The debate on this motion has covered a good deal of ground and has occupied a good deal of time. I would say at the outset that I hope that I will not occupy too long a time. Some of the avenues into which this debate has wandered have rather mystified the House and, perhaps, it would not be any harm if we came back to the motion and approached it from a non-Party point of view. Not having the advantage of belonging to either of the big Parties, I suppose they cannot accuse me of trying to secure Party gain from the motion. I would rather approach it from the standpoint of a humble farmer representing an agricultural constituency and seeking to examine it from that standpoint and also to make some comment on some of the assertions that have been made. The motion reads:—
"That the Dáil condemns the action of the Government in reducing the total of the grants payable for the relief of rates on agricultural land."
Why does the motion set that out? Why does it condemn the action of the Government? I should like to go back to the contribution of the Minister for Industry and Commerce at an earlier stage as reported in column 2157 of the Official Reports in which he said:—
"It is the duty of the central authority to help the farmers to weather this depression so that they will be able to take advantage of any trade revival that may come about with their productive capacity unimpaired."
I take the same ground with the Minister on that and I proceed to examine it from that standpoint. Has the central authority taken the situation seriously and has the central authority examined it from the point of view of giving those who are bearing the burden and the brunt of this economic depression, as he calls it, a chance to live? I believe that we are confronted at this time with one of the most serious economic situations in the memory of most of us in the Dáil. It is dignified by the name of an economic war. War is a thing in which we usually expect to have two conflicting armies dealing blow for blow, but so far as one can see, the blows in this case are all on the one side, or, at least, the blows that are given in retaliation are very weak. The reduction of the agricultural grant amounts to £448,000. Is this reduction reasonable? I think that anyone who examines it in the light of agricultural conditions will say that it is not reasonable for a number of reasons. First of all, those engaged in agriculture are less able to meet their obligations. That may be true in many countries and yet the blame need not be laid at the door of the Government, but in our case the Government, by its own act, has brought 99 per cent. of this situation upon us. They have taken away the farmers' market and the farmers' livelihood; they have destroyed his live-stock market and they have increased his production costs. I come from a county of small tillage farmers, and I think that if there is any county in Ireland that would delight the heart of the President it is surely ours. I had the opportunity this year of touring a good part of the Free State and—I do not know if my calculation is right, but taking a rough and ready calculation—I believe I could find more tillage in one mile of my own county than I could find in any five miles of any other county I passed through, so that it is not because we are ranchers that I am standing up here to fight the cause. It is because we are trying to take the most we can out of the soil and to produce all the food we can for man and beast and to have an exportable surplus.
Now we ask what is being done for us? What has the Government done for us to help us to weather this storm of economic depression that the Minister for Industry and Commerce mentioned? We are thankful to Providence that we have had a splendid harvest. We have had a fairly good crop and it is well saved. What is the prospect for us this winter? I say, and let us be under no mistake about it, that the farmer who uses his crop in the country is making the biggest contribution to the country's wealth. Without being disparaging to anybody else, I want to say that those who simply grow oats and sell it are not farmers in the true sense of the word. We grow these things to produce more, to produce the finished article. We have been producing pork, beef, eggs, butter and other agricultural commodities. What prospect have we of disposing of our products? I think the Minister for Agriculture on the last day on which we discussed this motion played a very poor role as advocate for the farmer. We looked to the Minister for Agriculture to plead our case. Yet he talked for nearly an hour and his main arguments were to prove that we were in fact better off than the farmers in almost any other country in the world and that if we were not really well off, if we were under any disadvantage, it was counterbalanced by the reduction of the annuities to one-half. Surely it does not take any great intelligence, either in this House or outside it, to know that we are considerably worse off. The annuities are merely a portion nowadays of the farmer's expenditure. If we are losing one million a month—and that is a very low estimate of what we are losing in our markets—surely it cannot be counterbalanced merely by a reduction on one-half in our annuities.
Then, the Minister said that he was giving us this reduction. I think that statement was misleading. The Government at the present time are defaulting in the payment of the annuities to Great Britain and they are not raising out of the Central Fund the reduction that they are giving to us in the annuities. Half the annuities which it is proposed to collect now will cover the Government's obligation to the bondholder. The Minister for Agriculture gave us many figures to prove that we were much better off than farmers in other places. Surely no Minister in this House has ever given us such misleading figures as he gave us on that occasion. For instance, in regard to eggs, he told us that on the 4th November we were getting 1/8¼ here. Then he went away to 1931 and quoted the British market. We find that on that particular date in Northern Ireland, a district which follows agriculture much as we do here, in some districts eggs were worth 2/6 a dozen. He quoted the price of butter, but surely butter has not a market that is free here. It is bolstered up by the bounty, by restrictions, and it is selling at an artificial price. He instanced the case of sheep and said that sheep were really doing very well. This year I sold horny ewes at 15/- each. The same ewes in Northern Ireland were making 25/-. Then he instanced the case of fat cattle. Fat cattle have been averaging in the Dublin market from 18/- to 23/- or 24/- a cwt. In other markets outside here they have been averaging up to 30/-.
As regards pork and pigs, surely no greater fiasco has ever happened here than in regard to the pork trade. Take the case of our own town on the day on which the Minister spoke, not the last day but the previous day. On that day we had 800 pigs in the Monaghan Market, from one corner of Monaghan. The price for these pigs was from 37/- per cwt. back. On the same day in Northern Ireland for the best pigs it was 58/6, notwithstanding the fact that there was a bounty given to those who wanted to export our pigs. Then take the question of feeding costs and I should like to draw particular attention to that item. People do not realise what we are losing by the mixture which we are forced to use at present. I do not make any apology for comparing our price with the price charged in Northern Ireland because I live on the Border. Without looking for them, the prices are sent to me. In our town previous to any restriction on the import of maize, the price charged to us was the same as the Armagh price. We may take it that the price of ground maize per two cwt. bag was 10/-. In the case of the mixture which we now have to use, we will say that two-thirds of the bag is worth 6/-. Then a trader has to add one-third of oats at 6d. or 6½d. per stone— a total cost of about 2/8. Then he has to add the cost of procuring that, the cost of mixing it, the extra cost of grinding it and the result is that whereas the two cwts. of maize meal is being sold at 10/- over the Border, we are paying 13/- for our mixture. We are paying 3/- more for the mixture than the farmers in Northern Ireland are paying for maize meal and we are getting £1 per cwt. less for the pigs to which we feed that mixture. Surely the Minister for Agriculture with these conditions staring him in the face ought to be ashamed to tell the farmers that we are better off than the farmers in Northern Ireland. The people who are selling oats to-day are selling it at a very low price but the people who are feeding it are giving far more for it than for the maize meal. Our production costs have been increased and when we have our stuff ready for the market we get a very small price for it.
Take the case of cattle. I do not stand up to speak in this House about things of which I know nothing. On the 27th October last a friend and I marketed 20 cattle in Killalea fair in the County Armagh for the simple reason that there was no market for them in our own town. We paid £96 duty on them at the customs station. We paid that to get on the same footing as the farmer in Northern Ireland exposing his cattle, grazed on derating land, at the same fair. Will the Minister or any person in this House tell me that we were as well off paying our £96 on these cattle to expose them for sale there as the man who started off without paying any duty and who grazed his cattle on derated land? Only to-day I handed over a guarantee cheque to export ten cattle which will cost me £60. Will anyone tell me that I am on an equal footing with my competitor across the Border? The Minister says that I am recouped by the halving of the annuities. My annuities run into £60 per year and, therefore, I am out of pocket to the extent of the full annuity on these ten cattle. Of course, the Minister will say that I will get the bounty. We hope to get the bounty, but we have not got it on the cattle that we sold a month ago. It possibly will come in time.