The Articulation of Rice Policy and Rural Social Development Policy Beyond the Discussion on Social Adaptability to the New System

I was initially requested by symposium organizers to elaborate on how rural society will react to the new, alternative rice policies described by other discussants. I discuss in this paper, however, not only the social reaction to the policies, but also an introduction to rural social development policy that has rarely been elaborated on in agricultural policy. Like modern society in general, people in rural society have lost many opportunities to cooperate with each other. Rural social development policy should also aim at enriching rural human relationships. When examining the adaptability of rural society to new policies, the desire for social stability more often than not restricts policy choices to a more conservative direction. What is needed is to transform the position that excludes rural society from agricultural policy to a more comprehensive stance. To make agricultural policy more positive, I introduce an ethical perspective, which moves rural people to change their behavior. The ethics of reciprocity is an inherited, adhered-to character in Japan's rural society. Though the ethics of reciprocity works traditionally within small communities, it might be expanded beyond the locally-bonded territory and be the base of generating new relationships with outside people, above all, consumers. Taking rice policy and the ethics of reciprocity into account, we can discover the significance of enkomai, rice that is distributed within extended families. Rice has special meaning as a staple food and the number of farmers that have given rice to their relatives has increased during the last three decades. On the other hand, full-time rice farmers have been increasingly engaged in direct sales, because they wish to compensate for the decline of the price of rice by cutting intermediary margins. If such direct sales become a stable relationship between farmers and consumers, the ethics of reciprocity might gradually work among them as well. The new rice policy should be planned comprehensively, involving production and distribution, and be based on ethical motivation.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Rural Economics, Volume 82, Number 2
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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