Xiong Yousheng and his wife can work for a whole year as migrant workers as they have leased their farmland to a grower via a newly established land transfer service center in their village. Before, they had to return to harvest their crops which actually brought slender revenue.
"We can do work outside without worries now," said the 41-year-old farmer in Qiaotou Village, Fengxin County of eastern Jiangxi Province. He is renovating his house and after completion he will go to Taiyuan, capital of northern Shanxi Province, to continue processing aluminium-alloy windows with his wife.
The couple has worked in the cities for 11 years. But for fear that his rights and interests would be harmed, he had not dared to transfer his nine mu of farmland (mu is a Chinese unit of area with one mu equal to 1/15 hectare) to others before the land transfer service began.
The land transfer service center was set up in his village after a landmark land policy was issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the third plenary session of the 17th CPC Central Committee in October last year. Under the policy, farmers may "lease their contracted farmland or transfer their land use rights" to boost farm production and provide funds for them to start new businesses.
Xiong signed a land transfer agreement with the center, which is in charge of collecting information and looking for planters. The center's personnel are village officials and representatives of farmers. It offers free service.
At a price of 330 yuan (about 48 U.S. dollars) per mu, Xiong leased the farmland to a planter named Wei Zhenyong for one year. Meanwhile, Xiong continues to take a government subsidy of about 110 yuan per mu to farmers.
Farmers who often worked in the cities used to transfer their farmland to others orally. Disputes concerning prices or contracted rights were common. To regularize the transfer, the county set up land transfer service centers in six villages in Songbu and Chitian townships at the end of last year.
Jiangxi is a major agricultural province. With the standardization of the farmland transfer service, farmers can choose to go to cities for work without worries while farmland planters can gain more by renting more farmlands.
A village group in Tangzhuang Village in Songbu Town has 34 households and 206 people. Most of them process aluminium-alloy windows in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, bringing several million yuan of revenue in total to the village every year. Only the elder and children are left behind. The village has 308 mu of farmlands. Elders in the village plant 50 mu for food, while the rest has been all transferred to a neighboring village famous for grain planting.
Xiong Bin, a farmer of the village, rented 112 mu of farmland, gaining a net revenue of 50,000 yuan last year.
"Each of the total 21 households in our village has planted 50mu to 100 mu of farmland via transfers from other villages," Xiong said. In Fengxin, each person has one mu of contracted, collectively owned farmland on average.
Land transfers make farmers gain more from planting crops, which will contribute to the grain production, said Yin Xiaojian, deputy director of the agricultural economy institute of Jiangxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
"The land policy will also accelerate work divisions between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, promoting rural development, as more farmers can go to cities to find work to do without worries," he said.
Land transfer service also enables farmers to start businesses themselves at home. In Wuxian Village in Chitian Town, four farmers jointly set up a spinning mill in October 2007.
"I leased my eight mu of farmland to my brother so that I can do work in the factory," said Xiong Dianhua, one of the four investors. Xiong said he gained 80,000 yuan last year from the factory, far higher than the revenue from his farmland. Farmers gain 300 yuan to 400 yuan in net revenue from per mu of farmland every year.
According to the Fengxin County Agricultural Bureau, the area of transferred farmland reached 58,700 mu by the end of 2008, accounting for 14.6 percent of the county's total farmlands.
The percentage of transferred farmlands against the total has risen from 5 percent to 10 percent, the provincial agricultural department said. Both the acreage of transferred land and number of farmers who manage larger area of farmlands are on the rise.
To standardize the land transfers is a must for the realization of agricultural modernization, said researcher Yin. It should be done in accordance with the government policies which say, for example, the use of land and its collective ownership nature should not be changed, Yin emphasized.