Farmers in the Upper Galilee will not cooperate with the government's plan to introduce new restrictions on water for agriculture, an emergency committee of local farmers announced last week.

The panel was formed in response to a series of unfortunate events that have had disastrous effects on agriculture. First, there was a frost that wiped out many plantations and orchards in the north. This was followed by a drought, which resulted in severe restrictions on water for farming. Water quotas were slashed and prices rose sharply.

These restrictions hit farmers in the north particularly hard because, unlike their colleagues from the south and center, they have no alternatives such as purified or desalinated water.

Moreover, the farmers said, water cuts would be especially damaging now, because many of them have orchards that have just matured, and therefore require even more irrigation than before. The panel said the restrictions place the future of Israeli agriculture in question

"We've had a horrible year, the likes of which we have never before seen," said Reuven Teneh, describing the drought that has affected farmers around the country for the past 12 months.

Teneh, who serves on a separate task force on water shortages set up by farmers in the Jordan Valley, Golan Heights and Upper Galilee, charges that the government is planning to impose "irrational" restrictions on farmers' water supply, which could devastate their crops.

The Golan, for instance, is expected to see a 50 percent hike in the price of water. "What would happen if they raised the price of an essential industrial resource by 50 percent in one go?" complained Teneh. "We are going to sell our produce nearly at a loss. Field crops like onions and garlic will be obliterated."

This is because onions, garlic and other field crops require the largest amount of water per square meter. "The hike in water prices will mean that the farmer will lose roughly NIS 300 for every dunam - which is basically the farmer's profit from that field," Teneh said.

Teneh's panel argues that the government should employ a special rationing system for areas where slashing the quota and raising prices could have a devastating impact. It also argues that industrial plants and municipalities should be subject to the new quotas and price hike as well, and not only the farmers.