Israel seeks strategic partnership in agriculture with US

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Oded Forer told the Post of his ambitions to forge a strategic partnership with the US on agricultural issues.

Students at the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training (photo credit: Courtesy)
Students at the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training
(photo credit: Courtesy)

WASHINGTON – “Agriculture could be the next engine of growth for Israel’s economy, like hi-tech,” says Israeli Minister of Agriculture Oded Forer, concluding a three-day visit to Washington.

After meeting with senators, administration officials and senior executives at the World Bank, he told The Jerusalem Post that his goal is for Israel to forge a strategic partnership with the US on agricultural issues.

Forer explained that the US has a five-year plan for agriculture, and that Israel seeks to be part of it. The next five-year plan will take effect in 2023, he said. “We would like to establish a strategic partnership with the US in agriculture for the 2023 plan.

“The US Agricultural Department is huge, and we believe such a partnership would be mutually beneficial. The idea is to create a partnership in R&D, investments and exchange of knowledge,” he said.

“We have invaluable knowledge on how to adapt to climate change and how to grow produce in the desert,” Forer told the Post. “In the past several decades, we have gained an in-depth understanding of farming under drought conditions. That is one area in which we could share knowledge with the US,” he said.

Oded Forer at the Presidential Meeting (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Oded Forer at the Presidential Meeting (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“They don’t need us to teach them how to grow crops, but global warming is affecting America – certain areas need to change and adapt, and we have the experience to show how to do it.”

Forer said that the same approach could be applied to partnerships with Egypt, Jordan and the Abraham Accords countries. “We see agriculture as something with strategic importance, very much like security, and that is something that could be used to create partnerships across the Middle East as well. We can work with friendly countries to enhance food security throughout the region.”

On Tuesday, Forer met with Juergen Voegele, VP for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. According to Forer’s office, the World Bank agreed to examine regional cooperation between Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and the UAE.

“The bank will explore the option that Israel will be a regional innovation hub for mariculture and desert agriculture, with participation of countries from the region,” Forer’s office said in a statement. Mariculture is marine aquaculture for food.

The hub would be in the Negev and would be launched in cooperation between Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and the World Bank, his office said. Forer invited a team from the World Bank to visit Israel soon to discuss the idea.

Also on Wednesday, the minister signed a joint statement of intent on cooperation in the field of mariculture with the University of Maryland and the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. The statement calls for cooperation in finding sustainable solutions for producing “healthy and protein-rich food from the sea.”