I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The principal object of the introduction of this Bill is the fixing of a minimum price for oats and barley. In the Principal Act, as introduced in 1933, there was a guaranteed market provided for oats and barley. At that time we considered it sufficient, because we thought that trade would go on in the normal way, with merchants purchasing their requirements from the farmers, and maize millers in turn purchasing corn from the merchants. We thought that, with a guaranteed market, the price would remain at a reasonable level, but last year we had a rather disastrous fall in the price of barley and oats after the harvest. Even though we tried to assure the merchants and the millers that all the oats and barley in the country would be used we could not induce the merchants or the millers to pay a reasonable price for the barley and oats on the farmers' hands. The result was that corn was sold by the farmers in some cases as low as 6/6 or 7/- a barrel——
Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.
——and now it is being sold by merchants and maize millers with a surplus at as high a price as 17/- a barrel. I have stated over and over again that the Cereals Bill was not brought in, in the first instance, for the benefit of either the merchants or the maize millers. It was really brought in for the benefit of the producers. We mean, by further legislation, to see that the producer gets a fair price for the corn that he has to be sold. We tried by negotiation last year to get that price for them, but neither the merchants nor the maize millers had any faith in the scheme. They considered it impossible to get all the corn in the country used up. We assured them in the Department of Agriculture—I met them personally—that we would raise the percentage to a sufficient level to absorb all the oats and barley, but they did not believe it could be done. At the same time, of course, there was the usual propaganda from Press and politicians that the loss of the British market was responsible for the low price. That propaganda was responsible, to a great extent, if not altogether, for the low price which the farmers got. The prices, as I have said, for oats and barley at the present time are very high. We have been approached on many occasions in the Department of Agriculture during the last few months to lower the percentage. We did lower the percentage from 33 to 15, but still the prices remain high. We cannot lower the percentage further, because, in the first place, we would be acting very unfairly to the maize miller who did his duty last harvest in buying sufficient oats or barley for the 12 months. If we were to lower the percentage further, or give up the mixing proposals altogether, it would mean that that particular maize miller would be left with oats or barley on his hands, and would not, perhaps, have any way of disposing of it. It would also have the effect of giving an impression of instability to the scheme to maize millers who did not do their duty last harvest. They might think that, in future, by buying a six or nine months supply they would be acting "cute." We do not want to give them that impression. We want to give them the impression—and I think they have got the impression now—that the man who took our advice after last harvest was the man who did act "cute" in buying sufficient oats and barley for his full requirements. Those who opposed us and took the advice of the propaganda against us were by no means cute, because they have now to pay 16/- or 17/- a barrel for their oats.
We are taking power in this Bill to fix the price of oats and barley. It is not certain that we will have to use that power this year. There is, I think, a general desire amongst merchants and maize millers to stock up fully this year when the harvest comes in, and it is quite possible that oats and barley may go to a higher price than we would regard as sufficient as a minimum price, but we have the power, at any rate, and if the price falls below what we consider to be a fair figure we can step in and fix the price. Under the fixed prices there will be, of course, certain machinery necessary. All those, first of all, who have to use home-grown grain under the Cereals Act—that is to say, maize millers and oat millers— will have to buy their oats and barley from a registered dealer, that is a dealer registered under this Bill. A registered dealer may be either a maize miller or an oat miller, or a person who is at the present time an oat merchant. Those registered dealers will have to pay a fixed price, and the price will be fixed according to quality, that is, on the bushel—oat bushels or barley bushels. Another provision in this Bill is the power to mix oat flour with wheaten meal or with wheaten flour for the making of bread. I am very doubtful that that will be necessary during the coming 12 months, but if it should happen that we have a bigger yield from our oats than we expect at the moment it may be necessary. As a matter of fact, the acreage under oats this year is lower than it was last year.
And the crop lighter.
Yes. Unless the yield is considerably better it will not be necessary to use this provision with regard to the mixing of oat flour. With regard to this, I might say that tests have been carried out over the last nine or 12 months both in the mills and in the bakeries, and the bread which was derived from the mixture of five, ten or 15 per cent. of oat flour was not distinguishable by colour from the whole flour bread. I mention that fact because a certain newspaper described this bread as black bread, some six or eight months ago when it was being discussed. The correspondent who wrote the account said he had not seen it himself. Certainly he had not. It was, as a matter of fact, on show at the Spring Show in Ballsbridge. The loaves were there to be compared, and I think it would be impossible for any person to distinguish them by colour alone. As far as flavour goes, I think anybody who tested the bread pronounced it much nicer in flavour than the bread made from the 100 per cent. wheaten article. Unfortunately, our oat crop may not be sufficient to bring these provisions into operation this year. If that part of the Bill is adopted it will mean the usual consequential provisions, such as the keeping of records of the amount of wheaten flour and oaten flour used by each baker. It is the millers will do the mixing.
A third provision in the Bill deals with the mixing of dried milk with flour for bread. That has been done by a number of countries during recent years, and it is claimed that it has been very successful both in America and on the Continent. It would naturally make a more perfect food to have dried milk mixed with the flour, because certain deficiencies in a carbo-hydrates diet of bread would be filled by the addition of dried milk. We have been testing it here, and as a matter of fact some bakers do turn out some bread containing milk—pan loaves—which are very popular in the city, and I suppose elsewhere. We have also been experimenting with certain different percentages of dried milk in the flour. It is certainly a feasible proposition. The only thing requiring further investigation would be as to the most advisable percentage of milk powder to use. From the agricultural point of view, of course, it would relieve the huge surplus of skim milk that we have in creamery districts. The skim milk would be used for this purpose, as it is the protein of the milk is required more than fat. If that part of the Bill is brought into operation by order, it could not possibly be adopted before the beginning of next summer, because we would not have supplies of dried milk available until about that time.
Can you give any idea of the relative costs.
I could not give them at the moment. We have the costs worked out. The provisions with regard to fixing the price of oats and barley, and mixing oat flour with wheaten flour will naturally lead to other difficulties. One of the difficulties that we have been up against, to a slight extent last year, and to an increasing extent as time goes on, is the matter of storage and kilns. We were fortunate last year and the year before in having a dry harvest. If we were to have a bad harvest or wet weather, with a large amount of oats, barley and wheat coming in, we might find great difficulty in dealing with the corn, as farmers would be compelled, more or less owing to the condition of the corn, to deliver it to the merchants or the flour millers, as the case might be. There are numbers of kilns and stores that are not in use and, as far as we can find out, the present owners are not inclined to bring them into use. Neither are they inclined to dispose of them. They are adopting a dog-in-the-manger attitude, and will not use them or give them to anybody else. There are provisions in the Bill enabling the Minister to take over these stores and kilns at a fair valuation. There are provisions in the Bill dealing with valuation. There is also power for the Minister to take stores by agreement as well as by compulsion, and there is further power enabling the Minister either to use the stores himself, or to let them to other persons, or to sell them. Of course, adequate compensation is provided for any stores taken over by compulsion.
Apart from the major principles of the Bill there are a number of amendments of the Principal Act. Perhaps it may be difficult for Deputies, in many cases, to follow these amendments without going to a good deal of trouble and studying them with the Principal Act. I will mention them now as they are taken in the Bill. Section 5 amends Section 3 of the Principal Act only with regard to definition. This would be necessary when the provisions with regard to mixing oaten flour came into operation. Section 6 gives the Minister for Industry and Commerce power to vary the preliminary quota period, a power which he had not under Section 27 of the Principal Act. Section 7 amends Section 28 of the Principal Act, and enables the Minister to issue a quota up to 100 per cent. As the section stood he could only give a certain specified quota. As Deputies are aware there are mills that go in altogether for the milling of whole wheaten meal. As the Principal Act stood the Minister for Industry and Commerce could not give them a quota because the Act said that a certain definite proportion could be milled in the whole year. As amended he can give them a quota. Section 8 amends Section 28 of the Principal Act, making it an offence to mill more than the quota allowed of wheaten meal. That was overlooked in the framing of the Principal Act. Section 9 amends Section 30 of the Principal Act. The fine for milling in excess of the quota was 3/- for every 400 lbs. Under this Bill that fine is changed. It is much higher on big quantities than in the case of smaller ones. In fact, it makes the maximum fine 30/- for 400 lbs. Section 10 amends Section 31. Under the Principal Act a person who failed or refused to make a return was guilty of an offence, but strange to say we did not make it an offence for a person to make a false or misleading return, so that a miller who wanted to fulfil the obligation could make a return which could be misleading. That is now made an offence. Section 11 amends Section 32 and gives the Minister for Industry and Commerce power to make regulations in relation to mills the quota for which does not exceed 1,000 barrels, and in relation to other mills. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is anxious to deal leniently with small mills, making less than 1,000 barrels, and wants to make different regulations for them. Section 12 amends Section 32 in regard to the records to be kept of wheat purchases. Under the Principal Act we laid it down that flour millers should keep returns of the wheat brought to their premises, but we found from experience that a miller might have wheat brought to a store elsewhere within the country. It is important to have a return made of any wheat he may have purchased, whether it was brought to his premises or not. Section 13 amends Section 34 with regard to the revocation of licences. It defines more precisely the power given to the Minister. Where a licensed flour miller was anxious to get a permit to mill wheat on commission for farmers he could not get it. There is certainly no reason why he should not. The Principal Act is amended there.
Section 17 amends Section 54 of the Principal Act. Under the Principal Act, in the case of death, the appropriate Minister could register the personal representative in lieu of the person who died, but in the case of a transfer of ownership, he had to remove the original person from the register and register the new owner. That section is being amended to deal with a change of ownership in the same way as that in which we have been dealing with a change in the case of death—by registering the new owner in lieu of the other person. Section 18 amends Section 55 of the Principal Act. It exempts registered manufacturers of compound feeding stuffs from furnishing returns. It was extremely difficult, and, in fact, it was claimed to be impossible by the manufacturers of compound feeding stuffs, to keep the records as laid down in the Principal Act. It meant that where they were using, as some of them claimed to be using, twenty or thirty different ingredients and making all sorts of mixtures such as pig mixture, calf mixture, laying mixture and fattening mixture, they had to account for every single pound of meal taken out of every package or sack on the premises, and they found it extremely difficult to keep all these records. We are exempting them from keeping these records because we feel that it is not necessary that they should keep them. They can be supervised quite efficiently without keeping these elaborate records.
Section 19 amends Section 60 of the Principal Act. A person cannot claim in future the right to inspect any register on payment of a fee of one shilling. That is a provision that was in the Principal Act by which any person could walk into the office and, on payment of a fee of a shilling, inspect the register. The privilege has never been claimed, and we earned no shillings under that section. In any case, it is inconceivable that any person would come in except as a matter of curiosity, because if there is a case in court and if there is any genuine reason for wanting the information, a person can get a certificate from the Minister. Section 20 amends Section 61 of the Principal Act. It gives the Minister power to cancel a registration if he is of opinion that there has been a contravention of the Act or any regulation made thereunder. The Minister could not cancel a registration under the Principal Act until a conviction was got in court. Some of those cases are extremely slow, and it takes a long time to get a case proved in court. Some of the smaller millers have taken a chance and have absolutely defied the law and tried to make money quickly before a conviction takes place. This section, I may mention, is being put in at the request of the maize millers themselves, that is, the reputable maize millers, and, in fact, of the whole body of maize millers, because I think they are, up to 98 per cent., in the organisation. They do not want to see a few small men getting away with this fraud. There is a provision, however, by which the Minister, first of all, gives seven days' notice, and if he is requested to hold an inquiry, he must do so. He appoints an inspector, and at the inquiry the aggrieved miller may be represented by counsel, or solicitor, or he may appear on his own behalf, as he wishes. This inquiry must be held, and nothing can be done until the results of the inquiry are reported to the Minister.
Section 21 amends Section 68 of the Principal Act. It will be unlawful under this section for a farmer to effect a nominal sale to a miller for the purpose of getting wheat ground for his own use and, at the same time, draw the bounty. The Principal Act did not intend to give the farmer a bounty on wheat which he used in his own household, but we know that in certain cases farmers bring in their wheat to the miller and nominally sell it to him, and then, after getting their bounty, take their wheat back again, when ground, for their own use. This section is introduced to make that illegal. Section 22 amends Section 70 of the Principal Act. When calculating the average price of home-grown wheat, fractions of a penny will be disregarded and the nearest penny taken. After all the wheat sales certificates had been returned to the Department of Agriculture the average price was calculated. It might work out to three or four places of decimals which made it extremely difficult to calculate, and quite a lot of the time of the staff was occupied in making out the different amounts due by way of bounty to each farmer. In future, we mean to take the nearest penny. If it is a halfpenny or over, we will take the penny above, and if it is under, we will take the penny below. Section 23 amends Section 71 of the Principal Act. In future, no bounty will be paid on any fraction of a barrel of wheat. That, of course, also created difficulty and trouble in calculating the bounty that should be paid on 3½ stone or 4¼ stone over the number of barrels a farmer would have.
Do you not recognise different grades of millable wheat?
The miller, of course, does.
But for purposes of the bounty?
The bounty is the same for everybody, but the miller pays differently on grade. Section 24 amends Section 80 of the Principal Act. As the Act stood, if a person could procure maize by any means other than being a maze importer or maize miller, it was quite lawful for him to sell that maize. It will be unlawful for anybody to sell maize in future. Of course, some illegality was obviously committed in the securing of the maize by that person, but it was still lawful for him to sell it. Section 25 amends Section 83 of the Principal Act. In future, a manufacturer's name must appear on the label attached to each sack of maize meal mixture. That is another provision which is being asked for by the maize millers themselves. Those maize millers who are trying to evade the law are not attaching their names to the sacks, with the result that if a sack is got afterwards anywhere, we cannot trace it back to the manufacturer to bring a charge. The maize millers' organisation is anxious that this should be done. Section 26 amends Section 85 of the Principal Act. It makes it unlawful for any person to import flour without a licence. It enables licences to be given for the importation of flour. Section 27 allows bread, buns and other products of wheat to be sent by post where the parcel is in value less than 10/- and in weight less than 5 lbs., and where it is a gift for the person to whom it is sent.
The last amending section of this Bill is Section 28, which amends Section 92 of the Principal Act, and it enables licences to be issued for all imports containing wheat products. I have dealt with these items at length, because I felt that it was rather difficult for Deputies to get at all the various amendments of previous Acts. They are, of course, matters that could much better be dealt with on Committee Stage, because each section stands on its own, more or less. The big principles of the Bill, however, which I take it will be discussed on Second Reading, are the power to fix a price for oats and barley; the power to mix oat flour with wheaten flour for the making of bread; and the power to mix dried milk with wheaten flour for the making of bread. The question is whether these powers are necessary or justified in present circumstances, and it is because I believe those powers are necessary that this Bill was introduced, and I recommend it for Second Reading.
This is a very voluminous document to digest at such very short notice, and I think it would be as hard to digest it as the bread proposed or specified for the country now. The Minister said that, boiled down, the main principles of this Bill are to give him power to fix a price for oats and barley, power to mix oats with wheat flour for our daily bread, and, further, power to mix with the wheat and oats dried milk for our daily bread. I think when we deal with the points that the Minister made an exhibit of in his concluding remarks we will be giving the country enough to digest in more ways than one.
The Minister wants power to fix the price of oats and barley. Is there not an economic power to fix the price of oats and barley? What materials does he propose to use in fixing that price? He told us that, in the absence of some legislation like this, nine months or so ago oats and barley were sold very cheaply. Later on they reached nearly war prices, and that has continued up to the present, and he blames the farmers who rushed to sell their oats and barley after the harvest last year for not taking his advice. I think a lot of farmers who retained their oats and barley are blaming themselves that they did not sell them in the harvest. Of course, superficially-minded farmers look upon oats as a crop which only wants a few days' ploughing and a few days' sowing; you then close the gates and have nothing more to do with it until the reaper and binder is put in in the harvest when it is threshed and stored and sold as a finished article. The superficially - minded farmer who reasons in that way can afford to smile. But the man who delves in the economic depths of the subject cannot afford to smile. We have not yet evolved an economic strain of barley here to produce the amber-coloured beer, and outside the little that is used for distilling and the percentage that is used in brewing in this country, which together are a small percentage of the total crop of barley raised, all the barley is used for feeding. As to the oats crop, a little is milled for oatmeal for porridge, or, as it is known in the country, stirabout, and for the odd little oat teacake made here and there, but the oats that is used for human food is a very small percentage of the oats crop of this country. So that to fix a price for oats and barley you must have stern regard to the economic value of the oats and barley, not as a finished article, but as a raw material to produce the finished article. A cry has gone up in this country for a number of years from farmers who claim to be tillage farmers and who want a fixed price for oats and barley. First of all, their panacea for the ills of the tillage farmer was the mixture. I was at a public meeting in Athy on the day that mixture was baptised. For a good while it went the rounds of the public platforms and the Minister for Agriculture, or Deputy Ryan, as he was then, was afraid to touch it. He did touch it, however, and I am afraid it has burned him.
The Minister has to amend a number of the sections in the Bill which he introduced last year. He finds that it is necessary to fix a minimum price for this raw material. I cannot see how any man can arbitrarily fix a price for a raw material unless a price is fixed for the finished article that that raw material will be used to produce. Oats and barley, no matter what concoction you mix them with, whether maize or anything else, have to be fed to animals to produce the finished product. The price of those animals regulates the price of the oats and barley, and the Minister and his Cabinet are only tinkering with the basic industry of this country by thinking that they can meet in a back room and say that the price of oats and barley will be so-and-so. The prices of all commodities in the world are ruled by world conditions.
Let us take an extreme example. Suppose the Minister fixed the price of barley at 14/- per feeding barrel and the price of oats at 12/-, and we farmers all came to the conclusion that that would pay us to grow them. Supposing we all grew barley and oats and dumped them on the Minister and demanded our 14/- and our 12/-, where would he get the money to pay? To fix a price for barley and oats must presuppose that some people will be got to buy that raw material at that price and use it in producing the finished article and be able to sell that finished article at an economic price that will pay them for their labour and for the cost of the raw material at the price fixed by the Minister and his colleagues.
Last year conditions were not good enough, and the Minister wants to improve on them. Are the prospects for the finished article as good this year as last year? When the Minister was squaring up to his Bill last year he had no notion that there would be a quota for fat cattle—that there would be any obstacle in the way of our feeding as many stall-feds as we liked in this country and finding an open market for them in Great Britain, even though that open market would only be open to us when we paid a tax of £6 on each beast going into it. The Minister knows a considerable number of stall-feds were tied up, knowing they had to jump that barrier of £6 a beast. He also knows that when the 1st January came, no matter what tariff barrier we were prepared to jump going into the British market, we could not get in all the beasts we had, and we were allowed to send them only half the number of fat cattle that were exported in the corresponding months of the previous year. The Minister knows the bungling that took place in his Department, which resulted in the transfer of about £60,000 of the cost of that beef out of the pockets of the producers into the pockets of the dealers.
The Minister sheds crocodile tears to-day, and he reminds the millers that the Cereals Act of last year was not intended for them but was intended for the producers. What sympathy has he shown the producers in the matter of beef for the British market? I hope the Minister will apply himself to this point, for it is the kernel of the whole situation. The main point is, what can we get for our beef? Every pound of beef, no matter what its price, may be made to represent a certain weight of oats and barley converted into beef in the bodies of the bullocks and the heifers. What we get for the beef has a direct relation to the oats and the barley. A certain amount of oats and barley, with other mixtures, will produce a certain weight of beef, and obviously the price we get for the beef regulates the price of the oats and the barley. There is no other way of regulating it in this or any other country, and to attempt to do so would be only tinkering with the subject; it would be merely pulling wool over the people's eyes.
The Minister knows of the artificial shortage that came about in regard to oats, and he is aware that that was due largely to one factor. The feeders who had thousands of cattle tied them up. I knew some people who had 40 cattle and they tied them up. They had two or three licences. They had to keep them on hoping against hope that they would get a market for the animals. The cattle had to be fed. They ate all the oats the feeder had together with what he had to buy. They had to be kept alive and in condition. The demand on oats affected the supply and the effect on the supply had an effect on price. Prices were put up. It is because there was an unexpected artificial consumption of our foodstuffs that prices went up. The hardening of prices took place from last January onwards. At the end of the season many people who had fat cattle had to let them out on grass. They could not get a market for them. I wonder, as regards those stall-feds for which a market could not be got, what standard price could anybody fix on the oats they consumed? It would not be a bob a barrel, because it was all wasted. When the article was finished there was no market.
I will again ask the Minister to give us some idea of how he will fix the standard. What will guide him? It will not do to say: "Take an average acre of oats; it took so much labour and seed to put in the crop and it took so much to harvest, thresh, grind and make it available for food, human or animal." Suppose we fix the cost at 10/- a barrel in order to allow a bit of profit for the farmer's supervision and allow for rates and annuities that the Minister tells us it is a matter of public spirit to pay three or four times, what is the position? As regards the annuities, the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Lands and Forests, is sending out the sheriffs all over the country to collect them. Supposing the Minister leaves a little margin in that connection, does he imagine that that is the price that is to be fixed? Let us say 10/- or 12/- or any arbitrary figure based on the cost of production. It is not a finished article, because that article has to produce beef, eggs, poultry, pork, etc. How will the price you get for those finished articles relate to your costings? Of course, the people can be taxed while they have a few pounds in order to produce an artificial price, but there is an end to that.
As we are talking about meal, I am sure there are many Deputies who recollect the old country saying about the meal tub and going to the bottom. The Minister is rushing headlong for the bottom. We are going to have wheat and oats in bread. Possibly we will have black bread. I have eaten bread from foreign wheat, home milled. I have eaten oaten bread. I can eat anything the ordinary man can eat. There must be extraordinary men on those benches opposite if they can eat a mixture of oats and wheat. Let us deal with wheat. I thought there was a big push for wheat. I thought that we could grow wheat. What is the need to mix it? The Minister said, down South, that there was a danger of giving the people—the smoking public —an overdose of home-grown tobacco— that they might stop smoking. I suppose we might be able to stop smoking, but we could not very well stop eating. Is not the Minister travelling on dangerous ground? Is he not taxing very much the tastes of the people by putting, in the loaf that we use, a percentage of home-grown wheat? I am a stronger believer in wheat growing than the Minister is, and I carried on a wheat growing compaign for years and wrote many pamphlets on it before the Minister thought of wheat; but I put this to the Minister: that he is enforcing a mixture of Irish grown wheat in our flour that is not suitable to produce a baker's loaf. If the Minister will attempt to contradict that statement when he is replying, I shall be glad if he is able to contradict it, but I will not be satisfied with his contradiction until he produces——
——proof by an expert. The Department of Agriculture has issued pamphlets on this subject, and if the Minister attempts to controvert my statement, then, the sooner he withdraws those pamphlets, issued by the Department over which he presides, the better and the sooner he will be acting consistently with the policy of the Department behind him. Now, in addition to that mixture of Irish-grown wheat in our flour which, according to the boasts from the opposite side, should reach the percentage of 20 this coming year, if the area they expected and boasted they would have under wheat in the Saorstát this year comes up to expectations, we should have, with an average yield, 20 per cent. of our wheat requirements for our daily bread produced in this country this harvest. Now, 20 per cent. would be quite enough to attempt in changing the loaf, but the Minister is going to put in, I think he said, 5, 10 or 15 per cent. of oats in the flour, and that that would not be noticeable as regards colour; but what as regards taste and flavour? Of course, I will not pursue the scientific side of that any further, because the Minister has a medical degree and I have not. I might be going beyond my depth if I did pursue it. Why does not the Minister encourage still further the extension of the wheat crop rather than mix oats through it? We can buy a barrel of wheat—the best wheat in the world— for 15/-. We will get 20 stone of wheat for 15/-. Would it not be better, when we have an over balance of soft wheat of our own, to buy some hard wheat and try to keep up the standard of our bread rather than lower the standard of our bread still further by mixing oats through it?
Our oat crop is smaller than last year. Why is there the anxiety to find a market for the oats this year when we have a less area under oats and the cost of the oats will be nothing at all like what it was last year? The Minister knows very well that a big percentage of the oat crop is reaped already. The farmer knows approximately what his crop will yield on the day he reaps it, and the yield of oats this year, per acre, will be much less than last year. In fact, with the exception of hay, in all probability the yield of all crops will be less than last year. Still, by some peculiar kink, the Minister wants power to force us to have oat flour in our bread. He goes further and wants power for us to have dried milk. I think this is more of a joke than a serious proposition. I forget what exactly the price of dried milk is now or what it has been. Deputy Curran, I am sure, will have an idea of it. I remember, a few years ago, being shown over a creamery in Tipperary—perhaps the leading creamery in the country, a creamery in Tipperary town—and their store was filled up with dried milk. My recollection is that the price they were receiving for that was many times greater than the price of flour or wheat or oats. So, to go and mix that kind of stuff with our daily bread—well, I do not know what it will do or how it will affect the bread as food, but I know that if a similar price is expected for the dried milk that the dairy co-operative creamery expected for its dried milk, then the price of the loaf should go up rather than remain normal.
Conversely, if the price of the loaf will remain normal, the price that could be returned for dried milk will be uneconomic and it will not pay for use as a mixture in bread. I think, speaking generally, the best price that can be obtained for skim milk can be obtained in normal times by feeding that milk to pigs. I think in creamery districts it is reckoned in normal times to be worth about one penny a gallon. I would be very interested when the Minister is replying if he would tell us how much dried milk he will get out of a gallon of skim milk, the cost of drying this, and in what ratio he proposes to mix that dried milk with wheat and oats. It might have the effect of whitening the dark bread.
The Minister has featured just the three points that I have dealt with. I do not want to labour them unduly or to add any more to what I have said. But as a farmer, of course, I would be interested in a high price for anything I have to sell. So will anybody, just as well as a farmer. But we are not fools. We are not satisfied with the price that is built up by artificial means. If the Minister fixes a price that at first sight is a profitable price, we want to have some stability about that price and we want to be assured that that price comes out of the product of the article that our product is made to produce. We do not want a high price, an artificial price at the cost of the taxpayer. Speaking in a narrow kind of way just now, let us have a selfish view, if you like, let us have an agricultural view. The agricultural industry of this country keeps going about 80 per cent. of the population. If the Minister fixes an artificial price for these cereals—which would be, we will say, about 5/- per barrel above the economic price—let him remember that we are 80 per cent. of the population. Substantially we will pay 80 per cent. of that five shillings which the State will have to give to inflate the price.
Who fixes the price now?
No, it is malting barley.
Will Deputy Davin realise that there are more crops grown in this country than malting barley? Will he realise that there are more counties in the Free State than Leix, Offaly and South Kildare? Will he realise that Leix, Offaly and South Kildare are in the Free State but they do not comprise all the Free State?
Will Deputy Belton remember what he said five years ago?
It is very important.
"Very important" another barley grower chimes in. But if the State comes to the rescue by inflating our barley price by five shillings a barrel—we will take five shillings a barrel for purposes of illustration—the taxpayer will have to provide that five shillings and of that five shillings the agricultural community will have to provide four.
What about Guinness?
One thing at a time. If you want a long debate on that, I am your man. I am near a conclusion now and do not tempt me to go on. I am just putting these points to the Minister and I am putting them calmly and deliberately and not by way of trying to tilt at the Minister's proposal. If he convinces me that he is right and I am wrong, I will admit that he has convinced me. But he will have some job.
We all quite admit that.
He will have some job and so will the Deputy. Any artificial price which the Minister fixes for those cereals, that much of it that is above the economic price must be provided by the taxpayer, and the agricultural community, the very people that he wants to tempt with those prices, are 80 per cent. of the entire tax-paying community and they have to pay four-fifths of that inflated price.
These are not the kind of jokes that the Deputy would use in Maryborough. He would find that many would not laugh at these jokes.
I would like to know what Deputy Belton said there five years ago?
I would like to meet Deputy Davin in Maryborough. He would not laugh at these jokes. The Deputy can mention the time when he will be available in Maryborough and he will find me there to meet him. There is a Bill complementary to this Bill coming along and but for that I would be tempted to go on in another direction. I think the Ceann Comhairle would be satisfied that I would be within the limits of the debate.
There are no newspapers.
Oh, but there are records, and your sins will come up before you some day.
That is very appropriate.
It is very appropriate for the Minister that there is no paper these days, but this will see the light of day yet and it will work its way to the remotest parts of the bogs in Leix and Offaly.
There will be no Opposition when the strike is over.
I do not know whether we will have so many daily papers when the strike is over. I am afraid those that are now on three legs will be going on two legs, if they have any leg at all.
The wish is father to the thought.
I am not a bit concerned. I have the same interest in one as in the other. The Minister was confronted some months ago with a problem and he solved it by destroying the only means by which he could improve the price of oats and barley. He hailed as a national policy the slaughter of 120,000 calves.
Now, we are on it.
Yes, the Deputy is laughing; but there will be 120,000 fewer yearlings next winter to eat the oats and barley.
Or mix them with flour.
The Deputy is so much like soup that I would not pass a comment on him. We will have 120,000 fewer cattle to eat oats and barley next winter. Perhaps that is the secret that is worrying the Minister; that there will be less live stock to provide a market for oats and barley next winter. Incidentally, I may remark that these calves realised the maximum price of 6d. a piece to the owner. As time goes on, there will be of the various ages of cattle kept in this country 120,000 less. The opportunities we have of sending them out of the country are being curtailed. Therefore, the market for oats and barley is being curtailed.
I would like the Minister to apply himself to that problem. Let him explain, in a coherent way, how he hopes to continue producing oats and barley at the present rate, and get a remunerative price for that oats and barley if he continues to adopt his national policy of the destruction of the market for oats and barley. That market is, and will continue to be, the live stock of the country, yet he finds it essential because of his outlook, that the surplus live stock should be curtailed and thinks it good that it should be curtailed. That is the reason he gives and others give as to why the market for our surplus live stock must be limited. If we are to limit the production of live stock, to our requirements, we must limit the production of feeding to the limited number of our live stock for our requirements. Is it not a sad commentary upon our national Government to find responsible Deputies sent to this House with 7,000 or 8,000 voters behind them, in Galway, Cork, Laoghise and Cavan who cannot find anything better for their families than potatoes and buttermilk? And yet the Deputies who represent them here in this House are only smiling at a situation that anybody who takes the pains to think for five minutes sees clearly and in fact, cannot see any other solution——
What about the turkeys last Christmas?
Order! If Deputies have any contributions to make to the debate they should make them in proper fashion and not by way of interruptions which may be provocative and contribute nothing useful to the discussion.
In answer to what the Deputy has said——
The Deputy is not in possession.
Perhaps the Deputy would give way.
If the Ceann Comhairle is satisfied I will give way, for a moment or two, but perhaps, better still, I will finish and give way altogether. I would like the Minister in a calm way to tell us why he is using the knife to destroy 120,000 calves in the next two years. Presumably he will use the knife from January to March next and will continue to slaughter 120,000 calves in the following season and so on. Our cattle after three years at that rate will be reduced by 120,000 per annum and we will have lost three generations of calves of 120,000 making 360,000 in all less to consume our oats and barley.
The Minister's policy is more tillage at a guaranteed remunerative price. Let the Minister apply himself to this problem and explain to the House and the country how he can increase the area under tillage while there are 360,000 cattle sold from stock at 6d. apiece to the owners, and 10/- to England for taking them away. Will he tell us where or how in such circumstances he can get a market to consume the increased oats and barley produced? Where will he get a market to take the present rate of production of oats and barley? He can only guarantee a price out of the taxpayer's pocket, accelerating our speed on the road to bankruptcy. Of course, he turns around and says "I'll see that 15 per cent. of oats is put into the wheat or flour grist that is to make bread." We have already 20 per cent. of soft home-grown wheat mixed with our flour. The Minister has made no discrimination between soft and hard wheat. He is giving a flat bounty to grow any sort of wheat; so long as they till the ground he does not care whether it is hard or soft wheat that is grown. With 20 per cent. soft wheat and 15 per cent. of oats we have 35 per cent. of new material put into our flour and the Minister will fix the price for the oats that is going into that flour.
I do not think there is any need to pursue this matter any further. I shall offer my unqualified compliments to the Minister and the Cabinet if they can perform, what no man has ever yet been able to perform, that is to provide remunerative markets for any crop or any commodity, having no relation to the finished article, when that crop or commodity was the raw material used in its production.
It all boils down to this. Under the Minister's régime we have lost the market for the stock to which we fed our oats and barley. The price we got in that market regulated the price that oats and barley were worth to us here. Again, there is a £6 tax on stall-fed cattle going out of the country. That tax is limited to 50 per cent. of the normal export and now the Minister thinks that by fixing a figure for oats and barley that we will be prosperous. That figure can be obtained and maintained only in one way, and that is by the taxpayer, and four-fifths of the taxpayers will be agricultural producers. If there is to be an increased price four-fifths of that price is to come out of the agricultural producer's pocket, and then the Minister and his officials will take a bob from the fund, and hand it back to the agricultural producers, and the poor agricultural taxpayer will cover the walls of the country with the cry "Up the Republic."
When Deputy Belton was speaking a few moments ago, I attempted to rise to answer a particular point, or charge as it were, which he made but the Ceann Comhairle would not allow me to proceed. He suggested that I should wait until the Deputy had finished. My only purpose in rising now is to refer to the statement made by Deputy Belton. I think what he said was that it was a sad state of affairs to think that there were Deputies in this House from Cavan, Laoighise-Offaly, Galway, Cork and other places, sent here by an average of 7,000 or 8,000 people who, at the present time, were living on potatoes and buttermilk or potatoes and salt, I do not know which.
The inference from that is that the people in the constituencies who sent us here are now living under what we might term underfed conditions. I do not know what the Deputies from Cavan and other places think about that statement but I want to tell Deputy Belton—and I want it to appear on the records of this House just as his lying charge will appear—that the people in my constituency are not living under such conditions. They are just as well fed as the people of any county in the State and that is good enough. The best proof of that is that they gave Deputy Belton and the like of him his answer at the last three or four general elections and, if there was a general election in the morning, the spirit of the Galway people, no matter what way they may be fed, is such that they will show the same confidence they have already shown in this Cabinet and will return supporters of the present Government in greater strength than ever to do what is right for this country. Cavan and Cork can now speak for themselves.
They have spoken.
Dublin leads you know.
You lost your sense of humour and you made me lose mine.
That is the worst of it.
There is no doubt, judging from Deputy Belton's speeches here, he is getting so bitter that he must be taking too much of his own rhubarb without sugar. That is the only reason I can find for his bitterness.
The season is over now.
You must be taking it out of season. If we consider the position of those, whom this Bill is intended to benefit, at the period when we took over office in this country and the hopeless condition in which those who were prepared to till and work their land were placed by the previous Administration, I think we must come to the conclusion that this Bill is only supplying a long-felt want. Deputy Belton speaks about markets for the farmers' products to-day. Where were the markets for these products in 1925 to 1931, in competition with maize meal, and imports of grain from all parts of the world? It was in competition with these imports that we had to find a market. Anybody looking at the figures, relating to the tillage area in this country from 1923 to 1931, can read in them the number of markets we had. Our tillage area was reduced by some 100,000 acres. They can read them also in the export of human beings from this country and in the rushing of those driven off the land by the bullock into the cities and towns looking for work that they could not get.
I remember making repeated appeals from these benches to the late Executive Council to make some attempt to provide the farmers with a market for their oats and barley but the cry here always was "You can face the open market against the rancher from Canada, from the Argentine and from South Africa. You can face all those and meet them in the open market and take what you get." I have seen the position in my own constituency every harvest. The farmer came into the towns with samples of barley asking the few brewers "For God's sake will you take it and pay me what you like, pay me when you like, but take it anyway." I have seen some instances in which samples were taken of barley and the farmer only knew what he was going to get for that three months after he had delivered the grain into the maltster's stores. He had to be satisfied with that. There was very little use appealing to Deputy Blythe or the rest of them here for any satisfaction in those days. We had to find a way out of that position for the farmer and we found it.
You sure did.
Yes, and those who came in here jeering and laughing last harvest saying to the farmers that now that they had grown the oats, where were they going to get a market for it, where were they going to get a price for it and stampeding the farmers into selling the oats, have to share a certain responsibility. We are remedying the position or preventing its repetition by this Bill. I admit that the merchants made a haul last year and a pretty considerable haul when they bought oats after the harvest at 5/6 and 5/- per barrel. That condition of affairs is not going to last. We are going to see that, on the day the farmer threshes his oats, he knows the price he is going to get for it and if Deputy Belton is anxious about the price I can tell him it is the cost of production plus something in the shape of profit——
Is that the standard? What will you do with the oats then?
We will feed you on it and you badly want it.
The Deputy should address the Chair and should not put questions across the floor in that manner.
That was the position until very recently. Deputy Belton asked what is the occasion for fixing prices. Anybody who looks at the price last harvest and the price within the last month, should have no occasion to ask that question. Everybody knows that the general custom amongst farmers, who have no means of keeping their oats, is to rush the oats into the market the day after the threshing. The farmer has to accept what is going then whether he likes it or not. We are now going to fix a price so that the farmer will get at least the cost of production and something over for that oats. The price of oats in the present market is somewhere about 16/- per barrel. At least, I saw oats sold in Cork during the last week at £9 per ton. There was no difficulty in getting that. Still, that is the oats for which the farmer was told last harvest by the so-called Farmers' Party and the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, we would not be able to find a market.
There was, we were told, no market for it and it could not be sold. Last year it was all sold and more would have been purchased if it could be got.
We succeeded in providing a market last year for the farmers' grain. The market was there and advantage was taken of it. It is interesting to compare the position of the Guinness and Beamish firms last harvest with their position during the previous harvest. Last harvest, representatives of these firms were rushing around the country asking the farmers if they had barley for sale and what price they wanted. That was a very big change from the day when the farmer would go into these people and ask them to take his barley. They would tell him then that he would know the position in three months' time. Guinness and Beamish had to come along last year and buy the barley in the farmer's yard. They had to tell the farmer what the price would be before it was delivered. That was a big change. They had to buy in competition with the miller, who was also compelled to purchase. Only 6,500,000 cwts. of grain were brought into the Free State last year. There is still that market for Irish grain and it is a market which can be supplied. There was a very keen need for the definite fixing of the price of grain— both oats and barley. Last year, the wheat millers, at the start of the season, rushed around buying wheat at 12s. and 13s. a barrel. They said to the farmer: "It does not matter to you, the Government will make up the difference." We saw these millers writing to the farmers a week afterwards stating that the price they allowed for the wheat was wrong and that they could now pay 17s. or 17/6. That was a big change. We know very well that the farmers must sell their crop after the harvest. We are going to see that advantage is not taken of that fact by the merchant. This need was felt not alone this year or last year but for the last ten years. The farmer is as much entitled to the cost of production as is the manufacturer—the man who makes boots or clothes or any other article. We are going to see that he will not be fleeced by any merchant.
Deputy Belton has alluded to the class of bread made with the percentage of oats. I have used that bread myself and I can find no fault with it at all. It is far better than the bread made from black oats, hulls and all, which Deputy Belton ate in Belfast in 1918.
I do not want to eat it again.
The Deputy ate it at that time because John Bull made it.
He ate it because he had to.
And I had to do so, too. I can see no difference between the loaf containing the oats and the ordinary wheaten loaf. I should like the Minister to reconsider the point in regard to the farmer who takes his wheat to the miller to be milled for his own use. I do not think that that farmer should be penalised by being deprived of the bounty. In my opinion, it would be very easy to get round the clause in the Bill. If I were taking any wheat for my own use into the mill, I should get around that clause in a minute. I think that the clause, as it stands, is useless and that it is only penalising a man who does not deserve to be penalised—the farmer who takes his wheat to the mill and gets it milled for his own use.
I suggest to the Minister that practically the same thing that he is doing in connection with oats and barley should be done in respect of wheat. I think that we have gone beyond the bounty stage in regard to wheat. The price should be fixed at the cost of production, with something over. Instead of paying the bounty, the millers should pay that price for the wheat, mill it, and pass it on. The time when the Government should be asked to make up that price by bounty or subsidy has gone. The price of wheat should be fixed at about 30s. a barrel, and that price should be paid by the miller direct. There are too many middlemen involved in the job and there is too much money wasted in milling, inspection and in the cost of officials. We had complaints perpetually in regard to this question. I remember hearing last year that the racehorses on the Curragh could not be fed on Irish oats because they were not hard enough and that foreign oats had to be imported for them. They would not jump sufficiently well on Irish oats. We had that kind of complaint coming week after week and month after month from people who did not want to use anything Irish, who did not want to use Irish grain, and who said that the pigs would not fatten if they did not get whole maize. The some story was told about the bullocks I do not agree with Deputy Belton when he says that when the grain farmer ploughs his field and sets his crop he locks the gate until harvest. There is such a thing as rotation of crops. The following year that field will be growing root crops.
The Deputy is not half as dense as he pretends to be. The Deputy could grow beet. It would be a change for him and he would get a market for it. Surely the man who ploughs his land gives more employment than the gentleman with the bullock whom Deputy Belton appears to be so anxious about.
I did not say a word about him.
These gentlemen in Cork whom Deputy Belton goes down to meet are pretty well fed-up with him now.
You have some of these people amongst your own followers.
I never counted Tommy Barry as a supporter of mine. A Republican Government had to make seizures on the property of that gentleman, a gentleman with 350 acres of land and an annuity of £40 which he could not pay.
This has nothing to do with the Bill and should not be discussed.
Deputy Corry was very scarce in Cork last Saturday.
I will hear Deputy Corry on the Bill.
There were so many references made to tariffs, cattle and all the rest by Deputy Belton that I thought I might refer to that meeting.
We cannot discuss the personnel of any meeting that any Deputy held.
I would be very sorry to discuss all the meetings that Deputy Belton attends. I think I have covered all the points that I wanted to refer to. The Bill undoubtedly provides a fixed price for the farmers' grain and is fulfilling in that respect at any rate a long felt want. I am sure that the farmers of the country will be grateful for it. The farmers who were compelled last year, owing to circumstances, to sell their grain at one-half or one-third the cost of production will be very grateful for this Bill. I do not think that they will be at all thankful to Deputy Belton for the manner in which he dealt with it. At any rate, it provides the farmer with a fixed price for his grain. Whether that fixed price will be high enough is a matter for future consideration. We will endeavour to see that it will at least meet the cost of production for the farmer who ploughs and tills his land. The man who does that is certainly entitled to that much consideration. I am glad that this Bill has been introduced, and that the Deputies opposite were persuaded to wait a little while for their holidays so that the Bill might be passed through all its stages before the harvest.
There is an aspect of this Bill which I would like to put before even Deputy Corry and the Minister for Agriculture. As I have said before, I agree that the farmer is entitled to the cost of production just as well as any other individual in the State, but what about a farmer who buys that mixture afterwards? Is he entitled to the cost of production?
He gets it.
That is the acid test. He does not get it.
If he did not get it he would not buy it.
The facts, as I know them, do not bear out that statement. The Minister is very much concerned at the present time about the pig population of the country and about the production of bacon. What position are they in at the moment? This Bill that we are discussing and the admixture are very much concerned with the production of bacon, and probably fowl. There is very little mixture now being fed to cattle or live stock because it does not pay. We are led to believe that the Minister is in a very difficult position now trying to fill the British Government's quota. I am sure he will agree that he cannot fill it. The reason is of the cost of feeding stuffs. I know that the price charged for a 20 stone sack of mixture at the present time is round about 19/6, in places. Due to that, the farmers have gone out of production.
Speaking from experience, I can say that the small farmers of the country, and even cottiers, have been the greatest pig producers. Invariably they are better than the more extensive farmers. Evidence of that is to be found in the fact that they have been the largest purchasers of feeding stuffs from the creameries and merchants, but they have gone out of production owing to the cost of this cereal mixture. It is a grand thing to boast here, or anywhere else, that we are giving a particular price to the farmer who grows grain. I agree that he is entitled to the cost of production, but the man who buys the mixture is entitled to get a fair return for his labour, and if he does not get it, then the thing will not work.
I know that this trade is being cornered considerably at the present time. The small farmers have gone out of pig production. I know a merchant who used to do a very extensive business with farmers and he is now keeping up to 600 pigs. He probably thinks it a good thing to do. He wants to keep his business going. But the effect of all this is that the cost of production has been increased so far as the small farmers are concerned. They cannot afford to buy the mixture and they are going out of the business. It is well known that the pig population of the country has been considerably reduced.
Would the Deputy allow me for a moment to relate an experience that I had in that particular connection. I want to refer to the case of a gentleman who writes letters to the newspapers about once a fortnight complaining about the mixture. Some of us happened to go to him about 12 months ago looking for a store. What was his reply to us? It was this: that he said he was making £2,000 clear profit on pigs probably in the last 12 months. He said that he would not be such a hanged fool as to give up his store when he could make a profit like that. The gentleman in question is Mr. Frank Buckworth, of Cork, who writes to the newspapers complaining of the Government's admixture scheme.
Has he paid his income tax?
I am not in a position to contradict Deputy Corry's statement.
I hope that the Press will publish what I have just said.
As I have said, I am quite agreeable that you should give the farmer who grows the grain a price to cover the cost of production, but I want to emphasise this: that the farmer who buys that grain is entitled to a fair remuneration for his labour, and he is not getting that at the present time. The price may be considerable at the moment. The Minister can go around the country and say: "If only the farmers took my advice and kept their oats what a grand thing it would be." If we all knew what was going to happen in 12 months' or two years' time I suppose things would be grand, but the fact is that we do not know. The price of pigs has fallen within the last week 4/- or 5/- per cwt. In view of that, farmers are not prepared to pay an enhanced price for the mixture. The Minister has prohibited the export of live pigs. Why? Because of his effort to try and fill the quota allotted to this country in the British market which, he thanks God, is gone. That is why the export of small pigs is prohibited. Very extraordinary powers are taken under this Bill, and all those powers are put into the hands of the Minister and the Government. Very wide powers of compulsion are taken. It is all compulsion now so far as this and other Bills are concerned. There is scarcely anything one can do now except by legislation.
I am afraid that this Bill is not going to be of any benefit to anyone. I am not going to deal with the wheat problem but, if, as Deputy Belton says, people have to eat black bread, I will probably exist on it as long as anybody else. I am rather amused at Deputy Corry when he says the price of wheat should be 30/- a barrel. I suppose it should in order to pay, and I can assure Deputy Corry that if the Government turns around and fixes the price at 30/- I will be ready for them too; they will not get much of my money. Personally, I should prefer if wheat were 50/- a barrel, as in the old days, when it was grown extensively in this country. That is what it was when the farmers of this country depended on wheat to meet what in later years they met out of the raising of live stock. If the Government wants to bring about that state of affairs I have no doubt at all the farmers will be ready and willing to deliver the goods.
In those days that I speak of—and I have learned from people who can remember something about those days —I think the wheat was largely exported. I can say that Government intervention has very serious effects on the whole industry, and this Bill, as I said, is largely responsible for dealing with the bacon industry. I say that the amount of mixture which is being bought for anything other than pig production or probably for fowl is very small, and if the Minister says he is going to guarantee a price to the grain growers he ought to see that the people who buy it get a fair return for their money. I know that during my time at farming—and I have been farming for a fairly good number of years—the barley growers were always able to look after themselves. They always had, as a bone of contention everywhere, the price for their barley. I do not object to their getting a good price for their barley. I certainly do not, but there is no use in their thinking they can get it off their neighbour to turn it out in bacon, beef or anything else, if he does not get a fair price for his product.
There is only a percentage of this country suitable for barley growing. Coming up to Dublin yesterday I saw most beautiful crops of barley. They were delightful to look at, and will give a good yield, but there is no reason at all why people in the non-barley growing districts should be made paupers, so to speak, at the expense of those who are living in barley growing districts and whose land is suitable for growing barley. That has been the position all those years. The barley growers were always able to write letters to the Press, saying that they should get this, and that and the other thing—they should get everything. I do not mind if they get £2 a barrel from Guinness or Beamish, but I would tell the Minister that if he is going to see that the grain growers get a fair price, which I consider they are entitled to, it is also his duty to see that the people who buy the mixture for which he is responsible will get a decent return also. How that will be brought about in the absence of a more reasonable frame of mind on the part of the Government is a matter which I will leave the Minister to decide. In any case, he need not think that any of that mixture which we are legislating for here to-day will be given to cattle or anything else. It will not. It will be fed only to pigs or fowl, and for that reason it is his duty to see that the people get a fair return. We can legislate here and we can produce this mixture, and all that sort of thing, but mind you, it is not going to be bought because it is not a paying proposition to buy it. At the present time it is not a paying proposition. It is not bought, with the result that one of our great branch industries in the country is quickly deteriorating—the pig industry—and nobody knows that better than the Minister himself.
I must again protest against this Bill because it means that the people I represent will have to pay an increased price for feeding stuffs. Deputy Corry said that the late Government were not prepared to help those who were ready to work the land. I would like to repeat what other speakers have said, that some people have got the impression that tillage is the only thing which gives employment in this country. I have some experience of it. Last year was the first year I had experience of being able to cut my corn by machinery. I had 23 acres of oats, and my own son cut it with a reaper and binder and tractor. It did not give a single day's employment to anybody. I say that that is the position. I think it is most unfair that unfortunate people in my constituency who were always able to live should now have things made harder for them. I always heard them say in my own shop that if they could buy feeding stuffs cheaply they could carry on. Deputy Corry talks about a man who made £2,000 on pigs last year. I may give the name of Jeremiah Creedon, of Kilnamartra, with whom I had atoisheen last Saturday in Macroom. He told me that he had never voted for me and never would, but he had lost £300 since this trouble started. I have information like that from the people, although we heard from the Minister for Finance a few weeks ago about people making more money than in 1931. I would repeat the demand I have made on several occasions here that as agriculture is the most important industry in the country a commission should be set up to examine people from different parts of the country who carry out different systems of farming.
Deputy Corry talked about maize meal. He says he has found a market. Where has he found the market? I put it to the Minister to tell us where he has found that market. Has he not found it amongst the poorer people of this country? I put it to Deputy Corry that within the last month I was notified about a meeting of an organisation called Cumann Cosanta na Gaeltachta in my constituency. The meeting was called for the purpose of protesting against the policy of the Government. They put forward a scheme whereby they claimed a bounty of 6/- for every sack of meal going into the area. If that is not proof of the injustice of this policy I think there is no good in speaking in this House on the subject. I would say also that all the people who are connected with that organisation are supporters of the present Government.
I again repeat that it is about time this whole question should be inquired into impartially. Deputy Corry talked about the late Government letting down the people who grow these crops. They did not do so because as Deputy Hogan often said "I am not going to encourage the production of a grain crop as a cash crop. I will encourage it for the purpose of feeding it on your own land." That was the purpose, and that was the right purpose. The late Government preserved a market for the commodity produced in that way, but now, unfortunately, the people are being driven into the position that oats will be stuffed into them in order to cover up the incompetency of the present Minister for Agriculture and of the Executive Council. The cost of production applies to every article the farmer produces as well as to grain. Deputy Curran asked why the pig industry has gone down. Is it not because the cost of feeding stuffs has gone up, with the result that while large shopkeepers can produce a great many pigs small farmers are being driven out of the industry? Before putting this Bill into operation I ask the Minister to set up a Commission to inquire into the position impartially and to hear people from all the areas affected.
I had not time to read the details of this Bill. Since I came to the House I looked into it, and I find that it affects three interests, the producers, the manufacturers and the buyers. Producers of grain will probably heartily welcome the Bill, manufacturers will not mind it, but buyers will probably kick against it. Therefore, any criticism I have to offer would be presumably from the point of view of the manufacturers. I do not believe there is much in the Bill that will frighten them. On the contrary, I think I can speak on behalf of the millers, and those who handle grain in other respects, who will be the parties for carrying the ideas in the Bill into practical effect, that they have nothing to be frightened of. I think they will co-operate. I also believe that the producers will be very satisfied.
As I have not been able to look fully into all the sections, I should like to get some information from the Minister with regard to the fixing of prices. What time has he in mind for the setting up of prices for the different grades? Will he wait for the merchants or the milling interests to do so? Will he then step in, on the grounds that prices are below what he considers should be fair prices, and raise them by order? I am not pressing the Minister for an answer now if he is not prepared to give it, but he understands that it is an important matter in facilitating the working of the Bill. If prices are opened, and if they are to be interfered with afterwards by Government intervention, by the use of the powers contained in this Bill it would be desperately unsatisfactory for the business people concerned. The Minister, at the same time, might have the threat of the Bill overhanging the dealers or the factors. That may make them more careful, as it were, in seeing that fair prices are given, and viewing the position broadly. I ask the Minister to bear in mind that all factors and dealers are not always looking for the last ounce, or trying to extract, as it were, the last penny from the producers under what would be the fair price, or they are not prepared to try to work in with the spirit of the Bill. I know that no matter what legislation comes in, and no matter how tight it is made some people can manoeuvre and get round it, and that ultimately legislation will have to be introduced to keep them within fair and prescribed limits. All the firms are not like that, and on behalf of the Members of the Maltsters' Association, who are men of good standing I can say that they want to make things easier for the Minister and are anxious to co-operate with him in the spirit in which he has introduced the Bill.
I would not speak on this Bill but for the remarks that I heard Deputy Corry make about a merchant and a very big stock feeder we have in Cork. He is one of the most important men in the South of Ireland in the cattle and pig industries. I refer to Mr. Buckworth. I was sitting beside him at a function in Cork about a fortnight ago and he complained very bitterly to me of the losses he had sustained this year. He said that if he made any money on pigs last year he had lost it this year. He has 50 fat bullocks at present and only got a permit to ship two weekly. Deputies can understand what it means to have to keep 50 bullocks. If they are not fed they will lose condition. As Mr. Buckworth complained bitterly of the losses he had sustained during the last 12 months, it is hardly fair to have his name mentioned in this House, or to say that he made money last year, seeing that he has lost such a pile of it this year.
Despite what some Deputies on the opposite benches said, I am afraid that when the market for oats opened last year some of the merchants took advantage of the anxiety of the people to sell, and did not pay what could be considered a fair price. There is nothing to show that as soon as the oat crop is in this year people will not rush to sell it. They are anxious to pay their way. Many of them are dependent on their crop of oats in order to meet the demands of shopkeepers, of the Land Commission, and others. I hope that every effort will be made to see that what happened last year will not happen this year, and that the corn will not be sold at a sacrifice. I should like to know what precautions are being taken to prevent that. What chance would farmers have when they go to town to sell their corn if they find that, perhaps, there is a conspiracy amongst merchants to pay only a certain price. As the farmers will be anxious to sell, and not to bring the corn home again, what steps will be taken to see that a fair price is secured? Complaints were made last year that the bushelling was not fairly made. Men going to certain towns said that merchants bushelled the corn in different ways, some making 38 lbs., others 39 lbs., and others 40 lbs. to the bushel. An effort should be made to see that the bushelling of corn this year is checked, so that there will not be any chance of farmers being victimised. Those who grew black oats last year had to sell at an absurd price, some producers getting only 4/6 a barrel. Those who grow black oats are really the hardest hit section in the country, and an effort should be made to see that they get a fair price for this year's crop. The Minister has not told the House what he considers to be a fair price for this year's crop. It would be well if the people knew what the Minister considered to be a fair price, so that there would be no danger of selling the corn at a sacrifice. The Minister said that an effort would be made to have egg powder used by bakers. It would be a good idea if that was made compulsory. The addition of milk powder would mean that we would get a better loaf, have a better market for waste milk, while an industry would be created in the manufacture of that product. I understand certain bakers are using it at present, but it would be a good idea if it was generally used.
I gather from reading the Bill that it is amending the 1933 Act in some respects. My objection to the Principal Act was that there were too many restrictions on producers by the introduction of too much control. This goes even further because it introduces more and more control. Everything is to be controlled by inspectors from top to bottom and not only that, but the licensing system is being extended. For instance, no man can now buy a bag of oats or barley unless he is licensed. I do not know so much about the barley trade but I do know the oat trade in some parts of the country. There are many small farmers who, when they want to sell a bag of oats, take it to the nearest shopkeeper and sell it to him. Perhaps they have not got a second bag to sell. These people, in order to oblige that farmer, have the right to buy the oats. If this Bill goes through, what position will these people be in in the circumstances of the present time? They must sell to a man with a licence and that man may be 20 miles away from them, and he may not think it worth his while to come into some districts where there is rarely a bag of oats to be sold. How does the Minister propose to deal with a case of that sort? I am afraid the thing will need to be very carefully considered, because this taking control of everything and altering the system that has obtained in certain districts from time immemorial is a dangerous principle.
There is another matter which I should like to bring to the attention of the Minister. When the 1933 Cereals Act was going through this House, I remember that Deputy Dillon drew the attention of the Minister to some of the effects the Bill would have on certain districts in the Gaeltacht where people used Indian meal, and he pointed out that the maize mixture would not suit those people. The Minister promised that he would get reports from his officers and that not only would he consider them, but he would act upon them. I should like to know in how many cases the Minister has acted on these reports, and from what counties he has got reports. If he wanted reports of complaints, an abundance of complaints could be supplied in regard to the working of that Act in County Cavan. I can undertake to supply such complaints if the Minister will give an undertaking to allow Indian meal to come in to people who have been hard hit by these restrictions and regulations. If he gives such an undertaking I will undertake to provide complaints from certain districts in County Cavan which have been very hard hit.
The position there is that they use this meal for the rearing of bonhams and, having raised them, they sell them to people across the Border for feeding into pork and bacon. They find that this maize mixture does not suit the feeding of young pigs. A small quantity is sufficient to bring on a little pig but the principal ingredient of the mixture which they make up themselves is Indian meal because they found that to be the most suitable food. They find now that the maize mixture does not agree with these animals. I should like to know if the Minister is prepared to implement the promise he made to Deputy Dillon when the last Bill was going through that he would be prepared not only to consider but to act upon reports of people being at a disadvantage because of these regulations.
I also agree with other speakers on this side of the House with regard to the price of grain and the price of other commodities. After all, we have to remember that grain, or, at any rate, a certain class of grain, is only the raw material of agriculture. It is not the finished product, and it is really the price of the finished product that matters. It may be all right for grain-growing districts to secure a good price for their grain, but as Deputy Curran and others have pointed out, there are other people who are producing produce of another description. They have to buy this grain, and they are the people who are living in the poor and mountainous districts—very small farmers and labourers. These people are hard hit by these regulations and by this control of the price of grain for the advantage of people who are in much better circumstances with regard to the quality of their land and otherwise. I think that the people who are raising young pigs, and who have small means and inferior land, and who cannot go in for grain growing, should be considered. The people who are raising turkeys to sell at 4d. a lb. cannot afford to give the high price for grain which they are charged in these districts into which it will be imported from the south of Ireland—from places like Co. Kildare and Co. Dublin. It is brought down there, and passes through many dealers' hands. They will all be licensed men who can form a ring at any time, and can not only mulct the seller but can mulct the buyer.
When it goes through all these hands and is retailed, the price will be beyond what they can afford to pay having regard to what they get for their produce, and yet these people cannot go in for grain growing and cannot go into production, the alternative being that they are to be thrown on unemployment assistance or home help. I find that that is not very easy to secure because there are plenty of people looking for it at present and it is very difficult to secure it. The only remedy, then, is to give these people a chance to carry on and to work out their own existence as they have done formerly. I would ask the Minister to consider this matter very carefully, and to remember that there are districts to be considered besides the grain growing districts and that even though the prices for grain are too low in one district at a certain season of the year, that does not prevent the prices of grain being too high in another district, where they have to buy at a different season. Those people cannot go out and buy grain when it is cheap. They have to buy a few shillings' worth or a pounds' worth when they have the money and when they want it. They cannot afford to buy for storage purposes. These people must be considered and I hope the Minister will give consideration to the matter before this Bill finally passes.
Deputy Belton, in leading off this debate, spoke of fixing the price of oats and barley and asked what were we going to do with them afterwards. This led Deputy Belton on to a discussion of the number of fat cattle in the country, which, I think, could be better dealt with in a few minutes. I will leave it aside for the moment because I intended to deal with that question and especially with Deputy Belton's prophecies on the matter last January.
What were they?
Deputy Belton says that we cannot deal with a fixed price for oats and barley unless we know what the price of the finished animal is going to be. I am afraid that Deputy Belton has got an inferiority complex since he joined that Party. I remember seeing him down in the Rotunda and in the Mansion House when he was a free lance. He made great speeches about self-sufficiency and about getting away from the foreigner and all that sort of thing, but now Deputy Belton does not mind the Argentine ring who were able to put maize up to £12 a ton. He was quite prepared to accept that but he is not prepared to accept a fair price from this Government for home grown grain. What is to prevent the Argentine doing the same again? What is to prevent maize going up to £12 per ton? The people in the Argentine are not going to mind what we get for pigs, poultry or cattle, but as long as it is an outsider, whether John Bull or the Argentine, Deputy Belton is quite prepared to take his ruling, but is not prepared to take any regulation made by this Government.
On a point of correction. I never mentioned a word about maize. I only asked the Minister to point out what would be the ultimate price of oats and barley in the form of beef and pork.
I did not say the Deputy said anything about maize, but if we were not to regulate barley and oats here, and allowed maize to come in free, then maize, of course, would control the price. I say Deputy Belton is quite satisfied with that. He is quite satisfied to let imported maize control the price.
Again I wish to correct the Minister. I said or implied nothing about maize. I said oats and barley were used as feeding stuffs, and that the ultimate value of these was in beef, pork, eggs, and poultry. Will the Minister tell us how he will standardise the price of oats and barley in terms of beef, poultry, eggs, and pork, and leave out maize?
You cannot leave out maize.
I left it out. If you are replying to me, you must leave it out.
The Deputy said at the beginning that there was an economic means for fixing the price, and the economic way I take it is free trade and the world price.
No; the price of the finished product.
You are taking the price of the finished product and going backwards from that?
We are to take the price of bacon and poultry, and so on, and go backwards from that?
There is no other way you can do it.
In that case we will have to fix the price, I take it, by the world prices more or less. We may, of course, alter them by bonuses, subsidies, or tariffs, but still there will be a relation to the world price for the finished products. Somehow or other you come back to the world price. Deputy Belton, I take it, now that he is with Cumann na nGaedheal, would go back to the Cumann na nGaedheal policy of allowing free import of maize.
Deputy Belton knows where to go back to.
I do not want to remind the Deputy not to go back too far.
He can go back farther than the Minister. It is not the first time he led him either.
I may have misunderstood the Deputy, but I thought he was arguing for a policy of free trade, for allowing maize to come in free. If the Deputy was arguing anything else he should have made himself clear. What I understand him to say now is that he approves of this regulation fixing the price of barley and oats, but does not think we are going to fix a proper price. Otherwise, if he does not approve of the principle of fixing the price, I think he would want to go back to free import without fixing the price.
It is not the Deputy who is to fix the price but the Minister. What the Deputy wants to find out is how he proposes to do it. What I think about that is immaterial. It is what the Minister is going to do that is material.
As the Deputy did not make himself clear, I was trying to find out what he meant. I will come to wheat. I think I know what he meant there, because I heard him make the statement several times before. He says Irish wheat is not suitable for bakers' bread.
Tell us about the price.
The price will be fixed in relation to the cost of production of oats and barley.
What about the value as a feeding product?
The Deputy must not make the Minister's speech. He must allow the Minister to make his own speech.
He ought to know that. The Deputy says that Irish wheat is not suitable for bakers' bread. I corrected the Deputy before in this House on that, but evidently he is not willing to learn. If he does not believe me, he can enquire from any baker or flour miller and he will find that what I am telling him is true. There is a large proportion of soft wheat in bakers' bread—up to 40 per cent. of the type of wheat that we are growing here generally; that is wheat like Queen Wilhelmina, which is more generally grown than any variety here. Two-thirds of the output of the flour mills is household flour which is milled entirely from soft wheats, weak wheats if you like, as opposed to strong wheats. Therefore, 66 per cent. of the complete output of the flour mills is household flour entirely from weak wheat. Forty per cent. of the bakers' flour is from weak wheat. So that of all the wheat we use 79 per cent. is weak wheat and only 21 per cent. strong wheat. The problem, therefore, does not arise about the growing of strong wheat until we have first grown 80 per cent. of our full requirements. That is, until we have over 600,000 acres grown here we can continue to grow weak wheats like Queen Wilhelmina, Stand Up, and the other varieties grown. We are told by experts who examined this position that some varieties we are growing, like Yeoman and, of course, in particular the old Irish wheat, the Stettin, are either partially or altogether hard wheats. There is no great difficulty about hard wheat. In six or seven years' time, with a very big push, we may reach 600,000 acres. In the meantime, we can be experimenting with hard wheats, as we are doing. Why, therefore, raise this question of hard wheats for the present?
The Deputy asked one sensible question, I admit, and that is, why do we not concentrate on a greater production of wheat rather than turn to the incorporation of oaten flour in bread. We are doing our best to get more wheat grown. We went from 20,000 to 52,000 acres in the first year. This year, on the preliminary census, we have gone to 89,000 acres. Whether that is right or not, I do not know. Probably it is not more than 1,000 or 2,000 acres out. We have, therefore, roughly 90,000 acres this year. At that rate of advance of 40,000 acres per year we will take a long time to reach 600,000 acres. But, if you take the geometrical progress we are making, we will not take long at all, because we are doubling up each year. We would reach 600,000 acres in about four years. I do not mind the cynicism of Deputy Belton since he joined that Party because, as he said himself, he was really an enthusiast for wheat growing when I knew him first.
And am still.
I do not think so. The Deputy is adopting that cynical attitude which I may say was the cause of the Cumann na nGaedheal defeat. He is adopting the cynical attitude of putting questions about wheat and saying that there is no hard wheat; that Irish wheat is not suitable for bakers' bread, and all sorts of other things. These insinuations and cynical references of his are, as I say, typical of Cumann na nGaedheal. He is against wheat growing now.
The Minister must realise that it is not cynicism on my part. It is contained in a pamphlet which was published by the Department in 1927.
The Minister is in possession.
I got that impression, and in all probability other people got that impression too.
That is only since the local elections.
They doubled him up.
The Deputy asked me something about the price of dried milk. I think the present price is 30/- per cwt. for dried skim milk.
How many gallons would go to the cwt.?
A gallon makes from 1.05 to 1.15 lbs., and at that rate 100 gallons would make 1 cwt. of dried skim milk.
It works out at 8/4 a cwt.
That would be for the raw material, for the skim milk at 1d. a gallon. I know it is being retailed at 30/-, but it can be retailed at less if it was turned out in bigger quantities. I was told by some creameries the other day that they are selling the skim milk for various purposes at about ¾d. a gallon. They are finding it rather difficult to get skim milk at the present time. I cannot understand certain Deputies talking about the cost of feeding pigs. I know people who are finding it difficult to buy small pigs, and certainly they are very dear. When Deputies speak on those matters, if they are not talking dishonestly they are talking in a very uninformed way. Deputy Belton talked about an artificial price and an economic price. I would like to know exactly what the Deputy means by an economic and an artificial price. Where does the dividing line come in? Is it an artificial price if we put on a tariff, a quota, grant a subsidy or give a bounty? They would all appear to be more or less artificial and, therefore, we depart from the economic price immediately if we do anything like that. I take it, therefore, that the price of every agricultural commodity in this market is artificial—potatoes, wheat, barley, etc. The subsidies and bounties on exports have the effect of raising internal prices. I take it every one of these devices creates an artificial price and we depart there from the economic price.
But there are some things that are finished products.
According to Deputy Belton the prices for certain commodities are artificial prices. If Deputy Belton admits that, then I submit that no farmer could live here on the production of any article at the economic price; that is, the natural price he would get without a tariff, a bounty, a subsidy or a fixed price. There is no doubt some other country would swamp our market. For instance, the world price of butter is down to 60/- or 70/- a cwt. The world price of eggs is far lower than ours. The world price of wheat is 15/-. Our farmers could not grow it at that. The world price for every single article is lower than our price. We know that bacon was coming in here at 36/- a cwt. Our own bacon is now selling at 100/-. If you withdraw the tariff the pig producers will have to go out of business.
But does the Minister take into consideration the difference between Irish and foreign bacon and wheat?
I would not compare foreign bacon with Irish bacon or foreign wheat with Irish home-grown, and I would not compare maize with Irish-grown barley. I say that our own stuff is better every time. Deputy Belton used to think that, but he has departed from that attitude. We have protected the market for our own people and he tells us that the prices are artificial. If he criticises artificial prices for oats and barley he has just as much reason to criticise the artificial prices of our own butter, bacon and vegetables.
If the ports were thrown open, if we gave no subsidies or bounties, and if we allowed all these things in free, every one of the home-produced articles would be swamped.
On that point there is an essential difference in the line the Minister is taking and the line I took. The Minister is comparing prices which he alleges are artificial with the prices of certain commodities that are finished products. Oats and barley, that are essential feeding stuffs, are not finished products. When fixing a price for an unfinished product, the raw material of another industry, you must be sure that the output of that other industry will have a further enhanced price above the economic price, or otherwise you cannot fix the artificial price for the raw material. If the Minister will apply himself to that I will be glad.
I did apply myself to it. I commenced my reply by referring to that and I said that if we did not do something about our own oats and barley we might have to go back to the free import of maize, and we do not know what would be charged for maize.
I did not speak about maize. I talked about the finished product. You cannot understand anything about the price of our beef and pork because you cannot fix it.
We are going to fix it all right; there is no doubt about that.
If you do you will soon know where you will land yourself.
I think the Deputy said that the agricultural community is paying four-fifths of the taxation. That destroys the whole argument for derating, or at least it destroys four-fifths of that argument.
It shows the Minister never read the case for derating, because that very point is elaborated there.
I was very much in favour of derating at one time.
Until you got over there.
Deputy Corry wanted us to remove the restrictions on farmers getting no bounties where they bring wheat to be milled for their own use. That point was raised on a former occasion. I do not see why a farmer producing wheat for his own use should get a bounty on it. That means that the farmer would be getting wheat for his own use at 15/- rather than 24/- a barrel. Why should he get wheat cheaper than the consumers in the towns? The farmer brings his wheat to the miller, and it is worth 15/-, together with 7/- or 8/- of a bounty. He gets the bounty and puts it in his pocket, and that means that he is bringing back wheat at the rate of 15/- a barrel for his own use. Why should he have that advantage over the town consumer? That is why I think the farmer in that case should not get the bounty. Deputy Corry said that the clause could be evaded, but I will have a chat with the draftsman and see if it cannot be made more watertight. Deputy Corry said that instead of a bounty on wheat the millers should pay the full price and there should be no bounty at all. That is worthy of consideration. I do not believe it could be done under this Bill by way of amendment. It appears to be too big an item for treatment that way.
Deputy Curran said that there are not enough pigs in the country to fill the quota, because the prices of feeding stuffs are too dear. The ingenuity displayed by the Opposition, in blaming me and the Government for everything, is extraordinary. I am quite sure that if the quota was lower and there were too many pigs, Deputy Curran would not get up and congratulate me on that, but would say instead that I was no use because I did not make the quota high enough, and it is because it is high enough that he finds fault with the policy of the Government on that score now. I think that that is not a good Opposition. When we were in opposition we were discreet, and we only found fault with the then Government when we had reason to find fault with them— although I admit that that was very often—but we did not find fault with them where there was no fault to be found.
You did not differ with them on the quotas, anyway.
Of course, Deputy Curran made the complaint that pigs were not paying, which is altogether wrong, and there is no use in discussing it. He said that farmers were getting out of pigs and were not buying the mixture, and the reason he gave was that pigs went down 4/- in the last week. Imagine that from an intelligent farmer! Because they went down 4/- last week he gives that as a reason. If it was that amount for the last 12 months it might be understandable, but because they went down 4/- last week this whole catastrophe has happened, according to the Deputy.
Deputy O'Leary, I think, is overanxious. I do not think that feeding stuffs are going to go up. It must be remembered that they are based on the price of maize as it is imported, and that has been a fairly constant price for the last 12 months or two years. With the price of the home-grown grain incorporated it is costing 17/- a barrel for oats. I do not think the prices are going to be anything like that under the operation of this Bill. I say that even if we did not bring in this Bill they will not go to that price again, because merchants and maize millers will buy sufficient corn this year to fill all their requirements and there will not be that rise in prices. Accordingly, I do not think that there is any fear of prices going up as a result of this Bill. I think that they are more likely to come down somewhat, because surely oats will not be up to 17/- a barrel or anything like that.
Deputy Minch said that the producer will benefit from the Bill. I hope so. He says that the manufacturer will be in difficulties. I say that he buys oats, maize, barley, or whatever he wants and puts on whatever he thinks are fair profits and charges the sum total to the consumer; so that the manufacturer is not concerned very much with regard to prices. He was concerned a little when this came in first with regard to the technical difficulties of milling oats and so on, but the price does not matter to him at all. The consumer, possibly, will suffer, Deputy Minch thinks, but I think not. I have already given my reason for that. Deputy Minch, however, asked an important question, and that is, whether we would fix the price, say, a month before the harvest or wait to see how the prices go before fixing it. It is quite obvious that this year we will have to wait to see how prices go, because this Bill is not likely to be through both Houses until well into September; and this is a very early harvest and the market will have opened for oats and barley by that time and we would be too late to anticipate it this year. Accordingly, I think that we have to wait. In any case, however, I should be inclined to wait and let prices open first. If they were not what we considered fair, we would fix the price immediately. I do not think there need be any hardship there. The great difficulty of fixing a minimum price, from the point of view of the producer, is that every buyer may come down to our minimum price. If they were a little higher in such circumstances, we might be better pleased. I think that we should avoid fixing the price until we see how things go first.
I think that deals with Deputy Goulding's question also about fixing the price. With regard to bushelling, which he was afraid of—the actual operation of bushelling—we can make arrangements with regard to the type of bushel to be used, and I do not think we will have any complaints on that issue. With regard to the question of a fair price, even if I had in mind what I believe to be a fair price for oats and barley, it would not be correct for me to mention it here.
I was just going to tell the Deputy my reason. There is a consultative council under the Principal Act, and that consultative council is called together to consult on such questions. They have always been called, for instance, for the change of regulations or a change in the percentage of mixture. Surely, a question like this is most important—the question of the fixing of a price—and certainly the consultative council should be consulted. The usual procedure is that the council comes along and I tell them what I propose to do. They either agree with me or they object, but so far, with all those consultative councils set up under those Acts, the consultative council and I have always agreed; that is to say, I have never issued an order so far against their wishes, although I have the right to do so. I believe, therefore, that I might get agreement with the consultative council on this fixed price, whatever it might be, and would not feel that I was justified in stating what that price was until I had consulted with them.
Deputy McGovern says that there is too much restriction on the producer. He is wrong in one thing. No man, he says, can buy oats or barley without a licence. That is not true. The maize miller or the oat miller cannot buy oats and barley except from a registered dealer, and the registered dealer cannot buy it except at the fixed price, but he need not be a registered dealer. For instance, a buyer of oats for the feeding of horses or a buyer for a forage merchant here in the city need not be registered. They can buy oats or barley without being registered. It is only the maize miller or the oat miller that cannot. A seed merchant, for instance, would be able to buy under this Bill. When we brought in this maize mill legislation in 1932 I think there was a three days' discussion on the Second Reading, and there were hundreds of objections to it and hundreds of complaints about it. They have all come down now to one, practically, and that is the question of price. We have had a few complaints about the mixture being unsuitable. I think that Deputy McGovern said that it was unsuitable for young bonhams.
I must say that in saying that he is entirely at variance with the scientific experts in this and other countries and he is entirely at variance with the agricultural colleges that have been set up here and in other countries. He is entirely at variance with these authorities because all these people say that you must have a balanced ration and that pure maize fed to small pigs is a waste; they say that small farmers who would feed pure maize to small pigs were acting unwisely. We are doing them a service in preventing them because it is an entire waste to do so. Deputy McGovern asked about these reports. I promised when the original Act was going through that I would send down inspectors to report on this. With regard to pure maize the regulation was that it was to be sold in stone packets. The case was made in regard to Kerry and Donegal that the pure maize was used as human food and that we would be doing a hardship by insisting on the stone packet. We were asked to allow pure maize to be sold in these two countries by the cwt. I gave an undertaking that after a little time I would send inspectors down to these areas to report to me on how the Act was working; and I said I would consider their reports and adopt them if they considered it was necessary to make a change. I sent the inspectors. They came back and said that the people in Donegal and Kerry who were hitherto using pure maize for human food were now using a mixture of maize and oatmeal. A short time after that the inspectors went to West Cork and other places and as a result of their report we reduced the stone packet to a ¼ stone packet.
Will the oats be dehulled?
Yes it is.
Will the Minister say if the people in County Cavan are satisfied with the maize mixture?
I am quite satisfied there are people in Cavan who are not satisfied with the maize mixture and there may be a certain amount of reason as to why these people on the mountain side are dissatisfied. They feel they could get pure maize cheaper than the mixture. But, on the other hand, these people are possibly raising pigs and if bacon is sold in Rathdowney, as the Deputy mentioned, the farmers there are buying bacon cheaper than if there had been no tariff on bacon. So they cannot have the advantage without also coming into the general policy. I may say that there are people also in other parts of the country as well as in Cavan who are using the mixture.
But what about the promise you made to Deputy Dillon that you would consider these districts which had complaints to make?
I have explained that I sent down inspectors to Kerry and up to Donegal. They came back and reported that the regulations were working satisfactorily. Consequently I made no change. After another six months we sent inspectors again, and they came back and said they were more than satisfied with the regulations and we reduced the packet from 1 stone weight to ¼ stone weight. That was the effect of the report.