2019 Volume 128 Issue 2 Pages 209-233
Traditional agricultural practice in the Saga plain was formerly a combination of paddy rice, which was the main crop, and wheat/barley, which was the secondary crop. However, when production adjustments to paddy rice started in the 1970s, the original agricultural practice was changed to a combination of paddy rice and a rotating crop of soybeans along with a secondary crop of wheat/barley. Further, since the 1970s, issues such as competition between agricultural land use and urban land use, income disparity between agricultural and non-agricultural employment, and a shortage of farming successors became serious, which in turn caused great difficulty in sustaining agriculture and farmland. Under such circumstances, farmers in the Saga plain started to develop rural community-based farming as a strategy to sustain agriculture and farmland, as well as to manage the harvesting and drying process of rice, wheat/barley, and soybean collaboratively. Consequently, the block rotation system of cultivating paddy rice and soybeans together with shared use of rice planting and harvesting machines progressed and agriculture and farmland that combined rice, wheat/barley, and soybeans in the region tended to survive. On the other hand, due to a lack of leadership, community cohesion, and full-time farmers, some rural community-based farms began to be converted into agricultural corporations as another strategy. This strategy was encouraged by a new national agricultural policy. There were also farmers who did not participate in rural community-based farming, and many of them were full-time farmers who functioned as certified farmers. Such full-time farmers have expanded the scale of managing arable land by purchasing and leasing farmland (paddy field) from part-time farmers, both inside and outside the region, with the intention of securing successors to carry on agriculture. Thus, large-scale rice farmers gradually amalgamated the paddy fields of part-time farmers and expanded the scale of agricultural management. There were two types of large-scale farmer—farmers maintaining relationships with rural community-based farming and agricultural cooperatives such as JA, and independent farmers who had a tendency to become agricultural corporations. The decision to become an agricultural corporation was largely influenced by several key factors including the existence of a successor to continue farming, managerial skills of business operators, and the level of the family workforce of farmers. In other words, as a result of securing successors, large-scale rice farmers could start businesses such as drying preparation facilities, and build their own sales networks. Further, in order to control substantial production costs, the family workforce was used for production, processing, clerical work, and sales promotions. As a result, agriculture in the Saga plain was supported by rural community-based farming, independent large-scale paddy farmers, and large-scale paddy farmers incorporated into agricultural organizations, and these divisions of the management strategy were based on the degree of agricultural labor and community bonding forces. A series of distinctive strategies largely contributed to the survival and development of agriculture and farmland in the Saga plain.