Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev issued a decree Saturday ordering an inventory of inefficiently used land as a first step in a program to encourage more small individual farms. The decree ``on immediate measures to put land reform into practice'' said land found to be used inefficiently would be made part of a special ``land fund'' to be used for the creation of peasant farms.
Plots will be allocated to ``lessees, agricultural cooperatives, and individuals,'' the decree said. Although individuals will hold the land for life and could pass it on to heirs, there was no mention of actual ownership.
Mr. Gorbachev has called for a national referendum on the issue of private ownership of land, which currently is all state-owned.
The vast majority of Soviet farmland is still under the control of state or collective farms, although more and more private plots exist, generally producing much more food per acre.
Saturday's decree ``provides for the possibility of transforming ineffective collective and state farms into associations of peasant farms or cooperatives,'' but it adds that the ``forced breakup of state and collective farms or other agricultural enterprises'' will not be allowed.
The decree called on local governments to provide incentives and assistance to individual farmers, and it said up to 12 million acres should be found for the program this spring.