Friday, July 18, 2014

Correction - Richard Katz Response To “Urban Harvest Tokyo”

In my post yesterday, I stated Richard Katz wants the micro farms inside Japanese cities abolished. I wrote off the top of my head and did not confirm with Mr. Katz his actual position.

This is his actual position, taken from an email to me:

I never said that these tiny farms should be abolished. What I said was that the property taxes on farmland, particularly urban farmland, should be the same as those on other land, and that the assessments for tax purposes should be the same. What I suspect is that many of these would no longer be commercially viable without the tax break and would go out of business. If so, the farmers should be allowed to sell their land to agribusiness or even nonfarm uses.

I have as much appreciation for nature and fresh garden vegetables as the next guy, but I don’t see why the rest of taxpayers should subsidize the old farmer in your neighborhood or your food budget. If you want him to survive, pay him the price it takes to cover his costs, without getting help from other taxpayers. When I left the speech at Temple University where you heard my comments, one man came up to me and told me that, on weekends, he went out to the nearby countryside to do gardening on land owned by someone else who had become too old to use it. It was his hobby. His hobby is subsidized by other taxpayers. My dad had a vegetable garden in our backyard every year, as did many people in my small town. But none of them required the rest of the taxpayers in the town and state to subsidize his hobby.

What I also said was that, all over Japan, land use laws that make it difficult for farmers to sell their land for nonfarm purposes. They should be abolished. That way, farmers who survive only because of huge subsidies, and most of whom are part-timers anyway, could make some money by selling their land for other purposes, if they chose. As of 2010--the latest figures I have readily at hand—the ratio of abandoned farmland as of 2010 stood at 14% IN URBAN AREAS, 6% in flat farming areas, 14% in hilly farming areas, and 16% in mountainous farming areas. All of these figures are about double their levels in 1995 and will only increase as farmers age and pass away. Land that could be used for better purposes lies useless.

How does it benefit anyone to have 14% of urban farmland lying around useless, even with the tax breaks. One wonders how much would be abandoned without the tax breaks.

My apologies to Rick Katz for misrepresenting his position.

Image: Man hoeing marginal urban farmland plot. Setagaya City, Tokyo Metropolitan District on July 18. 2014.
Image courtesy: MTC

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