Premier Lin Chuan today visited Yunlin County and pledged to provide greater support for farmers who suffered crop losses from Typhoon Megi earlier this week.
After inspecting damage to water spinach and garlic crops, the premier said relief subsidies will be distributed swiftly with lenient standards and streamlined procedures. For instance, local officials should be lenient with the 20-precent crop loss threshold when providing cash relief. The government will provide low-interest loans with no interest-free payments required for the first year, and subsidies for rebuilding facilities will be increased from one-third to one-half. Also, farming facilities that obtained operating permits before 2007 will be legalized on their current sites through a special process.
To curb the high cost of garlic this year, the government will provide typhoon-hit garlic farmers with a cash relief of NT$36,000 (US$1,144) per hectare, Lin said. Farmers who replant garlic crops on the original site will receive an additional NT$36,000 per acre for seedling and farm maintenance costs.
As for inconsistent standards of pesticide use, Lin said the Council of Agriculture (COA) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare will resolve the issue before year-end. The government will also be promoting agricultural insurance on a large scale to protect farmers’ incomes while encouraging them to cultivate high value-added crops.
COA Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung added that agricultural disaster relief funds are set at 10 to 20 percent of crop production costs, making it impossible for farmers to rely solely on relief subsidies for income protection. For that reason, the premier has instructed the council to promote agricultural insurance as a means of lowering risks so that farmers need not pin their fortunes on the weather.
On this trip, Premier Lin survey damaged net houses and garlic and rice crops in Citong and Huwei townships, where he listened to farmers’ concerns about low relief subsidies, high rebuilding costs, and the 20-percent loss threshold for relief eligibility. The premier said he will defer to the professional judgment of the COA on whether the 20-percent threshold can be canceled altogether, but he asked local officials to provide farmers with reasonable compensation for crop losses and to help resolve their problems as much as possible.
As for the idea of moving utility poles underground to avert the kind of widespread power outages caused by Typhoon Megi, the premier suggested doing so only where suitable and to conduct professional evaluations first. Other options may include using double utility poles for stronger support or increasing the density of utility poles. The premier also instructed the Ministry of Economic Affairs to consider local conditions when prioritizing power system restorations and to establish an automatic notification mechanism.