As the world rumbles in panic over the coronavirus pandemic, one issue got significantly highlighted—that food security matters—with the recent passage if a House bill that seeks to open up the opportunity to rebuild and strengthen the agriculture sector in the CNMI, through the Kagman Commercial Farm Plot.
Authored by House vice speaker Rep. Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), House Bill 21-108 will provide the Department of Land and Natural Resources with the authority to hold and manage public lands transferred to it from the Department of Public Lands.
It will also grant authority to DLNR’s Division of Agriculture to issue licenses and permits in respect to the Kagman Commercial Farm Plot Program. There are currently over 30 farm plots in Kagman.
In an earlier interview, Deleon Guerrero said the bill would allow the Division of Agriculture to collect fees for the use of the farm plots, and to provide services to farm plot owners, such as maintenance and soil cultivation, among others.
Ccurrently, the Division of Agriculture is not allowed by virtue of the CNMI Constitution to do so. Deleon Guerrero said this bill would address that concern.
Division of Agriculture director Jack Ogumoro, speaking before the members of the House at its session last March 13, said the legislation “would allow us to implement a very special program for our farmers and that’s the Kagman Commercial Farm Plot.”
“This is a program that is designed to help our farmers become farmers. We need farmers because of all these problems, including the virus, we might have a problem with our food supply, and so we need farmers,” he added.
Ogumoro also raised, before the legislators, a problem with the division’s current set up. “There is no Division of Agriculture that exists in our current statute. We need to change that. …I would really appreciate your help in expediting this piece of legislation to call us what we should be called, the Division of Agriculture, and become a legitimate member of the CNMI.”
Board of Parole chair Ramon B. Camacho also spoke before lawmakers to support the bill.
“Food security matters,” Camacho said. “It’s about time that we relinquish this thing from [the Department of] Public Lands to the Division of Agriculture so that they can create programs and entice our people to start farming.”
“It’s about time. …We need to give authority to the Division of Agriculture so the division could come up with and develop programs in our community, [for] our young generation to start venturing into farming,” he added.
DLNR’s Division of Agriculture recently collaborated with the Board of Parole, the Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research and Extension Education Services, Saipan Mayor’s Office, Miss Earth NMI, and Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) to launch a community garden in Susupe, the very first in the CNMI.