A legislator on Tuesday asked her colleagues in the House of Representatives to speed up the passage of a bill that encourages students to take up courses in agriculture and fisheries.
Rep. Sharon Garin of AMBIS-OWWA said the enactment of House Bill 3596 or the Young Farmers Program Act would encourage the youth to go into farming or fishing by providing incentives for students in those courses in both government and private institutes of higher learning.
Garin said: “The Philippines is witnessing the extinction of its farmers first-hand in a time where ensuring food security is proving to be a herculean challenge.
“With the next generation running after globally-competitive careers, and with only a few willing to absorb the practice and knowledge of agriculture, this ‘extinction’ poses a great threat to the country’s food security.”
In filing the bill, Garin, a deputy speaker, said: “We want the youth to immerse themselves once again in the noble practice of agriculture. There is a need to reinforce the idea that it is a viable career option. “We must also dispel the notion that farming is tedious, unsustainable, and unglamorous. Indeed, the timeless Christian proverb, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, has become relevant more than ever’.”
Government statistics indicate that as of October 2018, agricultural workers comprise just 25 percent of the country’s labor force, from a high of 35.7 percent in 2016, and 39.5 percent in 1998.
“This growing decline is alarming,” Garin said.
Upon the enactment of the bill, the National Agriculture and Fisheries Education System, which is an integrated system of agriculture and fishery education covering both public and private institutions in all three levels of the shall be created.
The Young Farmers Committee to be chaired by the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education, with the representative of NAFES as vice-chairman shall oversee the implementation and the creation of the rules and regulations of the measure.
To help the youth in their agri-business and agri-entrepreneurship endeavors, the bill mandates the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Science and Technology to assist Young Farmers Organizations through trainings and by creating comprehensive business plans.
Those agencies shall also promote the products of these YFOs in the domestic and foreign markets, while providing assistance in product development, quality control and packaging.
A technical working group for the Young Farmers Program Act was formed last November 19, 2019. Garin is optimistic that the bill will be approved during the 18th Congress.