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Larger Chicken Farmers Lose Housing Grant

by 5m Editor
27 July 2010, at 11:00a.m.

ISRAEL - Poultry farmers are no longer to receive state support for new chicken houses for more than 12,000 birds, and the future of battery cages now looks uncertain.

The poultry breeders of the Galilee have lost their preferential eligibility for state support for new chicken coops, under an Ministry of Agriculture poultry sector reform, according to Haaretz.

Originally, the Galilee-based farmers were eligible to receive grants equal to 50 per cent of their investment in new chicken coops, while breeders anywhere else were eligible to receive at most 20 per cent. But the new version of the reform, approved by the cabinet yesterday, shows no preference for egg producers based on region. The average entitlement, equal for all, is 42.5 per cent of the investment.

The actual percentage to which each breeder is entitled depends on the number of laying hens in the new coops, as opposed to geography.

The cabinet also decided to increase the state's contribution by NIS40 million to a total of NIS280 million.

It abolished special investment grants for giant coops with more than 12,000 birds, on the ground that even without state help, they paid off due to size advantages. However, grants kick in below that point: a coop with 8,000 to 12,000 hens is eligible for a grant equal to 35 per cent of the investment. A coop with 6,000 to 8,000 hens is eligible to get back 45 per cent of the investment.

However, the debate over the actual structure of the coops rages on, reports Haaretz. The question is battery pens. The Ministry of Agriculture suggests keeping the chickens in cages that are gradually expanded from the current 350 square centimetres, up to 750 by 2022. Animal rights organisations are demanding that battery cages be abolished outright and that the birds be allowed freedom to move. The ministry says abolishing battery coops will raise the price of eggs by 20 per cent.

The poultry reform took a controversial turn in May, when State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, ruled that agriculture minister, Shalom Simhon, had a conflict of interest in advancing the reform, because of family holdings in Galilee poultry farms. Minister Simhon rejected the allegations as arrant nonsense, saying the reform was the result of a collaborative effort by four ministries.