Farmers sign up for better quality

China's first farmland quality protection insurance scheme kicked off in Huguang Village, Maogang Town, Songjiang District.
Farmers sign up for better quality
Ti Gong

Farm owners sign contracts for insurance. 

China’s first farmland quality protection insurance scheme kicked off in Huguang Village, Maogang Town, Songjiang District.

Twenty-five family-run farm owners from Huguang and three nearby villages signed insurances for over 3,000 mu (200 hectares) of crop land.

Underwritten by Anxin Agricultural Insurance Co, the cover is expected to attract about 600 farm owners over the following month, further insuring about 90,000 mu, according to Gu Xiaofeng, deputy chief with Songjiang District Agriculture Committee.

The farmland quality protection insurance is aimed at helping build better soil quality and contribute to the rural revitalization strategy.

Family-run farm owners at the ceremony signed agreements after hearing an introduction on the concept of soil quality protection and how it operates. After three to five years’ careful maintenance they will get a reward higher than premium once soil indicators meet required standards.

“Usually, agricultural insurance is a subsidy compensated to a farmer by an insurance company when disaster or loss hits harvest, so that we can reduce a farmer’s loss or enable them to quickly resume production,” said Gu.

“But this time we adopt a positive incentive. As long as the soil fertility of a plot doesn’t drop, the insurance company will reward a farmer. It is a debut trial nationwide. There are multi-level rewards for land of different quality. In the fifth year, a farmer can get the highest reward of up to 800 yuan (US$127) per mu if his land maintains the highest quality.”

Insurance costs 80 yuan per mu a year, of which municipal finance pays 32 yuan, district finances 32 yuan, leaving a farmer’s yearly cost at 16 yuan per mu.

The cycle of soil quality evaluation is settled for five years. Before a farm owner applies for insurance, his land will be valued by professional monitoring institutions to form a reference. A mid-evaluation will be performed in the third year based on the content of organic matter in the soil.

At the end of a contract period or the fifth year, a final evaluation will be carried out, again testing the content of organic matter in the soil, as well as the depth of low layer. Then how well a piece of land is maintained will be judged according to various indicators. If the result is satisfactory, a farmer will be rewarded.

Even if the growth of a piece of land’s soil fertility is categorized as 0 Level during the mid-evaluation in the third year, the owner will still be rewarded with 120 yuan per mu. For if the soil capability of a plot shows no degeneration after three years’ tilling, the farmer has made an effort to maintain it.

As a piece of land’s soil fertility increases by 1, 2, 3 and 4 Levels, a farmer will be rewarded 216 yuan, 312 yuan, 408 yuan and 480 yuan per mu respectively. The incentive in the fifth year’s final evaluation will be even higher.

“Now we mainly focus on deep tillage and green manure spreading. We’ve heard the highest reward can reach 800 yuan per mu, everybody is now very charged and happy,” said Cao Liming, a family-run farm owner in Huguang Village.

“We invited a group of rice experts and soil and fertility experts,” Gu said. “They discussed and chose two major soil protection indicators, namely, organic matter and plow layer depth. The former suggests soil fertility and the latter shows growing space of plants. It is also easy to apply the two in practice.”

Gu added: “We value key indicators closely related to agricultural production.”

Taking heavy metals as an example. Heavy metal is excluded from the indicator reference for it is created by people dumping industrial and mineral waste on land and has nothing to do with farm production and farmers, who are also victims, Gu said.

Soil testing will be conducted by a professional third party, who will then issue report for each farm.

A “Farmland Quality Protection Sampling Procedure” established by Songjiang District Agricultural Committee will guide the third party in its sampling and testing.

The Food Agricultural Products Testing Center of Songjiang will do blind random tests on the third party test results.

Songjiang’s sustainable farmland cultivation policy can be traced back to 10 years ago when the district government called on farmers to spread burnt straw as fertilizer into the land and nurture land during farming.

A tilling measure that promoted the planting of barley and wheat, spreading green manure and tilling deeply by turn was adopted after that.

In 2017 Songjiang took the initiative to stop barley and wheat planting, and grow rice once a year instead. Besides rice planting, the remaining time was expected to be spent on deep tillage and green manure spreading. It was also recommended that the use of pesticides and fertilizers be reduced.

“We launched the farmland quality insurance to encourages farm runners to shoulder responsibilities. A series of objective land evaluation indicators was established and a scientific and sustainable land protection mechanism was formed, so as to guide farm owners to protect their land,” said Gu.

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