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New model agriculture law aims to increase farmers’ income (downtoearth)

In a move to liberalise trade in agricultural produce, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare proposed a new model law, the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, 2017. The draft law seeks to end the monopoly of APMC mandis and promote private players through wholesale markets, direct sale and purchase of agricultural produce, single market fee, and one time registration or licensing for trade in multiple markets.

The model law is expected to bring necessary reforms in the farm forestry sector, which has been listed along with allied activities such as livestock, poultry and bee-keeping to double farmers’ income by 2022.

The said reforms are expected to provide the agro-forestry sector a much-needed boost through exemption of trees grown by farmers on private land from felling, a unified trading license, relaxation of transit rules and a single point levy of market fee.

Restrictions on felling of farm-grown trees, transit pass regulations and lack of access to markets have been the major reasons behind farmers’ disinterest and inability in utilising their lands for producing timber.

12 states, namely Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, have agreed to implement the reforms.

Rakesh Bhushan Sinha, Joint Secretary at the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare told Down to Earth that agro-forestry in India needs an open policy in which the regulations are relaxed. States will have to work with the Centre in tandem to ensure implementation of the reforms.

Currently, farmers face many problems in plantation harvest and transit as tree felling is not regulated by one authority. Instead, the revenue and the forest department regulate tree felling and that too varies state wise.

Sinha said that the ministry is working towards providing farmers with an electronic platform where they can register the trees they plant on their lands. The registration will be in both revenue and forest departments and will be verified by a third party. The verification will be facilitated through geo-tagging and mobile apps. This will ensure that the farmer will not have to seek anybody’s permission to harvest the trees and transport them.

“State governments can further help by notifying certain tree species as exempt from felling and transit. That would mean that the forest check-posts will not stop such species of timber from being transported,” Sinha added.

“Since the forests and wildlife are in the concurrent list of the Constitution, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change should consider an amendment in the Indian Forest Act, 1927, where for certain tree species, a central enactment of power be possible,” Sinha suggested.

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