How to become a tenant farmer
The Council of Agriculture's (COA) Small Landlords and Big Tenant-Farmers Program is dedicated to revitalizing the nation's farming sector. It started in May 2009, the program purpose mainly assists old farmers in renting out their fallow lands to younger farmers or agricultural cooperatives, thus effectively guaranteeing a viable income for retired farmers while ensuring the continuation of the farming of the land. Through the revitalization of fallow lands and economic-scale farming, higher agricultural output and more employment opportunities will both follow, the Council pointed out.
Guarantees all around: Tailored packages to ensure success
The Small Landlords and Big Tenant-Farmers Program begins by encouraging elderly farm owners to loan their farmland to the Farmland Bank, a network run by the local farmers' association that will help broker rental deals between eldly farmers and new tenant farmers. Not only will the program help match beginner farmers with suitable land, the Council also has a series of complementary packages tailored to facilitate success by alleviating financial stress, transferring agricultural technology and exchanging farming experience for the young farmers.
Eager to try your hand at farming? Just follow the steps below:
Step One: Eligibility Check
You have to be a professional farmer or a legally registered organization to be eligible for the program. For further information, please check the Council's Chinese-language website.
Step Two: Crop Management Rules
The aim of the program is to cease the past practice of scattered, small-scale farming and foster larger-scale cultivation that can benefit from economies of scale and be managed like a business. In order to become a tenant farmer, you need to abide by the Council's guidelines for crop size and management. For more details on the bulk requirement for specific crops, please check the Council's Chinese-language website.
Step Three: Farmland Bank
First timers and seasoned farmers seeking to expand their operations are both welcomed to log onto the e-Farmland Bank, a website created and maintained by the Council for the very purpose of facilitating farmland lending. The e-Farmland Bank offers instant access to the latest farmlands available on the market, important information on purchasing (selling) farmlands, rules concerning the lawful usage of agricultural zones, helpful pointers on agricultural production and marketing and even loans and mortgage opportunities. Use of the website is free of charge -- all you need to do is simply sign up and become a member. What's more, the website interface was revamped last year to make it even more user-centric and friendly, making it easier than before for farmers to locate their right plot of land!
The information on the website, which is uploaded by fallow farmland owners seeking tenants, includes location, size and rent. Members can search according to specifications and leave the landowner a message by clicking on the "I'm Interested" tab. After you leave your contact details, a Land Bank representative or the landowner will contact you -- it's that simple.
The website interface also employs color coding to help users quickly differentiate information; these visual cues that highlight the current status of the land will help users search more efficiently and avoid the hassle of asking repeated questions. Landowners need not fear for their privacy either; search parameters include only location, plot number, land size and rental specifications such as tenancy length and price range. All personal information relating to landowners and website members will be well protected.
Rent, of course, will fluctuate depending on location, slope, physical accessibility, land mass, soil composition, availability of irrigation and drainage systems, etc. Fortunately, detailed information on recently completed farmland lease can be easily found at both the e-Farmland Bank and the Ministry of the Interior's (MOI) real estate transaction database website ( http://lvr.land.moi.gov.tw).
Step Four: Application Time
To apply for farmland lease of this program, please prepare the following documents: a copy of your individual identification card, your personal chop or name stamp, the program application form, the farmland rental contract and notarized paperwork documenting your choice of crop and scale falls within the Council's requirements. If you're applying on the behalf of a farmers' cooperative or a registered organization, please bring the identification papers of the organization's chief representative.
The paperwork should be submitted to the farmers' association in the county (city) where your household is currently registered at. Once the paperwork has been reviewed and approved by your local farmers' association, you will receive a formal letter of notification. Confirmation of your newly approved status will also be sent to the county (city) government and the nearby regional branch of the Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA), COA; these two agencies will then help you apply for special tenant-farmer subsidies and bonuses!
The Farmer's Academy: Learn from the very best
AFA Director Li, Tsang-lang, a stout supporter of the Big Tenant-Farmer program, has pointed out that while the Council acts as a bridge connecting beginner farmers with fallow land plots and subsidies, the key to long-term success lies in production and marketing training. For those who aspire to agricultural business, the induction begins with the Farmer's Academy. From undergoing professional training courses, receiving the latest policy news and scientific breakthroughs via the Academy's e-newsletter to meeting face-to-face with the actual experts in the field, these are but a few of the many opportunities made possible by the Academy.
Initiated in 2011, the Farmer's Academy is the COA's integrated solution to providing life-long learning to professional farmers. Course materials are derived from the Council's own employee training programs at its subordinate Agriculture Research and Extension Stations around the island, and instructors are selected from the nation's finest agricultural experts and researchers. With an emphasis on hands-on experience and practice, the four-tier education includes beginner, elementary, intermediate and advanced levels.
As a beginner farmer, you could sign up for an overnight Countryside Experience Camp, or solicit advice from the Council's production and marketing consultation team. There's even an internship program designed to introduce students to the entire production cycle. Director Li highly recommends the internship route, explaining that one to two full years cannot be better spent otherwise.
With professional guidance, real-time production and training on the farm is the invaluable experience, Academy alumni know how to plan out detailed production proposals, manage a farm like a business, purchase supplies and machinery, identify new sales and distribution channels and account for logistics. Are you itching to kick start a career in the nation's greenest, brightest sector? For more information on agricultural internships, please log onto the Academy's website to view the current openings available at the Council's partnership farms.
Tenant-Farmer Fact Box:
1. According to statistics dating from February 2013, the Small Landlords and Big Tenant-Farmers Program has successfully revitalized 9,586 hectares of fallow land with the help of 1,272 participants. Moreover, the average plot of land tended by a tenant farmer measures 7.5 hectares, which is close to 7 times larger than the average 1.1-hectare farms operated currently by individual farmers.
2. The average ages of tenant farmers and traditional crop growers are 44 and 63, respectively, which translates to an age difference of 19 years.
3. By coaching 534 new tenant farmers on preparing a comprehensive business plan prior to farming their land, individual savings on production cost tallied an average of NT$644,000 in the initial stage of operation. The pilot program successfully introduced the use of automation and farming machinery to help cut business overhead and boost agricultural output.