In a bid to boost enrollment in tertiary agriculture education and overturn its steady decline, the AGRI party-list has filed a bill that incentivizes students who take up agriculture and agri-related courses.
“If we are to improve agriculture in our country we have to ensure that we have a new generation of better-educated farmers who will apply their knowledge to improve farming practices. Through the Free Tertiary Agriculture Education bill, we hope to encourage the children of indigent farmers to stay in agriculture,” AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee said.
House Bill No. 1295 seeks to establish a scholarship program that would benefit dependent children of registered indigent farmers who intend to enroll or are already enrolled in agricultural courses or related fields in state universities and colleges.
Lee said that aside from helping break the cycle of poverty in agricultural communities, the measure is also an important investment for the future of the country’s agricultural sector.
Aside from free tuition, the measure would grant other incentives or subsidies, including living and transportation allowance.
The Department of Agriculture, in coordination with the Commission on Higher Education, are tasked with establishing the said program.
Lee underscored the need for “new blood” in agriculture, considering that the average age of farmers in the country is from 57 to 59 years old.
Last year, former Agriculture secretary William Dar warned that the Philippines may face a critical shortage of farmers in 12 years.
“That scenario is really worrisome. If we boost enrollment in agriculture education, we have a new batch of farmers who are armed with knowledge to maximize outputs,” said Lee.
“With better-educated farmers we can show that farming is not a dead-end job that will sink those who enter it into deeper poverty. That rather, it is a noble profession that can also provide a decent and comfortable life to those who engage in it,” the lawmaker added.