Tough love to save our farms

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Tough love to save our farms

In this high-tech information age, agriculture took a back seat in Korean society a long time ago. In fact, some have even made the extreme assertion that agriculture is a stumbling block to the country’s economic development.

Since the Korean government opened the country’s rice market, the agricultural industry has suffered even more. The government poured in huge subsidies hoping to revive it, but to no avail. There is an old Korean saying that farming is an indispensable part of society. While that may hold some truth even today, it’s pretty obvious that it can no longer grow on its own.

All you have to do is to take a look at Korea’s rural communities. The population is fast dropping, while the average age is rising. It’s apparent young people are leaving those areas because they’re failing to find a future there.

Korea’s Agriculture Ministry held a workshop Sunday dubbed the “Key to the Agriculture Ministry’s Survival: Creative Destruction.” The most interesting feature of the workshop was the discussion titled “Five Ways to Mess Up the Agriculture Ministry.”

Officials attending the event said they should “do away with giving indiscriminate subsidies and devising policies that put more focus on political and social implications rather than economic rationality.”

They also pointed out the ministry’s defensive work attitude that is usually not in sync with changes in markets at home and abroad. These accusations are in fact often leveled at government officials in Korea.

The agriculture industry is the last place that we want to lose ground. Whenever a food crisis erupts around the world, people realize the importance of the farming sector.

We cannot deny the fact that we are slowly killing the agriculture industry by giving them extreme protection. We should adopt “tough love,” not rely on indiscriminate subsidies.

Farmers themselves should change, too. In some advanced countries, the agriculture industry is in fact deemed a growth engine, a source of biotechnology and alternative energy.

Thus farm owners should implement more future-oriented systems, converging production, processing and distribution.

All in all, unless the farm sector finds some new ways to revive itself, as is being done in some other countries, it may become too late to save it.

The Agriculture Ministry’s workshop concluded that unless there is “creative destruction,” Korea’s agriculture industry may not have a future.

We hope that this blunt assessment will be the first step toward a farm revolution that will help it escape its chronic crisis.
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