Functions and Structure
The Ministry of Agriculture plans the growing and distribution of farm produce. The Ministry helps rural settlements develop agriculturally and economically, manages the nation's water supply and lands (the Minister chairs the Israel Lands Council), and collaborates with the Rural Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency in the establishment and consolidation of new communities.
Major Spheres of Activity
The Ministry's activities embrace the 11 subdivisions and topics listed below, in addition to other units and organizations subject to the jurisdiction of the minister.
- Planning and Development of Rural Communities and Agriculture:The Ministry deals with all problems of short- and long-term agricultural planning; produces consumption and strategic market-research forecasts; allocates sectorial growing and production quotas; draws up annual and multi-annual programs and development plans for agricultural infrastructure, regional enterprises, and settlement patterns; performs agricultural and rural-settlement research; and manages international projects in agriculture and development of backward regions. Activities also include relations with international institutions abroad and management of agricultural production in Judea-Samaria and the Gaza District.
- The Soil Conservation and Drainage Department is responsible for developing programs at the local, regional, and national levels for the utilization of effluents, for conservation of land resources, surface water, and natural vegetation, and for drainage projects to protect agricultural and built-up areas from floods. To these ends the Department collects and analyzes field data and decides how to implement the programs. The Department is responsible for 23 drainage authorities and eight pasture authorities that implement the regional and national plans. Through the district soil conservation offices it guides and instructs farmers on projects for local drainage and runoff impoundment. The Department has professional units for mapping, land and pasture surveys, soil conservation planning, regional and local drainage, reservoirs, pasture, and applied research, performed by the Department's runoff research station. All soil and pastureland conservation plans are based on land and vegetation surveys.
- The Agricultural Research Administration, comprising research institutes and farms throughout the country, deals with issues ranging from the development of new strains to the adaptation of agricultural mechanization and technologies. The Administration also engages in the development of disease- and pest-resistant strains and modern storage methods suitable for agricultural exports in the late twentieth century.
- The Credit and Development Division provides agricultural financing and credit. Since the establishment of the Moshav Debt Arrangement Administration, the Division has participated in the Administration's routine activities; its director is deputy director of the Administration on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Division has three departments: Moshav Credit and Finance, Kibbutz Credit and Finance, and Development. The two credit departments assess entrepreneurs' financial capacity to undertake investments, approve small-scale projects within the framework of the law, draw up and assess farm financial plans, reschedule the debts of farm settlements not covered by the Ravid arrangement, and manage an assistance and working capital fund. Division activities at the level of Arrangement Administration regional teams include drawing up detailed plans for rural settlements, evaluating plans, and providing the administration with professional services. The Development Department releases funds to entrepreneurs on account of investments approved by the Agricultural Investments Administration, after receiving instructions and approval from the Investments Administration, in accordance with implementation reports and budgetary constraints.
- The Extension Service assists farmers by providing individual guidance, sectorial and farm development planning, and crop guidelines to permit optimum utilization of the means of production in the various parts of the country, in accordance with their climatic and agricultural conditions. The Extension Service coordinates the full range of activities in the areas of guidance, development, and professional advancement of all agricultural sectors and activities. The Service's professional units advise the Ministry's administration on formulation of policy, and guide and advise the district and regional extension offices and field services. The ten district and regional extension offices provide agricultural guidance and advice, organize field visits and demonstrations, offer workshops and short courses, and, most important of all, extend guidance to individual farmers on their farms. In coordination with the Ministry's other units, the Service places special emphasis on activities to promote exports, import substitutes, and guidance to fledgling settlements, in accordance with the Ministry's goals and objectives.
- The Agricultural Investment Administration encourages capital investment in agriculture, development of agricultural exports, and utilization of the agricultural sector's natural conditions and professional experience. The Administration was set up in order to implement the Encouragement of Capital Investment in Agriculture Law, passed by the Knesset in 1980. The Administration's director is appointed by the Government (upon the recommendation of the Minister of Agriculture); its members are appointed by the Ministers of Agriculture and Finance. The Administration approves projects in accordance with planning guidelines formulated by the Ministry for each fiscal year, after scrutiny of economic, professional, and sectorial considerations.
The above-mentioned law encourages investments in two ways. The first is a grant equal to 40% of the investment. The second is income tax benefits for every approved plan, in the form of accelerated depreciation and an income-tax ceiling of 30% for corporations, 15% for recipients of corporate dividends, and 30% for non-incorporated individuals who keep double-entry books separately from an approved enterprise. Individuals who do not keep separate books of account are entitled to a 17% income-tax credit. These benefits are granted for the first five profit-showing years of a project, but not beyond the twelfth year after its approval. Farmers with land, water, and production quotas may apply for approval of their plans.
- The Plant Protection and Control Division is responsible for preventing the incursion of new blights by monitoring imports and quarantining plants; for issuing health certificates for agricultural exports as required by importing countries; for detecting diseases, monitoring their spread, and drawing up lists of diseases found in Israel; for detecting and eradicating new diseases before they spread and for treating blights that have penetrated and preventing their spread. The Division licenses, registers, and supervises the use of agricultural pesticides and monitors pesticide residues. It manages a computerized information center, in cooperation with the Extension Service; regulates trade in plant reproduction materials; inspects commercial seeds and certifies improved strains. The Division sees to the marking and registration of root-stock trees and plants; inspects agricultural produce for export (fruit, vegetables, and flowers); inspects and licenses fodder and livestock feed supplements. It helps farmers in the control and prevention of diseases and pesticide and fodder testing. Finally, it conducts applied research in all the above areas.
- Veterinary Services: The Livestock Health Office and the Veterinary Institute are responsible for supervising sanitation and for the prevention of livestock disease.
- The Center for International Development and Cooperationprovides assistance to developing countries, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, in the form of direct training, advanced courses in Israel, on-site courses overseas, and consultancy on and planning of agricultural facilities. The Center (Cindco) coordinates joint research studies for developing countries, staffed by scientists from Israel, from other sponsoring countries, and from developing countries. These studies are coordinated with Israel's agricultural research centers in Israel, including the Volcani Institute, the Agriculture Faculty of the Hebrew University, Ben-Gurion University, Tel Aviv University, and the Technion. As a result of the fruitful cooperation among Israeli researchers and research institutes, the sponsoring countries, and the developing countries, the sponsoring countries are expanding their funding of these activities for the coming years. Cindco also collaborates with a number of non-governmental agencies abroad, often with the participation of outside funders, to develop projects, courses, and research. These links are undertaken in full coordination with the Foreign Ministry's International Cooperation Department.
- The Water Commission is responsible for the country's water supply. As such, it allocates agricultural, industrial, and urban water quotas and sponsors the development of new water sources and runoff catchment projects. Additional agencies under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture include the Nature Reserves Authority (NRA). The ILA is responsible for the country's land, determining land use as prescribed by resolutions of the Israel Lands Administration Council, and allocating land to urban, agricultural, and industrial developers. The NRA is responsible for the development, operation, and preservation of nature reserves throughout the country and for the preservation of its landscape, flora, and fauna.
The Ministry also operates through various production boards, run jointly by the government and the farmers. The boards are responsible for production and marketing in their areas of agriculture and for allocating subsidies and/or quotas, where these exist, to farmers. The Minister is responsible for other public agencies and state-owned enterprises, such as Tahal (the Israel Water Planning Authority), Meqorot, the Natural Damage Fund, Agrexco, and Agridev.
Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs