Last year was "a good year for agriculture," witnessing rises in production levels, exports and farmers' incomes, despite reductions in both water usage and investments, the Agriculture Ministry said Monday. The value of agricultural production rose 4.2 percent in real terms in 2005, coming to NIS 19.6 billion, as crop farmers enjoyed a 3% real rise and growers of livestock produced 6.2% more output in terms of monetary value. Fresh agricultural exports abroad rose 6.8% to nearly $1.03b., accounting for 25.1% in 2005, up from 24.5% the year before. Agricultural exports constituted 2.8% of all Israeli exports, up from 2.7% in 2004. Farmers owning agricultural businesses increased their revenues by 19% in real terms, while wage-earners in the sector saw their pay rise to 93% of the average in the economy as a whole from 84% the year before. Agriculture's contribution to the country's gross domestic product grew 4.7% in 2005, after growing 17.9% the year before. An index of trade conditions in the sector improved 0.4% in 2005, following a 8.3% drop in 2004, bringing an end to the negative trend of previous years, the ministry said. The improvement was primarily the result of improved conditions for traders in livestock, while conditions for crop growers continued to worsen. Separately, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon announced Monday that his ministry and the Treasury, with input from representatives of the farmers themselves, reached agreement on several agricultural issues in the budget legislation. Among the agreements was a mechanism for raising water fees over the next five years with the consent of Agriculture, National Infrastructures and Finance Ministries, to be presented for government approval next month. The Agriculture Ministry also gave its support for the establishment of a single authority governing the country's water system - not including the drainage system, over which the Agriculture Ministry will maintain jurisdiction. The Finance Ministry agreed to postpone the layoff of 45 workers in the Agriculture Ministry's farmer guidance service, while a new plan would be formulated for implementation later in the year.