The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Agriculture and Forestry Division held a meeting at the party headquarters on the afternoon of Nov. 17 as agricultural reform enters a critical stage. The JA Group fiercely opposed a government panel’s proposals for drastic reform of JA Zen-Noh (National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations) and Diet members also voiced their criticism, plunging the meeting into serious disarray. Although the government and the LDP are planning to reach a consensus by Nov. 24, prospects remain uncertain.
Diet members receiving support from the JA Group, which serves as a vote-gathering machine in elections, voiced criticisms such as: “The aim of these proposals is not to increase farmers’ income, but to ruin the agricultural cooperatives” and “the farmers are the ones who should be evaluating the agricultural cooperatives.”
Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zenchu) Chairman Choe Okuno and JA Zen-Noh Chairman Yoshimi Nakano, who attended the meeting, both said the proposals are “unacceptable.”
A working group under the government’s Regulatory Reform Council has proposed reforms including ending Zen-Noh’s purchasing and marketing of agricultural materials in one year and terminating its “consignment sale” of agricultural products, through which it receives a commission from farmers, and shifting to straightforward buying-and-selling operations. Zen-Noh is effectively the biggest “agricultural trading firm” in the country.
After the meeting, division chief Shinjiro Koizumi commented that, “It is a fact that while we agree with the direction of certain policies, there are also proposals that are unacceptable.” He indicated that the proposals will be examined in detail.