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New Laws to Safeguard Farmers' Interests
One new and two amended laws involving China's agriculture and farmers' interests will take effect on March 1, 2003, according to the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee under China's National People's Congress (NPC), the legislative body.

The three laws are the amended Agriculture Law, the amended Grassland Law and the Law of Rural Land Contract.

Officials from several government departments -- who discussed how to better implement the laws, protect farmers' interests and ensure agricultural development in line with China's overall development strategy -- consider it an urgent task to improve ecological balance in agricultural development and increase farmers' income as soon as possible.

This year, China plans to reforest about 7 million hectares of cultivated land to enhance ecological and environmental protection in rural areas, according to an official with the State Planning and Development Commission.

Moreover, about 6.6 million hectares of pasture will be replanted with grass and closed to stockbreeding, because they were over-grazed during the past years.

The Ministry of Agriculture has called on agriculture administrative departments to protect agricultural resources, such as cultivated lands and grasslands, by improving the household contract responsibility system with remuneration linked to output.

The State Forestry Bureau proposes to take measures to ensure farmers' ownership and interests in reforested cultivated lands through granting ownership certificates and giving compensation.

It is the core of China's agricultural development strategy to increase farmers' income, and it is also listed as one of the important tasks for the establishment of a well-off society. The laws also say that government subsidies to agriculture and farmers have to be in line with China's commitments to the WTO and international practices.

The government will give full support to agriculture development through increasing financial input, said vice-finance minister Xiao Jie. The State Council will urge local governments to draft or amend local administrative regulations to better implement the three laws, said Cao Kangtai, director of the Legislative Affairs Office.

(China Daily February 22, 2003)

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