Modern farming is taking root in Linyi, Shandong Province, as a result of agricultural industrialization and the development of a new countryside.
Farmers' per capita net income reached 4,722 yuan in 2007, increasing by 15.64 percent, the top in the province.
"Developing modern agriculture is a crucial step to increase farmers' income and to change the current situation in China's rural areas," said Zhang Shaojun, a representative of the 11th National People's Congress and mayor of Linyi.
"Linyi's government has been trying its best to promote productivity and increase farmers' income by restructuring local agriculture," the mayor said. "Nine growing areas were established by the end of 2007 for grain, cooking oil, tea, tobacco, mulberry trees and medicinal herbs."
He said the local government emphasizes agriculture suited to local conditions, the use of specialized techniques and implementation of regional planning to gradually shape distinct growing zones.
There are now 3,940 villages and 85 towns that are specialized in specific agricultural products, accounting for 55 and 47 percent respectively of the total in Linyi. The production scale of some produce, such as garlic in Cangshan, has been expanded to propel rural development.
Standardized agricultural production is a key to ensuring safe food, as well as a pivotal method to improve productivity, added Zhang.
The Linyi government has been implementing international practices for scientific farming that assure food quality, with 900,000 mu (60,300 hectares) in new standardized production sites now under cultivation. Thirty-five farms and 90 products have been given the title of famous local brands.
Strong efforts have also been made to intensify quality verification and testing, as well as monitor pesticide residues. Five quality testing centers at city and county levels have now been built.
The Linyi government has continued to promote agricultural industrialization by starting rural cooperatives and supporting the growth of leading enterprises.
The city now has 331 leading enterprises and 1,600 organizations engaged in industrialized agriculture, Zhang said.
Some 13,985 rural cooperatives with 1.53 million members and 1.42 million households are involved in the business of farming.
Sales revenue of agricultural products in the city hit 63.02 billion yuan last year, with 59.08 billion yuan and US$1.2 billion in foreign exchange generated by leading enterprises.
Led by the city's enterprises, 1.94 million rural families increased their income by 2,239 yuan per household in 2007 while working on 74.3 million mu (497,810 hectares) of land.
Specialized organizations for developing the cooperative economy established by rural workers sold 6.64 million tons of agricultural products last year by planting, cultivating, processing and distributing their produce.
Linyi's government has been further implementing the strategy of "rejuvenating agriculture through science and technology", Zhang said, by creating expert commissions and information exchanges to introduce science and technology to the countryside.
In 2007, science and technology increased agricultural production by 53 percent, according to city statistics
Its research institutes have cultivated new breeds of wheat and rice that have been widely planted. More than 100 improvements in technology have been introduced to produce new varieties of grain, melons, fruits and vegetables.
About 15,000 model rural families harvested benefits brought by applying new scientific and technological methods, the mayor said.
He adds that great effort will be made to further restructure Linyi's agriculture over the next three years to enhance its competitiveness.
High-yield, high-quality and highly efficient environmentally friendly production will be emphasized to further accelerate the development of Linyi's crop yields, Zhang added.
About 30 standardized production bases will be built in the next three years to plant wheat, corn, rice, peanuts, vegetables, fruits and tea.
It is estimated that, by the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10), standardized production bases in Linyi will cover 6 million mu (402,000 hectares) of land.
Efforts are also underway to improve the industrial chain that processes and sells Linyi's 11 major agricultural products. By 2010, the last year of the plan period, 100 enterprises will have annual sales revenues over 100 million yuan and 10 companies will surpass 1 billion yuan, according to the city's projections.
(China Daily March 7, 2008)