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2014年4月17日 (木)

農協自己改革案 本業の生産性を向上できるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:08 pm, April 16, 2014
Can agricultural co-operatives cultivate their own reform?
農協自己改革案 本業の生産性を向上できるか

In an apparent bid to fend off pressure from the government, the nation’s key agricultural umbrella organization has come up with its own reform plan. However, the specific measures laid out in the reform initiative, which aims to shore up competitiveness in the farming sector, remain insufficient.
 政府の圧力をかわそうと、農協が自己改革案を打ち出した。だが、農業の競争力を強化する具体策は物足りない。

The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, the main hub of a nationwide farming cooperative network, adopted a farming and economic renovation plan in early April. The primary objective of the plan adopted by the union, known as JA-Zenchu, is to maximize farmers’ income. The reform initiative includes a plan to establish a national fund to aid new farmers and others working in the agricultural sector, and a number of other measures.
 農協の中核組織、全国農業協同組合中央会(JA全中)が決めた「営農・経済革新プラン」の柱は、農業所得の最大化である。

The plan also incorporates greater efforts to promote a string of activities encompassing the production, processing and sale of farm products, in what would amount to the creation of a “sixth industrial sector.” Measures to further encourage agricultural exports are also included.
 自己改革案には、新規就農者などを支援する「全国基金」の創設や、生産から加工・販売までを手がける6次産業化の加速、輸出振興策などが盛り込まれた。

Two government advisory panels, the Regulatory Reform Council and the Industrial Competitiveness Council, have said that delays in reforming agricultural cooperatives are one factor behind the weakening of Japan’s agricultural sector.
 政府の規制改革会議や産業競争力会議は、農協改革の遅れが農業衰退の一因だと批判している。

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he will strive to “transform the nation’s agriculture into a growth industry.” He is set to put together a package of measures to revitalize the farming sector in June, including a plan to reform agricultural cooperatives.
安倍首相は「農業を成長産業にする」と表明し、6月に農協改革を含む活性化策をまとめる。

JA-Zenchu’s decision to draft its own plan for reform ahead of the prime minister’s can be seen as an attempt to discourage the government from taking a controlling role in reform discussions while also demonstrating its readiness to commit to reform goals.
 JA全中がこれに先立ち、自ら改革案を作成したのは、政府主導の改革論議をけん制し、積極姿勢をアピールする狙いだろう。

Contrary to its avowed enthusiasm, however, JA-Zenchu’s reform plan appears to be a conservative adaptation of its existing policies in many respects. Its road map for the reform target is no less ambiguous. The plan to set up a national fund, which JA-Zenchu touts as a key feature of its reform drive, leaves hazy the scale of the scheme and the purposes for which the envisaged fund would be used. It is unknown what kind of result the fund will produce.
 ただ、意気込みとは裏腹に、改革案は従来方針の焼き直しが目立つ。改革実現に向けた工程表もあいまいだ。改革の“目玉”とされる全国基金は規模や活用策が明確でなく、効果は不透明である。

The income earned by Japan’s farmers has dropped by half over the past 20 years. The area of arable land left uncultivated over a certain period of time, meanwhile, has doubled in the same period. These changes come as the graying of the country’s agricultural population is accelerating.
 過去20年間で日本の農業所得は半減し、耕作放棄地は倍増した。農家の高齢化も進行している。

Multilateral talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, of which agricultural market liberalization is a key focus, are nearing their final stages. Bolstering the international competitiveness of the nation’s farming sector is a task on which no further delay may be permitted.
 農業の市場開放が焦点の環太平洋経済連携協定(TPP)交渉は大詰めを迎えており、国際競争力の強化は待ったなしだ。

Aversion to change

Many members of the regulatory reform panel’s working committee on agriculture had good reason to express stern opinions about JA-Zenchu’s reform plan, with one member describing it as “demonstrating lack of awareness of the seriousness of the problem.”
 規制改革会議の農業作業部会で、自己改革案について「危機感が薄い」などの厳しい意見が相次いだのは当然だろう。

The regulatory reform council has raised questions about efforts by agricultural cooperatives to improve their own profits through such financial operations as lending and mutual-aid programs. The panel has said their success in these programs has done much to increase the number of nonfarming members of agricultural cooperatives. These members are treated as associate members and have been seen as a contributing factor to an accelerated decline in agricultural population. JA-Zenchu’s failure to address this problem in its reform plan raises further questions.
 規制改革会議は、農協が融資や共済といった金融事業で利益を伸ばし、結果的に農家以外の組合員(准組合員)を増やす「農業離れ」を加速させていると問題視している。改革案がその点にほとんど応えていないのも疑問だ。

Criticism persists about what seems to be a passive attitude on the part of agricultural cooperatives toward proposed efforts to expand the scale of farming tracts as a means of promoting large-scale agriculture. Agricultural cooperatives have also been criticized for being halfhearted in their support for full-time farming households.
 農協が農地の大規模化や専業農家への支援に消極的だという批判は根強い。

Agricultural cooperatives should rethink and correct their emphasis on better serving part-time farmers and associate members rather than full-time farming households. They should also get serious about promoting large-scale farming. Failure to do so means their reform drive will do little to improve agricultural productivity.
 専業農家よりも兼業農家や准組合員へのサービスを重視する姿勢を改め、大規模化に本気で取り組まなければ、農業の生産性向上につながるまい。

In directing funds and personnel for their reform efforts, agricultural cooperatives should shift their operating focus to treat households working to improve their farming efficiency more favorably.
 経営の効率化に努める農家に農協の資金や人材を手厚く投入する方向にかじを切るべきである。

A fundamental reform plan has emerged within the government. It calls for lessening JA-Zenchu’s involvement in regional agricultural cooperatives through revisions to the Agricultural Cooperatives Law and other means. The idea is to encourage each cooperative to promote activities on its own, thereby providing stronger motivation.
 政府内には、農協法の改正などでJA全中の地域農協への関与を弱め、各農協に独自経営を促すことで事業意欲を高めるという抜本改革案も浮上している。

Agricultural cooperatives must appreciate the urgency of their situation more keenly, and take the initiative in transforming themselves into organizations capable of functioning effectively, while also changing their attitude and orientation toward the status quo.
 農協は今度こそ危機感を強め、実効性のある組織と意識の改革に自ら踏み出さねばならない。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2014)

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