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Thu, Jan 24, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Newsmakers: Council of Agriculture head promises harmony

CONTROVERSIAL PICK While the new premier has said Fan Cheng-chung's experience makes him the right man to head the council, some people are questioning his choice

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

With a mission to promote harmony in agricultural circles, Fan Cheng-chung (范振宗) was introduced to the public on Tuesday by Premier-designate Yu Shyi-kun as the new chairman of the Council of Agriculture (農委會).

Yu said that he tapped Fan, the current Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council Speaker (台灣省諮議會諮議長), for the agriculture council's helm because of Fan's success in representing and managing Hsinchu County's agriculture.

Fan, now 61, is a graduate of National Taiwan Ocean University and has been a public figure since he began his first term as a Hsinchu County councilor in 1977.

After serving two terms as county councilor, Fan, a Hakka from Hsinchu, was elected as a National Assembly representative in 1986. Three years later Fan won the support of residents to become Hsinchu County Commissioner and was later re-elected in 1993.

After handing over the leadership of Hsinchu County in 1997, Fan served as a legislator for about a year.

On Tuesday, Yu said that Fan's experience would help to bridge the gap between the central and local governments.

Fan's appointment, however, surprised agricultural officials because of his lack of experience in managing agricultural affairs.

Inside the council, factions formed by National Taiwan University graduates and their counterparts from National Chung Hsing University have reportedly long been engaged in a power struggle.

Agricultural officials, however, said on Tuesday that Fan's position at the council's helm might put an end to the struggle between the two dominant factions.

Fan said Tuesday that a top priority for the council would be listening to local farmers and coming up with strategies for Taiwan's WTO participation.

Fan also said that he would seek out the experience and knowledge of agricultural experts in order to improve his agricultural management skills, acknowledging that his background is in shipping and transportation management.

Ecological conservationists, however, expressed their disappointment over Fan's appointment.

Lin Sheng-zhong (林聖崇), head of the Ecology Conservation Alliance, told the Taipei Times that Fan's mismanagement of land in mountainous areas as a county commissioner in the early 1990s demonstrated a lack of vision.

About 53 percent, or 1,428km2, of Hsinchu County is mountainous. According to Chung Shu-chi (鍾淑姬) of the Hsinchu Environmental Protection Association, in 1991 there were 26 proposals to build golf courses in the county put forward for Fan's approval. Among them, four were located in water source protection areas but two of the four still received approval by local authorities.

In 1992, when conservationists visited Fan to criticize his poor strategies for land management, Fan said that he was unaware of the controversial approvals. In 1997, Fan faced stronger opposition from activists, who claimed that no other county had as many golf courses as Hsinchu. Ecological conservationists argued that the large quantity of pesticides being sprayed on the courses had seriously polluted the county's water.

"Looking at Taiwan's heartbreaking experiences with typhoons last year, we suggest Fan halt inappropriate land management in mountainous areas right away," Lin said, adding that well-planned afforestation should also be carried out.

Lin also said that council-run fruit farms in mountainous areas, such as Fushoushan Farm (福壽山農場) and Wuling Farm (武陵農場) in Taichung County, should be relocated to maintain land resources in the central mountain range.

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