Annual Report on Food,Agriculture
and Rural Areas in Japan
FY 1999 (Summary)
 
(Provisional Traslation)
 
 
 
 
 
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Introduction
 
 
  The Japanese socioeconomic system, thus far pursuing material wealth under rapid economic growth, is now at an important turning point as the new century is approaching.
 
  With increasing public awareness of limited global resources, environmental problems and possible food crises, people around the world are now beginning to reassess their values and lifestyles and develop new values and a civilized way of life which put a greater emphasis on harmony, coexistence, health, and comfortable and peaceful living. Food, necessities for our "daily living and life", and agriculture and rural areas, fundamentals for food production, are also being given a new insight, and expectations are growing as to their roles as the basis for our safety and security.
 
  In response to such growing expectations, the Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas, as promulgated and enforced on July 16, 1999, thoroughly reviews the postwar agricultural policies under the Agricultural Basic Law and sets up a new policy-making scheme under the new principles. This new Law should be a guideline for policy making on food, agriculture and rural areas in the coming century. Governments at all levels, national, local and municipalities, farmers, consumers and any other relevant parties should work together under the proper role sharing to implement specific measures developed under the new Law.
 
  Thus, this latest report (the first after the promulgation of the new Basic Law) provides relevant information on noteworthy trends and issues relating to food, agriculture and rural areas as well as the future direction of specific measures and their necessity, keeping in mind four basic principles; "securing a stable food supply", "fulfillment of multi-functionality of agriculture", "sustainable development of agriculture", and "promotion of rural areas", so that public understanding and support can be obtained from all walks of life.
 
 
 
 
 
Contents
 
 
 
Introduction
 
Chapter I  Securing a Stable Food Supply
 
Section 1  Food Consumption and Dietary Patterns in Japan
 
Section 2  Food Self-sufficiency Ratio and Food Security
 
Section 3  Food Industry Supporting a Stable Food Supply and Supply of Safe and Quality Foods
 
Section 4  World Grain Supply/Demand Situation and Trends in Global Agricultural Trade
 
Section 5 Movements regarding the WTO
 
 
Examples of Pilot Efforts by Local Governments
 
 
Chapter II Sustainable Development of Agriculture
 
Section 1 Characteristics of Agriculture in Japan
 
Section 2 Fundamentals for Agriculture in Japan
 
Section 3 Diverse Workforce and Farming Operations
 
Section 4  Trends in Japan's Agricultural Supply/Demand and Development of Paddy Field-Land Extensive Farming
 
Section 5 Preserving and Improving the Natural Cyclical Functions of Agriculture
 
 
Chapter III Rural Area Promotion and Fullfilment of the Multi-functionality of Agriculture
 
Section 1 Current Situation in Rural Areas
 
Section 2 Multi-functionality of Agriculture and Efforts toward Fullfilment
 
Section 3 Comprehensive Promotion of Rural Areas
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter I  Securing a Stable Food Supply
 
Section 1  Food Consumption and Dietary Patterns in Japan
 
(1) Current Situation of Food Consumption    (ChartTable)
 
@ The real food expenditures per person in non-farming households were about the same as in the previous year (down 0.1 %) in 1998, while expenditures overall have been down due to the sluggish economy.
 
A  Food expenditures have been about the same as in recent years partly, and the consumer price index has been rather stable due to declining incomes influenced by the sluggish economy. Under these circumstances, the "optional food group" (i.e. luxury foods, prepared foods and eating-out) indicated a response sensitive to economic changes.
 
B  As food expenditures virtually reached saturation point, the patterns of food consumption have been changing drastically, as reflected in the increases in "prepared foods" and "eating-out" taken instead of homemade dishes and at-home meals. Factors behind these changes are increases in women's labor force participation and single-member households, aging society, and diversified lifestyles.
  More than a quarter of total food expenditures depended on prepared foods and eating-out in 1998.
 
C  Accordingly, the conventional perception that "foods are to be prepared at home" has changed, and consumers showed less resistance to simple cooking by using prepared and prepackaged foods available in shops. Thus, dietary patterns now should be talked about in the light of such a change in perception among consumers.
 
 
(2) Problems in Dietary Patterns    (ChartTable)
 
@  As Japanese dietary requirements are now so well provided for that we are said to be living in "the age of overabundance", there are increasingly growing concerns over excess or insufficient nutritional intake or unbalanced diets.
 
A  Another problem is "food loss (food waste)" observed at every stage from production to consumption; raw (food) material waste in the production process, expired food waste at the distribution stage, and food-processing residues or leftovers at eateries and homes.
 
B  Reduction of food waste is important not only in terms of effective use of resources in Japan characterized by very low food self-sufficiency, but also in terms of reduction in both the waste disposal cost and harmful effect on the environment caused by such waste.
 
C There are many other problems, such as changing eating habits in line with changing lifestyles, as reflected in "skipped meals", "lonely meals" and "separate meals" ( each family member eats whatever he/she likes) and inadequate adult instruction on recommended eating habits largely due to less opportunities for family members to eat together.  
 
D  In dealing with such problems, it is important that people are knowledgeable about "food and diet". They should also strive to reassess and make improvements to their own dietary patterns.
 
E  Government and relevant authorities should work together to disseminate the idea of "Reassessment of dietary patterns" on a national level.
 
 
(3)  Children's Dietary Patterns in Japan    (Chart)
 
@  A review of children's dietary patterns revealed undesirable problems such as excess or insufficient nutritional intake or skipped meals. These nutritional aspects should be attended to primarily in each household, but as matter of fact school lunches (meals) complement part of the required nutrition.
 
A  It is necessary to make a comprehensive review of appropriate dietary patterns (i.e., specific food intake and habits), including prepared meals and eating-out as well as meals at home so that children can eat in a well-balanced and healthy manner.
 
B  Nowadays, children often don't know the names of the food products they usually eat. Their overall interest and knowledge about food is insufficient.
 
C  Their daily food intake is not only important during their life stages to ensure adequate growth and development both mentally and physically, but it also greatly influences children in developing eating habits, staying healthy and learning about national food cultures. Therefore, it is necessary to make various efforts to provide hands-on learning experience (i.e., farming and cooking), through which they can gain more of an interest and learn more about food and diet and thereby understand their importance in life.
 
D  Education on foods and diet for children should not only be provided in the classroom, but also on various other occasions, in cooperation with government agencies, relevant organizations, family members and communities.
  It is also necessary to teach the importance of agriculture, food industries (distributors and processors) and the value of labor through farming and production experience, in addition to classroom lectures on nutrition and aspects of health.
 
 
 
Section 2  Food Self-sufficiency Ratio and Food Security
 
(1) Food Self-sufficiency Ratio    (Chart)
 
@  The food self-sufficiency ratio in Japan showed sharp decreases during the period from 1965 to 1998, down from 73% to 40% on a calorie supply basis and 62% to 27% on a grain basis.
 
A  From a long-term standpoint, one of the major factors behind this declining trend is fundamental changes in Japanese dietary patterns, as reflected in the increasing consumption of animal products and fats and oils, which are largely dependent on imported feed grains, and oilseeds due to the restraints on national land and ever decreasing rice consumption. 
 
B  In recent years, both trends as mentioned above have shown a slowdown, while the domestic production of wheat and soybeans has been declining. This is a key factor behind the declining self-sufficiency ratio in the short term.
 
C  As the world food supply/demand situation could be tight in the mid- and long- term, Japanese people are now showing great concern over the future food supply in Japan characterized by very low food self-sufficiency. The national government assumes great responsibility in assuring the availability of the food supply to its people. Since there are certain limitations on stockpiling and importing, it is important to increase domestic agricultural production as much as possible in order to secure a stable food supply.
 
D  The food self-sufficiency ratio is an effective and easy-to-see indicator to verify the extent to which domestic agricultural production could satisfy national dietary requirements. Thus, the Basic Plan for Food, Agriculture and Rural areas is to identify the issues to be dealt with (by farm operators, consumers and food industries), and then is to set up specific targets of food self-sufficiency ratio under the new Basic Law.
 
E In the Basic Plan developed in March 2000, major target food self-sufficiency ratios (2010 as target year) were set up; 45% on a calorie supply basis, 30% on a grain basis, and 62% on a grain-for-staple foods basis respectively. Although it is essential that more than 50% of all calories supplied by foods should be covered by domestic production, these ratios were determined in light of the attainability by 2010 and possible effects on the promotion of efforts and measures by relevant parties. The target total food self-sufficiency ratio in value, i.e., 74%, was also presented as a reference.    
 
 
(2) Food Security    (Table)
 
@  To secure a stable food supply, it is essential to make efforts to increase domestic production first and then assure the availability of stable imports and proper stockpiles.
 
A  To secure such stable imports, it is necessary to appeal earnestly the importance of food security at the WTO agricultural negotiations, as well as to improve the information collection system and to diversify risks by importing from several countries. Proper and effective stockpiling of staple foods is also required.
 
B  Food security is also necessary to guarantee the minimum domestic supply in the event of an emergency. For this purpose, specific measures should be developed for different degrees of emergency. Also, thorough investigations should be carried out so that government agencies can perform their responsibilities in a prompt and concerted manner, for example, in securing agricultural production materials (i.e., oil) and domestic transportation. Furthermore, information technology infrastructures should be developed so that information on the food supply/demand situation both at home and abroad can be promptly and appropriately obtained and analyzed at any time.
 
C  Several countries, such as Switzerland, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, prepare specific measures for emergencies, such as public stockpiling, food rationing and increased food production. In particular, Switzerland has been implementing food security measures developed in the event that war is started under Article 31 of the Constitution. In 1980, a national referendum was conducted on the amendment of the Article that emergency definitions should be expanded to include other unpredictable situations, such as grain crisis, oil crisis and chemical accidents, and consequently a new food security policy was established on the broad public understanding and support. Although the U.S. and Australia, major net exporting countries of agricultural products, have not put any public stockpiling system in place, the U.S. has established an export restriction system on agricultural products. The EU has not set out any specific food security policies, either, and instead the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) serves as such.
 
 
 
Section 3  Food Industry Supporting a Stable Food Supply and Supply of Safe and Quality Foods
 
(1) Food Industry    (Chart)
 
@  An overview of the food supply system from farmers to food industries indicates that the agriculture and fisheries market of 16.2 trillion yen (domestic production ? 13 trillion yen, import ? 3.2 trillion yen) recorded 80.4 trillion yen in the final consumption stage after gradually adding to its value over the course of time from the processing stage to the distribution stage. In more specific terms, 20% went on perishable foods, 50% on processed foods, and 30% on away-from-home meals. While the percentage of perishable foods has been declining, those of processed foods and eating-out have been increasing.
 
A  The food industry and agriculture have been closely related through the supply and demand flow of raw agricultural products. In recent years, however, food imports for the food industry have been sharply increasing. Agriculture should improve the production and supply system to meet the food industry's needs.
 
B  Such a close relationship is mutually beneficial; it means a stable flow of quality food products for the food industry and increased demand for domestic agricultural products for the agricultural industry. Still, there are many issues to be dealt with in maintaining such a relationship. Therefore, comprehensive support services should be provided in further encouraging the relationship, for example, improving a promotion structure by designating representatives who can provide the appropriate advice and training in relevant activities, and improving the information management system accessible to both.
 
C  In order to make food distribution more active and efficient, it is necessary to promote electronic commerce by making full use of information technologies such as the Internet and establish the optimal distribution system from production to consumption.
 
D  The food industry is also required to make efforts in reducing damage to the environment caused by their operations, through waste reduction and recycling. A certain mechanism needs to be developed so that the food industry, farm operators, consumers and national and local governments can work together in the socioeconomic system founded on cyclical use of resources with proper role sharing.
 
E  The Law on Recycling Containers and Packaging will be fully enforced in April 2000. The Law covers small- and medium-sized enterprises thus far exempt from the mandatory recycling and containers and packaging in both paper and plastic. In order to ensure smooth law enforcement, it is important to further promote and provide education on the Law, develop recycling ability and increase demand for recycled products.
 
 
(2) Securing Food Safety and Improving Labeling and Standardization Systems    (Chart)
 
@  Consumers' awareness of food safety has been increasing and measures to secure product safety have also been actively taken by food distributors and processors. As of the end of December 1999, 36 advancement plans were certified under the Act of Implementation Support of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Techniques enforced in July 1998. For secured food safety, it is necessary to establish the integrated system from production to consumption by enhancing cooperation among relevant business parties and facilitating information exchange.
 
A  In dioxin control measures, there are several ongoing actions in accordance with the Guidelines for the Promotion of Dioxin Control Measures (Developed by the Ministerial Committee on Dioxin Control Measures), such as collecting scientifically justified information through researches and studies and understanding the current situation in the field of agriculture and animal products. Also, reductions in food waste disposal and recycling are being promoted as part of the efforts to reduce dioxin discharge.
   As for the accident at the nuclear reprocessing plant at Tokaimura, the relevant authorities have been making efforts to maximize the adverse effects caused by the accident.
 
B  In response to growing demands for appropriate and easier labeling and a standardization system, the revised Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) Law was enacted in July 1999, which covers the improvement of the food labeling system such as mandatory description of country of origin for any perishable foods as well as the establishment of a system for inspection, certification and labeling of organic foods.
 
C  As for the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO), the "Council on Food Labeling" had been discussing the subject in consideration of consumer demands, the current situation at the production and distribution stages, and global trends. The resulting report was prepared in August 1999. After the required proceedings including discussion by the JAS Research Committee and one-year grace (moratorium) period, the labeling system of GMO is planned to start in April 2001.
 
D  Each country deals with the subject of GMO labeling differently, and discussions on a global level by the CODEX Committee have officially started. Japan should appeal its own stance toward GMO, with due consideration given to its basic attitudes toward the labeling and actively participate in the relevant global-level discussions.
 
 
 
Section 4  World Grain Supply/Demand Situation and Trends in Global Agricultural Trade   (ChartTable)
 
(1) Trends in World Grain Supply/Demand
 
   Recent world grain supply and demand has been on an easing trend thanks to the good harvests since the year 1996-1997 and slow demand caused by the sluggish economy in Southeast Asia, but the year-end stock ratio was rather low when compared with the level in the 1980s.
    With the anticipation of the population growth and sharp increases in grain demand due to the increased consumption of animal products, various restraints such as limited expansion of agricultural land and more visible environmental problems have been observed in the area of production. Thus, global food supply and demand might get tighter in the mid- and long- terms.
 
 
(2) Trends in Agricultural Trade both in Japan and other Countries
 
@  Recent trends in the grain trade show that Asia and Africa increased their share in imports while the U.S. and South America did so in exports. The trade balance of agricultural products in developing countries other than South America has been visibly weaker.
 
A  More than 80% of major agricultural imports including grains came from two countries including the U.S., as Japan's imports of agricultural products have significantly increased due to the diversification and advancement of consumers' needs.
 
 
(3) Trends in Price Gap between Japan and other Countries
 
  1998 retail prices of food products in Japan (Tokyo) were 20 to 30% higher than those in other major foreign cities. There are factors observed at every stage from production, distribution to processing. It is necessary to make efforts to reduce the overall cost in agriculture and relevant industries.
 
 
(4) Recent Movements in Agricultural Policies in Foreign Countries
 
  The U.S. implemented further measures of about $8.7 billion in 1999. In Australia, the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) was privatized, but centralized import control remains unchanged. The EU agreed with the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). France enacted the new Agricultural Basic Law and introduced the system of "National Land Contract concerning the Management"(CTE).
 
 
(5) International Cooperation
 
  International cooperation in food and agricultural fields is very important to deal with food problems, relieve poverty in developing countries, and realize sustainable development. Japan, as one of the world's leading contributors to foreign aid, should further promote various forms of cooperation and partnership among government agencies, as well as make effective evaluations of project efficiency, with the view of carrying out more effective and efficient international cooperation. It is important here to engage in such activities in line with the WTO agricultural negotiations.
 
 
 
Section 5 Movements regarding the WTO
 
(1) Positioning the WTO Agricultural Negotiations
 
@  Japan accepted the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA) and has been making every effort to implement its commitments steadily. The URAA, however, is not sufficient in terms of fair and equitable trade rules for both importing and exporting countries, as well as for both developed and developing countries.
 
A  The agricultural negotiations in the WTO are important in the sense that the future direction of world agricultural trade rules for the 21st century are thereby to be determined. For Japan, it is extremely important in that the basic principles of the newly enacted Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas and accompanying measures must be properly recognized in accordance with global rules.
 
 
(2) Proposal of Japan towards the Upcoming WTO Negotiations and Result of the Ministerial Conference in Seattle
 
@ From the viewpoint of providing relevant information for the public, the government drew up the "Fundamental Position of Japan on the Upcoming WTO Negotiations on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries" in April 1999. After further discussions, the government prepared the "Proposal of Japan towards the Upcoming WTO Negotiations" in June of the same year and subsequently submitted it to the WTO(Table).
 
A  Making use of every possible opportunity, Japan has explained its basic stance to other Member States. In particular, the "Friends of the Multi-functionality" was formed with the EU, Korea, Norway, Switzerland and other like-minded countries, all sharing the idea of the importance of multi-functionality of agriculture. Each agreed that they should work in close conjunction in the next negotiations.
 
B  The third WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Seattle from November 30 to December 3, 1999. The conference ended without ministerial declaration on the commencement of the next round of negotiations, due to considerable differences of opinion among the Member States and a limited time frame.
  Japan claimed that the next negotiations should be carried out in accordance with Article 20 of the URAA, and this received wide support from other Member States. They also recognized the specific elements of multi-functionality, such as food security, environmental protection, viability of rural areas, and food safety.
 
 
(3) Future Issues in the WTO Agricultural Negotiations
 
  Japan is to continue to work on other Member States through various opportunities with the aim of appealing its stance. Japan regards it important to make efforts to build a global consensus in association with other countries including the EU and Korea, as well as to facilitate debates on the concept of multi-functionality at various intergovernmental fora.
 
 
 
 
 
Examples of Pilot Efforts by Local Governments
 
  The Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas specifies that local governments are responsible for formulating and implementing policies that suit their regional characteristics. The following are some examples of pilot activities by some local governments(ChartTable):
 
(Iwate Prefecture)
 
@  Iwate Prefecture developed the "Iwate Basic Plan for Agriculture and Rural Areas" in September 1999 and set up numerical targets such as the number of farm households (by year 2010) and supplying capacity of locally grown agricultural products by type. To reach these targets, the "Declaration of Iwate Food Supply Base" was adopted in the following month, which encourages concerted efforts for the promotion of agriculture and rural areas with general consumers also involved.
 
A  Learning by farming has been promoted with original leaflets on agriculture (in the form of comic strips) distributed to elementary and junior high schools.
 
B  The "Iwate Agricultural Purity Indicator" was developed and published as an indicator to describe the goal in introducing environmentally friendly production technologies and indicate the quality of local farm products.
  Several other efforts, such as a trial quantitative evaluation and a study on awareness among Iwate citizens, have been made to facilitate better understanding of the multi-functionality of agriculture.
 
 
(Saitama Prefecture)
 
@  Saitama, located in a huge consumption area, developed the "Vision of Agricultural Promotion" with the three main pillars of food, agriculture and rural areas, in March 1999. A total of 178 specific and easily comprehensible numerical targets were set up for effective and productive actions. An annual report analyzing the latest results will be published.
 
A  The Vision focuses on measures which address consumers' concerns, and promotes "Sai no Kuni - Action for 100 Times More Organic", which encourages prefecture-wide efforts for the production, distribution and consumption of organic farm products as well as measures to secure the safety of agricultural and animal products.
 
B  In order to establish paddy-field farming which cultivates wheat, soybeans and vegetables in addition to rice, several measures have been taken in processing and consumption areas, such as the development of "Sai no Kuni Wheat Noodles" made of locally grown raw materials, and the use of locally grown rice and soybeans (natto) for school meals.
 
 
(Gifu Prefecture)
 
@  The "Plan for Secured Foods for Gifu Citizens" which promotes a stable food supply at the prefectural level was established in March 1999. In addition to the self-sufficiency ratio in Gifu, specific measures (on production and consumption, and food security for emergencies) were presented to increase awareness among Gifu citizens.
 
A  To increase the production of wheat and soybeans of low self-sufficiency ratios, several measures have been promoted such as the introduction of high-quality and high-yielding varieties, promotion of crop rotation, establishment of a highly-efficient mechanized system, as well as promotional measures for sales and distribution.
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter II Sustainable Development of Agriculture
 
Section 1 Characteristics of Agriculture in Japan    (Chart&Table)
 
@  Agriculture is an industry producing foods using the natural ecosystem, and specific forms of operation are largely influenced by geographic conditions. Farming styles also vary considerably in different countries and regions depending on the economic conditions there.
 
A  The major characteristics of agriculture in Japan are as follows:
 
○ In Japan, located in the Asian monsoon zone, rice crop farming has been operated nationwide as a key planting system suitable for its hot and rainy summer season. Some regions on the Pacific Coast with a dry winter and low rainfall operate a double cropping system by using winter (secondary) wheat.
 
○ Mountainous areas account for 61% of the total national land and there is only limited flat land available in Japan. Consequently, competition exists in land use. Under these circumstances, the ratio of farmland is about 14% of the total national land, and the cultivated land under management per farm household is very small with about 1.6 hectares.
 
○ As a result of ongoing improvement of irrigation infrastructures for the further development of paddy field farming, the ratio of irrigated areas to all agricultural land is at world-class level. Paddy fields are effective in preventing damage caused by continuous cropping, thick weeds and soil erosion, leading to stable agricultural production. Rice, highly stable in production and rich in nutrition, has supported this large population living in a limited land area, and helped to build the world's most densely populated society in the early 18th century.
 
○ The small size of farming operations and difficulties in controlling water use at the individual farm level required collective control and use of water, facilitating the formation of farming communities. Community rules established to ensure smooth operations had a considerable influence in fostering the spirit of mutual aid and creating and passing on traditional rural cultures.
 
B  Agriculture in Japan has been developing its own unique characteristics under the considerable influence of natural and socioeconomic conditions. To achieve the sustainable development of agriculture, it is necessary to study appropriate measures in consideration of the above characteristics.
  At the WTO agricultural negotiations, it is important to obtain the understanding of Member States about the fact that sustainable agricultural production activities largely contribute to the maintenance and safety of land and society, as well as to make efforts to establish rules for the coexistence of various types of agriculture among Members.
 
 
 
Section 2 Fundamentals for Agriculture in Japan
 
(1) Trends in Farmers and Agricultural Workforce    (ChartTable)
 
@  The total number of farm households was 3,239,000 as of January 1, 1999, 53,000 less (down 1.6%) than the previous year. Of this figure, the number of commercial farm households was 2,475,000, down 1.9 % from the previous year. The number of full-time farmers with male worker(s) at productive age involved showed a 2.4% decline, while the number of full-time aged farmers has continuously increased.
 
A  The population of those mainly engaged in farming was 3,845,000 (including both male and female workers), down 1.2% from the previous year, but that of those aged 65 years old and over showed a 2.1% increase. As a result, the ratio of aged workers of 65 years old and over accounted for 51.3%, more than half of the total farming population.
 
B  The number of young new farmers exceeded 10,000 for the first time since 1962, with 11,000 in 1998. The number of inquiries regarding new entry and the number of those who asked for advice have both been increasing and 136 young people, more than twice from the previous year, newly participated in farming in 1998.
 
C  The number of new farmers except for farmers coming from farm households has been increasing and reached 460 in the year starting June 1998. Municipalities that provide some support for those farmers entering the profession attracted more of them than those that do not, suggesting the existence of a correlation between municipality efforts and the number of entrants. On the other hand, the problems facing those new farmers vary depending on their specific path to farming. In order to keep motivated young new farmers, national and local governments, municipalities, and other relevant organizations should provide well-organized support services by sharing responsibilities and working closely together.
 
D  The number of aged post-retirement farmers has also increased and play important roles in maintaining agricultural land in hilly and mountainous areas. It is necessary to maintain and use regional agricultural resources, making the best use of their high motivation in farming.
 
 
(2)  Securing and Making Effective Use of Agricultural Land and Water Resources    (Chart)
 
@  Agricultural land, the most fundamental element for agricultural production, has been shrinking year by year to 4.87 million hectares in 1999, after peaking at about 6.09 million hectares in 1961. Approximately 1 million hectares of agricultural land have increased through agricultural land development and reclamation, while approximately 2.2 million hectares have been ruined by the conversion to non-farming use and the abandonment of cultivated land.
 
A  Several provisions of the Law Concerning Establishment of Agricultural Promotion Areas were amended in July 1999 to preserve quality agricultural land under the appropriate land use plan.
  To prevent and eliminate abandoning, it is effective to facilitate the integrated use of agricultural land by core farmers by effectively combining "soft" measures such as fostering core farmers and "hard" measures such as improving agricultural production infrastructures.
 
B  Field division enlargement through the improvement facilitated the mechanization of farming operations and the improvement of farming techniques, resulting in sharply increased labor productivity of rice cropping. The improved farming conditions also contributed to the increased fluidity of land and the prevention of land abandoning. The creation of multipurpose paddy fields and integrated land use by core farmers should be further promoted to increase the land utilization rate.
 
C  The volume of water used for agricultural purposes was about 59 billion m3, equivalent to two thirds of the total water usage in Japan. Irrigation facilities in paddy fields are very effective in the cyclical use of water, because most of the water intake turns into subsurface water or returns into the downstream of rivers.
 
D  Agricultural water is used not only for irrigation, but also functions as regional water, such as for fire prevention in rural communities, melting snow, cleaning agricultural machinery, preserving the rural landscape, ecosystem and water quality. Water use facilities also play important roles in regional society, by receiving regional drainage such as rainwater and household wastewater.
 
E  Water use facilities for agriculture are national assets worth about 22 trillion yen in monetary value (estimated based on 1995 figures). The appropriate improvement and maintenance is necessary to make them fully functional. These facilities are managed by land improvement districts as farmers' organizations, as well as community organizations and individual farmers. There are growing concerns over the management level because it has been deteriorating due to several factors, such as farm and non-farm households living side by side, the increasing number of part-time farmers, and the aging society, to add to the inherent difficulty in managing such facilities. In the midst of increasing awareness of the importance of facility management among non-farmers, the improvement and enhancement of the management system is strongly required.
 
F  Agricultural water can be converted to city water use in response to demand increases if applicable, while keeping the required volume for original purposes. It also can be used in a coordinated manner with water for other usage, for example, by saving it through a substantial investment of labor and cost to mitigate the water shortage for daily use during the dry season.
 
G  The improvement of agricultural production infrastructures, such as fields, water use facilities, rural roads, and fire-prevention in agricultural land, should be strategically promoted in line with policy matters and regional needs. Many parties concerned acknowledge the importance of such infrastructure improvement, including those who agree on a conditional basis. It is important to give full consideration to harmony with the local environment and the effective and efficient implementation in accordance with regional characteristics.
 
 
(3) Technological Development and Its Dissemination for Sound Agricultural Development   (Table)
 
@  Technological development in the postwar era increased productivity and added higher value, greatly contributing to agricultural production (e.g. mechanized and integrated work systems of rice-cropping, vegetable grafting techniques, apical meristem culture, and artificial insemination of livestock). In November 1999, the "Basic Targets for Researches and Development on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries" was published, which focuses on two major fields of research: technologies to support farming operations such as the improvement of productivity and management structure, and technologies to bring about innovative agricultural techniques such as genomic sequencing and environmental researches. For the effective implementation of this plan, it is necessary to improve the relevant systems and to establish specific R&D targets and strategies.
 
A  Extension activities play important roles in technological transfers from research institutions to farming operators. It is far more necessary to facilitate cooperation with R&D institutes in order to make them more responsive to sophisticated technological and management needs.
 
B  Subjects given higher priority by farmers such as the establishment of land extensive farming require prompt and concerted efforts by public and private sectors.
 
C  For industrial development using biotechnology, it is important to aggressively promote basic and fundamental researches such as genomic sequencing and to encourage technological development for practical use. Research and development of genetic modification technologies should be continuously carried out, fully considering the environmental effects and secured safety, and at the same time encouraging the public understanding. 
 
 
 
Section 3 Diverse Workforce and Farming Operations
 
(1) Farming Economy in 1998    (Table)
 
@  The total income of business farm households*(22% of all commercial farm households) was 8.17 million yen in 1998 (up 2.8% from the previous year). This represents 87% of semi-business farm households and 96% of side business farm households.
(*Households whose main income source is farming and whose workforce aged under 65 years old is engaged in farming for more than 60 days in a year)
  In 1999 (rough estimates, commercial farm households), agricultural gross income declined 4.0% from the previous year, agricultural income down 9.4%, and non-agricultural income down 3.5%, resulting in a 3.3% decline in the total farm income.
 
A  When compared with the average income per household member, commercial farm households earned more than non-farming households did while that of business farm households was less. In terms of per capita daily income, the average agricultural income of commercial farm households accounted for a little over 30% of the average wage of those engaged in manufacturing while that of business farm households represented around 50%.
 
 
(2) Trends in Various Workforce
 
A. Activities of Various Workforce
 
  Agriculture in Japan has been supported not only by independent farmers, but also by various types of workforce depending on regional conditions. Given that fact, it is necessary to foster those workforce such as the management entities of approved arm units, community farming, agricultural service establishments, and quasi-public entities ("third sector"), and to establish a mechanism to facilitate a complementary relationship among these operators.
 
@  Approved farm units
  The number of farm units approved under the Agricultural Management Framework Reinforcement Law reached about 140,000 as of the end of September 1999(Chart). Taking into account the latest situation of those farmers with 5 years of experience after approval, municipalities should take measures for reapproval so that such farmers can earn a reasonable income and improve their management.
 
A  Community farming
  Community farming is very effective in maintaining regional agricultural production activities and using agricultural land and machinery effectively. Thus, this form of farming should be further promoted with the aim of sustainable development of Japanese agriculture emphasizing traditional paddy field farming. In this respect, organizations should be established from a long-term standpoint, while giving due consideration to the current situation and future direction of regional agriculture and securing successors in a strategic manner.
  Communities which have reached a certain consensus should move on to establish specific agricultural corporations and develop them as leading operators in community farming.
 
B Agricultural service establishments
  Agricultural service establishments support regional farmers with different needs and provide more sophisticated technical services. Their importance is steadily increasing. Accordingly, it is necessary to secure and foster human resources (i.e. operators) and stimulate service demand.
 
C  Quasi-public entities ("third sector")
  Although expectations in quasi-public entities as one of the major types of workforce have been growing, many entities are suffering from a deficit. In establishing and managing these entities, it is important to review regional issues thoroughly and evaluate operation details and management effectiveness so that they can obtain full agreement from regions.
 
D Fostering workforce and promoting community farming through the implementation of direct payments to hilly and mountainous areas
  Given the rolling topography (or uneven configuration), community farming is very effective in increasing agricultural income in hilly and mountainous areas. Workforce and community farming should be further developed through direct payments under the conclusion of community agreements and additional payment to increased operation size of workforce.
 
 
B. The Role of Women in Farming Operations and Rural Areas
 
@  Women play important roles in farming and housekeeping, and in recent years more women have become involved in regional social activities. The participation of women in regional decision-making processes, however, remains inactive, although remarkable increases in the number of female agricultural committee members were observed(Chart).
 
A  In recent years, women have been more actively involved in business start-ups, greatly contributing to the revitalization of rural areas. Given this fact, more women-friendly environments should be created.
 
B  The Basic Law for a Gender Equal Society and the new Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas had been established one after another. "Guidelines to promote a Gender Equal Rural Society" also proposes specific targets for female involvement and regional- based planning. The traditional perception of gender roles will be reviewed through such specific measures.
 
 
C. Roles of Aged Farmers as Workforce
 
@  With the aging agricultural population, the ratio of aged farmers (65 years old and over) to the total number of labor days of self-employed farmers has been increasing (41% for male, 35% for female), as well as the ratio of aged farmers to total production. Agriculture in Japan has long been characterized by a larger share of older operators.
 
A  Elderly farmers are heavily involved in operating agricultural machinery and accordingly the number of fatal accidents at work has been increasing. It is necessary to initiate safety measures for farming operations and improve working and living conditions so that they can remain active throughout their lives.
 
 
(3) Reality and Future Issues of Agricultural Legal Person
 
@  The number of agricultural production legal persons, which operate farming in agricultural land with their rights transferred, was 5,587 in 1999, and a form of limited company, in particular, showed remarkable increases(Chart).
  Corporate management is effective in improving managers' awareness and enhancing management structure, and as well contributes to the revitalization of rural communities and the development of regional agriculture, by creating new job opportunities, fostering new farmers, and using agricultural land effectively.
 
A  The sound management of agricultural legal persons requires active marketing. It is important to establish an extensive network, for example, by exchanging information with counterparts in other industries, as well as to encourage operators to demonstrate their originality and creativity.
 
B  The Committee on Agricultural Production Legal Persons reviewed the requirements for agricultural production corporations, with a view to introducing the form of incorporated companies, in order to promote viable corporate management. The final results were summarized in July 1999 and the relevant laws will be revised and enacted in 2000.     
 
 
 
Section 4  Trends in Japan's Agricultural Supply/Demand and Development of Paddy Field-Land Extensive Farming
 
(1) Development of Paddy Field-Land Extensive Farming    (Chart)
 
A. Trends in Rice Supply and Demand
 
@  Rice supply and demand has been on an easing trend and the balance has been heading toward recovery thanks to the largest production adjustment of rice and emergency measures for stable rice supply and demand. Still, homegrown rice stocks exceed the appropriate level. 1999 rice crops remained "normal" with 101 of the crop index, and the production volume was 9,175,000 tons.
 
A  The price of voluntarily marketed rice in 1999 has been declining mainly due to consumers' preference for lower-priced products, and price differences between major varieties have been narrowing. In recent years, the prices of voluntarily marketed rice have shown a tendency to be responsive to trends in supply and demand largely due to improved bidding systems. Greater importance will be attached to planned production in accordance with demand.
 
 
B. Implementation of Planned Rice Production and Issues pertaining to Full-Scale Production of Wheat and Soybeans
 
@  The production of wheat and soybeans in paddy fields has not been extensively implemented, because planted areas change considerably along with the changing size of the production adjustment of rice. Higher profit, however, could be gained because of the higher efficiency enabled by group farming and integrated land use of core farmers, as well as quality improvement. Disseminating the best practices nationwide may be effective in promoting this type of farming.
 
A  Wheat and soybeans vary considerably in terms of yield and quality, and a system to supply homogenous products in a large lot, in response to consumers' needs, has not been fully established. To improve this situation, it is necessary to demonstrate basic farming techniques on farms, develop varieties reflecting end-users' evaluations, and improve and stabilize yield and quality by securing required lots.
 
B  In the area of feed crops, efficient production should be encouraged through field grouping, while promoting close cooperation between cultivated plant farmers and livestock farmers.
 
C  In order to use paddy fields effectively and promote land extensive farming, it is necessary to establish highly profitable and stable paddy fields farming operations, as well as to improve product quality and establish a system for stable supply. For such purposes, region-wide and concerted efforts by producers, producer associations, and governments are required.
 
D  The "Outline for Measures to Promote Paddy Field-Land Extensive Farming" was prepared in October 1999. The Outline focuses on planned rice production that should be responsive to consumers' demands and full-scale production of wheat, soybeans and feed crops in paddy fields. This Outline also reviewed the distribution method for production adjustment of rice, initiating the shift of method from the "target area of production adjustment of rice" to the "guidelines for rice production and planted areas". In addition, a 5-year stable subsidy system was established to further encourage full-scale production of land extensive products.
 
E  In the Japanese agricultural industry developed on paddy-field farming, land extensive farming is essential to increase domestic production under the new Basic Law. Expectations are growing that producers nationwide should make efforts to extensively produce wheat, soybeans and feed crops on their business decisions and to work for the sustainable agricultural development and increased self-sufficiency ratio through the realization of highly profitable paddy-field farming.
 
 
C. Use of Market Mechanism and Implementation of Farm Management Stabilization Measures
 
@  Wheat will be distributed through the private sector in 2000, and the bidding process has already started in September 1999. The bidding results would reflect the consumers' evaluations and accordingly different prices would be assessed to different varieties. The subsidy system of soybeans will also be reviewed and changed into such a mechanism as to reflect the market evaluation in the producers' net price.
 
A  Management stabilization measures introduced to mitigate the adverse effects of price fluctuations on farming operations will be applicable to the soybeans produced in 2000 and subsequent crop years(Chart).
Similar measures will be introduced to wheat farms for those produced in and after 2000, along with the shift to private-sector distribution.
 
B  About 90 % of voluntarily marketed rice (in volume) adopted the Rice Farming Income Stabilization Program over two consecutive years (1998 and 1999). Many producers evaluate this measure very highly as more than 90% of participants intend to continue their participation. Given that fact, expanded measures will be introduced to add a merit system for farmers holding considerable surpluses.
 
C  In order to promote stable farm management, farming operations to be developed should be considered as a whole management entity, not in terms of individual crops. From such a viewpoint, it is necessary to examine a certain mechanism to mitigate fluctuations in agricultural revenues or incomes along with changing commodity prices, while taking account of the pricing policy review by item, implementation status of stabilization measures, and the relation with the compensation scheme for agricultural (natural) disasters.
 
 
(2) Trends in Supply and Demand of Horticulture Products and Livestock    (Chart)
 
A. Trends in Supply and Demand of Vegetables and Fruits
 
@  Vegetable prices have experienced major fluctuations; they remained low after the sharply increased prices of the fall/winter varieties in 1998 had settled down, went up again in summer 1999, and then went back on a declining trend due to the increased supply after September in the same year. Given these circumstances, it is necessary to establish a new system to maintain a stable vegetable supply while responding to various needs.
 
A  For the large mandarin oranges (unshu mikan) of the 1999 crop year, planned production and shipment including fruit thinning was promoted as supply and demand was highly likely to break its balance due to the predicted good harvest and the existing stock level of fruit juices. But, poor quality influenced by bad weather mainly in Western Japan resulted in lower prices. Appropriate measures are continuously required to maintain a balance between supply and demand, for example, by using fresh fruits for fruit juice processing.
 
 
B. Maintaining and Developing the Livestock Industry in Japan
 
@  Although the demand for livestock products has been steadily growing, overall it has remained stable in recent years. Domestic production has been declining in line with the decreasing number of livestock being raised in a year. With imports up from the U.S. and other countries, pork imports have increased again in 1998 after a sharp decline in 1997 triggered by banned imports of Taiwanese pork following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
 
A  The production of self-supplied feed is extremely important in increasing the food self-sufficiency ratio in line with the increased grain self-sufficiency ratio, reducing production cost, stabilizing farm management, and dealing with livestock-oriented environmental problems by promptly plowing back livestock manure into grass fields. Planted areas of feed crops, however, have remained unchanged in recent years mainly due to aging farmers and a labor shortage caused by the expanded size of operations. It is necessary to promote the production of self-supplied feeds, by providing more support to relevant activities toward the organizing and contracting (commissioning) of feed production, for example, fostering contractors.
 
B  Livestock farming is characterized by the large initial investment required for arrangement of equipment and machinery, purchasing of animals, and slow capital turnover. To eliminate the adverse effects as mentioned above, concerted and organized efforts by relevant organizations are required so that the Japanese style of livestock business succession system can be promoted in accordance with the real situation, for example, by facilitating smooth succession to a third party without disturbing ongoing operations even in the temporary absence of successors, and by encouraging new entrants to use the land of retired farmers.
 
 
 
Section 5 Preserving and Improving the Natural Cyclical Functions of Agriculture
 
(1) Establishment and Dissemination of Efforts for Sustainable Agricultural Production in Harmony with the Environment    (Chart)
 
@  In recent years, several cases were observed in which decreasing activities for soil enrichment with manure and improper use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides had adverse effects on the environment. It is necessary to take measures for sustainable agricultural production in better harmony with the environment in preserving and improving the natural cyclical functions of agriculture.
 
A  There has been a growing movement toward environmentally friendly farming which makes the best use of the physical cyclical functions of agriculture and reduces the usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides by enriching soil with manure.  This movement has still yet to fully penetrate farms.
 
B  An analysis of farmers adopting such a farming style revealed several problems such as the unstable yield and greater labor input despite some advantages in the sales price, gross profit and income.
 
C  It is necessary to decrease such obstacles as much as possible in order to promote the movement. Some of the most effective efforts are to develop and disseminate relevant farming techniques such as good soil management, weed control, application of manure, and to establish a nationwide certification system.
  Under these circumstances, "The Law Concerning the Promotion of a Highly Sustainable Agricultural Production Method" (enforced in October 1999) and "The Law Amending Several Provisions of the Law Concerning Standardization and Proper Labeling of Agricultural and Forestry Products" (established in July 1999, to be enforced in April 2000) are to be implemented. The former provides for support on financial and taxation matters to farmers who introduce the integrated production method which enriches soil with manure and reduces the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides at the same time. The latter improves a system in which only those products inspected and certified will be permitted to use the "organic" label and distributed to the general public.
 
 
(2) Promotion of Proper Treatment and Use of Livestock Soil
 
  Livestock farming poses several problems affecting the regional living environment, such as bad odor caused by the improper treatment of livestock soil (i.e., field heaping and dig-and-throw) and water pollution. It is necessary to further encourage the effective use of livestock soil as resources (organic type of fertilizer). In consideration of these situations, "The Law concerning the Proper Treatment and Increased Use of Livestock Soil" was enacted in November 1999 in order to encourage proper treatment and use of such soil.
 
 
(3) Establishment of a System Using Organic Resources in a Cyclical Manner
 
@  Organic waste discharged from foods and farm products can be reused as useful resources(Chart). A system using such waste in a cyclical manner should be established. To promote the cyclical use of organic resources, "The Law Amending Several Provisions of the Fertilizer Control Law" was promulgated in July 1999 and will be enforced in October 2000 (partial enforcement at the same time of promulgation). The Law aims to improve a labeling system of fertilizer ingredients (composition) for the proper use of manure.
 
A  The agricultural industry should also promote the proper treatment of agricultural production materials such as used plastic. Although efforts for proper disposal of used plastic have been steadily implemented, there still exist several issues to deal with such as reduction of the recycling cost and development of new usage of recycled products.
 
 
(4) Enhancement of Global-wide Efforts to Solve Environmental Problems in the Field of Agriculture
 
 Global warming caused by increases in greenhouse gases such as CO2 is causing great concern about serious effects on agricultural production, through sea-level rises and changes in climate patterns. It is important that farming businesses should also make efforts to develop and promote the use of energy-saving technologies in order to reduce green house gasses. Methyl bromide used as a soil disinfectant in growing vegetables and flowers is designated as an ozone layer depletion substance, and alternative technologies should be further developed and promoted.
 
 
 
 
 
Chapter III Rural Area Promotion and Fulfillment of the Multi-functionality of Agriculture
 
Section 1 Current Situation in Rural Areas    (Chart)
 
(1) Population in Rural Areas and Changes in Farming Communities
 
@  The population of rural areas has been on a continual decline. Despite the growth in the total population (up 0.2 %), hilly and mountainous areas have been experiencing population decreases because of both natural and social factors. Mountainous areas, in particular, have been faced with a sharp population decline (down 0.9%).
 
A  Most rural community members used to be farmers and the ratio of farmers has been sharply declining due to farmers and non-farmers now living side by side ever since the period of high economic growth. Hilly and mountainous areas with disadvantages in production and living conditions have seen local communities shrinking or even disappearing. On the other hand, suburban areas have observed communities expanding mainly due to the inflow of non-farming households.
 
B  Communities near densely inhabited districts (DID) (in terms of hourly distance) are growing in size, while those in remote locations are shrinking. Living amenities such as culture, health care, education and entertainment in rural areas have to be largely dependent on city areas, which is a major drawback to settling in rural communities.
 
 
(2) Unique Issues in Rural Communities
 
@  Depopulation mainly in hilly and mountainous areas makes it difficult to maintain living and farming activities in those areas. To encourage settlement, it is necessary to make specific efforts to create living environments that are more attractive for would-be residents, for example, securing job opportunities through promotion of farming and local industries, and improving accessibility to nearby cities.
 
A  The population of rural areas has been aging faster than the national average. On the other hand, rural areas are places where the elderly can be active by participating in farming and community activities throughout their lives depending on their level of skill and physical abilities. It is necessary to improve conditions enabling them to live in such a way.
 
B  It is an urgent task to improve social services in which elderly persons requiring supervised care can be provided region-wide support. In this respect, expectations are very high toward roles played by the local Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA), not only those played by local governments. In the event that the elderly are no longer able to continue farming operations, several measures should be put in place, such as measures against land abandoning, and support services for farming and daily living.
 
C  It is also important to encourage young people to settle down in rural areas. For this purpose, it is essential to create more attractive environments, by making the best use of regional characteristics, making a more open society through the improvement of social customs and living conditions, and encouraging both men and women to participate in community activities for the establishment of gender equal rural communities. 
 
 
 
Section 2 Multi-functionality of Agriculture and Efforts toward Fulfillment
 
(1) Specific Elements of Multi-functionality of Agriculture and Their Evaluation (ChartTable)
 
@  Multi-functional roles demonstrated through appropriate agricultural production activities in rural areas include roles to preserve national land and the natural environment, foster water resources, create scenic landscapes, and pass on cultures. Multi-functionality, thus, means a lot to public life and the national economy. The results of researches conducted nationwide find that there are high expectations toward this multi-functionality of agriculture.
 
A  Although various efforts have been made to encourage a better understanding of the multi-functionality of agriculture, both the scientific and quantitative information and the method to evaluate economic externalities of the multi-functionality in a quantitative manner are inadequate. Further efforts are required to obtain the public understanding and make them aware of the importance of multi-functionality. It is necessary to encourage further efforts to clarify the multi-functionality more adequately and develop appropriate evaluation methods.
 
 
(2) Characteristics of Farming in Hilly and Mountainous Areas and Introduction of Direct Payments in Such Areas   (ChartTable)
 
@  Hilly and mountainous areas stretching from the outskirts of plains to mountain areas produce about 40% of total agricultural production in Japan. Also, their general location in the upstream of rivers makes them function as a breakwater to protect the living infrastructures of residents in downstream areas by demonstrating the multi-functional roles of agricultural production activities.
 
A  Hilly and mountainous areas are characterized by the high ratio of forest land and steep slopes, providing narrow farming areas and having adverse effects on work efficiency. Thus, hilly and mountainous areas have disadvantages in land extensive farming such as rice cropping, making both productivity and income very low.
  In these areas, the core population of farming has been aging and many farmers reduced their operation size or were forced to leave farming. The ratio of land abandoned is twice as much as in flat rural areas.
 
B  In recent years, several countermeasures have been introduced, such as establishing quasi-public entities and preserving and managing agricultural lands through the introduction of the Terrace Paddies Ownership System, in order to prevent such abandoning. Still, further efforts are required to prevent nationwide abandoning trends. Such efforts should be implemented at a national level and encourage the fulfillment of the multi-functionality of agriculture.
  Under these circumstances, direct payments in hilly and mountainous areas will be introduced in 2000, with the view to preventing such land abandonment and encouraging the demonstration of multi-functionality. It is necessary to study the actual usage situation and evaluate its effects in order to obtain the public understanding of this measure.
  Hilly and mountainous areas have also been suffering from damage on agricultural products caused by wildlife habitats due to the proximity to forest land, which is also one of the factors behind the abandoning. Appropriate measures, such as the protective control of wildlife habitats, are necessary.
 
 
 
Section 3 Comprehensive Promotion of Rural Areas
 
(1) Improvement in accordance with Regional Characteristics   (Chart)
 
@  Rural areas are places where the agricultural industry has been developed and people live their daily life, including farmers. They are also places where multi-functionality is demonstrated in the course of agricultural production.
 
A  Living infrastructures in rural areas lag far behind those in urban areas, and improvement is essential in encouraging settlement in rural areas. Given the close relationship between agricultural infrastructures and living environments, which characterizes rural areas, both of them should be improved in a comprehensive way.
 
B  Many urban residents find "comfort", "peace" and a "sense of satisfaction" in the landscape and beautiful nature of rural areas. The "Grand Design of National Land in the 21st Century", a new national grand development plan, suggests the creation of "residential areas surrounded by beautiful nature". To facilitate the creation of beautiful and rich country space, it is necessary to give thorough consideration to the preservation of the landscape and natural environment and the cyclical use of regional resources.
 
C  For resident-friendly rural areas, life-supporting services, such as medical and social services, education and cultural facilities, and traffic and telecommunication infrastructures, are essential. In this respect, region-wide efforts are necessary, for example, in the form of a regional union which promotes inter-municipality cooperation and provides administrative services that a single municipality cannot deal with sufficiently.
  Important in future efforts for rural area promotion are; clarifying the specific roles of each government (national, local and municipalities), encouraging the participation of various entities including local residents and businesses, and reaching a consensus through active communication between government and local residents.
 
 
(2) Efforts toward the Creation of More Vital Rural Areas   (Chart)
 
@  To create more vital rural areas, various efforts have been made, such as several industrial promotions including agriculture and forestry, voluntary joint programs in preserving regional landscapes and active exchanges with urban residents. Agriculture centered industrial promotion, which is initiated regionally, plays an effective role, such as support for new farmers and community activities provided by municipalities.
 
A  Along with a growing national movement of business activities for which community groups utilize unique regional resources, there is a movement to transfer such activities into regionally born businesses. Expectations are growing concerning such rural areas' efforts as to create new markets by making the best use of various regional resources, in close association with private companies.
  Some examples and issues to consider are as follows:
 
・ The promotion of joint activities with local residents actively involved is observed in many municipalities, such as morning markets selling fresh produce, social services for the elderly, regional landscape preservation and nature conservation, and exchange activities between urban and rural residents. The proper support should be provided to these activities.
 
・ In rural areas, there used to be people who passed on traditional cultures to the next generations such as regional events, festivals and arts. In this respect, a decreasing and aging population poses a serious problem to rural areas. Traditional arts play important roles in creating attractive rural areas, and accordingly support services should be provided for the purpose of cultural preservation and inheritance.
 
・ To narrow the information gap between urban and rural areas and to promote regional agriculture and improve social services for the elderly, governments and local Japan Agricultural Cooperatives have taken the initiative in improving information technology (IT) infrastructures in rural areas. Yet, the rate of penetration of IT facilities is still low, requiring further efforts. The Internet and other relevant technologies could play a more critical role in creating more vital agriculture and rural areas in the future.
 
 
(3) Promotion of Exchanges Between Urban and Rural Areas   (Chart)
 
A. Exchanges Between Urban and Rural Areas
 
@  With the increasing public awareness of "spiritual well-being" expressed in terms such as "comfort" and "peace" rather than "material wealth", exchanges between urban and rural residents have become more active.
  But, there are many issues to deal with in managing such exchange activities, because of an observed gap between objectives and actual effects.
 
A  Exchanges between urban and rural areas require planning from a long-term standpoint to facilitate the better understanding of the general public about agriculture and rural areas, and to promote the creation of healthy and satisfying living. Thus, it is essential to improve conditions from both the human resources and facilities perspectives toward the creation of an attractive rural society, with due consideration given to the needs urban residents.
 
 
B. Farming Experience and Education through Farming
 
@  Experience of living in a natural environment has many positive effects on children during different stages of personality development in terms of developing a sound mind and acquiring a sense of morality and justice. There have been growing expectations of such experience in terms of both academic and emotional education.
 
A  Such farming experience provides not only valuable experience of living in a natural environment but also deepens children's understanding of agriculture and helps rural areas secure key farmers for the future. In association with the Ministry of Education and other relevant organizations, these activities should be further promoted, for example, by providing more opportunities to experience farming and improving existing programs.
 
 
C. Roles of Urban Farming
 
@  Farming in urban areas and their neighboring areas plays various roles in preserving the landscape and providing recreational places and disaster-control space, in addition to the production and supply of fresh vegetables and other farm products. While working in harmony with urban and their neighboring areas, proper efforts should be implemented to ensure the sound development of farming in accordance with the needs of urban residents.
 
A  In recent years, private farmland for community use have been increasingly established in urban areas, and such gardens provide places not only to experience farming but also for exchanges between producers and consumers. It is necessary to increase various efforts for the further development of private farmland for community use.
 
 
 
 
 
◎ For further informations, please contact the Research Division of the Ministers Secretariat at (03)3502-0960