|BEIJING, Dec. 28, 2017 -- China's top legislature on Wednesday adopted a revision to the Law on Farmers' Specialized Cooperatives.
The revision was adopted at the six-day bi-monthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which opened on Friday.
According to Zhang Fugui, head of the law office of the agricultural committee of the NPC Standing Committee, one of the most prominent changes to the law is that farmers no longer have to engage in the same kind of agricultural production to form a specialized cooperative.
The revised law reads that such cooperatives can be formed by agricultural producers and those who provide or utilize services in agricultural production and management.
"Such limits have been canceled, which expanded the range of the adjustments to the law," Zhang said.
Another major feature of the revision lies in the provision that grants the country's farmers' specialized cooperatives equal legal status with other market entities, which for Shen Yueyue, vice chairwoman of the standing committee, "addresses the major problems in the implementation of the law."
Members of cooperatives now have the right to invest non-monetary assets that can be evaluated and transferred, such as their land management rights and forest rights in enterprises, according to the revision.
A few specific provisions to support the cooperatives have been added to the revision, including that electricity used during preliminary processing of products will be charged according to agricultural production price standards, which are lower than the price for industrial production.
The revision received a round of commendations from the lawmakers at the session.
"It fits the reality of our countryside and meets the needs of our reform and development," said Eligen Imibakhi, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, who believes the revision will help regulate the organization and conduct of the cooperatives."
"It also helps the cooperatives become a platform where smaller farmers are linked with the development of agriculture," he continued.
Ji Bingxuan, another vice chairman of the standing committee, highlighted the necessity and urgency of the revision.
"It's not only the requirement of the situation and agricultural development, but also the urgent need of the farmers," he noted.
The draft revision was revealed at the NPC Standing Committee's bi-monthly session in June, when it received a first reading.
Since the law took effect in 2007, allowing farmers to pool resources, it has played an important role in increasing rural incomes, promoting new agricultural management systems and boosting modern agriculture.
"The law indeed revitalized the countryside, where farmers volunteer to form such cooperatives," said Yang Zhen, member of the NPC Standing Committee.
"It's a protective umbrella for the farmers, whose rights and incomes are ensured," Jiao Wenyu, deputy to the NPC added, recalling the days when farmers struggled to sell their products and went to work in urban areas, before choosing to return and start up specialized cooperatives.
The revised law will take effect in July next year.
Lawmakers at the session also approved a decision to extend pilot program allowing farmers in selected areas to mortgage their land use rights and housing property rights on Wednesday.
Previously scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2017, the pilot program will run for one more year until Dec. 31, 2018, and is expected to further improve rural financial services and raise farmers' incomes.
By the end of September, the program saw 44.8 billion yuan (about 6.8 billion U.S. dollars) of loans issued in the 232 regions and 26.1 billion yuan issued in the 59 regions.