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Law to Protect Farmers' Rights
A draft regulation governing the national campaign to convert farmland to forest and grasslands will be submitted for deliberation and approval this year.

According to an official of the State Forestry Bureau, the draft regulation makes clear relevant State policies and stipulates liabilities and duties of concerned departments and individuals in the national ecological protection campaign.

The submission of the draft regulation shows that the country's ecological protection measures will be brought onto a healthy and sustainable development track with the backing of a legal framework.

Three years ago, the government called on the nation, especially the ecologically strained western regions, to return the difficult-to-farm land to forest and grasslands.

Now, some 1.58 million hectares of cultivated land have been converted, which has led to considerable improvement in the local ecological environment.

So far, the program has been successful because the central government has promised to give grain and capital compensation for the loss of farmers' land.

But as the grain-for-green program continues, more and more questions are arising as to what happened to many of the large-scale projects.

Some may doubt whether local governments will persistently pursue the central government's policy in the following decades, or whether farmers' rights to receive compensation may be jeopardized in the years to come.

To ensure effective solutions to possible problems, administrative force alone will not be sufficient.

The interference of law, which has a greater binding force to ensure the long-term implementation of the policy, is needed.

The new regulation is similar to the household contract land system that has greatly pushed forward China's agricultural production by giving a legal guarantee of farmers' rights to use the land.

It ensures farmers that they will continually benefit from the national initiative, encouraging them to take more care to protect the country's ecological system

(China Daily May 27, 2002)

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