Cabinet aims to delay farmhouse draft
Halt comes after pressure from both sides of political aisle
Council of Agriculture (COA,
) Minister Chen Bao-ji ( ) expressed shock on Wednesday after learning that draft amendments to the Regulations Governing Agricultural Dwelling Houses (
) would be delayed after lawmakers from both parties exerted pressure on Cabinet-level officials.
According to Chen, Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Chen Chao-ming ( ) had approached Cabinet Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang ( ) to negotiate the amendments when Chien responded to the lawmaker that the bill would not be pursued. When the COA head tried to confirm the account with Chien, the secretary-general said that the proposal had to be delayed due to strident opposition.
Under the proposed amendments, the definition of farmers would be restricted to people who enrolled in the third category of the National Health Insurance, which is designated for farmers, fishermen and irrigation associations; or people who buy farmers’ insurance, or people who actually engage in farm activities. Ownership, construction and sale of the much disputed farm dwellings would be limited to the above legal definition of farmer.
Agricultural Land Should Rise in
Value: KMT Lawmakers
Opposition to the proposed amendment came in varying degrees, with KMT Legislator Liao Cheng-ching ( ) stating that the government needed to come up with supporting measures, improve communication with farmers and ensure that changes would not cause detrimental fluctuations in agricultural land prices. Legislator Chen pointed to a discrepancy in values between urban and agricultural property, arguing that farmers should not get the short end of the stick when it came to property improvements and potential increases in land value.
Amendments Do Not Address Real Problems: DPP Lawmakers
Meanwhile, the amendments to the law also faced opposition from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its lawmakers. Legislator Su Chen-chin ( ) argued that the government attempts to bar nonfarmers from buying agricultural dwellings was working in the wrong policy direction. Su said that restrictions on sales and purchases could cause market freezes which would increase hardship for farmers requiring loans to purchase farm equipment.
An aide to Legislator Chen Mingwen ( ) said that the government’s proposals were mainly in reaction to the scope of the agricultural dwelling problem in the most serious area, Yilan County, and that the government should not use the county as the example for the rest of the island. However, Legislator Tien Chiu-chin ( ) said that the amendments could be supported with regard to land usage, citing that conversion of land after purchase to nonagricultural use would go against issues of fairness.
In response to reports of government vacillation and continuation of land speculation, some farmers’ associations have threatened to gather for street protests linking the whole island.