If there is one thing that has united Americans throughout our history, it is the feeling we have for this rich and expansive land. Our forebears were passionate about it. Farmers and pioneers, they made these 2 billion acres we call America the canvas of their dreams.
The Jewish people have a long historical and Biblical connection to the land of Israel. Like the early American pioneers, the Jews who originally settled the land had a commitment to build a nation by their own labor. The land of milk and honey described in the Bible had deteriorated into a desert wasteland of malarial swamps before the Jewish pioneers reclaimed the soil through hard work and innovative farming techniques. Many of these agricultural methods have been shared with the United States, including drip irrigation, which minimizes water and fertilizer usage and maximizes efficiency and farm output. It is only natural that these two great frontier peoples should be partners in agriculture.
A top priority for Clinton and Gore is to remove unfair trade barriers and level the playing field in international trade so American farmers are not put at a disadvantage. Because of the Free Trade Agreement established in 1985, this is not a problem with Israel.
Research, Development and New Ideas
Clinton and Gore said the United States should provide "leadership in world agriculture through modernization and development of current farm programs and expansion of agriculture research and development." American recognition of Israeli inventiveness in the field of agriculture has led to a long and profitable cooperative relationship that predates the founding of the state, to 1909, when Aaron Aharonson, the discoverer of the wild ancestor of domestic wheat, established a cooperative program between Jewish pioneers in Palestine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Later, in the 1950's and 1960's many collaborative efforts were undertaken under the Food for Peace program.
Today, most joint research is carried out under the auspices of the Binational Agricultural Research And Development Foundation (BARD). BARD was created in 1978 with equal contributions by the United States and Israel. Its goal is to serve the research objectives of both nations and all projects must be of mutual benefit.
Since its inception, BARD has funded more than 600 projects that have led to new technologies in drip irrigation, pesticides, fish farming, livestock, poultry, disease control and farm equipment.
In 1992, projects were funded at 31 U.S. institutions in 19 states. Projects approved in 1991-92 include:
- The University of California at Davis and the Volcani Center -- An inspection system for sorting fruit with machine vision.
- North Carolina State and the Volcani Center -- Development and evaluation of a method of hormonal treatment to increase fertility in dairy cows.
- The University of Georgia and the Kimron Veterinary Institute -- New approaches for detection of infections in turkeys.
- Purdue University and the Agricultural Research Organization -- Biochemical markers for disease resistance in corn.
Benefits to the United States
The United States has benefitted a great deal from this collaborative research. According to one analysis of projects completed in the first decade of BARD's existence, the economic benefits of just five projects--related to cotton, pecans and solarization--exceeded all U.S. investment in BARD. The analysis also concluded that more than half of the 72 ventures they examined had significant commercial potential. Other projects have a large impact on the small farmer.
BARD-sponsored research has generated sales of more than $500 million, tax revenues of more than $100 million and created more than 5,000 American jobs.
Another American agricultural priority is modernization. The United States and Israel have worked together to apply high-technology to agricultural problems. For example:
- A joint project by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Department of Agriculture developed a computer model that describes how water, soil, fertilizer and farming practices affect cotton production. Cotton growing is a $5 billion industry. The program determines optimal irrigation and fertilization strategies, which saves farmers money.
- Machines have been developed to separate potatoes from soil and stones, for harvesting peppers and peaches and for spreading fertilizer and chemicals.
Both nations are also using new biotechnologies to produce more disease-resistant, and higher yielding plants and animals. For example, the Israel Agriculture Organization's Volcani Center has discovered antiviral substances in tobacco that protect tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Tel Aviv University scientists have genetically engineered wheat that is more pest resistant and have found viruses that kill maize, barley and oat smuts. To put these developments in perspective, the United States produces more that $15 billion of maize and $8 billion of wheat annually.
BARD-sponsored research has developed a test to detect viruses in potatoes, strategies for breeding leaner chickens and new cattle vaccines.
Hebrew University scientists have pioneered solarization techniques that protect and boost yields in a variety of fruits, nuts and vegetables.
The Volcani Center has developed new methods for protecting stored wheat from insects and for retarding the softening and deterioration of fresh peaches and apples.
Protecting Our Environment
A major concern expressed by Clinton and Gore was to give greater attention to environmental concerns in agricultural policy. Research conducted through BARD has already contributed to this end by:
- Demonstrating ways to reduce the use of pesticides;
- Predicting the fate of pesticides in soil and ground-water;
- Decontaminating water supplies; and
- Showing how resources can be conserved by making more efficient use of brackish and industrial wastewater, lowering feed requirements and minimizing postharvest losses.
To give one specific example of an Israeli advance, Ben-Gurion University scientists discovered an ecologically safe way to eradicate mosquitos and blackflies that is used in Massachusetts.