(Nikkei: November 2, 2015 – p. 3)
The Ministry of Finance will propose introducing flexible funding to make Japanese farmers more productive when it convenes a meeting of the Fiscal System Council, an advisory body to the Minister of Finance, on November 4. To be specific, it will call for extending financial support in particular to farmers producing high-yield rice varieties through a “land improvement program” — funds allocated for building agricultural infrastructure. The proposal is aimed at helping farmers better compete against foreign agricultural products, which are expected to make their way into Japan once the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact goes into effect.
The government is planning to compile guidelines for TPP measures on November 25. Productivity enhancement will become a key element. The development of agricultural infrastructure will be indispensable to introducing large-scale farmland for higher productivity. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance will call for effective allocations of funds to alleviate rising concerns about pork-barreling.
The ministry is stressing the need to limit the availability of the land improvement program to farmers “who are willing to improve productivity and taking clear actions toward that goal.” The program currently allocates money based on farmland acreage, but the ministry views the system as being less likely to motivate farmers to improve productivity.
Growing high-yield rice varieties can help improve productivity, but it has been long considered taboo under the government’s promotion of the acreage reduction policy. But the production adjustment system will be abolished in 2018 and this is expected to make it easier for farmers to switch to high-yield varieties.
The ministry will also propose that farmers be financed through the land improvement program if they tap into technology to improve efficiency and adopt a cultivation method that forgoes the transplanting of rice seedlings.