WHEN I was growing up in my hometown of Porac, most of my playmates were sons and daughters of farmers. Consequently, most of them became farmers too. There was not much choice for them. There was only one high school, and that is St.Catherine Academy which stands until today in the poblacion area. In my high school days my classmates were from far away barangays, like Hacienda Dolores, Balubad, Pulung Santol, Mitla and Pio. They have to endure the weather, sometimes heavy rains or scorching heat of the sun as they walked kilometers just to attend school. Many dropped school to help the family tending the farms.

This is no longer true today. There are some many integrated schools in almost all barangays and there are state-owned colleges and are available to sons and daughters of farmers to pursue courses. The question now who will tend the farms? Since they already finished a college course that can qualify him or her for white collar job the farmlands will no longer be their world. It must be an air conditioned office or in a bank or a front desk job in a hotel. Who will take care now of the farms? The farm machines of course. Minememorize pa ba yan? But where are the machines? If you travel from Pampanga to the north,take notice if you can spot farm machines working on both sides of SCTEX and TIPLEX.

You can scratch your head why government can extend billions as ayuda for informal settlers like those in Parola, Tondo Manila and other areas but cannot give funds to farmers . If ever there are, this are pittance. Onion growers in Nueva Ecija should have been supported with cold storage facilities. Tomatoes in upland places are rotting because they cannot be stored. No redrying plant and silos for palay, so they used the highways. Now President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took over agriculture department and he will exclusively be facing numerous challenges and make sure that the country will have enough food and not dependent on importations like what the Duterte administration did.

It is not nice to fault Duterte and some presidents ahead him since they are already out of office and we should allow them to enjoy their retirement. They overlooked agriculture as a factor for success and for poverty reduction. Our country suffered because it failed to rebound and mitigate the contraction due to the less agricultural output. There’s still some hope left in my mind. Meaning, there’s a chance that a rebound may happen if FM Jr. can push the right buttons

Points to ponder. As I pointed earlier, I grew up in an agricultural town of Porac. The town is the largest in Pampanga and in my youth and up until now it is sparsely populated. Large areas were planted to sugar, palay and some vegetables then. Few meters away from our house was the beautiful deep Porac river. That portion of the Porac- Gumain river continues to flow passing through Florida Blanca town till today. During those years it was by my estimate to be 15 feet deep and all the kids in town learned to swim there.

Porac’s resident depended largely from it vast agricultural lands. Hectares after hectares dotted the roads going to Florida Blanca . Second largest was its rice fields. Farmers in those years were simply happy and contented in whatever decent incomes they get from the soil. I remember farmers who sold their palay to the only rice mill in our town owned by my cousin the late Servillana Lumanlan David. After getting paid for their produce, some proceeded to my mother’s carinderia which was just across the street and got their fill there. I heard many of their stories. They talked mostly of their tenancy problems but nonetheless happy with the support from agencies of government.

If today you hear rice farmers complaining regarding the farm gate price of palay, it is because of the enactment of the rice tarrification law which allowed the unlimited importation of rice by both government and the private sectors. It’s so ridiculous. Apparently the move wasn’t carefully studied. It adversely affected the agri sector. Government people make a bundle on rice importation. Let’s look back in the early years when government provided support and services to Filipino farmers. senior members of our society will remember this. In the early years, there was the ACCFA ( I just can’t recall what the acronym means, but it has something to do with agriculture credit). Then there was FACOMA , meaning Farmers Cooperative Marketing Association. It was an agency designed to sell in the market the farmers’ produce to the market to eliminate middlemen. The third agency was the NAMARCO, and it means National Marketing Corporation. It is tasked by government to sell grocery products and other household items to farmers in a much much reduced prices. Farmers were happy.