Despite the report last week that the government allocated about one hundred million shekels for the upcoming shmittah year, it has become apparent that most produce growers in Israel will receive no support from the government as an incentive for keeping this mitzvah.
Upon examination of the details of government's approved budget allocation, it turns out that most of this budget will be apportioned to various political uses, to institutions and farmers who intend to use the heter mechirah loophole, to organize various ceremonial gatherings such as "Hakhel," to assist vintners and plant nurseries which are affected by shmittah — so that the bulk of the budget is not at all aimed at helping farmers to observe shmittah properly.
From experience of the past shmittah, it was learned that most farmers who requested financial support had to go through an exhausting and time consuming bureaucratic gauntlet in return for a mere pittance.
This time, the produce growers who will receive any monetary support will only be those who are defined as baal nachalah, legal landowners, which eliminates in effect any financial assistance for many growers who rent agricultural plots or land which they do not own.
From data which this columnist has received, it appears that during last Shmittah, a mere 174 farmers who totally laid their lands fallow according to the Halochoh, received any government help, a drop in the bucket of thousands of farmers. In order to receive any form of support, they were required to provide previous income reports of several past years registered in the income tax bureau, and from past experience, these farmers have simply given up any hope and have not even attempted to brave the bureaucratic mazes which, even if successful, do not award any reasonable sum for such farmers who must leave their lands fallow and lose huge sums in mortgage payments, loans and huge debts.
It should also be noted that throughout the generations, our gedolim have ruled that observing the mitzvah of shmittah properly can only be carried out through outside support of those farmers so that they are committed not to carry out agricultural work. To our regret, the government which has promised to transfer millions of shekalim, is not helping the farmers directly in any fashion, but only allocating the funds for subjects having to do with shmittah when any real help should be going to support those who will not be working their lands at great personal expense and sacrifice. Thus, it turns out that 90% of their alleged `support' is meaningless, and the farmers will have to rely upon the general public for help and promise of support so they will not be deterred from committing themselves to keeping this vital mitzvah.