Solon pitches for cooperation among competing farmer groups; here's how

Bataan 1st district Rep. Geraldine Roman believes that "cooperative competition" among local farmers can help them become prosperous.

As such, the veteran lawmaker filed House Bill (HB) No. 230, or the “Farmer Coopetition Act".

The bill seeks to foster cooperation among competing farmer associations and cooperatives--or “coopetition"--through area-based clustering, leading to the creation of a multi-purpose, fully-equipped hub per cluster.

These hubs are envisioned to provide a venue for produce-sourcing by major buyers like the government and retailers, while cutting out the middlemen who take away a sizeable profit from farmers.

The hubs also open up the possibility of direct marketing for rice and related products to retailers and consumers; manufacturing of rice products by farmers; and shared rice processing and storage facilities.

"We are an agricultural country with a population of over 100 million of which about 10 million – or 24 percent of the total national employment – are rice farmers. Sadly, over 34 percent of our rice farmers are poor. They struggle to make less than P200 a day,” Roman said.

She noted that the low income in farming prevents rice farmers from supporting their families, accessing and paying farm loans, and growing rice production. It has dampened interest in farming, forcing rice farmers and their children to seek other employment and sell their farmlands to industrialists, threatening our rice industry and food security, she added.

The lady solon said that at present, the government extends farming assistance such as machinery, loans, and training through competing farmer organizations.

"But farmlands are underutilized because not every farmer organization receives government farming assistance,” Roman pointed out.

She said HB No.230 requires cooperation among associations in managing multi-purpose hubs suitably equipped to help farmers capture more value from their harvest.

"To have the opportunity to test, address and mitigate any risks that may arise during implementation, and refine the proposed solution before expanding it elsewhere, this bill proposes piloting it in my own district,” Roman further said.