The central government has formed a committee headed by former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal to make the minimum support price (MSP) system for agricultural produce more effective and transparent.
A notification issued by the ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare stated the committee was constituted to fulfil the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the farmer organisations that had agitated for repealing the government’s controversial farm laws and a higher and guaranteed MSP.
The agitation was withdrawn after the government withdrew its farm laws that were intended to provide a larger role for the private sector in the agriculture production and marketing ecosystem.
The ministry notification stated the committee will also look into zero budget-based farming and explore the possibilities of changing crop patterns. The committee consists of Ramesh Chand, member, Niti Aayog, agriculture economists CSC Shekhar (Indian Institute of Economic Development) and Sukhpal Singh (IIM-Ahmedabad), national award-winning farmer Bharat Bhushan Tyagi, eight representatives from various farmers’ organisations, and representatives of state and central governments. Representatives of farmers’ cooperatives, agriculture universities and a senior member of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) are also part of the committee.
According to the ministry, the committee will seek suggestions to make available MSP to farmers of the country by making the system more effective and transparent. It will explore the practicality to give more autonomy to CACP and measures to make it more scientific. The committee has also been asked to look into the ways to strengthen the agricultural marketing system as per the changing requirements of the country to ensure higher value to the farmers through remunerative prices of their produce by taking advantage of the domestic and export opportunities.
The committee’s mandate under crop diversification is to map existing cropping patterns of agro-ecological zones of producer and consumer states, formulate a diversification policy to change the cropping pattern according to the changing needs of the country and propose arrangements for agricultural diversification and system to ensure remunerative prices for the sale of new crops. Review and suggestion on micro irrigation scheme is another topic to be considered.
Giving emphasis to natural farming, the government asked the committee to suggest programmes and schemes for value chain development, protocol validation and research for future needs and support for area expansion under the Indian Natural Farming System by publicity and through the involvement and contribution of farmer organisations.
It has also been asked to suggest strategies for making Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs) and other research and development institutions as knowledge centres, and the introduction of a natural farming system curriculum and skill development courses in the universities and other educational institutions.
The committee will also suggest farmer-friendly alternative certification systems and marketing systems for natural farming processes and products. International coordination to strengthen the value chain development of natural farming and the establishment of a chain of laboratories for organic certification of products produced through natural farming are other topics the committee will look into.
The notification does not mention the time frame under which the committee needs to function and submit its recommendations.