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Additional school incentives eyed for children of indigent farmers

Additional incentives for the dependents of indigent farmers have been proposed in the House of Representatives amid a huge decline in the number of employed workers in the agriculture and forestry sector.

Based on the most recent Labor Force Survey released by the state-run Philippine Statistics Authority in December 2022, those employed in the agriculture and forestry sector decreased by a whopping 197,000 from October 2021 to October 2022.

This marks the biggest decline in sectors which posted lesser numbers in terms of employed persons. The same data showed that the agriculture and forestry sector also lost 511,000 employed workers from July 2022 to October 2022 alone.

House Bill 7572 is hoping to ease the situation of farmers by giving subsidies to children of qualified indigent farmers, provided that these children will enroll in agriculture courses and other related fields of study at state universities and colleges (SUCs).

This assistance is separate from the benefits provided under the Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

“We need young ones to consider agriculture as a viable career. The youth’s innovative spirit, their enthusiasm to change the way we think or do things is what we need right now to reinvigorate our agriculture sector,” said Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte who is one of the authors of the bill.

Under the proposed bill, dependents of qualified indigent farmers who pass the admission requirements in SUCs and other local universities and colleges (LUCs)  for agriculture and other related courses will  be provided free tuition and other school fees, as well as other  incentives and subsidies such as living and transportation allowances.

“Providing farmers’ children the educational support they need will encourage them to pursue agriculture and other related courses,” Duterte added.

The bill defines an indigent farmer as individuals included in the registry of farmers of the Department of Agriculture (DA), whose sole source of income is cultivating  the land they own or lease, or who actually engage in crop production, livestock, and poultry farming.

Duterte said the youth should be made aware that agriculture courses, aside from farming, also cover degrees in agricultural and biosystems engineering, agribusiness management, agricultural biotechnology, agricultural economics, and fisheries technology, among others.

The bill tasks the Department of Agriculture to establish a scholarship program for tertiary agricultural education in coordination with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). —VAL, GMA Integrated News