Agriculture minister urges farmers to join OPAs

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Pulwama: Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Kailash Choudhary has urged marginal farmers to use programs such as Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and the Agricultural Infrastructure Fund (AIF) to change their fate.

Addressing a gathering of farmers, PRI representatives and officers from various departments here in Pulwama, he said the government plans to train around 10,000 FPOs.

He said that OPAs will be very fruitful for small and marginal farmers.

“When small farmers and marginal farmers form an association, they will have decisive power, which an individual farmer lacks,” he said.

He informed the assembly that such FPOs will also be formed in Pulwama district at block level and that work on the formation of 9 FPOs is ongoing.

“Once these 10,000 FPOs are formed at block level across the country, they will definitely change the condition of smallholder farmers and empower them,” he said, adding that through FPOs, smallholder farmers will have a bargaining power to buy or sell.

He said that they will not be simple farmers but entrepreneurs who will be able to set up their processing, packaging and marketing units for agricultural products.

“When you form an FPO, an account will be opened in which a farmer will deposit Rs 2,000 and the government will also deposit an equal amount,” he said, adding that the government can provide aid of Rs 15 lakh to the OPS.

He called on farmers to join OPAs as members.

He also called on small farmers to set up business units in the agricultural sector for which they will receive assistance under the Agricultural Infrastructure Fund.

He said that under the Agricultural Infrastructure Fund, a loan of up to Rs 2 crore is provided with a 2% discount on interest.

“The loan is granted without taking any mortgage from a farmer,” he said.

Without naming anyone, the Minister of State also blamed previous governments for neglecting farmers.

“Before, farmers weren’t focused, they were ignored. Farmer was talked about but nothing was done to improve his condition,” he said, adding that there was no no plan for him.

He said it is for this reason that young people have moved away from agriculture and preferred wage labor or a business to agriculture.

He added that the focus was now on agriculture and the budget had increased from 23,000 crore to 132,000 crore.

“The way the agricultural sector is growing, it won’t be far when young people prefer agriculture to work or government business,” he said.

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