Knesset agricultural caucus wants young Israelis to return to the farm

Caucus will encourage young people to enter field with incentives; will stress preservation of farming knowledge.

By
June 30, 2013 19:16
3 minute read.
Cotton harvest in the South

Cotton harvest in the South 370. (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)

In an effort to strengthen the country’s farming future, the new Knesset agricultural caucus will open on Monday with a primary focus on encouraging young people to enter the industry, its chairman, MK Zvulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi) announced ahead of the launch.

“We will push the state to invest in and provide incentives for young farmers,” said Kalfa. “We must take care of protecting generational continuity in Israeli agriculture.”

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Led by Kalfa, MK Omer Bar- Lev (Labor) and MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), the 19th Knesset’s agricultural caucus will officially open on Monday, and will promote legislative issues related to agriculture and rural spaces, as well as work to increase the number of young people who pursue the field by promoting an integrated national plan, according to its leaders.

Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel and other MKs, mayors and heads of regional movements are scheduled to attend the launch.

The caucus will also aim to preserve and make use of the vast agricultural knowledge and experience accumulated in Israel over the past 65 years of farming, in order to help research centers employ these tools as a lever for economic activity, Kalfa and his partners explained.

“The most significant threat on the Israeli agricultural world is an existential one,” said Kalfa, who grew up in Moshav Sharsheret, used to be involved in the citrus business and was a former member of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council board.

“The average age of those engaging in agriculture is 60, and the young people rarely work in the field,” he continued.

“Unless we act soon, we will lose the experience and knowledge accumulated by veteran farmers for decades.”

Vaknin, who grew up in Moshav Ya’ara in the Western Galilee, and has been a member of the Knesset agricultural caucus since 1996, emphasized that the main issue he too intends to promote in the caucus is the next generation.

“If we want the future of agriculture to be taken care of in another 10-15 years, the key will be the young generation developing and growing crops,” Vaknin said.

Also critical to ongoing discussion will be handling the problems of agricultural water allocations and prices, as well as the critical labor shortage that hampers “the advancement of the agricultural sector,” according to Vaknin.

Bar-Lev – a graduate of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot and formerly an agronomist at the agriculture experimental center in Yotvata – stressed that during the primaries of his party he was exposed to various problems facing the agricultural sector, including its diminished representation in the Knesset. He therefore has decided to help address the many difficulties facing growers, including the marketing of agricultural products and other economic challenges, he explained.

“I’m going to focus on advancing the development of agriculture and aiding the agricultural sector, which represents today as well as the past, entrepreneurial Zionism that is active and valued,” Bar-Lev said.

In response to the newly established goals of the agricultural caucus, Shamir told The Jerusalem Post that the caucus will be an essential partner with the ministry in further developing the country’s agricultural sector.

“The policy of the Agriculture Ministry is first and foremost to strengthen the country’s settlement in Israel, and agriculture is one of the most important means toward implementing a settlement policy along with strengthening important social and health values,” Shamir said. “I see the agricultural caucus as an important partner in promoting these values for developing the periphery, transforming agriculture into a meaningful economic sector in the market – while increasing exports, jobs and preservation of environmental and nature values.

“Meanwhile, activity among young people will help in implementing these values in the long-term.”


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