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2009年2月 3日 (火)

農政改革―減反の廃止に踏み切れ

2009/2/3

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 2(IHT/Asahi: February 3,2009)

EDITORIAL: Farming reform overdue

農政改革―減反の廃止に踏み切れ

The government is reviewing its rice acreage reduction policy, which it implemented to reduce rice production in response to decreasing consumption of the grain. At present, farmers who switch from growing rice to other crops receive government subsidies. This kind of "production cartel" has both farmers and the government working together to control demand and supply to sustain rice prices.

 政府が「減反政策」の見直しに取り組み始めた。現在はコメの消費量減少に合わせて生産量を減らすため、農家がコメの生産をやめて他作物に転換すれば補助金を出している。官民一体で、米価を支えるため需給を調整する「生産カルテル」だ。 

Six relevant ministers are on the review panel, which will release a reform plan by this summer. Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura and farm minister Shigeru Ishiba will be the chief architects, with the ministers for finance, economic and fiscal policy, internal affairs and industry taking part. This shows the government's willingness to tackle the issue from multiple angles, including fiscal and regional policies. We welcome the attempt to finally embark upon reform of agricultural policies.

 その改革案を夏までにまとめるため関係6大臣の会合が発足した。河村官房長官と石破農林水産相を中心に財務、経済財政担当、総務、経済産業の大臣が参加する。財政や地域政策なども含め多面的に検討しようという意気込みがうかがえる。重い腰をあげて農政改革へ乗り出すことを歓迎したい。 

In an editorial series last spring called, "Proposals for a society of hope," the vernacular Asahi Shimbun argued the country should "stop adjusting rice production and make the big switch to boosting production."

 朝日新聞の昨春のシリーズ社説「希望社会への提言」は、「コメの生産調整をやめ、増産へ大転換しよう」と訴えた。

Ishiba, the farm minister, said: "There will be no taboos. We will debate the matter from every angle." We urge the government to abolish the acreage reduction policy and take a daring step forward with new farming policies.

石破農水相は「タブーをもうけず、あらゆる角度から議論する」と話している。減反を廃止し、新しい農政へ思い切って踏み出してもらいたい。 

Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) has also announced a reform plan that would introduce a 1-trillion-yen subsidy program to compensate individual farmers. The United States and Europe already offer similar direct subsidies to their farmers.

 民主党も改革案を発表した。1兆円を投じて戸別所得補償制度を導入するという。欧米でも導入されている農家への直接支払いだ。

Yet, Minshuto also argues for the continued reduction of rice acreage. If so, the need for subsidies becomes unclear.

しかし、民主党は減反を続けるとしている。これではなんのための新制度かはっきりしない。

Moreover, in the Minshuto plan, almost all farmers would be eligible for subsidies, so this could end up as just a farmers' version of the fixed-sum handout. Minshuto should instead include measures that will help farmers become more competitive.

また、大半の農家を補償対象としているので、ばらまき的な「農家版の定額給付金」になりかねない。強い農家を育てる誘導策を組み込むべきだ。 

The acreage reduction policy was started, in its full form, about 40 years ago. Since then, the government has poured 7 trillion yen in taxpayers' money and a tremendous amount of energy into this policy. Today, Japan's food self-sufficiency ratio has dropped to 40 percent, the lowest among major industrial countries. The amount of abandoned or fallow farmland nationwide is equal to nearly three times the size of Tokyo. And the ill-effects of this are too widespread to ignore.

 減反が本格的に始まって約40年。政府はこれまでに約7兆円もの税金と膨大な労力をつぎ込んできた。その結果、食糧自給率は主要国で最低水準の40%へ落ちた。耕作放棄地と休耕田を合わせた面積は東京都の3倍近くにまで増えた。もはや弊害は座視できないほど広がっている。 

In farming communities, even farmers who want to grow more rice are being forced to cut back acreage. On the other hand, although nearly 60 percent of the country's 3.35 million farming population is on the verge of retirement at 65 or older, there are few in the next generation to carry on farming. There are few newcomers. And if the old saying, "forwardness will cause trouble" is also true in the farming profession, then there is no way young people will push themselves forward to try their hands at farming.

 もっとコメを作りたいという農家にも減反を迫る「締め付け」が全国の農村でおこなわれているのだ。一方で、農業人口335万人の6割近くが引退間近の65歳以上なのに、受け継ぐ世代が育っておらず、新規参入も少ない。出るくいが打たれるような職業に若者が魅力を感じるはずがない。 

Meanwhile, international grain prices, which skyrocketed last spring, are now stable, in part due to the global recession. As long as the world population continues to increase and newly emerging economies continue to expand, it is certain that food shortages will push up food prices. There is no guarantee that Japan will continue to be able to import vast amounts of grain.

 昨春、高騰した穀物の国際価格は、世界同時不況の影響もあって今は落ち着いている。だが世界人口の増加と新興国の経済成長が続く限り、食糧が不足し高騰することは間違いない。日本がこれまで通り大量の穀物輸入を続けられる保証はないのだ。 

Now is the time to move ahead with farming reform.

 いまこそ農業改革を進めるときだ。 

The government must stop reducing paddy acreage and switch to increasing rice production. Since demand for rice as a staple is diminishing, use of rice flour can be promoted in place of wheat flour. The production of rice as cattle feed can be increased. Moreover, it is essential for the government to encourage large-scale expansion of farmland to enhance productivity and to selectively support groups of promising farmers who have the potential for growth. Entry by companies in farming must be also enabled.

 減反政策をやめてコメ増産にかじを切る。主食用の需要が減っているので、米粉を小麦の代わりに普及させる。飼料米の生産を拡大する。さらに、生産性をあげるため耕作規模拡大を促し、将来性ある農家を重点的に支援する制度改革も不可欠だ。企業の農業参入も実現しなければならない。 

The prescription is clear. All that is required is to put it into action.

 処方箋(せん)はこれほどはっきりしている。後は実施するだけだ。

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