Hutchinson moves to prevent abuse of farm road funds
Changes to the Farm Road Programme announced by J.C. Hutchinson during his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday were designed to check the ongoing misuse of state funds under the programme.
The minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries made the disclosure to farmers at the annual general meeting of the Jamaica Agricultural Society at the Denbigh Show Ground the next day.
“We have found that when many farm roads are submitted to be done, we find that many of them are not farm roads. Some of them are main roads. Some of them [are] going into people’s private property. So we make sure cut that out with the procedure now that is being adopted,” he disclosed.
“And I find that some persons, even from urban constituencies, send in fi farm road. Now you know that kind of thing that is … . Why we doing it now this way is because we want transparency and accountability,” Hutchinson continued. “Before, the farmers’ organisations were left out. We are now bringing them on board. So you can make the recommendations and bring in those farm roads that you see in your area that are in need of repair.”
Hutchinson, who has ministerial oversight for the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the state extension service, also hinted at discomfort with the channelling of funds and agriculture inputs intended for farmers, through the agency. He instead suggested that funds should be sent through the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) or production and marketing organisations (PMO).
“One of the things that I would like to see is that any funds coming out from RADA, I would love to see it going directly to an organisation that’s either a PMO or JAS. I just saying it right off the board. I would love to see that happen because let me tell you, it has happened already where we found that when money go directly to the organisation, production increase. When it is diverted elsewhere, we have a decrease in production.
“Data has it that it is so and so. I like to know that we grow agriculture ... . My philosophy has always been to send funds through the organisation where the farmers know the genuine farmers to give the input to instead of those who might be lackeys, and you find that the money goes to people who say they are farmers, but they are asphalt farmers,” he said.
Hutchinson made it clear that he was speaking without fear of contradiction.
“I just want to say to everybody that when I speak. I speak without any fluff in what I have to say. It is one where I speak from the heart,” he declared.