Yesterday we saw the last rally of the advocates of the grass ranches and the bullocks, in defence of the policy that has prevailed here for almost a century. The barrage of rhetoric and hysterics of Deputy Gorey and Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney constituted the swan song of that policy. The introduction of this Bill marks the end of it. The introduction of this Bill marks the point at which the Irish people have made up their minds that men, women and children, in happy homesteads on the land of Ireland, are to take the place of cattle and byres. It is easy to understand the fury of the remnants of the garrison of the old order. It is easy to understand from some of the arguments which they advance their desperate attempts to try and maintain things as they have been here for the past fifty years. We have had a series of fallacious arguments called in to the defence of that order. We have seen Deputy O'Donovan calling, even, upon the poor people of the Gaeltacht, and advancing that as an argument why we should continue to concentrate our attention on the growing of grass for the feeding of livestock, although that policy has, in the period of its operation, almost depopulated the Gaeltacht, and sent thousands of people from that area, year after year, to the United States of America in an attempt to find a livelihood there that they could not get at home. I listened to the discussion yesterday, and tried to discover, from the speeches of the Deputies opposite, what, exactly, was their line of opposition to this Bill. I do not know yet. Some Deputies advanced the argument that the passage of this Bill and the subsidy to grain growing that would follow are going to impose an intolerable hardship upon the people of the country.
Deputy O'Donovan talked about the poor people in the Gaeltacht being taxed out of existence in order to provide subsidies for people living in the grain-growing areas. Other Deputies took a similar line. Against that argument, however, we had also from the benches opposite another argument. We were told that the Bill was not going to succeed, that because of the climate and other conditions it would not be possible to grow wheat here, and that, consequently, no subsidy would arise to be paid. Upon which line of defence is the Cumann na nGaedheal Party going to stand? It is not unusual for them to speak in divers tongues whenever a question of major policy is under discussion here, but surely we might expect them to be unanimous in respect to a matter of this kind. Either wheat will be grown consequent on the passage of this measure or it will not. If it will, then all the arguments about suitability of soil and climate and variety of seed fall to the ground. If it does not, the argument about the burden which the subsidy will impose upon the taxpayer carries no weight.
I propose to take one of these arguments first, that which was based upon the suitability of our soil, the suitability of our climate, and the suitability and variety of seeds available. We have had Deputy Bennett assuring us that the climate of this country has changed within the last twenty-five years. The Deputy was, of course, relying on his recollection. It is not necessary to rely on his recollection. He can get reliable information in the records of this State as to what exactly the climate was like, what the rainfall was, and what the sunshine was twenty-five years ago, just as he can about last year. These statistics prove that there has been no change in the climate of this country; that the average rainfall now is no greater or no less than the average rainfall a quarter of a century ago; that the climatic conditions have not changed. That has its bearing on this problem because of the fact, to which the Minister for Agriculture drew attention, that we did succeed in growing a very large acreage of wheat here many years ago.
Deputy O'Donovan talked about the conditions under which that wheat was grown. He did not realise when talking in that way that he was damning the argument of his own Party. He pointed out that wheat was grown under circumstances not nearly as favourable as those which obtain now; that the soil was dug by human labour with unsuitable tools; that the farmer was without the aid of artificial manures, and without any of the advantages the modern farmer possesses. Despite all these disadvantages, 700,000 acres were grown and produced an average yield of over 16 cwt. per acre, a higher average yield than is got in Canada or France to-day. If we could grow that acreage of wheat 90 years ago under the conditions then prevailing and get that average return, is it not reasonable to expect that we would get a higher average return now, and that, consequently, the growing of wheat should prove, even under modern conditions of price and market much more profitable than it did then?
Deputies, for some peculiar reason seem to think that there is some God-appointed reason why wheat should not be grown here that does not operate in any other country in the world. We till less of our arable land than any other country in Europe. We grow less wheat in proportion to our arable land than any other country in Europe. In other countries special State action is taken to encourage and develop wheat production. Why do Deputies opposite consider that such action is right in England, in France, in any of the central European States, but wrong here? Deputy Hogan talked last night about this policy of subsidising wheat being sheer lunacy. If Deputies would only endeavour to study a question for at least half an hour before coming here to make speeches about it they would not make such foolish comments upon matters of considerable public importance. If it is lunacy to subsidise wheat production here, why is it not lunacy anywhere else? Why is this the one country in the world in which it is lunacy to adopt that policy?
We had Deputies telling us that it is not possible for us to compete against Canadian wheat. Deputy O'Donovan talked about the possibility of growing wheat in Canada and delivering it to a mill in Ireland cheaper than the farmer whose land was adjacent to the mill could deliver it. Do Deputies read the Press at all? The Canadian people seem to have an entirely different opinion on that subject from Deputy O'Donovan. The Canadian Government is subsidising wheat production. Do Deputies let that fact enter into their consciousness? Did they read last evening's papers and see the announcement there of the decision of the Canadian Government to subsidise wheat production next year? If the policy is lunacy here, why is it not lunacy in Canada? Do Deputies realise that not one-tenth of the wheat imported here comes from Canada. Why all the talk about Canada? Why are the conditions in this country compared with the conditions in Canada only?
Canada is not, by any means, the most important supplier of wheat to the Free State. Not one tenth of our imports of wheat are Canadian wheat and what are the conditions in Canada? The Canadians have been growing wheat under considerable difficulties, under difficulties which do not prevail here. We have been told that there may be occasional failures of the wheat crop in this country. There are occasional failures of the wheat crop in Canada. I was there this year and I was told by members of the Canadian Government of what the failure of one crop there last year meant in large stretches of the country, and I was told that, in one province, there were 350,000 families being maintained by State assistance because of the failure of one crop. Did the Canadians decide to abandon wheat production on that account? Did the fortuitous circumstances that produced that failure in one year determine them to go out of wheat production, as Deputies opposite would have us go out of wheat production because of the possibility of one failure in twenty years?
If it is good policy to develop wheat production in Great Britain, Belguim, France, Germany, Italy and Spain and all other European countries, why is it not good policy to develop it here? Wheat is a basic crop. It is one product of the soil that can be sold right into industry. It means cash to the farmers. It means employment on the land and it means, if widely adopted, a better agricultural economy than heretofore prevailed. Deputy Hogan was talking last night about the necessity for maintaining a proper rotation. The agricultural statistics do not show that a proper rotation is being maintained in the Free State at this moment, and, normally, there should be double the acreage under grain that there is under roots. The agricultural statistics show that this is not taking place, and that there has been, and is, in this country what the Minister for Agriculture on one occasion described as an evasion of grain growing. If we are merely to get the proper acreage of grain which should be there in the existing economy, and which should be there to correspond with the existing crop of roots, we can supply almost entirely all our requirements in grains of various kinds.
The main argument, however, upon which Deputies appeared to rely was that it was foolish to expend money in encouraging the production of wheat in this country when we could buy cheaper wheat from abroad. Deputy O'Donovan put it that the Bill had for its object the developing of a trade in which the world could beat us. That I take it is the main line of defence of the Opposition—that we should not attempt to grow wheat because we can buy cheaper wheat from some other country, from Canada, the United States, up to recently, or from Australia, the imports from which have increased considerably since the depreciation of the currency there. Why do Deputies apply that argument only to one production? It applies also in the case of butter. There is not the slightest doubt whatever that we can buy butter cheaper than we can produce it here, and are Deputies on that account going to advocate that we should abandon butter production? Why do they not apply it to beef? Why do they not apply it to pigs and to sheep, poultry and eggs? I want pointed out to me some one agricultural product to which that argument does not apply. If we decide to abandon agriculture altogether, to clear our people off the land and to let it run to waste, we can get from abroad our supplies of agricultural products in some form or another cheaper than it is possible to produce them here. Is that good policy?
If Deputies opposite argue that that is good policy in the case of wheat, why do they not argue that it is good policy in the case of any other product? Is it not because they have at the back of their minds a faint idea of the lunacy of that policy. Somewhere within them, there is the conception that our fundamental purpose must be to secure a livelihood for our own people here, and not merely to buy individual commodities at the cheapest price at which we can get them. If we decide, in the case of any one product, such as wheat, to buy the cheaper product that we can get abroad rather than produce it for ourselves, let us take into account the land that will be idle, the men who will be idle and the wastage of national wealth which neglect of our productive resources involves. It is not merely a figure in the trade return showing the c.i.f. value of the imported grain, it is not merely a figure in the agricultural statistics showing the price at which farmers are able to produce grain off their land that must be taken chiefly into account. We have to take other factors into account, and when we are determining the value of the policy operated here for half a century, let us not merely consider whether a few farmers on the land were able to make a fairly satisfactory livelihood in consequence of that policy, but let us also take into account the thousands and millions who were not able to get a livelihood in conseqnece of that policy. We cannot leave them out of our reckoning and we certainly cannot leave them out now, when from other causes the outlet of emigration has been stopped and people who might have been driven abroad by that policy are now here and have to be provided with a livelihood here.
We have decided upon this policy after very careful and mature consideration. Deputies spoke of it as an alternative to the raising of live stock and the production of live stock products. It is nothing of the kind. There is nothing inconsistent with a tillage policy and nothing inconsistent with a wheat policy and the operation of raising live stock and the production of live stock products. In fact, it is possible to get a greater development in live stock production and the production of live stock products if we have tillage as the basis of our agricultural economy than otherwise. Deputies have only to compare the circumstances existing in Denmark with the circumstances existing here, and, while I am referring to that, I would like to say this: Deputy Hogan occupied in this Dáil the responsible position of Minister for Agriculture and, when he comes in here to speak on an agricultural subject, he is expected to speak as a responsible person, expected, at any rate, to verify anything he passes across the floor of the House as a fact; but, speaking yesterday about Denmark, he asked why Denmark imported three or four times the quantity of feeding stuffs that we import. They do not do anything of the kind. He tried to compare the value of one crop as against another as a feeding stuff and he talked about forty tons of mangels per acre. Where did he get that figure? The average figure shown in the trade statistics is 17.5 tons. The whole of Deputy Hogan's arguments were based upon contentions of that kind, passed off as facts, although, if the Deputy had spent five minutes looking up the figures that are available, he would have realised how mistaken they were.
The policy enshrined in this Bill is that for which Nationalist Ireland has been waiting for half a century in the belief that its adoption is going to stop the rot which has been going on during that period. The fruits of the old policy can be seen in our depopulated countryside and the thousands and millions of Irish people now in the cities of the United States of America. Yet we have Deputies coming here advocating that we should leave things as they are. "What is best is best," said Deputy O'Donovan. Instead of trying to prevent that rot, that depopulation, that wholesale emigration, they want to continue it. Their minds are not big enough to grasp the possibility of changing it. It can be changed, it is going to be changed and we are going to get, as the basis of our agricultural economy, tilled soil which will provide a more varied form of production and a better chance of a livelihood for the people.
That is the significance of this Bill. That is why this Bill is arousing the ire of the ranchers, the ire of the advocates of grass. Despite their ire, despite the sound and fury with which they are trying to oppose it, the Bill is going to go through and that policy is going to come into operation. We are prepared to take as a test of that policy the period mentioned by Deputy Hogan. He said he would like to see it operated for three years so that the fruits of it would be known. That is a fair enough test. Deputy Hogan made a somewhat similar challenge here before and he promptly proceeded to forget it. We will have a test of this policy whether Deputy Hogan likes it or not. This policy is going to be put to the test for at least three or four years and we can judge it by the results. This policy is not going to be based upon the calculations of any theories in the textbooks of British economists or upon the conclusions of people who have been reading articles in the "Daily Mail"; we will rely rather on the actual facts that will emerge after the policy has been put into operation and when we have replaced our people on the land and given them an opportunity for a decent livelihood there.