Japan Times staff writer Reiji Yoshida has hit the nail right on the head in the Dec. 16 article, “Deceptive rice price reforms viewed as too late for industry,” and in his co-authored article of the same date, “No country for small-time rice farmers.”
Sadly the country’s agricultural sector — the rice industry in particular — has been allowed to stagnate for decades for political reasons. This has resulted in a troubling development; whereas in the 1980s, a rice farmer’s main worry was the choosing of an heir, today it is the presence of an heir.
As hinted in both articles, the village of Ogata in Akita Prefecture can serve as a kind of testing ground for new agricultural policies, as it has a relatively large average farm size and many enterprising producers, some owning over 40 hectares.
There is much more, actually, to the story of Ogata, including fascinating tales of struggle, conflict, success and failure — most of these directly relating to national rice policy. There are also a number of different marketing firms in the village.
I have written at length about these issues in my 2012 book “Ogata-Mura: Sowing Dissent and Reclaiming Identity in a Japanese Farming Village.” Recently the village has been recognized as a possible model for rebuilding coastal communities that were destroyed by the 2011 tsunami.
Now that it has made the front page of The Japan Times, perhaps it is time for the village to be seen more as a model for national rice policy. I hope the country’s leaders will listen to what the rice growers there are saying (such as this quote from my book): “If a farmer doesn’t build something that can be passed down, he can’t really expect his son to take over.”
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.