Agriculture minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told the Lower House agriculture committee Thursday, May 21, that the government’s farm co-ops reform will make the co-ops correspond more to the co-operative principles including autonomy and democracy. He brushed aside the International Co-operative Alliance’s claims made last year that the reform infringes on the principles.
However, opposition parties criticized the government’s way of interpreting the reform to their own advantage.
In October, the ICA, a nonprofit organization comprising 300 co-operative associations in 100 countries, issued a statement strongly condemning the Japanese government’s move to dismantle the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-Zenchu). The statement said the contemplated legislative changes “obviously violate” some of the co-operative principles, namely autonomy and independence, democracy and concern for the community.
Responding to a question by Japanese Communist Party member Kazuya Hatayama representing Hokkaido, agriculture vice minister Akio Koizumi said the reform corresponds to the co-operative principle of autonomy and independence. Koizumi said that under the current system, primary JAs “cannot be regarded as a truly autonomous organization” because they were inspected and audited by JA-Zenchu. The new system proposed under the government’s reform will make primary JAs autonomous, Koizumi said. Hayashi agreed.
Regarding the principle of democracy, the ICA’s statement says that members of co-operatives “have to decide by themselves the best way of organizing and developing their activities.” But many criticize the government’s reform as an intervention in co-operative autonomy.
In response to such criticisms, Koizumi said there “will be no change in (primary JAs’) democratic (decision making) system of one-member, one-vote.” Hayashi also stressed the legitimacy of the policy making process for the reform, saying the government’s proposals were officially approved by JA-Zenchu’s board of directors.
One opposition party lawmaker pointed out that the government’s view is contradictory, because while the government blames JA-Zenchu for taking away the autonomy of primary JAs, it forced JA-Zenchu to accept the reform proposals and claims legitimacy for the reform based on the fact that it was approved by JA-Zenchu.
(May 22, 2015)