In a virtual pre-budget consultation with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and top officials of the Finance Ministry, BKS Chairman Ajay Vir Jakhar also sought reduction in taxes on diesel and transport subsidy on fruits and vegetables, but demanded tax on unhealthy foods.
Representatives from National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI), Punjab Agriculture University, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), among others, were also present in the meeting.
The association submitted 15 suggestions for the growth of agriculture sector and farmers'' welfare, including reduction in taxes on diesel and including alcohol in the GST regime.
"Incentivize balanced use of fertilisers; increase urea price and simultaneously decrease price of P&K fertilisers, so no added burden is imposed on the farmers or the government," BKS said in its representation.
Urea price is statutorily fixed by the government. The maximum retail price (MRP) of a 45-kg bag of urea is Rs 242 per bag and the MRP of a 50-kg bag of urea is Rs 268 per bag. As P&K fertilisers are decontrolled, the MRP is fixed by companies.
However, under the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS)scheme for P&K fertilisers, a fixed amount of subsidy is provided on each grade of subsidised P&K fertilisers depending upon its nutrient content.
BKS pitched for tripling investment for micro-irrigation and solar pumps for individual farmers as well as funding for distribution of soil moisture measuring sensors.
"Prioritize investment in human resources over infrastructure. There are about 50 per cent vacancies in agriculture research institutions across India. Target 2 per cent expenditure on agri R&D of agriculture GDP over the next few years," BKS said.
Jakhar said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the economy, livelihoods and government revenues, and hence suggested to bring alcohol and agricultural produce under the ambit of GST at the highest tax slab.
Stating that states are financially constrained, Jakhar suggested the Centre to change the funding ratio for central sponsored schemes, specifically for agriculture, to a 90:10 ratio where the Central government bears 90 per cent cost for a five-year period.
"Farmers grow crops in response to consumer demand and government incentives. Taxes can change consumption behaviour and subsequently save health care costs. Suggest to tax unhealthy diets consisting of excess fat, salt, sugar and ultra-processed foods," BKS said.
It recommended increase in funding for agriculture market yards and providing facilities and services within existing market yards.
Jakhar noted that farmers are becoming dependent on markets for nutrition and most of those suffering from undernutrition are farmers and therefore, the Centre should fund programs to establish homestead gardens to boost household nutrition.
The Centre should promote backyard poultry by buying eggs from such units for mid-day meal programme.
"Financially incentivise panchayats to sustain biodiversity by making 2-hectare biodiversity reserves in each village where cropping intensity is over 100 per cent," it said.
BKS advocated substantial increase in funding for processing and marketing of produce of village level small processing units.
It also suggested the government to finance a long-term study to a consortium of farmer organisations for development of a measurement metric for farm ecosystem services to shift away from the present subsidy regime.
India should establish an autonomous body, similar to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture for farm level data collection, assessment and a ''nationally consistent database''.
"Various ministries impacting farmer livelihoods face significant barriers to addressing the existing challenges and resist changing the status quo. They can''t be expected to objectively self-evaluate.
"Suggest setting up a statutory farmers'' commission headed by a farmer, comprising an IAS officer as a full-time member-secretary and agriculture secretary as an official member," BKS said.
Its mandate should be to review existing interventions, recommend new initiatives, repurposing existing subsidies and allocation of resources, the association added. PTI LUX MJH RVK
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI