As rocket fire continues to bombard areas of the South, Agriculture Ministry teams said on Tuesday that they are actively providing assistance to farmers affected by the security situation in the region.
Many rockets have fallen in open agricultural areas, on fields and greenhouses, and ministry staff members said they are directing Tax Authority representatives to farmers whose properties have been damaged. Thus far, Agriculture Ministry workers have visited dairy and poultry farms in the South to tend to animals, and have distributed rules as to how to behave with domestic animals during times of emergency, according to the ministry.
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, who visited the area Tuesday morning, said: “The ministry has arranged to allow the continued functioning of the agricultural sector in the south of Israel, focusing on advancing the rehabilitation of agricultural routes and fields that have been damaged during the operation and assisting in obtaining compensation.”
So far several fields and greenhouses have sustained damage, as well as three chicken coops and two dairy farms, the ministry said. All of the injured animals have been treated by local ministry staff members.
As of Tuesday, the Tax Authority reported receiving 17 claims for agriculture damage compensation – 16 in the South and one in the Haifa region.
For the sake of comparison, following Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, the Tax Authority and Agriculture Ministry reported that a significant portion of the 550 working farmers within the border area submitted claims for compensation.
The Tax Authority said, however, that past experience demonstrates that claims are often filed only following the conclusion of a conflict.
On Sunday, MK Zvulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi), head of the Knesset’s Agriculture Lobby, demanded that the government provide adequate protective spaces for southern farmers, so that they could continue their work safely amid attacks.
Although the government approved a 24-percent property tax rate reduction for farmers in Sderot and Gazan perimeter towns, as well as a 15% boost in ability to hire foreign workers, Kalfa maintained that these efforts were insufficient.
He accused the Defense Ministry of “forfeiting the lives of the farmers,” despite requests from the Agriculture Ministry for a NIS 3.5 million budget for this purpose.
Reacting to the accusations on Sunday, the Defense Ministry said at the time that responsibility for sheltering farmers lies with the Agriculture Ministry – as occurred during Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense.
In response, the Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday told The Jerusalem Post: “Shielding citizens – regardless of their profession – has always been the responsibility of the Defense Ministry.”
Daniel Lev, the director of Yofi Shel Yerakot (Beauty of Vegetables) cooperative in the Negev, said that farmers and logistics systems of transporters and packing houses are putting in a great effort to prevent a shortage of fruits and vegetables despite the dangers around them.
While many of the Thai workers in the area have received concerned phone calls from their families, the vast majority of them have stayed to work alongside Israeli farmers, according to the cooperative.
The farmers are committed to continuing their work, because failing to do so could jeopardize the country further, Lev said.