Sir, we oppose the motion that this Bill be now read a Second Time. I think I am correct in saying that this is the fourth Cereals Bill that has been brought before this House. Picture the feelings of any unfortunate man who is trying to carry on a milling business in this country and who has to consult four Acts of Parliament and all the statutory Orders that have been made under them before he knows, from day to day, whether he is breaking the law. The logical conclusion of a series of enactments of this kind is to nationalise the whole milling industry, and I have not the slightest doubt that if this House sanctions a continuation of the follies that have been perpetrated by the present Minister for Agriculture in connection with cereals and the milling business since he came into office, nationalisation will certainly become inevitable, to the material loss of the grain growers of this country, of the feeders of this country, and of the consumers of flour of the country.
Now, when this cereals legislation was first introduced, we warned the Minister that the result of it would be to place a very great burden on the live-stock feeders of the country. A lot of Deputies in this House, of the more thickheaded variety, began to shout about the ranchers immediately. These gentlemen have never bothered to buy the Pig Tribunal report and read it. If they had bought it and read it, they would have found therein a map describing the distribution of pigs in this country and they would have found that the pig-producing areas of this country were West Cork, parts of Kerry, Clare, Mayo, parts of Galway, North Longford, Cavan, North Leitrim and North East Donegal. Now, I ask the House to bear those districts in mind and then to throw back their minds to the day on which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance hung up in the hall at the foot of the Lobby stairs a map showing where unemployment, poverty and destitution was most prevalent in this country— showing where the holdings were smallest and most uneconomic—and those districts were West Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, North Longford, Cavan and North-East Donegal. This cereals legislation now saddles the people of that area with a burden of 3/- per cwt. on every cwt. of maize meal mixture that they buy. If any benefits accrued from that, they would accrue to the farmers of Kilkenny, Leix, Offaly and Tipperary—Kildare, perhaps, but anyway to the richest counties in this country. However, if somebody were getting some benefit out of it, the money would pass around, it would circulate; and even though we felt that it was a hardship to subsidise the farmers of that area at the expense of the farmers in the poorest areas—and I think it is a very great hardship—even thinking that, if we felt that the farmers in the Midlands were getting a great benefit out of it, we might have some satisfaction and we would be able to feel that the money would circulate and that, perhaps, in the long run, the community generally would get some benefit out of it. Nothing of the kind has happened, however. The price of oats is nothing better than it was. The price of barley may be 1/- a barrel more, but very little more; and in order to get that, we are paying 3/- a cwt. on maize meal.
Now, maize meal is one of the constituents of a balanced ration for pigs, and home-grown cereals is another. Barley and maize meal are well-nigh interchangeable in any mixture that may be provided. Oats and maize meal are not interchangeable, and oats is no substitute for maize meal. In the Department's own pamphlet describing the ideal mixture for a pig, there is a special note of warning that not more than 25 per cent. of oats or oatmeal should be included in any mixed ration for the fattening of pigs. At this moment, however, 33? per cent. of dehulled oats is included in the maize meal mixture at the Minister's order and you cannot buy pure maize meal. Now, the Minister has made the calculation that taking all the foodstuffs used to fatten a pig from the weaning stage until it weighs I cwt., 1 qr. and 14 lbs. dead weight, about 6 cwt. of meal had to go to the mixture the pig would consume. If that calculation be true, on every pig fattened by farmers in West Cork they lose 18/- on foot of the maize meal mixture scheme, and admittedly those farmers are living on uneconomic holdings and have the greatest difficulty in getting along.
It is extremely difficult to discuss legislation of this kind without discussing other Statutes of this House which have relation to the legislation under consideration. Supposing the Minister comes back and says: "Yes, I admit it is a bit of a burden on pig feeders but, through the Pigs and Bacon Act, pig feeders get ample compensation for any contribution they make under the cereals legislation," knowing of course that nothing could be further from the truth, and that the unfortunate pig feeders are in the position that they get it fore and aft. They are robbed when they go to buy meal and robbed again when they bring a pig to the factory. If the matter is raised by way of Parliamentary Question we are told that the Minister has handed over the administration of live pig marketing and bacon marketing to the Pigs and Bacon Boards, and that he has no responsibility for these boards. But it is under the powers conferred on these boards by Acts of this House that farmers can get 63/- per cwt. for a pig weighing 1 cwt. 14 lbs. dead weight, when the price is fixed at 63/-, but if it weighs 1 cwt. 13 lbs. he is paid at the rate of 48/-. I saw a farmer going to a factory three days ago with five pigs. For one weighing 1¼ cwt. 2 lbs. he got 63/-; for others weighing 1 cwt. 13 lbs., 1 cwt. 12lbs., 1 cwt. 9 lbs. and 1 cwt. 7 or 8 lbs., after they had been killed and eviscerated, because they were two or three pounds below the figure fixed by the board, he was paid at the rate of 48/-. I have no hesitation in saying that these four pigs were as good or better than the pigs for which he received 63/-. He had to take the money and go home. There was no remedy. The bacon manufacturer was in a position to say: "There is no use asking me to exercise discretion in your case. There are rules laid down by the Marketing Board and I have no power to pay you any more. I would break the law if I did." I say that that man in rearing pigs was robbed of 15/- on each pig under the cereals legislation, and when he brought them to the factory he was robbed of at least 15/- more on each so that from that unfortunate man £6 was taken by codology representing the administration of this cereals business and the pig marketing business.
God knows how the farmers of this country hold their patience. It is a source of astonishment to me. Just imagine buying a bonham last February and the owner looking forward to the day it was sold as a pig to get household articles, and then having to go home with just enough in his pocket to pay for the feeding stufls, and four more bonhams, with four months' hard work gone for nothing, and no remedy. These are the people who are going to be saddled with this Bill in order to make the screw tighter than before. We were told by the Minister when this legislation was passed that he could not by any known chemical tests ascertain what percentage of barley or ground oats was contained in the maize meal mixture. He said that was perfectly easy to-day and that he had a whole string of samples in the Department. It was with amazement that they discovered to their horror that they could not ascertain how much home-grown grain was contained in it. Everyone could tell them that there were maize meal millers grinding practically pure maize and charging £7 16s. 0d. for what cost £4 14s. 0d. The wise gentleman in Merrion Street could not make head or tail of it. This Bill is supposed to remedy that position and I wish them luck. The maize meal mixture scheme is a rotten scheme, rotten root and branch. It is extravagant, improvident, futile, ineffective and a hardship on those least able to bear it. It is a legislative absurdity to have grain grown in Kilkenny, carted to Sligo, milled there, and sold in Queen's County, and that is what the Minister proposes to be in a position to do in this Bill. If he has to get a certain quantity of home-grown grain he has to buy it where he can get it. The miller often finds that he cannot get enough in the neighbourhood but, as he has to get it somewhere, it sometimes happens that it is carted to the North of Ireland, milled there and shipped back to the parish in which it was grown, the only people to get anything out of it being the railway company.
The Minister says there will be a surplus of oats after the harvest this year. Upon my word one would want the patience of Job to listen to the Minister. If there is going to be a surplus of oats why has the price of oatmeal gone up £3 a ton in the last month? The Minister is flopping and floundering about in the morass he made in the last three months. He allowed the millers because they have dehulling machinery to use oats almost exclusively in the maize meal. Millers boycotted barley and put in oats, with the result that at the end of the season, in June and July, oatmeal had gone to £16 10s. 0d. and the 10 stone that cost 14/- now costs £1, but the farmer who produced the oats does not get 1d. more, because the mills and maltsters' houses in the midlands had stocks of oats. The intelligent Minister we have will be promptly coming to the House asking us to vote money to repair the losses made on the deal. Job's dunghill was nothing to this country. Now we come to bread. What has the Minister done for us with regard to wheat? Futility is pitiable but hypocrisy is disgusting. The Bread (Regulation of Prices) Bill, 1936, has been produced for the benefit of the Dublin municipal elections. Fianna Fáil candidates going around, whether at the corner of Fenian Street, York Street, or the Gloucester Diamond will assure the people that they are going to regulate the price of bread and are going to deal with people who charge too much. Not one farthing has gone on the price of bread that the Minister for Agriculture is not directly responsible for. This legislation that we are considering has increased the price of flour to the people by 11/- a sack and that represents 1½d. on the quartern loaf, and that 1½d. has been put on with the connivance and with the consent of the Minister. It is fraudulent and shameless to pretend that somebody else was responsible for the situation at present obtaining. Who is benefiting by the growing of wheat? Nobody. I know that there are many farmers who have grown wheat and have made money out of it, but I say that those who have made most out of wheat have benefited least.
I know men who, when this business began—some of them the finest farmers in this country—made up their minds that the Minister for Agriculture was so futile and helpless a person that the whole agricultural industry would come to ruin under his administration. They were perfectly right and, having taken time by the forelock, they bought machinery, went in and ploughed up every acre of land they had, planted it in wheat and sold the wheat in the course of the three splendid harvests which we have had during the last three years at the subsidised price and put the money in the bank. Being prudent and good farmers, they roped in so much every year for the depreciation of their land. They made up their minds that farming as an industry was destroyed in this country, and that any person who had invested his money in land would have to mind the land if he was to get out of it. Accordingly they went in and proceeded to take the heart out of the land through subsidised wheat and to put the money into their banks. When the time comes when that land has no heart left in it, they will sell the land for whatever they can get for it or they will go and leave the land. They will have got out of it, by way of subsidised wheat, the price of the land. In that way they will disembarrass themselves of something which, before the Minister came into office, was a valuable asset but which, since he came in, is a liability for anybody who has the misfortune to be left with it.
Take the vast majority of the remaining farmers who are growing wheat. In the past they were growing some other cereal or maybe some other root crop, or they were making the land pay in some other branch of agriculture that was profitable before the Minister came into office. I do not blame these men who went in for growing wheat in order to get the subsidised price. Who could blame them? I do blame the Minister who is so short-sighted as to burden the bread consumers of this country with a sum not less than £1,500,000 per annum in order to grow wheat where wheat was not wanted, in order to force the farmers to indulge in an agricultural economy that is going to bring nothing but disaster and misfortune to this country. Remember when this cereals legislation was first brought in, we were told by Senator Connolly, who was one of the spokesman of the Government in the plan of campaign the Government had embarked upon, that it was intended to pull down in 100 days the live-stock industry that it had taken 100 years to build up and that what we were going to substitute for that was wheat, beet, and peat—and tobacco as a sop to Deputy O'Reilly. Tobacco has gone out of favour and we are not free to refer to beet and peat. We do know that wheat was to be the remaining leg upon which agriculture was to stand.
Who will say after the experience of the crop this year that the agricultural industry of this country can securely rest on this foundation? Suppose we had 600,000 acres of wheat last winter and spring to sow, and one-third or one-half of it failed, what would happen to agriculture in this country? Suppose we get an autumn similar to the spring we had, that we get damp foggy weather in the months of August and September, what will happen to the 600,000 acres of wheat and to the unfortunate agricultural community who are depending on that for their income? I say that agriculture is an industry that can be carried on in this country without subsidies or doles from anybody if the Government would do its duty and secure for the farmers the markets to which they are entitled. I say, furthermore, that agriculture could be the source from which we could derive that surplus income which would make it possible for us to provide a higher and a better standard of living for everybody in this country. I say that under this cereals legislation and the general Fianna Fáil policy, the farmers are being turned into paupers. Deputy Mrs. Concannon deplores an analogy being drawn between free beef and the free milk that is being distributed by the Fianna Fáil Government——