Villar questions Agriculture Department's 'crazy' obsession with corn research

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — Senator Cynthia Villar hit the Department of Agriculture for allocating a big chunk of its proposed 2020 budget on research for the National Corn Program instead of offering direct assistance to farmers.

The chairman of the Senate agriculture, food, and agrarian reform committee on Wednesday slammed DA's decision to allocate ₱150 million of the ₱1.2 billion proposed budget to research for the corn program.

"Bakit parang lahat ng inyong budget puro research? Baliw na baliw kayo sa research. Aanhin ninyo ba 'yung research? Ako, matalino akong tao, pero hindi ko maintindihan 'yang research niyo, lalo na 'yung farmer. Gusto ba ng farmer ang research? Hindi ba gusto nila tulungan niyo sila?" she said during the budget hearing.

[Translation: Why does it seem like all of your budget goes to research? You're so fixated on research, what are you going to do with it? I'm smart, but I don't understand your research, what more the farmers? Do they want you to conduct research? Don't you think they want your help instead?]

She also interrogated DA officials on why the proposed reserve fund for the National Corn Program is higher than the allocation for seedling distribution. Under the proposed 2020 budget, the budget for seed reserve is ​₱​​​​​​218 million, while the distribution is at ₱31 million. The reserve will be provided to farmers during calamities.

Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan explained five percent of production should be set aside as buffer stock. He said they also give assistance to farmers in the form of seeds and fertilizers.

However, Villar said farmers need more direct assistance. She asked the department to revise its proposed budget.

"Kung ako farmer gusto ko na bigyan ako ng seeds, bigyan ako ng machinery, kaysa 'yung mga kung anu-anong 'yan. Kaunting-kaunti lang ang ibinibigay sa farmers kaya ang ating mga farmers continously naghihirap, " she said.

[Translation: If I'm a farmer, I'd prefer receiving seeds and machinery, instead of those research. Our farmers are poor because we don't give them enough.]