農業政策 バラマキいつまで続けるのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 11, 2012)
Farmers need to be taken off the dole
農業政策 バラマキいつまで続けるのか(12月9日付・読売社説)

With trade liberalization in mind, strengthening the structure of the nation's agricultural sector cannot be delayed any longer.

However, the campaign platforms of the leading parties in the upcoming House of Representatives election give prominent place to dole-out policies aimed at wooing farm votes. We would rather have them pursue policies to actually create a strong farm sector.

One point at issue is the income compensation system for individual farming households. The program, an election pledge of the Democratic Party of Japan for the 2009 lower house election and introduced in fiscal 2010, provides uniform government subsidies to rice and other farmers.

For this election, the DPJ is promising to upgrade the program into a law-based system.

In fiscal 2011, the budget for the income compensation program grew to 540 billion yen--one-fourth of the total farm-related budget.

Despite the massive amount of money spent, the program can hardly be said to have enlarged the scale of the nation's farms or improved their farming operations. On the contrary, it encourages small producers to continue farming just to receive subsidies.

Policies with questionable cost-effectiveness must be reviewed.


LDP policy also flawed

By the same token, the Liberal Democratic Party's farm proposal is also problematic in many respects.

Although the LDP is calling for a full review of the income compensation system, it supports a law that would provide subsidies to rice, fruit, vegetable and livestock farmers as long as they maintain their farmland.

This is nothing but an expansion of the current farm subsidy program. How can paying farmers just to maintain their land help boost agricultural productivity?

Only by focusing government support on highly motivated, full-time farmers will the nation's agricultural sector be able to stand on its own and maintain the support of tax-paying consumers.

The LDP is also advocating reconstituting the budget for improving farmland, which the DPJ-led administration has cut significantly. This is just another dole-out policy and will do nothing to realize the "competitive and aggressive farming sector" the LDP claims to support in its election platform.

With farming so unprofitable, fewer and fewer young people are choosing to take over family farms, which has accelerated the graying of the farm population. To put an end to this vicious cycle, the government needs to present a vision to rehabilitate the farm sector.


Get ready to join TPP

As Japan prepares to join the talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, the ability of Japan's farm sector to compete internationally must be strengthened. The government's target of raising the average acreage in rice paddy cultivation to 10 times the current two hectares in five years began with a roar but appears to be ending with a whimper.

The course of action that needs to be taken is clear: Integrate the production, processing and sales of farm products; gradually abolish the reduction of paddy acreage, which only hurts farmers' drive to produce; and encourage young farmers and parties from other industries who want to enter the farm sector.

Just like politicians who only see rice paddies as "voting blocs," the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group is apparently pressing candidates to show their loyalty in the form of TPP opposition in return for farm votes. This only prevents our nation's farm sector from becoming self-reliant.

Moving away from a subsidy-soaked agricultural administration would be a first step toward rejuvenating the farm sector.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 9, 2012)
(2012年12月9日01時32分  読売新聞)

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