The number of farms which have signed the so-called family management agreement marked a record high of 55,435 in 2015, up 2.3 percent from a year before, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The increase is attributable to the fact that farmers have become more aware of the merits of creating such agreements. The ministry this month began showing on its website a list of successful cases of utilizing the agreement in an effort to further encourage signing of such agreements.
In terms of prefectures, Tochigi and Kumamoto showed the largest year-on-year increase with 103 and 101 farms respectively, followed by 90 for Aichi and 79 for Nagano. Hokkaido had the largest number of farms with such agreements, marking 6,357, followed by Kumamoto with 3,570, Tochigi with 3,373 and Nagano with 2,843.
A family management agreement is created by each family farm based on discussions on business policies and working conditions among family members engaging in farming. If a family farm has the agreement, both a husband and a wife can be certified as agricultural workers, which will bring various benefits. For example, if a married couple presents an agreement stating that they are business partners when they apply for a grant to support young farmers, they can obtain 1.5 times as much payment.
The agreement is also regarded as a way to support and encourage women engaging in farming, by improving their working conditions by setting wages and working hours. The government, in its basic plan for gender equality, also set a target of increasing the number of family farms with the agreement to 70,000 by 2020. The ministry says the number is steadily increasing, predicting that it will be possible to meet the target.
At the same time, there are problems such as farms failing to implement what is written in the agreement or failing to revise the agreement in line with changes in family members and business conditions. The ministry lists successful cases in its website, offering tips to deal with problems related to the agreement and calling on farms to sign new agreements. “We don’t want farmers to think they’re done with the agreement when they sign it. We hope they will refer to the successful cases and make use of the agreement in their business and everyday lives,” said a ministry official.
(Dec. 7, 2015)