DA to resume distribution of cash aid to rice farmers

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will resume the distribution of financial aid to rice farmers after the May 9 elections.

In his message during a recent event in Nueva Ecija, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the DA’s rice farmers financial assistance (RFFA) program, which provides P5,000 cash aid to rice farmers tilling two hectares and below, will resume this week.

“You can trust that our President will do everything for the betterment of your life and livelihood. We, the members of the Cabinet, will also do our best to help you until June 30, 2022,” Dar said in Filipino.

The DA chief made the statement last May 6 during a ceremony where farm machines worth P142.5 million were turned over to 71 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) mechanization program.

In late April, the Comelec granted the DA’s request for exemption from the election ban of its various programs, such as the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Program, Fuel Discount to Farmers and Fisherfolk Program, Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund Program, National Rice Program Seed, Fertilizer, Machinery and Equipment Distribution, National Rice Program, National Corn Program and Special Area of Agricultural Development Program.

Agriculture Undersecretary for Operations Ariel T. Cayanan earlier told the BusinessMirror that the DA will work double-time to implement the various programs, such as the fuel subsidy and cash assistance, that were temporarily halted by the election ban.

“We have a commitment that our programs will not be politicized. We understand that the intention of the ban was to avoid programs to be used in politics,” he said.

“We will implement our programs and give the necessary interventions directly to the farmers without the presence of any politicians. Farmers must receive their aid whether there is an election or not.”

The DA issued Memorandum Circular (MC) 30 that outlined the guidelines for the distribution of the rice farmers’ financial assistance (RFFA) for fiscal years 2022 until 2024.

In particular, the MC specified the rules for the prioritization of farmer-beneficiaries for cash assistance under the RFFA in accordance with Republic Act 11598 or the Cash Assistance For Filipino Farmers Act.

Under the MC, Filipino rice farmers who have not received any financial assistance from the government will be prioritized in the next tranches of the cash aid.

“The criteria in the prioritization of farmer beneficiaries are presented by tier taking into consideration the following: receipt of cash assistance from DA, registration in RSBSA [Registry System for the Basic Sectors in Agriculture], and rice area cultivated,” the document read.

Rice farmers categorized under Tier 1 or those who have not yet received any cash assistance from the DA’s programs such as the RFFA 2019, Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers 2020 and Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund-RFFA shall be prioritized.

This shall be followed by rice farmers under Tier 2 or those who received cash assistance once with rice farmers who have received cash assistance twice already being categorized in Tier 3, according to the document.

Regardless of tier, rice farmer-beneficiaries must be registered in the government’s RSBSA and must be farming rice areas of 2 hectares and below, the DA said.

The government, through the DA, has been providing financial cash assistance to rice farmers using the tariffs in excess of P10 billion collected from rice imports since 2019.

Image credits: Bernard Testa