gap between farmers and the rest of the nation’s population. Sustainable development of the agricultural industry requires concrete reform measures instead of spending taxpayers’ money on subsidies that only temporarily relieve the anger among farmers.
As the father of modern management Peter Drucker wrote in 1998, “Big businesses, in particular, seem able to coast a long time on the courage, work, and vision of earlier executives before they erode and run down... But the future always does come, sooner or later. And it is always different. Even the mightiest company will be in trouble if it does not work toward the future.”
The same view can be applied to the agricultural industry. Are Taiwanese officials considering the future of farmers as they are busy opening up the agriculture market to international trade organizations?
Du Yu is chief executive officer of the Chen-Li Task Force for Agricultural Reform.
Translated by Eddy Chang