Mon, Feb 06, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Minister of Agriculture’s praises sung in Yilan

By Yu Ming-chin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Council of Agriculture Minister Lin Tsung-hsien, left, attends an event in Yilan County on Friday.

Photo: Chiang Chih-hsiung, Taipei Times

The appointment Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) as minister of the Council of Agriculture marked a high point for Yilan County.

An atypical self-made man in Taiwanese politics, Lin is not a descendant of politicians and, having joined the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1998, has no long-standing status as a party operative.

Lin’s ascension to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inner circle is owed primarily to his administrative prowess and political success in Yilan, having repeatedly ranked among the nation’s most popular elected officials in surveys.

Lin also impressed observers with his electoral performance.

In 2014, he was re-elected county commissioner in a landslide election with 63.95 percent of vote, the highest share of the ballot for any candidate participating in an election as a county commissioner or special municipality mayor that year.

Lin, 56, was born in Yilan County’s Luodong Township (羅東) into an agricultural family, which he worked into his public image, reminding voters that he used to collect neighborhood sewage for the family’s plot of land.

After being honorably discharged from military service, Lin worked as an insurance agent and later passed the civil service exam to become a borough warden in Yilan in 1988.

The following year, Lin was appointed the head of the city’s waste management amid a municipal crisis.

Overflowing garbage had overwhelmed the county office headquarters and Lin successfully negotiated with the military for the use of its bases for temporary waste storage.

In 1994, Lin became the Luodong secretary-general and in 1998 was recruited to the DPP by invitation of its then-chairman, Lin I-hsiung (林義雄).

Lin’s political career began to take off in 2001, when he successfully ran for mayor of Luodong.

In 2009, Lin campaigned for the position of Yilan County commissioner and carried with him a briefcase belonging to former Yilan County commissioner Chen Ding-nan (陳定南), figuratively claiming the popular commissioner’s mantle.

Lin was re-elected in 2014.

In 2012, Lin was a speaker at an event following Tsai’s then-unsuccessful presidential bid to thank her supporters. Lin became choked up on stage and could not speak, which Tsai acknowledged by patting his back.

Lin’s ministerial appointment has not been universally applauded, as his decision to bolster agricultural land-use regulations and raise taxes on nominal agricultural properties led to the most notable political spat during his leadership of Yilan.

“It does not follow that a commissioner from an agricultural county would know what is good for farming communities. Lin’s determination to protect farmland is open to question,” farmers’ rights advocate and Land and Rice Workshop founder Wu Chia-lin (吳佳玲) said, panning Lin’s appointment.

Wu said that Lin approved more dual-use constructions in Yilan than other any other commissioner and no dual-use buildings had been fined for breaking county rules.

In the worst case, asking Lin to save farmland would lead to the maintenance of a “status quo,” Wu said, calling on Lin to “take real action” to preserve agriculture.

“There is not going to be any agriculture without farmland and there is no functioning country without agriculture,” Wu said.

Lin had “often flip-flopped” in his commitment to protect farming communities and frequently used flaws in the central government’s regulations as a scapegoat to “shift blame from himself,” Yilan Guardian Workshop founder Lee Pao-lien (李寶蓮) said.

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