Senate adopts House bill backing private-sector partners for farmers

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THE SENATE has adopted the House version of the bill institutionalizing a Department of Agriculture (DA) program promoting partnerships between farmers, fisherfolk and the private sector.

House Bill No. 8857 or the proposed Sagip Saka Act enshrines in law the DA’s Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program.

The proposed measure encourages partnerships between the farmers and fisherfolk groups and the private sector “to improve market access of producer groups.” The Agriculture and Fishery Councils (AFCs) and the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) are also directed to provide mechanisms for private sector participation in the sector.

Private sector partners must be committed to enter into marketing contracts or buy-back agreements with their production partners and must be willing to provide technology transfer.

The program covers agricultural and fisheries production; acquisition of work animals, farm and fishery equipment; acquisition of seed, fertilizer, poultry and livestock; procurement of agricultural and fisheries products for storage, trading, processing and distribution; construction of related facilities; working capital for agriculture and fisheries graduates, agribusiness activities supporting soil and water conservation; and credit guarantee on uncollaterized loans to farmers and fisherfolks.

It also offers assistance to farmers and fisherfolk in the form of agricultural extension services, skills development, crop insurance, and business support. It covers the following areas: agricultural and fisheries production, acquisition of work animals, farm and fishery equipment, and the acquisition of seeds, fertilizer, poultry and livestock.

The measure exempts from donor’s tax organizations donating real and personal properties to farmers and fisherfolks. Real property tax exemptions from local government units are also provided to structures and warehouses with assessed value of less than P3 million used for the farm inputs and outputs.

Exemptions from income tax may also be given to farmer or fisherfolk-owned enterprises that are also registered as barangay micro-business enterprises under Republic Act No. 9178 or the Barangay Micro-Business Enterprises Act.

The bill also requires the national and local government to directly purchase agricultural and fishery products from accredited farmers and fisherfolk cooperatives and enterprises.

It also creates a Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Council tasked to oversee the implementation of the program. It will be headed by the Agriculture Secretary and will be composed of representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Finance (DoF), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), national organizations of farmer and fisherfolk cooperatives or associations as well as from the agriculture, food, restaurant and business sectors. — Camille A. Aguinaldo