The ruling Liberal Democratic Party unveiled on Thursday, June 20, a campaign platform for the Upper House election expected in July, putting forth its 10-year strategy to double farmers’ incomes, with ambitious goals of doubling the number of beginning farmers and facilitating farmland consolidation so that within 10 years, 80% of agricultural land will be cultivated by locally certified farmers who serve as the backbone of farming communities. Currently, such farmers manage only 49% of farmlands, and the rest is operated by small-scale farmers, many of them aging and retiring, leading to an increase in abandoned farmlands.
Concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks which Japan is expected to join in July, the platform states that the LDP will pursue the best possible way to meet the national interests by making full use of its negotiating power to protect what should be protected and go on the offensive when necessary.
The platform places the agricultural policy as one of the top priority policies, in line with the LDP’s 10-year strategy released in April to double the income of the agricultural sector, the goal shared by Prime Minster Shinzo Abe who is also LDP president.
Based on its 10-year strategy, the LDP clearly stated in its platform a pledge to legislate a “Japanese-style direct payment” system, under which the government pays a fixed amount of money to farmers who maintain their farmlands, considering that farmlands have multiple functions vital to the nation, such as preventing floods and preserving ecosystems.
The platform also includes specific numerical targets such as 1.expanding the market size of the so-called “sixth industry”- the idea of farmers seeking new business opportunities by branching out into processing, sales and distribution – to 10 trillion yen in 2020 from the current 1 trillion yen ; 2. increasing exports of agricultural products and processed food products to 1 trillion yen in 2020 from the current 450 billion yen.
In relation to the government’s economic growth strategy, the LDP pledges to cut costs of rice production by certified farmers by 40% over the next 10 years from the current national average of 16,000 yen to produce 60 kilograms of rice. The platform also pledges to increase the number of agricultural production corporations by four times from 2010 to 50,000, both of which are ambitious enough to arouse concerns over their feasibility.
(June 21, 2013)