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REVIEWS Irene Bain. Agricultural Reform in Taiwan: From Here to Modernity? . Shatin, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, The Chinese University ofHong Kong, 1993. xliv, 547 pp. Hardcover $87.50. Irene Bain's new book addresses both the First Land Reform (FLR, 1949-1953) and the Second Agricultural Land Reform (SALR, 1982) in Taiwan, but emphasis is given to the second ofthese. Part 1 reviews the three stages ofthe first reform: the reduction ofland rents in 1949, the sale ofpublic lands to landless tenants in 1951, and the land-to-thetiller program of 1953—under which tenants received the ownership of the land they had formerly rented and paid off the cost ofthe land over a ten-year period. Also dealt with are the six objectives of the SALR: farmland consolidation, farm mechanization, the promotion of group farming (meaning that one farming family operates a set offarm machines to do chores for a group of other farmers, who have out-migrated to do nonfarming jobs, on a custom-service-fee basis or variations of this), loans for buying farm machines, loans for working farmers to buy land from out-migrating farmers, and the revision of some of the articles of the bylaws governing the First Land Reform. Part 2, tided "Local Responses," presents Bain's findings from a case study of one rural township in southern Taiwan, and the results of other field studies in order to corroborate the issues raised initially in part 1. The main issues Bain raises include the following: (a) the bylaws governing the first reform were overly protective oftenants, while (b) specifying three hectares ofpaddy land as the maximum land retainable by landlords was overly restrictive, and (c) these shortcomings helped perpetuate small farms and agricultural inefficiencies that the second land reform had to contend with. The premises above are debatable. Before 1949, the law providing for strong tenant occupancy rights had been considered necessary. Consider the prereform tenancy system: the landlord could take at least 50 percent ofthe harvest, there was no written lease, the landlord could increase the rental rate or terminate the verbal lease as he pleased, the farmer had to make advance payments, and so on.© 1995 by University The biggest nightmare for a tenant in those days was suddenly losing his lease. ofHawai'iPressButby the late 1970s, the out-migration offarmers had turned from a trickle to a tide. Agricultural planners recognized that what had been needed in the late 1940s could now hinder the out-migrating farmers' willingness to rent their land 46 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 to others, or even to participate in group farming. The relevant law was amended on August 1, 1983, as called for by the sixth objective of the SALR. Bain makes no reference to the prereform tenancy system, although this is a book that deals with land reform. Her discussion concentrates rather on the scale of economic reform. In actuality, the former landlords had large holdings, not large farms. They rented their land out to tenants in small holdings. The First Land Reform changed only the ownership, not the size of the holdings. After the shackles of tenancy were removed, the productivity ofthe same small farms exploded as never before. The difficulty that was eventually experienced by Taiwan agriculture during the 1970s, however, was caused by the inherent weakness of small farms, in the context of an exceptionally rapid industrialization process. This started a chain reaction ofequally rapid out-migration offarmers, an increase in farm wages and in the production costs of agricultural products in general, the deterioration of agricultural exports, and the fall of farm incomes compared to nonfarm incomes. These conditions led to: (a) a rescue program in 1972 which established a Food Stabilization Fund, initiated government procurement of rice at guaranteed prices, and stabilized the price of fertilizer; (b) the promulgation of a Bylaw for Agricultural Development which served as a basis for what later became the SALR; and (c) the commencement offield trials ofthe proposals of the SALR. Recognizing the farmers' strong attachment to the land and their reluctance to part with it, even after leaving actual farming for nonagricultural jobs, the SALR went...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 45-48
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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