farmer with grapes .
(photo credit: courtesy)
More than 1,000 farmers took to junctions across the country on Sunday morning, blocking traffic with convoys of tractors, many of them bearing slogans such as “The country is eating agriculture.”
The farmers were protesting government policy on a number of issues, including what they described as “wild and free” imports of produce, high water prices for agriculture and inadequate profit margins.
According to the Israel Farmer’s Federation, about 500 people demonstrated at Yokne’am junction, about 600 in the Hula Valley, about 200 at Hefer junction, just south of Hadera, and about 150 at Ein Yahav junction in the Arava.
For many years Israeli farmers have been facing serious conditions, such as loss of profits, bureaucratic struggles and superfluous taxes, all of which have caused them to “lose the joy of creation,” according to a statement released by the federation.
In the past year-and-a-half, the group has negotiated with the Finance and Agriculture ministries on creating a strategic 15-year plan for the sector. However, these talks reached an impasse, the statement said.
“The Israeli government must come to its senses and show national responsibility for agriculture, support and take care of agricultural problems,” it said.
The farmers are demanding that the government immediately lower the prices of water for agriculture, cancel the nationalization of agricultural water associations, reduce agricultural imports and improve profit margins by creating a new wholesale market.
In addition, the farmers would like to see the government support more agricultural exports, regulate the farming insurance fund and solve issues related to foreign workers.
“Israeli farmers are demanding social justice,” Israel Farmer’s Federation secretary- general Avshalom Vilan said. “We want to compete with Western countries in export on equal terms. Agriculture in Israel is drying up, and if the government does not help, our survival is in danger.”