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For two, almost three, generations Japanese agriculture has been essentially 'socialized,' that is, sucked into the maw of the bureaucratic, administrative state. Japanese farmers think and act like g

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Forbes columnist Stephen Harner, saying that in order to avoid economic and societal decline, Japan needs free market reform of agriculture.

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all rice must be correctly labeled...... dont make me laugh!!! were you not here for the mislabeling of rice a little while back? dont get me started on eels, yogurt, milk, croquettes need i go on?

yes, there have been cases of food being mislabelled by individuals and some companies but that does not make all traders dishonest. When I buy my rice I know where it comes from, even the name of the village. I use traders who are honest and rarely buy rice from a food store. Most of the time food labelling can be trusted, but there will always be people trying to make a dishonest yen.

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tmarie,

Domestic rice production in 2004 was 11 million metric tons, which covers about 90% of needs. I think rice farming, and farming in this country on its current course is on a road to nowhere. There might come a time when rice is no longer grown in this country especially has PM Kan had suggested that the country would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would require all member countries to abolish tariffs over a 10 year period.

Currently, Japan imposes a tariff of ¥341 per kg on all imported rice. Removing the tariff would put domestic rice farmers in direct competition with foreign growers.

America would probably be the country which would benefit the most from the removal of the tariffs. American rice farms are more than 100 times the size of a Japanese one and can produce high-quality short grain japonica rice so much liked by the Japanese. Joining the TPP could send domestic rice production down by 90% and erode overall domestic food production to about 15%.

Without subsidies the domestic rice farmer won't be able to survive. Last year, farmers began receiving ¥150,000 per hectare of rice. Rice farmers will only survive with at least 100 hectare fields and using machinery to do the work. A system of rice growing cooperatives might work but these have failed in the past.

Japanese people have been eating less rice that before. In 1962, it was about 120 kgms per capita to less than half of that a few years ago. For the period July 2010 to June 2011 rice consumption increased by 46,000 tons, bringing the amount of rice eaten to 8.18 million tons.

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@zichi - all rice must be correctly labeled...... dont make me laugh!!! were you not here for the mislabeling of rice a little while back? dont get me started on eels, yogurt, milk, croquettes need i go on?

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Zichi, do the math. Look at the amount of people here and the amount of rice they produce. Most "Japanese" rice is not from here. Asia and the US? Indeed!

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The farmers vote wouldn't have much meaning in any election, there's not enough of them.

The way constituencies are set up in Japan, rural areas and hence farmers are overrepresented.

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The Civil Servants and the politicians who out number the farmers receive 100% subsidies from the taxpayer.

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tmarie,

never mind that much of the rice comes from other countries and gets relabeled.

As long as the government gives the handouts, they give the farmers' votes. Screw the public!

That is incorrect. America forced a WTO rice agreement on Japan forcing it to import tens of thousands of tons of California rice every year. To me, that's like forcing Italy to import pasta. The rice sits in government storage silos, and the current amount is around 1.5 million tons. It costs about ¥140,000,000,000 in yearly storage fees. The rice is never sold and remains in silos until near rotten when its sold on for animal feed. The rice can't be exported or given for food aid without the permission of the Americans.

It should at least be used to produce ethanol.

Educational institutions also receive government and private subsidies. I believe that you are working in a number of universities, so part of your salary is subsidized? I know the situation for foreigners working in universities isn't that good, but it certainly is for the Japanese, who have jobs for life, a retirement handout and a good pension at the end of their careers. When a rice farmer retires, he will only have a small state pension.

All rice sold in Japan, must be correctly labelled and if a bag contains rice from more than one area, it must state that on the package.

The farmers vote wouldn't have much meaning in any election, there's not enough of them. The political party which give the most support to farmers is the Communist Party, so it does better with the farmers vote than other parties.

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America gives huge subsidies, so why not Japan?

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Air, water and food are the three essentials for life. Domestic food production should be an important part of any country but in Japan it has declined over the past 50 years, and today it only produces about 40% of the total needs. The farming community is aging and younger people are not taking it up because the work is hard and the financial returns low. Ask a child were an apple comes from, and they'll probably answer, from a department store. On average, a rice field earns a farmer ¥1.5 million, which isn't a great sum of money when considering the number of hours spent in that field.

For 8 years, I lived in a farming community in the Japan Alps. I was able to experience first hand the life of the farmer. I also produced my own food and discovered the hardship and physical labor of that. I never met any rich farmers but I did meet many hard working people, working from very early morning until dark. I never met any who acted like government employees and expected a guaranteed income from the state. The farmers would be outnumbered by the civil service and all the politicians who they serve.

The author of the quote, Stephen Harner, has probably never done a days farming in his life, and being a Forbes columnist would put his income bracket way beyond those of farmers. I'm also guessing he is an American which also heavily subsidizes farming, especially corn growing, which is now being turned into ethanol. America also gives big subsidies to oil creating a false price at the pumps. Without it, gas prices would be much higher.

I have worked on farms in Britain, France and Italy. As well as America, all European countries subsidize farming, with the French farmers receiving huge amounts of money from the EU budget. The French farmers still protest and demonstrate frequently about their lot. European and American farmers earn a greater income than Japanese ones. Their method of production is different with greater use of much larger fields and the use of machinery.

The current farming situation in Japan happened because at the end of WWII, the Americans took land from the landlords and gave it to the poorer people. I have seen very large rice farms in Niigata, with larger fields so that machinery can be used, and these are owned and managed by companies, rather than individual farmers with small plots. I believe that is a step in the right direction, especially if less people want to take up farming. But the land in Niigata is on a large flat plain which isn't possible in many places because of the mountains.

From an issue of self sufficiency, and environmentally, domestic food production is important. It's cheaper to grow food in Africa, but it still must be shipped half way round the world to get here. Others would argue, that if all the food subsidies were removed from farmers in Japan, Europe and America, and instead given to farmers in developing countries, it would help those economies to grow and become stronger.

Only rice is subsidized, and the farmers are told how much they can grow. Japan produces some of the best rice in the world and the nation wants Japanese rice. 

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"They" admire them as I certainly don't!!

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Agree with Tmarie.

Deep Pockets Tmarie. You know who I'm talking about. They drive right by you in their Hummers, AMG Benzs, and supercars. You admire them as they control your life. They provide no opportunities for change. They never will.

We see it alot in the political world. Family names that are identical. Having a name like Koizumi automatically gets you in. Yet new talent is rarely seen.

Agriculture isn't any different. It's their sons, that are put in political positions. Nothing is going to change until the economic divide is closed. The wealth of the nation should be it's people.

You want change? Here's a start. Stop using banks like JA - Japan Agriculture.

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I am not exactly sure what the comment is referring to. Normal subsidies or specific hand-outs?

Governments usually set base prices for agricultural produce so that if the farmers cannot sell their good in the market, government buys them. This is to support agriculture which is an extremely vital sector in every country although many people seem to forget it. Sometimes these "base" prices, which can be affected by political decisions, can be set too high so that it is better for the farmers to sell their goods directly to the government rather than in the market. Governments are usually (or should be) very active in price control in agriculture since this sector cannot be left to predatory pricing or extreme market fluctuations.

But the point is, this is not specific to Japan. There are many other countries in the world who follow the same practice.

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It really is true that if you aren't the kind of person who can get rich with a startup company, new invention or professional skill, then the best option is to hook up your bank account to the government feedbag. Municipal construction contracts, roads, waste removal, government supply, military, selling and servicing subpar, Balkanized custom IT software to various government agencies. And for those with nice teeth and foreheads, the revolving door of government bureaucratic posts followed by lucrative stints on the boards of the endless list of crony companies lining up a million deep outside the tent. Inside all of this, agricultural subsidies to individual farmers are nothing more than a piffle. These farmers are like the postal workers of government graft. Perhaps their first and most basic mistake is assuming they actually need to work hard and produce something of value in order to receive government money.

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Not a shock at all. The government props them up, the farmers charge a heck of a lot for their produce and the public gets screwed. Why is "Japanese" rice cheaper in the US than it is here? Because the government allow it to be - and brainwashes the pubic into thinking "Japanese" rice is best - never mind that much of the rice comes from other countries and gets relabeled.

As long as the government gives the handouts, they give the farmers' votes. Screw the public!

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