Everybody recognises that the Minister had an exceedingly difficult task before him, first in justifying the Bill, and secondly in expounding what is undoubtedly a very complicated Bill. After all the justification of the Bill should, in a way, have been the principal business of the Minister on Second Reading—to point out why this Bill is necessary, why it is desirable and to show that the policy which this Bill foreshadows is a sound policy for the country. I wonder whether Deputies who are not already convinced on the subject will be convinced by the speech they have just heard from the Minister. It cannot be said that he was unaware of the case that could have been made against this particular policy. The House and the Minister will be aware —he already referred to it—of a pretty extensive debate that took place in this House some years ago as regards the second portion of the Bill —that dealing with the wheat policy. I think the case, so far as the first portion of the Bill is concerned—that dealing with the "mixing policy"— was put very clearly and very definitely by the independent tribunal that was set up to investigate this particular problem. I refer to the Grain Inquiry Tribunal. Members of that tribunal were able to approach the problem possibly in a way that the Minister is not quite able to approach it because undoubtedly it is clear that this is a policy in which he believes very strongly. They were able to approach the consideration of this problem possibly, if I might say so, with a mind more unbiassed than that of the Minister. They also had the advantage, which this House has not had, of hearing on that particular occasion the case to be made in favour of this project.
The Grain Growers' Association put their case very clearly and strongly before this tribunal. The tribunal also had the opportunity, which this House has not had, of hearing the very strong case that was put up on the other side. Similarly, the House cannot now hope to get the very extended view of the difficulties that prevailed and the difficulties that must prevail, as far as the second object of the Bill is concerned —the promotion of extensive wheat growing. They can find it, however, in the records of the House and in the reports of the Economic Commission set up by the late Government, which issued both a majority and a minority report. I suggest to them, if they read the debate to which I refer and the minority report, they will be struck with one thing, that it was not on the basis of facts or on the basis of experience that the conclusions of the minority were based. It was wholly on the basis of apriori reasoning, starting, as the Minister started this evening, with some very general economic theories—more general in the case of the minority report than is usual even in these debates—and with the proposition that the main business of agriculture was to produce human food. Then they went on in beautiful geometrical order from that principle to reach the conclusion that we must grow more wheat. I wonder will those who have given thought to the subject be altogether convinced that the Minister has made a case for this particular policy. There is one thing, I think, on which the House might agree and that is, that in normal circumstances it might well be that possibly the only way in which it can be tested is to try it out. I think that was ultimately the conclusion to which the Minister himself came. I will show later why I put in the reservation about normal circumstances. I shall deal with that particular point afterwards when I come to the matter. One thing I must say I did not quite gather from the Minister's speech was the cost to the taxpayer of this particular measure. There are two kinds of costs. I am speaking of the cost involved in the bounty and the cost of administration, because by chemical analysis, unfortunately, it is not feasible to detect the malpractices that are possible under the first aim of the Bill, the encouragement of the mixing policy. In default of the chemical analysis doing that, I fear we shall have to have a rather elaborate bureaucracy in the matter.
I wonder has the Minister formed any idea as to the increased number of officials that will be necessary to deal with that? No estimate was given. I presume there will be some cost involved. Also, though the Minister gave us what he estimated as the cost in the way of bounty for the coming twelve months, under this Bill when it becomes law, I did not get from him what he considered the ultimate cost if his policy is as successful as he hopes, and if we ultimately produce the total quantity of wheat necessary for our needs. He mentioned only the cost of the bounty for wheat for the coming year, but supposing we produce the total amount of wheat necessary for this country—possibly I think 600,000 acres would be required, roughly speaking—what would be the ultimate cost in the way of bounty? There are considerable costs involved, much more costs than are indicated in the slight reference to the cost for the coming year which the Minister made in the course of his speech. I think we should have the cost, as the country is asked to embark on this policy, not merely for the coming year. The Minister could treat the coming year as a harbinger of what is to come, and the country should get some idea of what the ultimate cost will be of this Bill. The subject of costs reminds me of another matter—the Minister was being interrupted, I will admit, while he was on the subject—namely, the increased cost of the mixture to the ordinary farmer. He estimated it at 10/per ton. I ask him how that estimate compares with the estimate of cost which he will find in the report of the Grain Inquiry Tribunal? In arriving at that estimate of 10/- has he taken into account all the factors that have been taken into account there? Has he also taken into account—I wonder how far the report itself does it—the difficulty the millers and others will be involved in,—the difficulty under the particular factors that are detailed in the report, of knowing precisely or with any degree of commercial accuracy what must be their commitments for the coming year, or what will be the amount of grain food required? The report points out that that depends on a number of factors which cannot be judged until the beginning of the year, and it points out also that whereas that does not matter so much when you can import a sufficient amount of maize by telegram it may matter considerably when you have to make your arrangements for the purchase of the amount of grain that will be necessary to be milled for the current season, when the millers and the dealers will unfortunately not be in the same happy position.
What I was particularly anxious to know was how this estimate of 10/-compares with the estimate of increased cost that is given by the tribunal which reported on this particular matter. I wonder also whether the Minister has considered, in connection with wheat and with this mixing process, how the distance of mills and the distance of farmers from large grain growing areas will affect the situation. I can quite conceive that there are certain portions of Ireland where there might be a very strong demand in favour of this particular policy. I think it is equally obvious that there are other parts of Ireland in which there is strong objection to it. I have heard from farmers in my own portion of the country that there is a strong objection to this mixing process where they are concerned. They object to it on various grounds. First of all they have not the same confidence—I am sorry to say it—that the Minister has in the people who are going to market the stuff to them, nor the same confidence in the ability of the Government to see that there is a good mixture of good materials. I find a very great deal of scepticism on their part as to the value of the mixture they are getting. In the case of maize it is practically, I understand, of a uniform quality. I think so far as certain parts of the country are concerned the Minister just brushed a little too lightly aside the increased costs that there will be in the purchase of maize for human food. Under the Bill it has to be put in packets of one stone, that is each stone for human consumption will have to be packed separately. That must mean increased cost, and it must mean an increase in the living expenses of the ordinary farmer in the portion of the country I come from. I can only speak for that portion of the country from experience, and mixed bread is a bread that they largely consume at present. They used to consume a lot of it at one time, then they were dropping out of it, and I understand they are now going back again to that particular form of food. It seems to me there is considerable cost involved, and certainly the farmers believe that there will be cost involved which they should not be asked to bear.
The Minister referred in quite glowing terms to one particular class of the population, that is the farmer who produces his own grain, produces his own feeding stuff and feeds it to his own animals. He spoke highly, and deservedly so, of that particular class of farmer—"the class of man that is best for himself and best for the community"—and yet that class of farmer, unless we are altogether deceived by the purely impartial Body that investigated the matter, are strongly opposed to this particular scheme. They think it will damage their business very seriously. In fact what, in comparison to them, the Minister would call the not so well deserving class of people would gain at their expense. Because they are already doing what the Minister aims at—they may have been compelled by circumstances to do it— they are now to be penalised by the increased cost. It is quite clear that they hold very strong views on the matter. Apart altogether from the evidence that was quoted in this report, I know that there are farmers who do resent very strongly the fact that those who have gone in for that particular type of farming will be compelled now to meet extra expenses. The Minister may, of course, say that they are trivial. He may say that because they were able to stand £2 two years ago they can stand 10/- now, —or whatever the increased cost is. The Minister, as I have already pointed out, left us in a rather unsatisfactory position as to how he reached that estimate of an increased cost of 10/-, but anyhow they do object to this increased cost and I can well understand it. I can well understand, owing to certain policies that have been pursued, why the farmer who, two years ago, might be able to bear certain costs, is not able to do it to-day. There are two sides to the farmer's economy. There is what he pays for what he gets in, and there is also what he gets for what he sends out. It might, in the normal way, as I said, seem to be the only course, to give the experiment a chance and see what will happen. Whether it is wise or proper to use the national purse in order to promote a policy that may be unsound is another question. I suppose trial is one of the best ways of deciding it, but undoubtedly if you expend enough, and are in a position to continue that expenditure, you will induce people to go into any policy no matter how unsound—if they are paid enough by the State for doing so—and therefore that would not be a final answer.
There is another objection, and I am basing it on a remark made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce last evening. He is the Minister referred to in various parts of the Bill. He spoke of the necessity for getting out of the cattle trade. I may have an opportunity of dealing more fully with that policy afterwards, but it is quite relevant to the discussion that we are now engaged in, because, apparently, in the minds of some of the Ministers, this grain policy is not to be an addition to the cattle trade, it is to be a substitution for it. Well, I would prefer that, before we lose what we have got, we were much more firmly established in what is to take its place. What makes me uneasy about this particular business, and the arguments I have heard again and again in favour of it, is this. One of the arguments most frequently used— we have heard it in this House, we have heard it from the Minister, we have heard it again and again from his colleagues through the country—is that instead of wheat-growing diminishing the amount of cattle that you raise it ought to increase it. Those who gave evidence in favour of some of those proposals before the tribunal to which I have referred were very strong in putting that forward,—that there was really no rivalry whatever between the policy they advocated (and, as I will suggest in a moment, the same thing will hold good in regard to wheat), and the cattle trade. In connection with wheat, again and again it was pointed out that the growing of wheat in this country will mean the rotation of crops, that you must have root crops follow your wheat crops and so on. Wheat is grown in the same field, at most, once in every three years. Take the most optimistic view, once in three years is as much as you can do in some patches of land followed by root crops. What is to happen your root crops? Are they for human consumption or cattle consumption? Which? Surely the contention that was again and again put forward, and put forward as one of the arguments of the wheat policy was the way in which, if anything, it would increase the cattle trade. What is the present policy we are indulging in—not in this particular Bill—but what is more clearly every day the settled mind of the Government? What is to happen these cattle? We know the simple answer of that most simple-minded man—the Minister for Defence. His answer is quite easy. Will the ordinary farmer who has two years out of three to put in root crops and feed cattle or for the people who have cattle, would the ordinary farmer be satisfied with that cheery prospect which the Minister for Defence held out as being the proper way of disposing of our agricultural animal produce, i.e., beef, butter, poultry, eggs, and so on?
I wonder whether if here we have one of the first examples of a constructive policy on the part of the Government which completely cuts across the other policy—what I might call their political anti-economical policy—which they are indulging in. It is no good for a person like myself or for any members of the Dáil to discuss the suitability of the wheat crop. There are various views for and against, but listening to some of the previous debates in favour of this policy, what amazed me in listening to them was this, how the Government or any Government restrained the farmers from indulging in it. It was painted in such attractive colours on the last occasion we discussed it, that the thing to account for is, why the farmers did not practically put every acre they had under wheat—it was such an attractive policy. We also had the other point of view put forward, and the conduct of the farmers, unfortunately, did seem to lend colour to the contention that it was not such a suitable crop for this country. I can find very few people in my portion of the country, at all events, who have any belief that you can have an extensive wheat-growing policy in that county at the present time. The ordinary farmer does not believe in it. I believe that is so. Not merely are these the views of those who support us but also of those who support the Government. Not like the millers who prejudiced the Minister. Their views do not depend on their particular political persuasion. Men have told me they have tried several times in recent years to grow wheat, and undoubtedly it was an excellent crop up to about three weeks before it was fully ripe and then it proceeded to produce a second crop—it sprouted. That was by no means an uncommon occurrence in more than one year, and I think many a farmer who tried it as an experiment gave it up. Now, whether that can be overcome or not I do not know. I have a vague suspicion, or a vague fear, that experimenting on this line has largely been done in the direction of trying to produce a variety of wheat which is suitable to other countries that have not much rainfall. I am not denying that in certain plots in every county in Ireland you can get good results so far as wheat growing is concerned. I am dealing now with the question as to the possibility of the farmers producing it on a large scale—not merely growing 22,000 acres and increasing it to 66,000 acres this coming year—that is not the policy that is before the country or before the Dáil. That is only the beginning. The real policy is a much bigger policy. I doubt the possibility of getting the real policy adopted. I doubt also the propriety of getting it done, because a large number of the farmers do not believe that they can do so with profit or with safety.
As I am on that point of safety I may quote something from the Minister's colleague, the man who is in joint charge of this Bill with him, so far as the enactments go. I have already quoted from him—from last evening's speech. I must say he was sometimes extremely candid in opposition; he is almost indiscreet when he gets going, as when he told us last night we must get out of the cattle trade, the country must get out of it. A short couple of years ago he painted this very illuminating picture for the farmers of the country whom he was trying to persuade to adopt the policy of wheat growing. There was, he said, a partial failure of the crops in Canada this year—1929. "The Economist" for the 3rd August, 1929, says:—"The straw is unusually short and the wheat is ripening prematurely. In many districts the damage done is reported to be beyond repair, and thousands of struggling homesteaders will have to face a very difficult winter, as their crop returns will be negligible." This is in Canada, the wheat growing country. "From Sas-katchewan the reports are almost uniformly gloomy, and in southern and south-eastern districts many farmers have simply ploughed their wheat into the ground to make summer fallow land for the crop of 1930." I am quoting from the Dáil Debates, volume 32, columns 1588 to 1589. Then Deputy Lemass, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, goes on, and he showed great admiration for the courage of these Canadian farmers, and would like to inculcate and inspire our farmers with the same courage. "The farmers of Canada are not going to run away from wheat growing. As I have said wheat growing, at the present price, is the most profitable crop to farmers," and later on he said, "what I say is that it is the most profitable crop to the community." And again he says, "that although the crop may occasionally fail"—not the failure, mark you, of the crop of one farmer, but a general failure—"although the crop may occasionally fail in consequence of bad weather that cannot be advanced as an argument against wheat growing. An occasional failure is not going to drive the farmers in Canada from wheat growing and out of tillage altogether and into the production of live stock. The wheat crop failed from time to time in Canada. But they simply plough the crop into the ground to prepare the land for the coming year." That is a very encouraging prospect to hold out to the farmers of this country. I wonder, when you compare the suitability of the land for the production of wheat, will public money be wisely spent if this bounty produces such results as the Minister supposes. Occasionally we do happen to have a wet season, and I wonder, when we happen to get the wet season, if the farmers are to adopt the very heroic policy mentioned by the Minister for Agriculture and his co-Minister as adopted by the farmers in Canada?
Unfortunately the experience of farmers who have tried this experiment is by no means favourable. It may be, in the future, that a particular type of wheat will be produced as the result of experiment that will be suitable to wet climates. The effort has been in the opposite direction in the past, and consequently if scientists concentrate upon that problem they may produce a more suitable kind of wheat for wet climates. I doubt if they have done so yet. Here, not for the first time, the Minister is proceeding to act on the old plan of putting the cart before the horse.
As regards the mixing process, I know there will be very great fear on the part of the ordinary farmer in my part of the country at all events. Perhaps the Minister would say that in his part of the country the farmers are more trusting. They may be. But in my portion of the country there will be very grave doubts in the minds of the farmers as to quality of mixture. I wonder if the very severe penalties envisaged by the Minister will have sufficient effect when there is no chemical means of deciding the quality of the grain by means of analysis. As I am on the question of penalties, there are a number of millers in this country at the moment and they are, without more ado, to get licences—I mean ordinary millers. If they offend there are various penalties prescribed in the Bill as set out in the Schedule. But there is a penalty not mentioned in the Schedule which is much more serious than any penalty mentioned in it; and that is the power of the Minister to withdraw the licence altogether. You may have a fine of £50 or three months in prison, and so on. But if you have the power given to the Minister, not a court, but the Minister himself, to withdraw a man's means of livelihood it is a very serious matter. I mention this because the Minister will have an opportunity of dealing with it now or in Committee Stage. There are a number of reasons given why the Minister, if satisfied, may withdraw a licence. "The Minister may at any time without any such application revoke a milling licence granted to any miller if (a) he is satisfied that such licence was procured by fraud or misrepresentation." Not that a court is satisfied but if he is satisfied: or (b) "the business of milling wheat has ceased to be carried on at such mill; or (c) the holder of such licence has been convicted of an offence under this Act." But in addition to the penalties already prescribed in the Bill, a man may be deprived of his livelihood altogether. I suggest if that has to be done it should be done in plain terms. The power is there and it is taken into the hands of the Minister to interfere with a person's ordinary livelihood. But in recent Bills such extraordinary powers over the livelihoods of thousands have been taken, and this penalty here affects so few that probably nothing will be done about the matter.
There is another matter that I am afraid the Minister did not make quite clear, in his opening statement, and the difficulty that confronts me here I think also confronts other Deputies, and that is the difference in price paid for different types of grain. I admit there may be differences. There is an average price struck, and it is the difference between the average price and the standard price that is to be got in the way of bounties. In that connection there are two things that might be taken into account. If the average falls all round the country it makes no difference what price the farmer gets. Will not that have the gradual but inevitable tendency of depressing the price all round the country that the farmer gets for his grain as distinct from the bounty? I think that will be the inevitable result, gradually, because it will make no difference what the farmer gets from the miller as distinct from the bounty, if the average price decreases. If the millers, gradually, therefore, reduce the average amount of money they give for the wheat, the bounty will make up the difference. That is bound to happen. The other thing I should like the Minister to keep in mind is the different qualities of grain offered to the millers. Why should the unfortunate farmer who lives in a portion of the country where the climatic conditions and the conditions of the land are not as suitable as they are in other places, be at a disadvantage in comparison, merely because his land and the climate produce worse grain than elsewhere? If it were an ordinary commercial transaction, I could see the justification, but here is a case where public money is being spent, and I suggest that that is a most unfair discrimination so far as the poorer classes of land are concerned. As I represent one of the poorer districts of the country, I suggest that that might be looked into. You are really asking him to take risks and, where the risks are greater, the rewards, I fear, will be less. That is the policy in the Bill so far as it stands. In that connection, I need only refer again to the beautiful, heroic passage I read out from the speech of the present Minister for Industry and Commerce showing the dangers that farmers run, dangers that are greater in some portions of the country than in other portions. That ought to be taken into account.
A thing that was not clear from the Minister's speech, as it is not clear from any of the specehes we have heard when dealing with economics in this House, is the balance that there will be in the increased labour. We heard a reference, if this policy succeeds, to the actual number of people that will be put into employment, but we did not, unfortunately, hear even a suggestion that there may be many ways in which, if this policy was being adopted—and after all we ought now to be familiar with that, and, apparently, the head of the Government is familiar with it, if the others are not—people will be indirectly put out of employment. Has that been sufficiently considered? I do not say, if the policy succeeds, that more people may not be put in, but I have grave fears, judging by the previous experience of the method by which the Government looks at things, as to whether they even thought there was a problem of that particular kind.
I should like, in connection with this matter, to ask a question of the Minister: why it is that a certain firm has been singled out for the special patronage of the Department for the supplying of seed; why an exception has been made in their favour? There are a couple of instances; I do not know how widespread they are through the country. On 15th October there was a lecture given by an Inspector of the Department, at Enniscorthy, in which he pointed out that arrangements had been made for the supply of grain from the I.A.W.S. Why were they singled out for that particular preferential advertisement? It was not any indiscretion on the part of the inspector—I want to make that clear— because in theDrogheda Independent of the same date, in the Farmers Gazette of the same date, and I do not know in how many other papers an advertisement to the same effect appeared. I do not know what policy there was, or whether there was any policy behind that.
One thing that rather amused me in the Minister's speech was his considering it necessary to stress the fact that no force was being employed, no compulsion. Then he stated that the reason he mentioned that was because some Cumann na nGaedheal Deputy had said it. He, unfortunately, mentioned the Deputy. I have also recollections of hearing that stated, but it was not by members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party; it was by followers of the Government Party. Force, and very decided force, was to be used against the farmers who did not fall in with the economic policy of the Government. Very often these people, I may say, have a method, and a very awkward method, of anticipating, in speech at all events, what ultimately becomes the declared Government policy. They very often let out to the public, possibly in order to accustom the minds of the public to it, what the Government are thinking, and what, when the people get over the first shock, the Government immediately proceed to enforce on the people. It is quite clear, of course, that there is no force provided for in this Bill. Those, however, who are familiar with the way in which farmers have been dealt with in other places know perfectly well that you can manage subsidies, preferences, and various other things in a way to amount to strong compulsion. Ultimately, I wonder whether, if this policy does not succeed to the extent that the Minister hopes, and if the other policy outlined last night in the celebrated phrase: "That we would have to get out of that trade," does succeed to the extent that the Ministry hope, force will not be necessary in the economic interests of the country, or, to put it in another way, whether the Government will not be convinced that it is the national duty of the people to do this, and that if they are not willing to do it, they must be made to do their national duty. We had also a little interchange here this afternoon in the matter of planed wood in which the Minister pointed out the great advantages of amalgamation so far as certain things are concerned.
It seemed to a number of people that there were a number of draw-backs to the wheat crop so far as this country was concerned. One was the climate and the other the small size of the farms which, of course, meant that they had to be worked in a very different way from that in which they were worked in other countries. As I say, the Minister was keen on rationalisation. They may succeed in the policy so clearly enunciated last night of dragging us out of the cattle trade. They might pretend to do it, but I doubt if they will be able to change the climate—but there may be a temptation to change the size of the farms, and for the Government to go in for that policy of amalgamation referred to this afternoon by the Minister. That, of course, is far from their minds at present. I am wondering, however, whether the very logic of events, whether all the policies that they are indulging in in this respect, will not drive them there, though nothing could be further from their minds at present; when it is quite clear that this crop is being managed under uneconomic conditions, whether there is fear the Government or some future Government may feel bound to interfere to see that it is managed under more economic conditions. There are some detailed points in the Bill to which I have referred upon which I want some special information, but as regards the details of the Bill they can be more suitably dealt with in Committee. I have tried to confine myself to the general policy of the Bill as I see it—how it will affect the farmers, especially the farmers in that particular portion of the country which I represent.