New model agriculture law and the Farm forestry sector
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has proposed a new model law, the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, 2017.
It seeks to end the monopoly of APMC mandis and promote private players through wholesale markets, direct sale and purchase of agricultural produce, single market fee, and one-time registration for trade in multiple markets.
12 states, namely Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, have agreed to implement the reforms.
Farm forestry sector
The model law is expected to bring necessary reforms in the farm forestry sector, which has been listed along with allied activities such as livestock, poultry and bee-keeping to double farmers’ income by 2022.
The ministry is also working towards an electronic registration system which will ensure that once registered, farmers will not have to seek permission to harvest and transport the trees they plant.
These reforms are expected to provide the agro-forestry sector a much-needed boost through exemption of trees grown by farmers on private land from felling, a unified trading license, relaxation of transit rules and a single point levy of market fee.
Restrictions on felling of farm-grown trees, transit pass regulations and lack of access to markets have been the major reasons behind farmers’ disinterest and inability in utilising their lands for producing timber.
Agro-forestry in India needs an open policy in which the regulations are relaxed. States will have to work with the Centre in tandem to ensure implementation of the reforms.
Currently, farmers face many problems in plantation harvest and transit as tree felling is not regulated by one authority. Instead, the revenue and the forest department regulate tree felling and that too varies state wise.
State governments can further help by notifying certain tree species as exempt from felling and transit. That would mean that the forest check-posts will not stop such species of timber from being transported.
Since the forests and wildlife are in the concurrent list of the Constitution, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change should consider an amendment in the Indian Forest Act, 1927, where for certain tree species, a central enactment of power be possible.