In the wake of a discrimination lawsuit, the Agriculture Ministry informed the High Court of Justice that it will be creating a new subsidy quota for Arab egg farmers - at least 4 million eggs, for another 16 new farmers at least.
However, the draft submitted to the Justice Ministry and the Knesset Economics Committee a few days ago sets very strict criteria - making it likely that many Arab farmers will not be able to participate.
Last week, ruling on an April 2008 petition submitted by the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Rights, the High Court of Justice issued an injunction obligating the Poultry Council and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon to set clear and egalitarian criteria for determining the list of communities eligible for quotas for producing and selling eggs.
Participating farmers and communities receive money to produce the given quota of eggs, and no more.
The court had issued a directive to investigate why the Bedouin community of Aramsha located on the northern border, was not on the list.
Adalah submitted the petition om behalf of farmers from Aramsha and the Center for Community Development in Haifa. Adalah attorney Sausen Zahar said the Galilee Law and the list of communities eligible for egg quotas, as set by a cabinet decision, infringe on the constitutional rights of equality and freedom of occupation and affect the property rights of Arab farmers in Aramsha and other Arab towns in the north.
Agriculture Ministry officials explained over the weekend that they are aware of the historical injustice, and have been trying to correct it over the years. Now that the national quota has been increased, the ministry set criteria for including new farmers that favor non-Jewish sectors, they said.
In order to implement this plan, the ministry formulated comprehensive procedures, including measures for allocating egg-laying quotas for new farmers, and released them in May 2009 for public review. A few days ago, the final version was sent to the Justice Ministry and the Knesset's Economics Committee, so it could be included in regulations.
However, farmers seeking inclusion in the quota program must meet stiff conditions: They must be Israeli citizens living in a priority development region, and must own agricultural lands intended for raising animals that received approval to build egg-laying facilities. They also must meet the criteria set by the Egg Council and veterinary standards.
The proposal for reform stresses that the quotas will be reserved for Arab farmers until 2012, at which point the ministry will consider allocating quotas to farmers already on the list if new ones do not exercise their eligibility.
Zahar commented that the draft should be very carefully reviewed. It includes threshold requirements, and participating in the quotas may not be economically worthwhile for the farmers, she said.
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