Relook agriculture subsidies

Context– The dire need to shift the nature of support to farmers from input subsidies to investment subsidies.

What are the main reason of air pollution in India and its impact?

  1. Stubble Burning – Practice of farmers setting fire to plant debris that remain in farms after harvest.
    • It emits large amounts of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere which contain harmful gases like methane, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
    • Farm fires have been an easy way to get rid of paddy stubble quickly and at low cost for several years.
  1. Atmospheric Ammonia – Ammonia is a gaseous compound of nitrogen that combines with other pollutants in the air to form aerosols which affect public health and the climate
  • The Indo-Gangetic Plains are global hotspot of ammonia emission due to intense agricultural activities and a large concentration of fertilizer industries.
  • Chemical fertilizers are the largest contributors to nitrogen emission.
  • Researchers found that fertilizer consumption was directly linked to the amount of ammonia in the air.
  1. Other factors causing air pollution includes vehicular pollution, dust, and dip in temperatures, firecrackers, construction activities and open waste burning.

What are the impacts of Agri-subsidies?

  • Power subsidies have not only led to an alarming overuse of groundwater, but also it has severely damaged the health of power distribution companies.
  • Increase in the stock piles of grains.
  • Rising ammonia pollution.
  • Subsidized Urea has led to massive overuse of nitrogenous fertilizers, leading to damaged soils and pollution of local water bodies.

What is the way forward?

  1. Crop diversification- The conversion of paddy areas in this belt to orchards with drip irrigation, vegetables, corn, cotton, pulses and oilseeds, that consume much less water, much less power and fertilizers and don’t create stubble to burn.
  • The approach to diversification has to be demand-led, the role of the private sector in building value chains will be critical.
  1. Direct cash transfer to farmers– Instead of subsidizing fertilizers, direct cash transfers can be made to farmers. With fixed amounts, farmers will likely cut down their usage of fertilizers in the interest of soil health as prices of fertilizers will be decontrolled.

These measures could double farmers’ incomes, promote efficiency in resource use, and reduce pollution.

Growth plan for Agriculture sector in India

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