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2009年11月17日 (火)

農家戸別補償―拙速を避け、本格案に

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 16(IHT/Asahi: November 17,2009)
EDITORIAL: Protecting rice farmers.
農家戸別補償―拙速を避け、本格案に

The farm ministry has started preparing for the introduction of a new income support program for farmers--one of the key platforms of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan in the Aug. 30 Lower House election. But the plan crafted by the ministry has serious drawbacks that could hamper, rather than help, the revitalization of the nation's flagging agricultural sector.
 民主党が総選挙で掲げた政権公約の目玉の一つ、農家への「戸別所得補償制度」の導入に向けて、農林水産省が動き出した。だが農水省案には大きな問題があり、このままだと日本農業の再生はおぼつかない。

The biggest problem is that the program would preserve the long-standing policy of reducing the amount of land devoted to rice cultivation, which has been a major cause of decline of Japanese agriculture.
 最大の問題は、日本の農業衰退の原因となった「減反政策」を温存していること。

In addition, the program as envisioned by the ministry would hinder the consolidation of farmland. That is because most rice farmers would be eligible for the income support.
さらに、大半の農家を補償対象としてしまい、農地の集約が進まなくなりそうなこと、である。

The ministry has requested around 560 billion yen as an outlay for fiscal 2010 to finance the program. This costly plan should not be allowed to end up degenerating into a giveaway to farmers at a time when the government is reviewing hundreds of programs and projects for major spending cuts.
 制度の導入に伴い農水省が来年度に要求している予算は約5600億円。事業仕分け作業などを通じて予算削減に力を注いでいる一方で、これほどの巨額が結果的に農家へのバラマキと化さないようにしなくてはならない。

The acreage-reduction program is, in effect, a production cartel based on cooperation between the government and rice growers. It is designed to adjust rice production to actual demand. Its aim is to prop up the finances of farming families by preventing rice prices from falling even when demand is sagging.
 減反政策は、コメの需要量に合わせて生産量を調整する官民協調の生産カルテルだ。需要が減っても米価が下がらないようにして、農家経営を支える狙いがある。

Some 7 trillion yen of taxpayer money has been poured into this program, which has been in place for four decades. As a result, Japanese consumers have been forced to buy rice at much higher prices and shoulder a heavy financial burden to support the program.
 この政策は40年間にわたって続けられてきた。つぎ込まれた財政資金は累計約7兆円。国民は消費者として高いコメを買わされ、納税者としても巨額の負担を担わされてきた。

The prohibitive 778-percent tariff that Japan imposes on rice imports to keep cheaper rice from washing into the domestic market is also having a harmful effect. This measure to protect domestic rice farmers from international competition has been impeding Japan's farm negotiations under the World Trade Organization and its talks for free trade agreements with its key trading partners.
 安い輸入米が入らないようにと、コメに778%という高関税をかけていることの弊害も大きい。世界貿易機関での農業交渉や主要国との自由貿易交渉の足かせになっている。

Despite the huge price paid for it, the acreage-reduction policy has undermined the vigor and the vitality of Japanese agriculture.
 これほどの代償を払ったにもかかわらず、減反は日本の農業の足腰を弱めてきた。

It has served as a powerful disincentive for production increases, thereby worsening problems that have long bedeviled the sector, such as the dwindling number of people willing to succeed the family farm and the increase in the number of plots of unused farmland.
農家の増産意欲が奪われた結果、後継者不足や耕作放棄地の拡大に拍車がかかっている。

The proposed income support program would provide subsidies to farmers when the sales prices of their crops fall below estimated production costs. Similar programs of direct cash payments to farmers have helped bolster farm production in Europe and the United States.
 戸別所得補償制度は、農家の販売価格が生産コストを下回った場合、その差額に補助金を払って農家所得を補償する仕組みだ。欧米ではこの政策が生産拡大に効果をあげている。うまく生かせば、日本のゆがんだコメ政策の転換と農業再生につながる。

If it is designed and implemented properly, the program could radically alter the nation's unhealthy rice policy and help revive agriculture. But if the income support program is introduced while the acreage reduction policy is maintained, as planned by the farm ministry, it would provide no incentive for rice growers to increase output.
 だが、農水省案のように減反を続けつつ戸別所得補償を導入するのでは、農家の生産意欲は高まらない。

The ministry plans to make some 1.8 million rice growers eligible for the program, which would represent almost all farmers selling rice. This could discourage farmers who are cultivating rice only as a side business from parting with their farmland, thereby stalling the slow-moving trend toward concentration of farmland in the hands of full-time farmers.
 農水省は補償対象を約180万戸と想定し、ほぼすべてのコメ販売農家に適用しようとしている。しかし、副業でコメを作っている農家が所得補償を期待して農地を手放さなくなれば、少しずつ進んできた主業農家への農地集約の流れが止まってしまう。

The ministry should limit the scope of income subsidies to the less than 1 million families that are earning the main part of their income from farming.
 ここは補償対象を農業を主業としている数十万戸に絞るべきではないか。

The government should lay out a new vision for rice farming based on a liberalization policy. Under such a vision, production and imports of rice would be liberalized, but an income support program would mitigate the damage suffered by full-time rice farmers from expected drops in rice prices due to liberalization.
 コメの生産と輸入を自由化する。米価が下がって、主業農家の経営は打撃を受けるが、所得補償で支える。

It could pave the way for future exports of high-quality rice from Japan. The proposed income support program represents a major pillar of reform that radically changes the government's agriculture policy.
その先に、高品質の日本米を輸出する道も開けてくるだろう。政府はそういう農業の未来をめざしてほしい。

The government appears to be trying to push through the reform in an unreasonably short period. It should hammer out a better, more carefully designed plan than the current rough-and-ready one.
 農政の抜本的転換となるべき改革を、あまりに短期間に進めようという手法にも無理があるのではないか。拙速でない案を練り直すべきだ。

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