Q: The bill on the ratification of the TPP agreement will be deliberated at the extraordinary Diet session this fall. How will you approach this?
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yuji Yamamoto: The outcome of the TPP negotiations is in line with the Diet resolutions (on protecting rice, beef and pork, and other sensitive product sectors). While I have some concerns about debating with the opposition parties, since I was not directly involved with the negotiation process, I will work for the ratification of the accord.
Q: Some farmers are concerned about the effectuation of the TPP agreement.
Yamamoto: I visited the Tohoku region during the House of Councillors election, where I listened to rice farmers expressing their concern. There were many misunderstandings. Even with the importation of rice under the TPP’s tariff-free quotas, prices of domestic rice will not drop (because of the increase in the purchase of reserves) and prices of delicious rice will even go up.
Q: You have no experience in agricultural administration, so there are concerns about your capability.
Yamamoto: While I do not have experience in agricultural administration, I was born and grew up in Kochi Prefecture, where I had first-hand experience with agricultural, mountain, and fishing villages. Agriculture has the potential to become a growth industry with new ideas and creativity. My job is to make agriculture a high-income occupation that will attract young people.
Mangoes sell very well at 10,000 yen apiece in my hometown. It will be possible to boost agricultural income substantially by employing artificial intelligence and robots and through direct marketing to consumers.
Q: How would you implement agricultural cooperative reform?
Yamamoto: Outsiders are doubtful if the agricultural cooperatives really serve farmers. Efforts to dispel such a misconception will also lead to the agricultural cooperatives’ self-reform. On the other hand, partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the agricultural cooperatives is important. I would like to keep in close contact and promote mutual understanding.