Agriculture bill reducing certification costs for small farmers hurdles Senate

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2020 02:46 AM

Farmers in Benguet load cabbage onto a truck to be sold in different markets on Feb. 28, 2020. Photo taken before the 75-day lockdown of Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. Alren Beronio, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Senate on Monday unanimously passed on final reading a bill that seeks to increase farm productivity and income of farmers by providing incentives for well-performing farms and scrapping third-party certifications.

Senate Bill No. 1318 repeals a provision in the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 that requires farmers to secure an annual certification from a third party that could cost between P42,000 and P150,000 per crop.

"The high cost of certification creates a very big barrier for small farmers... preventing them to participate, which ultimately hurts the growth and development of the organic movement," Senate Committee on Agriculture chair Cynthia Villar said in a statement before the bill hurdled the plenary.

The bill institutionalizes a "Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)" which pulls down the cost of certification between P600 and P2,000, significantly lower than previous certification fees.

"Siyempre gusto nating ma-avail at ma-afford ng small farmers ang certification. Without them who constitute a big chunk in our farming sector, organic farming will not really take off or further develop," she said.

Farmers and fisherfolk would earn more if the government directly transacts with them, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan had said in a statement.

"Tanggalin ang mga middlemen. 'Yan ang pinakamalaking insentibo para magpatuloy ang mga magsasaka natin na magtanim," 

The measure also gives a "full government subsidy" for the international certification of farmers, fisherfolk and other agricultural cooperatives who arre found to be "compliant for a period of 5 years, without any offense or infraction."

"Further, so long as the same entities maintain their status of compliance, they shall be invited and given for free prime location in any government agency-initiated or sponsored trade and business marketing gathering of Filipino products," the bill read.