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2013年7月17日 (水)

13参院選 農業政策 競争力向上へ具体策が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 17, 2013
Agriculture policies should aim to improve intl competitiveness
13参院選 農業政策 競争力向上へ具体策が必要だ(7月16日付・読売社説)

To liberalize trade further, it is imperative to revive Japan’s agriculture sector. Arresting its decline and improving international competitiveness is an important issue for the upcoming House of Councillors election.

However, the political parties have made proposals that largely highlight handout policies, apparently to win the support of voters in farming communities, while forgoing efforts to build the farm sector into a growth industry. It is revealing that all parties want to expand farm subsidies.

The Liberal Democratic Party has proposed the creation of a “direct payment system” to support the sector in place of the income compensation system for individual farmers, which was introduced under the previous administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan. The LDP’s envisaged system targets projects that involve not only rice paddies but all farmland, including fields and orchards.

New Komeito also has pledged to expand assistance.

Support large farms

The DPJ not only wants to maintain the current compensation scheme, but to expand it to cover the livestock and dairy industries.

Other parties, such as the Japanese Communist Party, the People’s Life Party and the Social Democratic Party, also advocate income compensation measures.

The average age of farmers is about 66. With the aging of the farming population, the shortage of successors has become a serious problem. Agricultural income has almost halved over the past two decades. In carrying out agricultural reforms, it is essential to take measures to ensure farmers have a stable source of income and to secure agricultural workers.

However, under a uniform support system, consolidation of farmland is unlikely to make headway as small-scale farmers will not give up their farms so they can remain eligible for subsidies. We believe support measures should be made more effective, such as by limiting financial support to large-scale farmers fully engaged in agriculture.

Regarding the nation’s food self-sufficiency ratio, which indicates the proportion of domestic products in consumed food, the LDP and DPJ have called for improvement on a calorific intake basis.

But there are many problems associated with this indicator. Under this measurement, even beef and pork from animals raised in Japan are not considered domestic products if they consumed imported feed. As for vegetables, the ratio of domestic produce is high, but this does not help much in improving the self-sufficiency ratio as their calories are low.

LDP plans unclear

Even though the self-sufficiency ratio does not necessarily represent the actual capacity of the agriculture sector, it has been cited as the reason for putting in place excessive measures for the benefit of rice farmers, with the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and agricultural cooperatives using the data as an indicator that the nation’s self-sufficiency ratio is declining. This attitude should be corrected.

The LDP says it pursues a policy of consolidating abandoned farmland, which has doubled over the past two decades, to enable large-scale farming, so efficient farming systems can be established. With regard to its target of doubling agricultural income and the value of agricultural exports, the party’s road map to achieve this is unclear.

On land improvement projects, the budgets for which were cut by the DPJ-led administration and restored after the LDP returned to power, the LDP has suggested they be further increased. But we fear this may only end up as a lavish spending spree.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party have called for expanding the entry of companies into the agricultural sector, reviewing the rice paddy reduction program and reform of agricultural cooperatives, with the aim of raising productivity in agriculture. We hope the political parties hold in-depth discussions on these matters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2013)
(2013年7月16日01時42分  読売新聞)


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