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2013年5月19日 (日)

農業の成長戦略 「所得倍増」へ農地集積を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 19, 2013
Farmland integration needed to double income of farmers in light of TPP entry
農業の成長戦略 「所得倍増」へ農地集積を急げ(5月18日付・読売社説)

How should Japan revitalize its agriculture to prepare for further market liberalization? The government is likely to face a test on whether its efforts to turn the nation’s agricultural sector from one centering on small farms into one featuring more highly productive large-scale agricultural businesses will prove viable.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday unveiled aggressive agricultural reform plans under the second part of his growth strategy.

“We’ll definitely carry out agricultural structural reform this time around,” Abe said. “Without farmland integration, we can’t improve productivity.”

We believe his envisaged reform is on the right course.

The reform plans feature a new intermediate system for farmland, which Abe called a farmland integration bank. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is aiming to launch the system as soon as possible.

Govt eyes new farmland body

The plans call for prefectural agricultural public corporations, which currently handle trading of farmland, to be given greater authority and transformed into a new public body that will manage farmland. The body would lease farmland from small farmers and others and introduce it to potential tenants--farmers seeking to expand farming business and agricultural corporations.

In the past 20 years, deserted farmland doubled to a total area almost equivalent to that of Shiga Prefecture. This is a serious matter.

The focal point of the reform is whether the new system will be able to foster large farmers.

The failure to find tenants would mean the new body would need to pay rent for the farmland. It would also have to cover the cost of maintenance and management of the land as well as the development of irrigation systems.

In this case, it is estimated the body would have to shoulder hundreds of billions of yen a year in costs. If this intermediate program proves unsuccessful, it would end up injecting massive public funds without producing results.

To secure farmland tenants, it is essential that the government draw up a measure to encourage companies and other entities to enter the agricultural sector. The body will also need to offer prime farmland, which can be integrated easily.

Unless the government reviews the role of its agricultural panel tasked with leasing and trading of farmland, the panel could become an obstacle to farmland integration.

As long as the prime minister regards agriculture as a key sector in his growth strategy, we urge the farm ministry to devise effective systems that may encroach on the vested interests of entities such as agricultural cooperatives.

In announcing the next stage of his economic policy, Abe set a goal of doubling farming income during a 10-year period. This is an ambitious goal that will require efforts also by farmers and other players in the sector, propelled by effective measures.

Measures should be consistent

Meanwhile, questions have been raised about the Liberal Democratic Party’s move to consider expanding the current income-support program for certain farming households, such as rice producers, and launching a new program to provide all farmers who maintain farmland with subsidies.

If even small farmers are eligible to receive subsidies, the government is unlikely to find farmers willing to lease their farmland. We believe measures that could hamper the government’s initiative in farmland integration should be reviewed.

For a long time, the government has failed to expand domestic farmland. Ahead of Japan’s entry into talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, the government must speed up work on agricultural reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 18, 2013)
(2013年5月18日01時17分  読売新聞)


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