TUPI, SOUTH COTABATO --- More than 1,000 farmers coming from different cities and municipalities of Region XII attended the first-ever Farmers’ Forum cum Mass Distribution of Projects graced by Agriculture Secretary Dr. William "Manong Willie" Dar as the newest DA secretary.

The event happened today at DA's Tupi Research and Experiment Station based here.

Manong Willie awarded more than P450-M worth of projects and interventions to hundreds of farmer groups. These project packages included farm machines, production inputs, and livelihood projects.

In his speech, the secretary has emphasized government's strategies that would address major issues confronting the agriculture sector particularly the low buying price of palay. In this regard, the secretary is leaning toward a rice procurement program which involves local government units (LGUs) in aiding farmers in recovering from income losses brought about by the dropping farmgate prices and rice importation.

He urged local officials present in the activity to earmark funds for the procurement of palay in order to prioritize marginalized farmers. He cited the province of South Cotabato which has set aside an amount which will be used in buying local farmers' produce. He also encouraged officials to purchase palay directly from local farmers at 17 pesos per kilo.