'Green-farmers' to reap windfall

The "green-revolution" is not limited to farmers who grow crops, but also has stretched into the country's burgeoning pig industry.

agriculture biz 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
agriculture biz 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Calling his new program "agriculture in service of the environment," Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon on Sunday unveiled his ministry's plan to reward those farmers who demonstrate "eco-friendly" farming practices. "The trend of environmentally-friendly agriculture has been increasing over the last few years in response to the rise of awareness around the world about the importance of protecting the environment," said Simhon. "The Agriculture Ministry has made great strides in the area of promoting farming techniques that protect and cause as little harm as possible to the environment, and our ministry is working in cooperation with Environmental Protection Agency and other 'green' organizations with the goal of advancing the agricultural sector's environmental awareness." According to Simhon's plan, which is expected to come into practice within the next few weeks, some NIS 120 million in grants will be awarded to those farmers who prove that they are practicing "green-agriculture" - defined as growing crops in fields instead of in hothouses; preventing the release of foul or dangerous odors into the air; protecting the sources of water and natural springs used to hydrate crops; and cutting down unwanted trees as opposed to burning them. Farmers can apply for grants from the ministry and those that fit the criteria will be awarded allowances. "In the past, the ministry awarded money to farmers in the periphery of the country, such as in the Negev, the Golan and in the Jordan and Beit Shean valleys," said Yossi Yishai, deputy director-general and head of planning in the Agriculture Ministry. "The money that we gave to farmers in these areas helped answer their needs and we will continue to support them, but the new criterion will be mostly focused on helping farmers in the center of the country, as these farmers have not received benefits for a decade." Simhon added that he hopes his plan will encourage farmers in the Gush Dan area to use wastewater and sewage run-off as fertilizer for their crops. He expects these reforms will be as effective as agricultural reforms of the past, which have proven successful in reducing the number of barns in the country - replacing them with open aired shelters - a move that has slashed the amount of dangerous poisons inhaled by the animals. The "green-revolution" is not limited to farmers who grow crops, but also has stretched into the country's burgeoning pig industry. The feed that is supplied to pigs raised in Israel will now contain Cycle-G, an additive that was developed by two Israeli scientists. Research has found that pigs given Cycle-G, the first environmentally friendly additive, have shown improved sustainability in confined buildings and produce less ammonia and reduce smell and odors. "This additive will allow pig producers to comply with the ever-growing demand for a license to produce - in particular from the environmental perspective," said Dr. Gert Jan Montenty, a Dutch scientist specializing in the area of livestock buildings and environment. Meanwhile, a delegation from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and Agriculture Ministry will travel to Brussels this week to meet with European Union representatives in an effort to expand trade between Israel and the EU in the food and agriculture sectors. Approximately 75 percent of all Israeli exports of food and agricultural products in 2006 was shipped to markets across the EU, with trade between Israel and the EU reaching €1.5 billion last year, as Israel exported €1b. and imported €500m.