Japan’s farm minister urges change in attitude from JA group

TOKYO, Dec. 17 — Japan’s Agriculture Minister Ken Saito has called for a change in attitude from the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA), the nation’s largest farmers’ group, in order to implement agricultural reforms.

“I have been in touch with JA officials over the years,” Saito said at a Dec. 15 event organized by the Japan Agriculture Journalists’ Association in Tokyo. “My impression is that they are simply lacking a sense of crisis.

“They must change. They have to be conscious of what they are doing. The ministry, the ruling party and the farmers’ group… we all need to work together to move ahead,” he said.

Saito, a former official from the trade ministry, became the minister in August. It was seen as unusual because he has only been elected as an MP three times, about half the average for such high-profile post in Japanese politics.

Saito had served as the vice minister of agriculture in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s second cabinet, facilitating consultations with the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to move agriculture reform forward.

During the Dec. 15 event, Saito acknowledged that a series of agricultural reform bills, including the wholesale market law and farmland use legislation, will be under consideration at next year’s regular Diet session.

“If passed, these major structural reforms will have gone through the legislative process,” he said.

“The question is whether the reforms will be implemented effectively,” said Saito, stressing that the JA group can play a vital role in securing the real reforms.

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