Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet approves hike to subsidies for farmers

‘ANTI-RICH’:The plan has a clause that will compare the incomes of farmers under the age of 65 with pre-set rates to determine whether they are eligible

By Jake Chung  /  Staff Writer, with CNA

Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) told the legislature yesterday that the Cabinet had approved a plan that would increase subsidies to farmers, but includes a clause to make sure money only goes to those in need.

Farmers’ subsidies currently stand at NT$6,000 a month, which Chen said would increase, without giving a specific figure.

The plan will now be taken up by the legislature.

Chen did not say how the amount would compare with the NT$7,000 a month proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The issue of farmers’ subsidies has resembled a bidding war ahead of January’s presidential election.

While the DPP caucus has proposed an increase to NT$7,000, some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators have backed a measure calling for NT$10,000 a month.

During the council’s budget review yesterday, DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) called on Chen to comment about the inclusion of an “anti-rich” clause in the farmers’ subsidy plan, whereby farmers under the age of 65 who apply for the subsidy would have their income rate compared with pre-set rates.

Chen said few farmers met the criteria.

Chen said the council conducted a survey on whether the public and farmers backed the anti-rich clause and about 74 percent of the public and 47 percent of farmers supported it, compared with 33 percent who opposed it.

Chen told lawmakers he had briefed President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on the program yesterday.

Chen said his report to the Presidential Office made clear three principles.

The first was to guarantee the rights of farmers who are eligible for the current version of subsidies. The second was to establish a system to avoid raising subsidies whenever there was an election. The third was to maintain discussion on the issue with legislators from all parties.

Ma is expected to make a public announcement about the Cabinet’s version of the subsidy program at 1:45pm today, Chen said.

Commenting on the matter, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said the council should support the DPP caucus’ proposal if it truly wanted to assist elderly farmers.

Tsai said the DPP proposal called for an extra NT$1,000 a month and the caucus opposed any exclusionary mechanisms.

Additional reporting by Rich Chang

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