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Document to give legal tools to Chinese farmers

DATE:2015-02-05       SOURCE:Xinhua News Agency

HEFEI, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Even though land transfers and legal disputes have become synonymous in rural China, farmer Xie Yiman in Shanfeng Village, in east China's Anhui Province, did not hesitate for a second when leasing his land thanks to a new legal initiative.


Rural land in China is managed through collective ownership, with farmers each assigned a small plot of land. In recent years, however, due to urbanization, farmers have swarmed to cities to seek alternative employment, leaving the land idle. In response, many turned to leasing their farmland to large-scale and specialized agriculture businesses.


Yet, the practice is hampered by unclear legislation and a lack of legal guidance, meaning that many do not honor their contractual obligations. The government's new agriculture policy aims to address this issue.


Last week, Xie leased his field - a plot of around 0.27 hectares - to a local large-scale farmer for 15 years. The rental fee will swing in line with the price of grain.


This process was made possible after the provincial government in Anhui provided legal consultation, dispute settlement advice and supervision to farmers in the middle of 2014.


Soon, more farmers across China will benefit from the policy, as the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council released its first major policy document of 2015, which called for improved systems to deal with issues such as rural property rights protection, regulation of the rural market and rural reform.


Known as the "No.1 Central Document", this policy empowers local governments, allowing them to roll out a series of legal reform measures that will give hundreds of millions of farmers access to legal advice.


In the past, Ling Jihe, a large-scale rice farmer in Anyi County in the eastern province of Jiangxi, said countless number of people broke contract with him.


"I signed a three-year contract with a local villager to rent his land a few years ago, but he wanted to back out after only a year," Ling said, adding that "some villagers promised not to raise the commission within the contract's term, but they never kept their word."


This situation has restricted the expansion of his business. However, without any legal standing, Ling was often left helpless.


Scared of losing money, many villagers will only sign one year contracts, making long term planning a nightmare.


Thus, Ling was excited to hear about the new government policy, because "it finally offers a solution".


The document, for the first time, noted the importance of rule of law, according to Zheng Fengtian, an agriculture professor at Renmin University of China.


"With the government's backing, I believe local villagers will be more confident when leasing their farmland," Ling told Xinhua.


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