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More Farmers Get Government Financial Support in Yangtze River Delta
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Shi Haiyan, a farmer in east China's Zhejiang Province, will begin her study at the Zhejiang Forestry College after the Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

What makes her different from other students in the college is that the Zhejiang Provincial government will pay her two-year tuition fees.

During her stay at the college, Shi will study the prevention and treatment of forest diseases and insect pests, cultivation of cash fruit trees, cultivation of medicinal herbs in mountainous areas, raising special cash animals, cultivation of highland vegetables and other modern farming techniques.

Shi will return to her home village of Huangjiashe in Yunhe County to continue farming operations after she graduates from the college.

"To boost agricultural development, farmers need to learn more and to improve their technological skills in farming," said an official with the Zhejiang Provincial Agriculture Bureau.

The official said that Zhejiang Province plans to train one million farmers in agricultural know-how and practical skills in the coming five years.

Zhejiang is not an exception among the provinces and municipalities in the Yangtze River delta area in expanding investment in rural economic and social development.

The Yangtze River delta is one of the leading economically-developed regions in China. The delta includes Shanghai Municipality and Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, covering some 100,000 square kilometers.

This year Jiangsu Province will earmark at least 20 billion yuan (about US$2.5 billion) for rural and agricultural development and for programs which help farmers to raise income, said Bao Guoxin, director of the Jiangsu Provincial Finance Bureau.

Bao said, "We can cut input in other fields, but we cannot cut financial support to the farmers."

Bao said Jiangsu would spend more than 100 billion yuan on the development of rural education, training of the farmers, highway construction, health projects, cultural programs and environmental protection in the next five years.

Jiangsu's revenue reached 300 billion yuan last year.

Sources with the Shanghai Municipal government said that the city would enhance its efforts to boost agricultural development with industrial development methods and boost rural development with the support of cities.

Shanghai will also speed up urbanization, modernization of agriculture and integrated development of rural and urban areas in the coming five years, the sources said. By the end of 2010, 75 percent of the population in rural Shanghai will live in newly-developed cities and towns.

Local governments in the Yangtze River delta area have also increased financial support for rural education and social security, among others.

Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai announced that, starting this year, they would exempt rural students from tuition fees and other charges during the nine-year compulsory education period.

Jiangsu alone will allocate at least two billion yuan from its revenues for the exemption subsidies. Shanghai also plans to encourage outstanding teachers to teach students in suburban areas.

Moreover, Jiangsu and Zhejiang have granted basic living subsidies to all needy rural residents in their provinces. Shanghai aims to raise the old-age pension and steadily improve medical services for the rural people annually for the next five years.
Granting more financial support to farmers is not simply a revenue-sharing scheme, but a move which aims to boost rural development and improve farmers' living standards, said Bao, the director of the Jiangsu Provincial Finance Bureau.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2006)

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