Reduced agriculture budget allocations questioned in House committee

A MEMBER of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food has queried the Agriculture department over its reduced budget allocations for farm-to-market roads (FMRs) and other programs.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita B. Suansing at the committee hearing Tuesday noted a “disconnect” in the Department of Agriculture’s priorities, citing the reduced 2022 budgets for FMRs.

“The budgets for some of the programs like FMR, high-value crops, and corn went down. Why the budget decrease?” Ms. Suansing said.

During the hearing, DA Budget Division Chief Telma C. Tolentino said the department’s overall budget proposal for 2022 is P91 billion, which if approved would represent a 1.05% increase from this year’s funding level.

Ms. Tolentino said the proposed budget for FMRs was reduced by 57.5% to P4.98 billion, while that for high-value crops fell 18.17% to P1.47 billion.

Ms. Tolentino also said the proposed funding for the corn program declined 1.32% to P1.49 billion.

In response to Ms. Suansing’s comments, Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin D. Adriano said the priorities are “right,” adding that allocations are the responsibility of the Department of Budget and Management.

“In fact, when we discussed the budget, we really need a lot of support for corn if we are going to have a repopulation of our hog industry because it is an important ingredient for feed,” Mr. Adriano said.

“I just pray that as far as the budget for FMR is concerned, Congress can retain the 2022 budget at P11.72 billion as provided in this year’s budget instead of cutting it down so that the projects of the various districts can be addressed by the DA,” he added.

In August, the DA adjusted its 2021 full-year growth target for the agriculture sector to 2% from 2.5% due to pandemic-induced lockdowns and the effects of the African Swine Fever on the hog industry. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave 

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