The agricultural committee in the Upper House approved the government’s bill to revise the agricultural co-operatives law on Thursday, Aug. 27, with majority support of the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party). The bill is expected to be passed in the Upper House plenary session the following day.
Regarding non-farmer members’ use of farm co-ops’ services, the committee adopted an additional resolution calling on the government to fully take into account intentions of the people concerned. This is aimed at eliminating to certain extent future possibilities of the revised law restricting non-farmer members’ use of JAs, which primary JAs had been strongly opposed to.
“I am confident that (under the new law) young people can open up new horizons and realize a strong agriculture industry and beautiful rural villages with vitality,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed at the committee meeting.
In response to opposition parties’ concerns that farmers are increasingly worried about how the agricultural system would be changed, Abe said: “We will explain more carefully than ever to make everyone, including farmers, understand (the contents of the revised law).”
The bill states as the objectives of primary JAs’ businesses that primary JAs should “give due consideration to expansion of farmers’ income.” It requires that more than half of primary JAs’ directors be certified farmers or professionals of farm product sales, as well as obligating JAs to be audited by certified public accountants, and states that the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-Zenchu) will be turned into a general incorporated association.
As for non-farmer members’ use of JAs’ services, the bill says in a supplementary provision that the government will conduct a survey on the issue for five years before making any decision.
The bill was approved by the committee along with other bills to revise the selection system of members of municipal agricultural committees dealing with farmland transactions laws and to relax conditions for establishing agricultural production corporations.
The Upper House began deliberating the farm co-ops reform bill on July 3 after it was passed in the Lower House, and the deliberation time totaled 24 hours, the same as that in the Lower House. Some lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties, as well as JA officials and experts who were invited to the Upper House to give their opinions, expressed doubts and concerns over the bill until the last minute.
Before voting, opposition parties gave remarks opposing the bill. Minoru Yanagida of the Democratic Party of Japan said the bill “neglects the important role JAs play in regional areas, and significantly damages the JAs’ business foundations.” Tomoko Kami of the Japanese Communist Party said the bill “tramples on the co-operatives’ principles of autonomy and independence, and is an imposition of the administration-led reform.”
Ruling parties did not make any remarks. The Assembly to Energize Japan, a small party which was seen as the supporter of the bill, voted against the bill.
(Aug. 28, 2015)