Date City in Fukushima Prefecture is located in the high-radiation "Nakadori" middle third of the prefecture. The farm soil is so contaminated that if the rice farmers are to be prohibited from growing rice in the areas that produced rice that contained more than 100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium last year, nearly 64% of the rice paddies in Date city cannot be cultivated this year (link goes to Asahi Shinbun Fukushima local version 2/8/2012).
So what does the city do? Force the farmers to till the land, or the land will be considered "abandoned". The city is threatening the farmers who didn't grow last year to till the land this year if they want to remain farmers.
Tokyo Shinbun has the story that I haven't seen anywhere else yet.
From Tokyo Shinbun (2/8/2012):
米から国の基準を上回る放射性物質が検出された福島県伊達市で、土壌汚染や被ばくへの懸念から耕作できなかっ た農家に対し、市農業委員会が田畑を耕作放棄地と扱う通知を出した。「農地として適切に利用されていない」として耕すよう指導。一月中旬に通知を受けた同 市の小野寛さん（５１）は「耕すと放射性物質が土に混ざる」と困惑している。
Radioactive materials exceeding the national provisional standard have been found in rice harvested in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture last year. But the city's Agricultural Committee has sent notices to the farmers who didn't farm last year because of soil contamination and fear of the radiation exposure, and told them their farmland will be considered abandoned. The committee is instructing the farmers to till the farmland, because their land is "not appropriately utilized as farmland". One of the farmers, Hiroshi Ono (age 51) in Date City, is bewildered. "If I till, I'll mix up radioactive materials in the soil."
The Agricultural Committees in municipalities conduct the annual survey of the abandoned farmland, in accordance with the Agricultural Land Act. As soon as the farmers receive the notice, their land is considered abandoned, and the owners (farmers) are basically prohibited from acquiring new farmland. This time, Date City's Agricultural Committee has issued about 200 such notices.
Ono grows rice and wheat on his 2000 square-meter plot. The crops are mostly for own consumption, but he sells part of the crops. He grows organic rice with his own unique method of suppressing weeds by growing rye in fall and cutting it down when the rice season arrives.
昨年三月の原発事故で、田畑は毎時三マイクロシーベルトと高い線量が検出された。単純計算で年間二〇ミリシーベルトを超え、政府が避難を促す基準 を超える値だ。「作っても食べられない」と判断し田植えをやめた。土ぼこりなどを吸って被ばくする懸念があったため、ライ麦と小麦の収穫もせず、田畑はそ のままにしていた。「除染さえできれば耕作するつもりだった。放棄したわけじゃない」。小野さんは農業委員会に通知を取り消すよう求めたが、受け入れられなかった。
After the nuclear plant accident in March last year, his farmland measured high radiation, 3 microsieverts/hour. The annual cumulative radiation would exceed 20 millisieverts, the level at which the national government would prompt evacuation. "Even if I grow, the crops won't be edible." He didn't plant rice last year. Since there was a worry of internal radiation exposure from inhaling dust from the land, he didn't even harvest rye and wheat, and didn't do anything with his farmland. "If decontamination was possible, I was going to grow crops. It's not that I abandoned." Ono asked the Agricultural Committee to rescind the notice, but the committee refused.
There is a clause in the Agricultural Land Act that says the farmland is not considered abandoned in a disaster. The people in charge at the Ministry of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries say, "Ultimately it is up to each Agricultural Committee, but generally speaking, the concern for radiation in Fukushima after the nuclear plant accident should be considered a disaster."
However, Date City's Agricultural Committee's stance is that the committee "will not make any special case for radiation concern unless it is a high-radiation hot spot". Meanwhile, Date City still hasn't come up with the plan to decontaminate the farmland.
Ono sounds helpless when he says, "If I till the land, radioactive materials will be mixed up, and all I can do is to wait for them to disappear naturally. Half life of cesium is 30 years. What am I going to do?"
＜原発事故による耕作規制＞ 農林水産省は昨年、避難区域と土壌調査で１キログラム当たり５０００ベクレルを超える地域の米の作付けを制限。伊達市 は対象外だが、避難区域に近い地域では米から国の暫定規制値（１キログラム当たり５００ベクレル）を超えるセシウムが検出された。規制値は１キログラム当 たり１００ベクレルに引き下げられる見込みで、農水省は今年も作付け制限を検討。除染方法は、表土を地中深くに埋めるなど農水省がいくつか案を示している が、最終的には自治体が方法を決めることになっている。
Restriction of farming due to the nuclear plant accident: Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries restricted the cultivation of rice in the evacuation zones and in areas that were found with 5000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in the soil. Cultivation in Date City was not restricted, but in the areas close to the evacuation zones radioactive cesium exceeding the national provisional limit (500 becquerels/kg) was found in rice. The national limit is set to be lowered to 100 becquerels/kg, and the Ministry is considering restricting the cultivation again this year. There are several methods that the Ministry is proposing to decontaminate the farmland, including burying the top soil deep in the ground. But ultimately, it will be up to the municipalities to decide on the decontamination methods.
That's just ridiculous. It is up to the bureaucrats in local governments to decide how to "decontaminate", and who will "decontaminate" (i.e. farmers themselves), and force them to grow crops, threatening the farmers that unless they till the land, their land is considered abandoned, and they cannot acquire new land in the future.
The system is set up to punish the farmers like Mr. Ono, who wisely refrained from disturbing the contaminated land last year and did not grow radioactive rice and other crops like other farmers did.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.