Farmland Has Gone

One of Taiwan’s attributes is the vast, beautiful farmland spread out in the countryside, so Taiwan is called ‘Formosa’. In the past, no matter if it was spring or fall, the scenery was breathtaking if you looked out from a train at a passing farm. Even though the GNP (Gross National Product) was relatively low, the productive farmland gave people the impression that Taiwan was a promised land full of milk and honey.

Ten years ago, one of Shyi-Dong and my close friends, Professor Pung was the Director of Council of Agriculture (The equivalent of USDA). He strongly voiced that the farmland should remain for agricultural use only when lawmakers tried to lift the ban of selling farmland to non-farmers. His point was that farmland was the lifeline for Taiwan because it had to feed 23 million people. Dr. Pung asserted that once the farmland was replaced with buildings, there was no way to change it back. However, his point of view was not supported by the Lee Administration when its party ran for another presidential term. The ex-president was afraid his party would lose the election if they couldn’t get support from the farmers who were still the majority in Taiwan at that time. In order to please the farmers, lawmakers amended the law and Dr. Pung stepped down with great sorrow. Land developers quickly snatched the farmland and built villas. The rich moved in; the farmers moved out. Gradually, the farmers lost their land as well as their jobs.

We felt very sorry for our friend who not only lost the battle to the politicians, but also lost the support from the government. His concerns about farmers’ life and the land exploitation were ignored and the fate of the farmland just nosedived. What a pity.

Shyi-Dong and I have many friends who are as intelligent as Director Pung. They have been offered for some key positions in the government from time to time. However, they seldom accept the job offer because the job requires them to regularly report to the government watchdogs. It has become a problem that the decision makers in the government are not as good as the others who stay in low profile. It is almost like our country is lead by the blinds. How can improvements be made? Generally speaking, the real masters make plans for decades or centuries, the lawmakers make plans for their own terms, and the ordinary people only make plans for present time. Unfortunately, ordinary people push lawmakers to make decisions to meet their current needs. There have been times lawmakers have made bad laws which hurt people in the long run. However, the loss is not just farmland, but hope for the future. It is a shame for Taiwan.

Bih-Hua Chen
October 31, 2010