THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will structure its incentive and assistance programs to favor farms that consolidate in order to increase the harvest and lower costs.

In a statement Thursday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said consolidated farms are more cost-efficient and promise scale not enjoyed by individual farmers.

“This will enable them to greatly reduce their cost of operations, attain bountiful harvests, and earn bigger incomes,” Mr. Dar said.

The DA said it will offer incentives to farm consolidation, on top of the regular technical and marketing assistance offered under its commodity programs.

Mr. Dar said the incentives will include farm machinery such as tractors, harvesters, mechanical dryers, processing equipment, and related infrastructure.

“We will also enhance what we have started under our National Corn Program (NCP),” Mr. Dar said.

NCP Director Lorenzo M. Caranguian said he will recommend a “no cluster, no assistance” policy as a way to encourage farmers to consolidate.

“We will classify corn and cassava clusters into five levels, each with corresponding interventions and assistance,” Mr. Caranguian said.

The DA said the five levels refer to clustered farms with a contiguous area of 200 to 1,000 hectares for corn, or 50 to 500 hectares for cassava, both with organized farmers cooperatives and associations (FCAs), a set of officers, and a professional manager.

Mr. Caranguian said the DA will provide the clustered FCAs with training such as mentorship on preparing a corn or cassava enterprise development plan.

“They will also be capacitated to venture in post-production activities such as processing, value-adding, and marketing, to further augment their incomes,” Mr. Caranguian said.

The NCP, DA regional field offices and local government units are currently identifying prospective cluster farms.

Mr. Dar said farm consolidation will also be applied to other crops like “rice, high-value crops, including coconut, sugarcane, banana, coffee, and vegetables.” — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave