The Ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday, Nov. 17, released a package of measures to assist farmers who are expected to be hit hard by market liberalization under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
At a joint meeting of the party’s two committees dealing with agriculture, the party decided to call on the government to expand measures to help farmers, especially those who produce five key agricultural products such as rice, beef and pork. The package also includes cost-cutting and export-boosting measures to strengthen farming and make the sector a growth industry. The committees will discuss medium- to long-term strategies for a year.
On the same day, LDP’s coalition partner Komeito also came up with proposals to tackle changes under the TPP agreement.
The LDP compiled the measures based on requests from farmers and agricultural organizations. It plans to submit the proposals to the government on Friday, Nov. 20, along with measures for industries other than agriculture. Komeito will also submit their proposals the same day. The government is expected to announce a basic policy outline on Wednesday, Nov. 25 based on the proposals, and include some of the measures in the supplementary budget for fiscal 2015 which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to ask the government to draft. The bill on the supplementary budget will be deliberated in the beginning of the regular Diet session to be convened on Jan. 4 next year.
The LDP’s proposal states the government should secure financial resources to assist farmers by maintaining the current amount of budget allocated for the agriculture industry. It also suggests creating a fund to prepare for unpredictable effects of the TPP agreement.
However, the party does not set any specific budget or period for putting the measures into practice. As revenues from tariffs and markups are likely to decline and the effects are expected to last for a long time, concerns will grow over the effectiveness of the proposed measures, including designing and financing them. It is highly likely that the issue will become the focus of the coming Diet session and the Upper House election next summer, along with the ratification of the TPP agreement and the question of whether the agreement is consistent with the Diet resolutions calling for protection of sensitive farm items.
The LDP’s package, titled “The new era of agricultural policies – making agriculture a rewarding job,” has a preamble which calls for public support for assisting the industry and farmers who may suffer under the TPP. It said the party will make every effort to encourage farmers who face challenges.
“We compiled the package with the aim of maintaining (the nation’s agricultural) productivity and making (agriculture) a growth industry no matter how much the markets are liberalized,” said Koya Nishikawa, chairman of the party’s Research Commission on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Strategy.
“We are determined never to let the nation’s farm industry hindered by the TPP,” said Shinjiro Koizumi, head of the party’s Agriculture and Forestry Division.
<Gist of LDP’s measures to support farmers>