What are the farm laws?

Everywhere in the news, there are different refrains about the protests and opinions for and against the new farm laws. But what exactly are these laws and how do they change the status quo? These laws are: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. They were passed in June as ordinances before being approved by Parliament during the Monsoon Session by a voice vote.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act provides for setting up a mechanism allowing the farmers to sell their farm produces outside the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs). Before this law, they could only sell it in the government APMCs or 'mandis.' Now, any licence-holding trader can buy the produce from the farmers at mutually agreed prices, which will be free of the 'mandi tax' imposed by state governments. Some think this will allow agribusinesses to monopolize the market through initially low prices and exploit farmers, and some think it will result in better prices for the farmers and a more efficient agricultural market because of more choices.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act allows farmers to do contract farming and market their produces freely. Some think it will result in the wage slavery of farmers but others think it will increase investment in the agricultural sector.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act is an amendment to the existing Essential Commodities Act. This law freed items such as food grains, pulses, edible oils and onion for trade except in extraordinary situations. As such, it is not as contentious as the previous 2 laws.

The main grouse of the protesting farmers with these laws, especially the first one, is the lack of an MSP (minimum standard price) assurance. They believe they will suffer because of big businesses reducing prices after monopolizing the markets. However, the people that oppose this idea believe that the MSP system is inefficient and only results in wastage. Only time can tell who will win this battle of ideas and what will happen to the agricultural sector.