Extended contracts would encourage cooperatives to pool land
The revised law on rural land contracts will guarantee the land-use and management rights of farmers as China moves toward urbanization, experts said on Thursday.
China's top legislature began vetting the draft law on land-use rights on Tuesday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
"The amendment aims to better define rural land rights so that farmers can enjoy sufficient and guaranteed protection over their land,'" said Liu Zhenwei, deputy director of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), at the bi-monthly legislative session of the NPC Standing Committee Tuesday.
Stressing that the State protects the stability and consistency of rural land contracts, the draft says that upon expiration, the current round of contracts will be extended by another 30 years.
"The draft protects farmers, who fear that their land-use rights would expire someday. Extended land contracts would encourage rural cooperatives and large agricultural firms to pool their land and improve technology," Li Guoxiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Rural Development Institute, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Li Shihua, a large farmland operator in Bayan county, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province told the Global Times on Thursday that the news would make farmers more confident in entrusting their land to agricultural firms.
Li Shihua manages more than 930 hectares of corn and soybean land on behalf of over 200 households, a jump from 667 hectares in May.
"More villagers have been moving to the city for work for years. Large farmland allows us to grow more corn. I regularly hire about 18 workers to manage tractors and reapers," Li Shihua said.
The bill removes a provision that forces contractors to end the contract and return the land to the village when they migrate to cities and change their household registration from rural to urban, according to Xinhua.
The law, passed in 2003 failed to keep up with the times as industrialization and urbanization have required faster and smoother turnover of key resources, particularly land, Liu was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
"Setting a duration for land use could prevent the privatization of rural land," Li Guoxiang explained.
More than 30 percent of rural households have transferred their land, totaling 31.93 million hectares, Liu said.
Since the country adopted the household responsibility system in the early 1980s, the property rights of rural land have been divided into two parts - the ownership rights collectively owned by a rural community, normally a village and use rights, which is held by one household that manages a piece of land from the village, according to Xinhua.