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New Delhi: The Central government has designed a scheme for rewarding states that push organic farming in a measure to cut ballooning subsidies for chemical fertilizers.

As per the plan, if promotion of organic farming by a state leads to a decline in the use of chemical fertilizers, then half the subsidy saved on that account will be transferred to the state, said Professor Ramesh Chand, member, NITI Aayog. The federal policy think tank worked with Central government departments on the modalities of the scheme.

Chand said the scheme is designed to check excessive and indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers as part of the government’s efforts to make farming more sustainable. Robust agriculture growth, price stability of farm produce, and sustainability are priorities for NITI Aayog in the farm sector.

“If there is any saving in fertilizer subsidy in any state, compared to the average of last three years, whatever the amount is, half of that will be given to the state government concerned," Chand said.

There will be some conditions attached to how some of the funds have to be utilised by the state but the rest can be used as per the state’s own choice.

The fertilizer subsidy burden has shot up sharply in the current financial year on account of the supply disruptions and price escalation in global markets following the Russia-Ukraine war.

Although the government had originally estimated only about one trillion for making plant nutrients available to farmers at affordable prices in FY23, it later sought additional spending permission from Parliament. The revised fertilizer subsidy estimate for this fiscal is around 2.25 trillion, as per budget documents.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced in the budget for FY24 that a new scheme--PM programme for restoration, awareness, nourishment and meleoration of mother earth (PM Pranam) will be rolled out to incentivize states to promote alternative fertilizers and balanced use of chemical fertilizers. Details were not announced in the budget.

The NITI Aayog member also said that the Centre is working with states to monetize agriculture waste by procuring it from farmers and turning it into energy. This would also help boost farmers’ income, Chand added.

As a part of the Biodegradable Waste Management component under Swachh Bharat Mission (SMB-G), the Centre had launched GOBARdhan scheme in April 2018 to generate energy and income in addition to cleanliness by processing manure and whole agricultural waste materials such as straw, manure and crop residues in rural areas.

The scheme is being implemented under the SBM-G Phase II, primarily focusing on increasing farmers’ income and turning biowaste into compressed biogas.

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