Wed, Dec 20, 2017 - Page 3 News List

COA to scrap requirement for insurance eligibility

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture (COA) said it plans to lift the requirement that farmers should possess a minimum area of farmland to be eligible for farmers’ insurance, after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers criticized the eligibility criterion.

According to the Farmer Health Insurance Act (農民健康保險條例), farmers have to own at least 0.1 hectares of farmland or rent at least 0.2 hectares of farmland to be eligible for insurance, DPP Legislator Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) told a news conference yesterday.

Due to a now-defunct agricultural law that strictly limited farm owners from terminating or modifying contracts with tenant farmers, senior owners tend to rent out their properties with verbal agreements rather than written ones, resulting in the exclusion of many young farmers from insurance coverage and benefits such as subsidies, low-interest loans and disaster relief, Tsai said.

Yilan County farmer Wu Chia-ling (吳佳玲) said it costs between NT$2 million and NT$3 million (US$66,689 and US$100,033) to purchase 0.1 hectares of farmland in the county, a financial burden that young farmers cannot easily shoulder, and called on the government to determine insurance eligibility with criteria other than property ownership or tenancy.

“The aging of the agricultural workforce is a pressing issue for the government, but if it prioritizes the task of cracking down on ‘fake farmers,’ the needs of real farmers would be neglected,” DPP Legislator Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said.

“The council has to improve the farmers’ health insurance and include farmers in social security systems to attract more young people into farming,” Chuang said.

The average age of farmers in the nation is 62 and 62.3 percent of students of agricultural colleges consider pursuing farming as an occupation, according to a media survey in May, so the government has to ensure sustainable working conditions for them, DPP Legislator Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純) said.

Lawmakers asked the council to lift the restrictions within the act and include tenant farmers in the insurance scheme within six months.

Council Department of Farmers’ Services Director Chu Chien-wei (朱建偉) said the council plans to disassociate farmland ownership and tenancy from insurance eligibility.

The council has resolved the decades-old issue of the insurance eligibility of bee farmers, who often move from one place to another to harvest honey, and the council approved their insurance applications based on their beekeeping practice instead of farm ownership, Chu said.

The council would propose measures within a few months to include young farmers in the health insurance scheme, he said.

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