The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had a meeting on November 26 to decide on new rice policies. It was chaired by the Headquarters to Create Local Potentials in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (headed by Premier Abe Shinzo). The meeting discussed existing rice production policies to conclude to cut subsidies (=it reviewed the current rice production arrangements). The decision means to discard small farmers in the name of the TPP initiative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership framework.
SMALL FARMERS FALL PREY TO TPP INITIATIVE
It was only a month after Prime Minister Abe had made a proposal on October 25, when he responded to the debates made in the Council for Industrial Competitiveness. The top leader made a big switchover in a month.
The government decision reflects pressures from the United States and the domestic business circle; they urge to abandon the subsidy policy for rice production as a prerequisite for participation in the TPP program. The decision represents arrogance of the ruling bloc, too, which holds an overwhelming number of seats in the Diet. The Abe government took the same violent means as those used in the occasions to change Director-General of Cabinet Legislation Bureau and to pass the Secret Protection Act in the House of Representatives.
Self-Sufficiency Rate of Food Declines
The TPP negotiation is scheduled to conclude before the year-end. The announced new policy will certainly kick out small farmers, weaken agriculture in the hilly areas, devastate villages and decline self-sufficiency rate of food. For these reasons many people, including producers, oppose the trans-Pacific initiative and accuse of participation.
The first controversy lies in the government's hastiness and neglect of producers. The ruling bloc's election Manifesto does not have a policy to abrogate subsidies, but the decision was made abruptly. Farmers are embarrassed and worried. Distrust mounts among them.
A reduction of subsidy, in particular, is proposed; currently 15,000 Yen per 10-are (100 sq m) is paid in the framework to guarantee income of farming household (called a management income stability policy). Farmers criticize the sudden change as it may affect on management of farm and plans for living. Initially, the government suggested the amount Yen5,000, and then, immediately, it said Yen7,500. Farmers got angry with swift changes. Criticisms are heard loudly.
Another doubt is a policy to create local potentials. The government has not had consultation meetings with farmers or listened to their voices. Pressure was imposed on agricultural producers from above. Distrust spreads. Many farmers say that the government should have discussed how to develop local agriculture with farmers, including collective farming and a direct sales policy. They may have understood better, though consequences are the same.
Not interested in small farmers
Furthermore, the government has set the ultimate goal from the very first stage, using smart phrases.
Farmers protest sharply; a conclusion in the TPP framework will bring in cheap products. The government says that agriculture in the country needs to be strengthened to cope with a new trend. But here producers are elderly (on the average, older than 70 years of age), farm villages lose population and are on the brink of collapse, arable lands are increasingly deserted, successors are in short and fields are left ravaged. Agriculture in the hilly and mountainous regions has been devastated. The government has not paid sincere attention to these areas. To develop agriculture, what does it mean? '
Legislation - No!
The Kyodo Tsushin News Agency held a survey on November 23 and 24, asking about the new agriculture policy. The results eloquently reflect opposing voices. A question was made; are you in favor or not in favor of the rice production adjustment policy? A reply 'No' reached 39%.
If the same question was asked to producers of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, a rate of 'No' has reached as high as 60.7%, the answer 'Yes' remaining 35.3%, with a wide margin.
The New Socialist Party's policy is to enhance small, family-based producers and develop agriculture in the hilly and mountainous areas. The government is planned to enact laws in the next regular session of the Diet. We say 'No' to legislation to abandon subsidies to adjust rice cultivation.
December 10, 2013