(Yomiuri: January 27, 2015 – p. 1)
The government is planning to urge Japan’s Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, known as JA-ZENCHU, to alter its status from a special body based on the Agricultural Co-operatives
Act to an incorporated association within three years.
The change will be incorporated into revisions to agricultural cooperative law, which will be submitted to an ongoing ordinary Diet session, and will be stipulated in its supplementary provision. Entities such as the Japan Business Federation and Japanese Bankers Association are given the status of incorporated association.
The revisions call for scrapping JA-ZENCHU’s oversight and leadership authority over local cooperatives, though the body demands these powers be kept intact. [If the bill is enacted,] JA-ZENCHU will lose its special organization status granted by the law. The government will step up pressure on the organization to implement the change and is considering disbanding it if it fails to make the switch to an incorporated organization within the period stated in the supplementary provision.
Setting a deadline of three years is aimed at accelerating efforts to ramp up Japan’s agricultural competiveness with an eye on the conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The government states in a blueprint for agricultural cooperatives reform, mapped out last June, that it will promote such an initiative over the next five years.
After scrapping JA-ZENCHU’s oversight authority, the government will consider separating the body’s auditing function and re-establishing it as a new auditing corporation. Local cooperatives would be able to choose their auditor either from general auditing firms or a JA-ZENCHU spinoff.
The government is also looking into a plan to alter the status of JA-ZENCHU’s subsidiary organizations in 47 prefectures to incorporated associations within five years. But it has yet to solidify the plan due to growing concerns that the move may lead to the loss of farmers’ votes in the unified local elections that are scheduled to take place this spring.