The Council of Agriculture (COA) plans to ditch a requirement that farmers should possess a minimum area of farmland to be eligible for farmers' insurance.
Under the Farmer Health Insurance Act, farmers have to own at least 0.1 hectares of farmland or rent at least 0.2 hectares of farmland to be eligible for insurance, reported The Taipei Times.
Lawmakers asked the Council to lift the restriction and include tenant farmers in the insurance scheme within six months.
Department of Farmers’ Services Director Chu Chien-wei said the Council plans to disassociate farmland ownership and tenancy from insurance eligibility. The Council would propose measures within a few months to include young farmers in the health insurance scheme, he said.
Due to a now-defunct agricultural law that strictly limited farm owners from terminating or modifying contracts with tenant farmers, senior owners tend to rent out their properties with verbal agreements rather than written ones, resulting in the exclusion of many young farmers from insurance coverage and benefits such as subsidies, low-interest loans and disaster relief, a legislator Tsai Pei-hui told the media.
Yilan County farmer Wu Chia-ling said it costs between NT$2 million (US$66,690) and NT$3 million to purchase 0.1 hectares of farmland in the county, a financial burden that young farmers cannot easily shoulder, and called on the government to determine insurance eligibility with criteria other than property ownership or tenancy.
“The aging of the agricultural workforce is a pressing issue for the government, but if it prioritises the task of cracking down on ‘fake farmers,’ the needs of real farmers would be neglected,” Legislator Chuang Jui-hsiung said. The average age of farmers in Taiwan is 62.
“The Council has to improve the farmers’ health insurance and include farmers in social security systems to attract more young people into farming,” Mr Chuang said.
Statistics indicate that there are fewer than 500,000 people engaged in agriculture, fishery and forestry in Taiwan.