By staff reporter Wang Ke
Agriculture is the foundation of China's national economy and social stability and Henan, the biggest agricultural province in China, views developing modern agriculture as its top priority, a Henan deputy told China.org.cn on the sidelines of the National People's Congress (NPC) session.
Mr. Wang Baocun, Communist Party secretary of Shangqiu City, is a member of the Henan Delegation to the Second Session of the 11th National People's Congress.
"In order to develop agriculture, we need to strengthen government policy, provide additional funding, apply science and technology, and carry out reforms," he said.
Wang said that 2009 government spending on agriculture, rural areas and farmers would total 716.1 billion yuan (about $105.6 billion), a year-on-year increase of 120.6 billion yuan.
"The government is significantly increasing funding for public facilities in rural areas in the central and western regions, and relieving local governments at county level and below of the burden of funding them."
The 2009 central and local budgets allocate 344.59 billion yuan ($50.835 billion) to farming, forestry and water conservancy projects, an increase of 74.493 billion yuan (US$10.987 billion) or 27.5 percent. 6.5 billion yuan (US$959 million) is to be allocated to agricultural restructuring, an increase of 20.4 percent over last year.
In the case of Henan, Wang told China.org.cn: "We are taking steps to ensure adequate irrigation for crops, so as to boost yields. We are also looking into employing multiple-crop patterns and greener methods."
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the per capita net income of China's 900 million rural residents increased 7.4 percent to 3,587 yuan in 2007. Safe drinking water was made available to 28.97 million more rural people, and the use of methane gas to an additional 4.5 million rural families.
"Solving the problems of agriculture, rural development and the living conditions of farmers is very important, but it will be a long and arduous task," said Wang.
Echoing Premier Wen Jiabao, Wang said agriculture is so important that the country cannot afford anything to go wrong, especially in grain production.
"We need to consolidate, improve and intensify support for agriculture, and ensure the smooth operation of spring plowing and sowing," he added. He said the government should support moves to add 50 million tons of grain growing capacity across the country.
Wang said China should increase funding of better seed varieties, noting that grants to farmers who plant superior varieties of crops like wheat, corn and rice rose by 15.48 billion yuan (US$2.28 billion), a rise of 25.4 percent, in 2009.
He urged China to continue to boost its spending on agricultural restructuring. "Different areas should grow crops best suited to local conditions, and increase agricultural safety and efficiency."
He added that the government should boost efforts to improve lower-yield farmland and increase production capacity, especially in the main grain-producing areas like Henan Province. This year, the agricultural development funds will total 14.7 billion yuan (US$2.17 billion), up 15.7 percent.
China should also increase spending on projects for supplying safe drinking water and methane to rural areas. Wang said that in 2009, the government will provide safe water to another 60 million people and methane to an additional 5 million families.
(China.org.cn March 11, 2009)