National Commission for Farmers

The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) was established on November 18, 2004 under the chairmanship of Professor MS Swaminathan.

The NCF submitted four reports and the final report was submitted on October 4, 2006.

The main causes of the agricultural crisis are:

Unfinished agenda on land reform, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, access, adequacy and timeliness of institutional credit, and opportunities for assured and rewarding marketing.

Principle Recommendations:

1. Land reforms

2. Water supply

3. Productivity

4. Credit

5. Food security

6. Price Control

7. Contingency

Land reforms:

Land reforms were deemed necessary and the main suggestions in this regard were:

Divide ceiling excess and vacant lots;

Preventing the diversion of key agricultural land and forests to the business sector for non-agricultural purposes;

Provide grazing rights and seasonal access to forests for tribes and pastoralists, and access to common property.

Irrigation:

Irrigation is considered a key factor in agriculture, as rainwater agriculture contributes to 60 percent of the gross cultivated area for which NCF recommends:

Increasing the water supply by collecting rainwater and replenishing the aquifer should become mandatory; The “Million Wells Recharge” program, specifically targeting private sources, should be launched.

Credit and Insurance:

Timely and adequate lending is a basic requirement for small farming families.

Expand the reach of the formal credit system to reach the really poor and lower the interest rate on crop loans to 4 percent easily, with government support.

Moratorium on debt recovery, including loans from non-institutional sources, and waiver of interest on loans in emergencies and disasters until capacity is restored.

Creation of an agricultural risk fund to help farmers in the aftermath of successive natural disasters

Agricultural Productivity:

In addition to farm size, productivity levels primarily determine farmers’ incomes. To achieve higher productivity growth in agriculture, NCF recommends:

Significant increase in public investment in agriculture-related infrastructure, especially in irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research, development and road connectivity, etc.; A national network of advanced soil research laboratories with facilities for detecting micronutrient deficiencies.

Food Safety

The mid-term review of the Tenth Plan found that India is lagging behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals of halving hunger by 2015.

Eliminate hidden hunger caused by micronutrient deficiency through an integrated approach to food and fortification.

Promote the establishment of community food and water banks managed by Women Self-help Groups (SHG) based on the principle of “Storing Grain and Water Everywhere”

Price Control and Contingency:

Improving the competitiveness of small farmers was considered necessary. Suggestions in this area included: improving Minimum Support Price (MSP) implementation; MSP must be at least 50% higher than the weighted average cost of production; availability of data on spot and future prices of commodities through the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCD) and the NCDEX, etc.

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The commission stressed the need to create productive employment and improve the quality of employment in various sectors so that real wages rise through higher productivity. To this end, the committee recommended focusing on relatively more labour-intensive sectors and encouraging faster growth of these sectors and ensuring that farmers’ net income is comparable to that of civil servants.

The commission also recommended developing measures to preserve traditional rights of access to biodiversity and conservation, enhancement and improvement of crops, farm animals and fish stocks through breeding, etc.