Safety net eyed for farmers after protections end

Kyodo

An insurance scheme is planned for rice farmers to buffer against possible drops in their income following the envisioned end to the rice production adjustment program by 2018, farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tuesday.

Launched in 1970, the output adjustment program is intended to keep rice prices from plunging by limiting cultivation of the grain amid declining consumption. Its abolishment is being considered to prepare rice farmers for a potential influx of cheap imports under the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

Hayashi told a press conference that “a safety net is necessary to alleviate the impact from drops” in rice prices.

He said the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has demanded ¥321 million in the state fiscal 2014 budget to be used to design the insurance scheme.

Rice farmers will be required to pay a premium into the insurance scheme and they will receive money when their income declines with the price of rice. Though no public funds will be used for the program, the government could be involved in its operation, according to officials.

The government will aim to introduce the insurance scheme by 2018, around the same time as the rice production adjustment program comes to an end.