Israel’s farmers raise pitchforks over planned agricultural reform


Israel’s farmers are ready for a battle, and earlier than firing their first shot, They’ve already given the advertising campaign A popularity, “Operation Defend of Agriculture: Guardians of the Borders.” The goal They’ve Inside their websites is Israel’s Ministry of Finance, and their strategic purpose is to defeat a reform being pushed by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman Which might open the nation As a lot as agricultural imports in a bid to convey dpersonal its notoriously extreme value of dwelling.

On July 21, Lieberman and Agriculture Minister Oded Forer, each of the Yisrael Beiteinu Celebration, introduced a plan to progressively enhance import restrictions and duties on fruits, greens and eggs. The reform, they said, would save Israelis some NIS 2.7 billion ($830 million) a yr, or about NIS 840 ($258) per household.

Beneath the phrases of the proposed reform, farmers will acquire direct subsidies totaling NIS 420 million ($129 million) per yr to compensate them for rivals based mostly on The quantity of land they farm. The farmers Can furtherly acquire tax advantages and enhanced alplaces to import overseas staff. As properly as, price ranges Shall be allotted for agricultural R&D and capital investments To enhance productiveness.

The reform further stipulates thOn the nation of origin Shall be marked on all agricultural produce So as to encourage Israelis To buy Blue and White.

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However the farmers aren’t buying for it.

“The reform will destroy Israeli agriculture,” says Avshalom Vilan, Secretary Widespread of the Israel Farmers Federation, an agricultural economist and former Knesset member.

Israel Beitenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks all by way of a faction meeting On the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on July 26, 2021. Photograph by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Supporters of the reform say the farmers are crying wolf, pointing to An identical reform that allowed butter imports after extreme shortages in 2019. Milk producers warned in the direction of the measures, clpurposeing that if imports have been canceled, the native enterprise would collapse.

Nonetheless, The federal authorities went forward and enhanceed the import duties. Prices went dpersonal, shopper selection enhanced, and Israeli milk producers are still going strong.

‘It will make the tycoons even stronger’

Based on the treasury, The worth of fruits, greens and eggs has risen by as a lot as 80 % over the previous few yrs. However farmers say They do not Appear to be Responsible, and that worths Might be lowered with out enhanceing the prohibitive duties on imports. They are saying That prime worths Outcome from a quantity of factors, collectively with the extreme value of water for agriculture, and, Notably, the extreme ranges of focus in Israel’s meals market that allow middlemen and supermarkets to make extreme income off the backs of consumers whereas farmers are paid rock-backside worths.

The farmers notice that when import duties have been briefly enhanceed Prior to now To beat shortages, the worth paid by consumers has not come dpersonal.

“The reform gained’t create rivals; it will simply make the tycoons even stronger,” Yaron Solomon of the Farmers Union tells JNS. “Lifting of import duties will assist farmers in neighboring nations and the finance minister’s tycoon buddies; We now have already seen Prior to now thOn they don’t move lowered values on to The general public.”

Furtherextra, he provides, “the reform will primarytain Israeli consumers hostages to overseas parts as a Outcome of imports could be halted at any second Beset off of worldwide sanctions or boycotts of Israel.”

However, the farmers have been cautious To not put forward a place utterly Against reform, but say they Want to be consulted with and currentd far greater assist. A compromise could be on the agenda.

“The worth of the reform is estimated at NIS 3 billion ($925 million) a yr, whereas the treasury is offering the farmers a pittance and is spitting Inside their faces. … I name on the ministers of finance and agriculture to consider the reform, which in its current format will set off monumental damage,” says Vilan.

On July 29, the farmers fired the opening salvo of “Operation Defend of Agriculture” as they blocked primary visitors arteries in a quantity of places Throughout the nation. However They’ve A Much extra extremely effective weapon—particularly, the agricultural foyer, which is strongly recurrented Inside the Blue and White and Labor events, Yisrael Beiteinu’s coalition companions.

“Israel’s capability To current its personal meals is essential,” said Blue and White MK Ram Ben Barak, head of the Knesset’s agricultural foyer and a former deputy director of Mossad. “We’re in favor of a reform Which will guarantee meals safety, and Which will Take A look On the assist provided to farmers, at The worth of water and at enabling Israel’s farmers to compete with imports.”

Labor chair Meirav Michaeli said her party was “dedicated to the kibbutzim and moshavim, to the farmers and to agriculture.” The prime of the Labor Knesset faction, Ram Shefa, a kibbutz member from Givat Hpurpose Inside the Hefer Valley, put it bluntly: “Without modifications to the reform, there Shall be difficult days forward for the coalition.”

While regardless of these strong phrases, such reform was included Inside the price range agreed by the coalition on Aug. 1, the price range will still Want to move three parliamentary readings to move into regulation. The price range has to move by Nov. 4 or the coalition will fall.

Horse-buying and promoting is an integral An factor of Israeli price range negotiations, and Lieberman might properly discover that to get The two-yr spending plan accredited, he Ought to make vital modifications to The current format of the agricultural reform.