Committee on Finance. - Provision of Food Supplies—Motion.

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That Dáil Eireann is of opinion that the Government has failed to make adequate provision of food supplies for man and beast in the coming year, and that the Government be requested at once to make a full and detailed census of land cropped and to be cropped in the present season. That any shortage revealed by the census should be at once made good by the Government taking such action as it deems necessary to provide an adequate food supply so as to dispel the remotest possibility of famine, which now seems inevitable if extraordinary measures are not taken forthwith. (Deputies Belton and Cogan.)

Since I spoke on this matter last week some changes have occurred. The price of wheat has been increased, but not in my opinion sufficiently to cover the danger which threatens this country. I have here a rough table of figures as to how the wheat last year worked out. We paid roughly £7,765,000 for wheat altogether. Of that, 290,000 tons were produced by the farmer, according to the Minister's figures, at £4,640,000, and, before one bit of that was milled, £725,000 had been drawn by agents and other parasites. No matter how things work out this year the wheat will cost us £1,000,000 more, even though last year's acreage is grown in full by the farmers. I do not believe it will; I think that, even at 45/-, we will not get last year's acreage, in view of the shortage of artificial manures. I am estimating 240,000 tons at £18 a ton, which will amount to £4,320,000. The agents' fees will be £600,000, and you will have to import 130,000 tons. If we import it at the Minister's figure of £30 a ton, that will be £3,900,000 to the foreigner. What I had in mind was the growing of 330,000 tons of wheat here by the Irish farmer at £20 a ton. That would cost £6,600,000. Let us import nothing except what we require, namely, about 40,000 tons of hard wheat, which the nice people in Dublin and the nice people in Cork and other cities say must be mixed with the bread to make it palatable for them. Let us give them their 40,000 tons at £30 a ton. That will cost £1,200,000 and drying and commission will amount to £825,000. That will mean that our wheat will cost £8,625,000, but it will cost it with this difference, that instead of paying £3,900,000 to the foreigner we will be paying portion of it to our own farmers at home. I know there is a certain risk, the risk that even at 50/- the farmers would not grow the quantity required. I suggest to the Government that if the farmers grow 330,000 tons of wheat—which would mean that only about 40,000 tons would have to be imported—the Government should guarantee them a price of 50/- a barrel, the understanding being that if they do not grow it they will not get that price. It is a gamble both ways, but it is giving the farmers of this country an incentive to grow more, the incentive that they will be paid for their labour.

I know the agricultural community are sufficiently nationally-minded not to look for any great profits during the war, but we have got to face the position that they will have very little artificial manures to grow these crops. I suggest to the Government that it would be very good business to offer that incentive now to the farmers. I suggest that they should say to the farmers: "If you leave us with a gap in our wheat requirements of 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000 tons—a gap that could be filled by wheat produced here—you will get 45/- per barrel, but if you fill that gap and if you save us from the necessity of paying a couple of million pounds to the foreigner for imported wheat we shall give you a bonus of 5/- a barrel on your wheat." I put that forward as a proposition here before and I think it is a fair and reasonable one. I am afraid the Minister has been led away in this matter by the catch-cries of certain ranchers in Cork who never did any tillage and never would till anything unless they were forced to do so. We had the leader of the so-called Farmers' Party down there last week speaking on a motion before the Cork County Council asking for a bonus of £2 per acre on grassland that has been broken up. Do you think that he had any sympathy with the man who had been tilling all his lifetime? Not at all; he only wanted the rancher to get his pound of flesh. I am afraid the Minister has been working on that figure of £2 an acre. I would suggest that it would be very good business for the Government to say to the farmers: "Very well, you save us from the necessity of importing wheat and we are prepared to give you a great portion of the amount we would have otherwise to pay the foreigner for imported wheat."

There is one other matter that arises under this motion and I should like as briefly as possible to deal with it, namely, the price of beet. When we complain of the cost of artificial manures, we are told that the prices of raw materials have gone up and, therefore, Messrs. Goulding must still get their pound of flesh. The price of artificial manure has gone up for the farmer by at least £2 per ton this year.

The cost of labour for pulling the beet has also gone up. Freightage has been increased by the railway company and carriers in general. In all, the costings have gone up on the farmer by about roughly 9/- per ton. I should like to know from the Minister from what source that 9/- is to be forthcoming. Surely our industry is as much entitled to have these extra costings considered as either the railway company, the artificial manure manufacturers or the merchants? A case has been made and figures have been put to the Minister already, and I suggest that the farmers who are tillers of the soil and who are growing beet in order to supply sugar for the country are at least as much entitled to recover their expenses as the bloated aristocrat who is marked down as receiving 6 per cent. on paper but who receives 25 per cent. otherwise. The time for this debate is, unfortunately, limited. I do not think there should have been any limit on it as it is a very important matter, but, since such a limit applies, I shall not waste the time of the House by speaking longer.

Deputy Corry criticised the proposer and the seconder of the motion in his opening remarks for having put down this motion, as he suggested, at the wrong time. He said in effect that this motion would be quite appropriate if it were put down at the present time but that it was inappropriate six months ago.

The Deputy will excuse my intervention to point out that at 9.30 to-night this debate will have occupied two hours and 55 minutes. I assume that the mover of this motion would therefore desire a decision to be taken before that time as it would not be worth while adjourning the debate for the sake of five minutes.

Deputy Corry would seem to have credited the proposer and seconder of the motion with prophetic powers, but I do not think he was quite justified in that assertion. We have a fairly long experience in this House and we know that in order to get a motion considered one must be prepared to allow for the very long period that must elapse from the time it first appears on the Order Paper. That was what happened in this instance. However, in putting down our motion we not only considered the circumstances as they stood at that time, but the conditions which we knew would prevail for a considerable time, having regard to the type of administration, the type of Government and the type of Minister for Agriculture which we have.

I do not want to blame or criticise the Minister for Agriculture very severely. I feel that he, coming from one of the best agricultural counties in Ireland, and I might say without being personal, coming from a fine agricultural family, can be taken as a man who has a definite sympathy with the farmer and a certain amount of understanding of the position of the rural population but, at the same time, in shaping agricultural policy, not only the present Minister for Agriculture but his predecessor, has allowed himself to be dominated by city interests, by the interests of those who say that no matter what the farmer may demand or claim, the consumers' interests come first and that the farmer's claim for a fair price for his produce must be secondary to the consumer's claim for cheaper and still cheaper food. We see where that policy is laid down both in this country and in the country which we are inclined to imitate, England, it has led to a steady decline in every branch of agricultural production. It has led to a steady, I might say a rapid, reduction, in the number of people engaged in agricultural production.

Within the last week I noticed in an English paper a criticism of farmers in Great Britain for paying £1 per day to Irish agricultural labourers for pulling beet. What was the reply of the British farmers? They said: "Those men are well worth what we pay them. Those men have acquired a skill, efficiency and speed in their work which cannot be equalled in this country. The amount of work which they are able to do is colossal. As a matter of fact, we would not be able to get our beet crop to the factories without the help of these men." That is a striking tribute to our Irish agricultural workers, coming as it does from the hard-headed English farmers. Yet the distressing fact is that these excellent workers, these men who are regarded as champions in the agricultural fields in Great Britain, are the very men whom our agricultural policy is driving to emigration. Therefore I say that this motion, which has been on the Order Paper for six months, is still timely.

In this motion we ask for two things. We ask first that a census of production should be taken. In that connection, I should like to stress the fact that at present we have no real census of agricultural production. The type of census taken and the manner in which agricultural statistics are collected in this country are purely a farce. There is no use in sending around a member of the Gárda Síochána casually to a farmer to ask him what stock he has or how many acres of various crops he has sown, because there is absolutely no obligation on the farmer to provide complete and accurate information. In taking a census of production, we should be as thorough as in taking an ordinary census of population. I suggest that, having presented the farmer with a definite form on which to complete the census of production, the machinery of the Gárda Síochána should be used to ensure that these agricultural statistics are correct. There would be no difficulty in ensuring that one Gárda in each station should be specially qualified to collect agricultural statistics, and have a definite appointment as a collector of such statistics, just as we have food and drugs inspectors. That would get over that difficulty, and we would not have to rely so much on guesswork as we have at present.

We all know that if a Gárda goes to a farmer to collect statistics, the information he gets is governed by a considerable number of factors. If a farmer happens to be an eligible bachelor of 30, 40 or 50, and he knows that the facts and figures which he is giving will probably be conned at the next house where there is a young lady who may be interested in him, he naturally makes his stock appear as presentable as possible. If, on the other hand, a farmer is being hunted by the sheriff or the rate collector for debts, he will naturally cut down his assets to the lowest possible minimum. These are facts which everybody knows, and they are matters of very great importance to the Minister for Agriculture in a time of emergency such as this, when every ounce of production should be adequately measured and estimated. In this connection, the Minister may notice that the Irish Sugar Company, in collecting their statistics, do not rely on such a haphazard method. They have their inspector, who inspects the beet crop and even measures the acreage in order to ensure that the correct acreage is given. He also gives a forecast to the factory of the probable production of that crop.

So much for the census portion of this motion. Then we also suggest in this motion that immediate steps should be taken to provide an adequate food supply. That is where I think the Minister has failed. Steps have certainly been taken, but the steps taken have not been adequate. Any Deputy who has any knowledge of agricultural conditions knows that the amount of wheat sown up to the present is not as great as the amount sown this time twelve months. That is a deplorable state of affairs, and is due mainly to the fact that the inducement offered has not been sufficient. It was hopelessly incompetent on the part of the Department of Agriculture, and, I think, offensive and insulting to those engaged in production, to offer an increase of 1/- over last year's price at the outset. The fact that that order has been amended is clear evidence of the fact that the Government now realise that they made a mistake. I am afraid they will have to make a still further amendment of that price if they are to secure anything near an adequate crop. It is a deplorable state of affairs that, in a time of emergency when the population of this country are crying out for food, we have such a mean and miserable offer made to the agricultural producers as 1/- over last year's price.

I believe that this is part of the enormous loss we have suffered by allowing the affairs of this agricultural country to be made the shuttlecock of the two big political Parties. The farmer has been used by the two big political Parties as a kind of flail with which to beat each other. If the farmer is mangled or bruised in the process it does not seem to bother anybody. We have a difference of view between those two big Parties with regard to tillage, one Party advocating tillage and the opposite Party advocating live stock. Everybody knows that while both Parties are partly right, they are also partly wrong and the farmer has to suffer as a consequence. We have at present a number of important and influential people going about the country praising the farmer, telling him what a great fellow he is and how the country is depending on him. But that kind of praise is no use if the farmer is not paid for the work he is doing, if the farmer is not getting an adequate price, as it is on the price of wheat and other agricultural products that production will depend. Loans or doles or alms or anything else will be of no use. The farmer must be paid a price which will cover the cost of production.

As against the demand on the part of the farmer for a price that will cover his production costs, we will be told that such a price cannot be paid unless one of three things is done: either the price to the consumer must be increased or taxation must be increased to provide a subsidy, or money must be raised by borrowing in order to pay the difference between what it costs the farmer to produce and the price which the consumer can pay. But I hold very strongly that there is a fourth way out of the difficulty. We are basing all our economic considerations on the assumption that money is definitely a limited commodity, the amount of which cannot be increased or reduced in any way; that it is something fixed and definite. I hold that if we are to increase and extend agricultural production, we must increase the amount of money in circulation, and that can only be done by the State taking control of national credit and currency, issuing the money which is required, and making it available free of interest to the farmers.

That is outside the ambit of this motion.

I only intend to refer to it, but not to develop it any further.

And incidentally to set bad example to fellow-Deputies.

It seems to me that any other method of dealing with the problem would defeat itself in the long run, while it might be a temporary expedient. Deputy Corry has suggested that an increase of a further 5/- should be given on wheat, provided that farmers cultivate a certain acreage. I could not agree with that proposal because it would be manifestly unfair to a number of individual farmers. For example, if a farmer put 100 per cent. of his land under wheat and his neighbours did not make any special effort, the position would be that the total acreage of wheat would not be grown, and, therefore, the farmer who made a tremendous effort to meet the national requirements would have to be satisfied with a low price. That, I think, would be sufficient answer to Deputy Corry's suggestion.

Again, we have a suggestion from various quarters that there should be a bounty on new pasture land ploughed up. I think every farmer will agree that such a proposal would be manifestly unfair to the old tillage farmer, to the man who has been ploughing the maximum amount of his land for years and who, as a result, may possibly have impoverished his land to a certain extent. Such a man would, under that suggestion, be deprived of any benefit whatever from the bounty and such an injustice could not be excused or tolerated.

Deputy Belton, in proposing this motion, put forward a very original suggestion, namely, that the entire subsidy payable on wheat should be payable upon flour of the maximum extraction, that is, 90 to 95 per cent., and that white flour should be produced and sold to the consumer at the cost of production. Of course, such a proposal could not be carried into effect unless there was a sufficient acreage of wheat grown to allow for a quantity of white flour being produced. That would be, of course, the first essential.

Deputy Belton has suggested that it would be and is possible to get the required amount by paying the producer a fair price, that is, £3 a barrel, and that in that way it would be possible to get so much wheat grown that it would be possible to allow for half the wheat being milled at a 70 per cent. extraction, thereby providing white flour. I am not quite convinced that Deputy Belton's proposal is workable, although I must say that in theory it is perfectly sound. It is perfectly sound to suggest that a person who wants white flour should pay the full cost of production, and it is equally sound in theory that the poor and those who cannot afford the white flour should get the other type of flour at a cheap rate. I think that if it was not for the fact that our population have been accustomed in the past to regard white flour and white bread as ordinary food and not as something in the nature of a luxury there would be no difficulty whatever in carrying out Deputy Belton's suggestion, but I am afraid that the mentality of our people would create a difficulty in carrying out this proposal. At the same time it is, I must say, a very original proposal and very sound and logical in theory.

I think that, having regard to the low yields which we have been getting out of wheat during the past number of years, particularly to the exceptionally low yield last year, and to the fact that during the coming year we cannot hope for a higher yield than last year, but must, very naturally, expect a further reduction, there is a case made for a very substantial increase in the price of wheat. That case has not been met by the slight increase which has been given.

We want a sound agricultural policy, not only in regard to wheat, but in regard to tillage generally, and I believe that the Government will make a great mistake if they confine their attention to cereal crops in planning our agricultural economy, because there is no doubt that cereal crops alone will exhaust the fertility of the land and will not give the total output which the nation requires. Very substantial efforts must be made to promote the growing of potatoes and other green crops if we are to remain in tillage and continue to increase tillage, as we may have to do if the present emergency lasts, as it is likely to do. In Great Britain at the present time the potato crop is being subsidised to the extent of £10 per statute acre, notwithstanding the fact that the market price of potatoes is much higher there than it is here. Why is there not a similar attempt made to subsidise the price of potatoes here? The potato crop, used as a foodstuff for pigs and poultry will, as every farmer and every feeder of live stock knows, give a much larger percentage of food than any cereal crop. Therefore, from a national point of view it is essential that the greatest possible quantity of potatoes should be grown and used as a foodstuff and substituted as far as possible for grain crops which would then be available to a greater extent than at present for human food.

I would like to know if the Minister has considered this question of a subsidy on potatoes, because it seems to me the most effective means of promoting the feeding of pigs and poultry which in turn would add to the fertility of the land by producing farmyard manure. It would also increase the output of our tillage lands. The Minister must surely have given some consideration to that problem but I am afraid the Minister is allowing himself to be bullied to too great an extent by the Department of Finance and he is not standing up to them for the farmers' interests. I think it was the late Sir Edward Carson who referred to a British Prime Minister as being a man with a very strong head and very weak knees. I might almost apply the same description to our Minister for Agriculture, but our trouble as farmers is that the Minister seems to have used his head when dealing with the farmers' claims for increased prices and to have relied upon his knees when dealing with the Department of Finance.

There is one final matter to which I want, with your permission, Sir, to refer. At the moment, in shaping an agricultural policy and in getting the maximum production out of our land, it is important that the Minister for Agriculture should have the wholehearted co-operation of every farmer in the Twenty-Six Counties. In seeking to secure that co-operation, I believe the Minister has been hampered to a certain extent by certain libellous accusations which have been made against him and circularised to a very great extent in rural Ireland. It is the bounden duty of every Deputy, and particularly of Deputies who are opposed to the Government and who, therefore, cannot be regarded as trying to whitewash the Government, to condemn such accusations, to brand them as maliciously false and to do whatever he can to secure that the people, and particularly the plain working people of the country, will not be misled by such false and malicious propaganda. Denials by the Minister, or his colleagues who are similarly accused, are quite all right; but they may not be taken fully to heart as it might be said that they are specially affected, but I think there is a special obligation, an inescapable moral obligation upon the leaders of other Parties, and particularly of opposition Parties, to condemn such accusations and to stand up for a Christian standard of conduct in respect of propaganda and such matters. I have been waiting very patiently for the leaders of the other political Parties to speak out on this matter. I have been waiting, also, for the independent newspapers of this country to join in denouncing such propaganda, which is very harmful not only to the Government Party, which would not be a matter of very great concern, but to the country generally. For that reason it should be exposed by those who are in a position to do so.

In considering the whole question of the production of essential food for the nation I think we must all agree that a compulsory order is not sufficient to secure our essential requirements. You cannot, by the simple making of a compulsory order, force farmers to produce at uneconomic prices and expect to get satisfactory results. I do not want to create what is usually referred to as the vicious spiral, and I do not think that farmers, generally, expect that it is possible at present, but what I do suggest is that the agricultural community are at least entitled to the profit they were getting pre-war, and more especially can we claim that profit when we bear in mind that certain vested interests in this country have that standard of profit secured to them. The House, the last time it met, voted practically £2,000,000 to subsidise flour and bread, and that subsidy was based on a secured profit to the milling industry of 6 per cent. In the same way in respect of the production of beet, the farmers' costs of production generally are not taken into account. In an arbitrary fashion, the price is fixed, but the profits of Comhlucht Siuicre Eireann, Teo, are secured. Their profits have been practically constant for the last three or four years.

It is on that basis, I suggest, we should approach this matter—that the agricultural community's profit ought to be secured to them. In other words, the agricultural returns in the matter of producing food should be adjusted to meet the increasing cost of production. I should like to ask the Minister whether, in arriving at the increase in the last few days of 4/- in the price of wheat—the price is now 45/- per barrel —he did so on any set of costings. Did he base that figure on any known set of costings, or did he simply arrive at that figure in an arbitrary fashion? I do not know whom he consulted about it, nor do I know how he arrived at the figure, but I am satisfied that he cannot produce any set of costings in respect of the average type of land in this country that will show a fair margin of profit to the farmer on a price of 45/- a barrel.

The dominant consideration at the moment is the securing of the production of food for our national requirements, and we have been told by the Minister for Supplies that even in the case of wheat, to make good the deficit, the short-fall so far as home-produced wheat is concerned, we will require 80,000 tons of wheat, for which we shall have to pay at the rate of £3 10s. per barrel. Last year wheat was produced at £2 per barrel, showing that the Government are evidently quite satisfied to pay, over and above what they pay the Irish farmer, 30/- per barrel for imported wheat. I understand that we must pay for that wheat in dollar bills, and in that there is a very important consideration—the question of nursing any dollar holdings we have so that we shall be able to spread them over a long period, if the war lasts for a long period. If we could get produced, if we could hold out sufficient inducement to the Irish farmer to produce, sufficient wheat at home, it would mean that we could spend those dollars on some other commodities which are essential. If there is a reduction in the acreage under wheat this year, it means that we shall have to import more wheat next year, and the importation of that wheat means the finding of more foreign currency to pay for it.

I think it is fair to suggest that any money that can be saved by having the wheat grown at home should be paid to the Irish farmer. I understand that, in order to meet our requirements for the coming year, we will need to have between 500,000 and 600,000 acres under wheat. When moving the motion under discussion on the 20th of last month, Deputy Belton, speaking at column 994 of the Official Debates, said:—

"There is no way of meeting the situation except by laying down the amount that must be cropped, not in the aggregate, but in the crops that we are short of—wheat, oats and barley."

I do not think it would be wise for the Minister to lay down what percentage of grain the farmer should produce. For instance, it would be unwise to suggest that we should all put 10 per cent. of our land under wheat, for the reason that the fertility of a lot of our land is so low that it is unable to produce wheat. On the other hand, there is some land in the country so rank that it is suitable only for the production of wheat. It must be left, I suggest, to the agricultural community to decide what is the most suitable crop to produce under existing conditions. Since the bulk of the wheat grown in this country in the last few years has come off old tillage land, the danger we are up against at the present time is an acute shortage of artificial manures which are necessary to enable us to continue to produce wheat on this land. In the old tillage districts in the past we have been giving that land a liberal amount of artificial manures. The Minister must realise that there is bound to be a sharp fall in the yield from land of that type if it is to be utilised for the growing of wheat. Because of that possibility there will be a tendency for people to switch over to the growing of other cereal crops—oats and barley —and in order to correct that a sufficient inducement must be held out to them to put their land under wheat.

The price for wheat announced in the last few days will not be sufficient, in my opinion, to get our requirements in wheat produced at home. As I have said the dominant consideration in this whole matter should be to get our wheat requirements produced at home because it is the most economical way of securing the food that we will require. It will mean that there will be no risk to shipping from U-boat activities. I suggest that in offering a price that is not attractive to the farmers the Minister and the Government are, in the present situation, taking a very grave risk. I have no hesitation in saying that the price of 45/- a barrel announced the other day is not, from the profit point of view, comparable at all with the 30/- a barrel that we got three or four years ago when we had ample supplies of artificial manures at a very cheap rate, when the costs of production generally were lower as well as the cost of freights, threshing operations, seeding, implements, and their wear and tear less. I would like to see the Minister produce for the House any set of costings from a reputable source that he has based this figure of 45/- on. It is on the costings that our price for the crop ought to be fixed. The agricultural community are treated in a vastly different manner from people in any other form of industry in this country. In the case of all other industries, their price is based on the cost of production, leaving to them what is considered a fair margin of profit, but in the case of agricultural produce the price is not fixed on any known cost of production. So far as I know, the costs of production in relation to agricultural produce have not been gone into. The Minister, in an arbitrary manner, simply fixes a price. The farmer has got to take it or leave it. In fact he is compelled to take it because, under a compulsory tillage order, the farmer must cultivate his land.

At a time when it may be said the agricultural community is the most essential service in the State, it is very unfortunate to find many farmers being seriously hampered by the activities of the sheriff's officers. Deputies know how our farmers have been scourged by the foot and mouth outbreak. It is, therefore, I say very unfortunate that just when those people were getting an opportunity to dispose of their stock, in fact when they were free to move them for the first time for many months, the first visitor at their doors was the sheriff's officer. The Minister for Lands gave an assurance that no undue pressure would be used against the farmers at the present time, but I do not think any member of the House can deny that the situation I have just described exists. The financial position of the Government may be difficult. They may think it necessary to collect a couple of million pounds in the form of annuities during the coming year, but, surely to goodness, this is not the time to put undue pressure on people who have suffered the consequences of the foot-and-mouth scourge—on people who have had no opportunity of realising any money over the last few months. I think the Minister for Agriculture should personally concern himself with that aspect of the case. If the first few pounds they have been able to realise over a period of months are to be grasped by the sheriff for the Land Commission, how can we possibly hope that they will be able to become productive and economic units for the purpose of producing food in the coming year?

The Minister for Agriculture is not responsible for the collection of the annuities.

I suggest that he is responsible for the welfare of the agricultural community. It is a question of food production—I do not know that there is any particular Minister concerned—and this matter concerns the welfare of the agricultural community and has a very substantial bearing on their ability to produce food. I do not want to dwell unduly on it.

There are one or two other aspects of the case that I would like to touch on. There is the question of raw material for the production of food. The Minister should get an assurance from the Government that he will have first claim on all raw material necessary for the production of food here. It is off the big farms that we must look for the big end of our production under a compulsory tillage order. I know many big farmers who are being seriously hampered at the present time by the Department of Supplies because of the fact that they are not able to secure supplies of kerosene for the operation of tractors. The number of forms and monthly returns that have to be completed is most irritating. In fact it is impossible to complete them. I attempted to complete some returns a couple of nights ago, as far as I am affected personally, and I found it utterly impossible to complete them and to set out on the form what work I was going to do in the month of December. No one could put that down, as it depends on the weather; if you are having a very bad month, you are not going to do very much on the land. Then, to apportion definitely how much or what part of the month you are going to take to plough an acre of land is impossible. But the officers of the Department of Supplies can fix that in their minds and tell you how much kerosene it will take to plough an acre. No farmer could do that.

They will tell you even when to plough.

The armchair fellows in the Department of Supplies can tell you about this job, but there is no farmer in the country who can tell what it takes in kerosene to plough an acre of land. We realise that there are varying conditions which may obtain on stiff types of old leas, which may not have been ploughed for 100 years, and the consumption would be double as compared with light land in cultivation. That has an irritating effect on the agricultural community and the Minister shows no sympathy for that. I have always held in the Dáil that, so far as the Department of Supplies is concerned, there is no sympathy whatever for agricultural interests or outlook in this country. It is dominated by the city outlook and the city mentality all the time. The farming community is looked upon as the slave. The farmers are being compelled to do their job and told it is their bounden duty to do it at the present time. Surely that is not a proper outlook. The Minister ought to have an assurance from the Government that he has, for the people who are his particular care, the first claim on any raw materials necessary in the production of food. That is a very reasonable thing to ask for.

Petrol can be provided for many sections of the community, but when it comes to the farmers' interests there is no consideration at all over and above any other man. Again, I suggest that the farmer is the most important individual here at the present time. His claim should come before that of anyone else. Time is running out and I wish to leave the Minister an opportunity to come in on this debate.

The Minister will now have only 20 minutes.

On Deputy Belton's plan to subsidise 50 per cent. of the production of flour of a 90 per cent. extraction and sell the other 50 per cent. of 70 per cent. extraction at cost price, I think it will be a most invidious suggestion and will create class distinction. In other words, it will provide a white loaf for the man with money, while those who have not money will find that anything at all is considered good enough for them. I would not suggest that the Minister should consider it.

He has the white loaf now by buying foreign flour.

I again say to the Minister, in conclusion, that 45/- a barrel will not secure the acreage of wheat that he is looking for in the coming year.

Deputy Belton's motion can be divided into three parts, the first of which is: "that the Government has failed to make adequate provision of food supplies for man and beast in the coming year". In respect of that portion, Deputy Belton took certain figures of the amount we tilled last year and made out a certain deficit. Naturally, we all have a shot at making up such figures from time to time, to see how they work out; and some time ago I myself did it in this way, and perhaps this is the best way to do it. These are not official figures: they are only my own, and, therefore, they are subject to error. I took the tillage in 1938 and in 1941, and the imports in 1938, and in that way got an idea as to how far we have made up the deficit. The deficit will be taken as the imports in 1938—that is a normal year before the war. Take the increased tillage in 1941 over 1938 to see how far we have gone to make up that deficit as disclosed by the imports during that year. As far as I can make out, this is roughly the position: we want another 200,000 acres of wheat. That is on a yield of 17½ cwts. which, I believe, would be reasonable — it is not optimistic, anyway—and I think our yield for this year will be more than that.

Not on the figures given by the Minister for Supplies.

That is well below the average for the last ten years, and I think it was only twice during the last ten years that such a low yield was reached. I am taking it at 17½ cwts. and taking white flour—that is, 70 per cent. extraction—and 6 per cent. excess moisture in the wheat, and also providing seed for the coming year. All these things pointed out that we would be 200,000 acres short this present year in wheat and of other cereals about 100,000 acres. That is roughly our position as worked out in that way. I think Deputies will agree that it is a reasonable way of doing it—taking the years 1938 and 1941 and seeing how far we have gone to make up for what we used to import before the war. Of course, there are various things that arise now. For instance, we take a 95 per cent. extraction and, therefore, there is no pollard or bran. That means we really transfer 100,000 acres of what used to be animal feeding into human food, so that the deficit of wheat is changed from 200,000 acres to 100,000 acres, but the deficit of other cereals is changed from 100,000 to 200,000. Against that we have a considerably larger acreage of potatoes which would roughly account for our want of other cereals for animal feeding.

We have to import wheat—we do not know how much we may import to make up for that deficit—but the strange thing is that, working it out like that on paper, we do not seem to be very acutely short. We should not be very acutely short of human food or animal food. We all know, however, that there is a shortage in the country—that very little oats or barley is being put on the market. No oats or barley is being put on the market that could be fed to animals, because the position so far with regard to human food is not secure enough for that. It is rather puzzling to know what the position really is. Maybe we have not adverted to the fact that the farmer this year is rather conservative—and nobody would expect him to be otherwise—owing to his experience last year. If he sold his oats or barley early last year he got a poor price, and when he came back in the spring to buy he paid a very high price; so very naturally, if he has oats or barley to spare this year he says: "I will keep it over for fear I would be in the same position as last year. Well and good, if I have to sell in the spring, I will sell it." I think there is possibly a fair amount of grain in that way that will reach the market.

Another factor which we must remember is that we have less pigs to feed—at least one-third less, I think, though some would say half what we had last year—and that again should mean a little more foodstuffs in the country available for other purposes. Against that, we have more cattle, and whatever concentrates—in that sense I mean cereals rather than fodder— may be available would be used for these extra cattle. However we look upon it, if the figures we are getting are in any way correct—that is, the basic figures we take in 1938 and 1941— there cannot be an acute shortage of foodstuffs, and I think it is possible that some of these foodstuffs will come on the market later on, when farmers feel fairly sure that they are safe.

There is a great shortage of poultry also.

Poultry has not gone down by so much.

It has gone down 2,000,000, according to the Minister's own returns.

I believe a great number of farmers—though not them all, as some are very badly in need—have a little grain to spare. It is a pity they should not market it as soon as possible as, though there will be a seasonal increase in the month of January, prices are not going to increase inordinately as they did last year. It would be well for farmers to sow all they can, as they did last year, to keep at least enough seed and put in all they can for the coming year; secondly, to provide for their own families—which they are perfectly entitled to do—and not more than that; and then to put whatever spare wheat they have on the market. The same would apply to a great extent to anything farmers have in the way of oats or barley.

Looking at it in that way, as well as one can make out the figures—the statisticians would not attempt to make out figures at the moment, as they have not enough reliable data to go on, but neither Deputy Belton nor I would mind making a shot at them ourselves, to try to make up the position—and if the position is as I think it is, Deputy Belton is not justified in saying that the Government has failed to make adequate provision of food supplies for man or beast in the coming year.

The Minister is admitting it.

No, I do not think so. We have not failed to make adequate provision. I admit we have to import some wheat, but apart from a comparatively small quantity which will be brought in, I believe we have made fairly adequate provision. I would like very much indeed if I could be more sure about those figures and could say definitely that there is not the slightest danger of want of food or foodstuffs; but the position is not so very bad and I am rather convinced that before long some surplus oats and barley will be coming on the market and the position of those who are waiting to purchase it for animals will not be so bad as it is at the moment. As everybody knows, there is also a very big potato crop: our acreage increased considerably, and it was a good crop on the whole, perhaps the best we had, taking them all round, this year. Of those potatoes only a small quantity is fed to human beings, the greater portion going to feed animals and so replace cereals.

The second part of Deputy Belton's motion says: "That the Government be requested at once to make a full and detailed census of the land", and so on. Deputy Cogan said the census we are taking is by no means reliable. That is true; the Guards take the census, and it is well-known that no Guard goes to every farm in his particular area to survey the amount of land under the various crops. Some of the Guards, however, and I hope the majority of them, go to some trouble in questioning the farmer as to whether he has more wheat this year than last year, more or less potatoes, more or less barley, and so on, and in that way they try to get at the truth. One thing that has been proved fairly well over the years is that whatever error there is in the census remains a fairly constant one. Therefore, if we get a return that there are 4,200,000 cattle this year compared to 4,000,000 last year, that relative figure is fairly correct. We have always found that to be a fact. Naturally, there is a certain amount of error but that cannot be avoided.

Deputy Cogan mentioned the sugar company and said they were very particular about having land surveyed that was under the beet crop. The sugar company, however, is only dealing with 60,000 or 70,000 acres, while in total tillage we have to deal with 2,400,000 acres in addition to hay, pasture and live animals. It would be extremely difficult and we would need a very big staff of persons trained—to some extent, anyway— in reading maps and surveying, if we were to go in for the accuracy Deputy Cogan would like. I admit it would be a great thing if we could have it, but I am afraid we must depend on the present system for our census. I have kept in mind that, in the case of compulsory tillage, one is likely to get exaggerated figures. A farmer coming under the Compulsory Tillage Order to till 20 acres, and who knows in his heart and soul that he only tilled 18, is likely to say he has tilled 20, as a safeguard. He may have the idea that the figures will be examined and compared with his total holding, and think he had better be on the safe side, so he says he has tilled his quota. Therefore, there is possibly a bit more exaggeration now than there would be in pre-war years, and in that way we may not have that full acreage of barley, oats, wheat and so on that the census would indicate. Regarding the coming year, I should like to say something.

And about the price?

That is the third part of Deputy Belton's motion. It says that we should take adequate measures to see that everything is done rightly for next year. We must have more wheat —we all admit that. I believe that the price is economic. Some Deputies will say that they do not consider the price uneconomic but have some doubt as to whether we will get enough wheat or not. If the price is economic—and I am banking on that—the farmer has a duty to the nation, to provide food. After all, other members of this community have made sacrifices. We are not asking the farmer to make much sacrifice in this respect. Other men have made sacrifices. I know personally—as I suppose other Deputies know —men who have left their jobs and gone into the Army, though they may not get those jobs back again when the war is over. There are also men in the Local Defence Force who spend every leisure hour in training to fight for the country. We are not asking the farmer to give his life or his leisure: we are asking him to grow more wheat for a guaranteed market and a fixed price.

There are as many farmers in the country in the Local Defence Force as there are other people.

I have often said that the farmers and the farmers' sons are the backbone of every national movement. I know there are farmers in the Local Defence Force, and I know farmers who left their jobs to go into the Army, but at the moment I am talking of the farmer as a wheat grower. We are not asking him to give his life; there is no great risk involved in sowing a field of wheat. We are not asking him to give up his leisure time; he can sow wheat or barley or oats just when it suits him. All we ask him to do is to sow wheat for a fixed price and a guaranteed market. Whether the war is over or not, he will get that price and that wheat will be taken from him. These are great advantages.

What did the Agricultural Consultative Council recommend?

I do not know if they mentioned a figure. Some of them individually did mention a figure, but you must remember that the Agricultural Consultative Council have never yet taken a decision on anything, because I would not let them. They are there to consult; I do not let them take decisions.

They are there for window-dressing, not for consultation.

They are helpful. Some of them recommended 60/- and some Deputies here recommended it also, but that is no reason why we should give it. It is ridiculous to make a comparison with world prices. Even if we do give 60/- here, it is possible that we might have to import wheat. Why should we compare the price of homegrown with the price of imported wheat? We gave £12 a ton for wheat before the war and we could import it for £5 5s. The taxpayer was satisfied to do that and one of his reasons was that he wanted to be secure here in time of war. The consumer went on paying that subsidy to the wheat grower for some years before the war in order that he might be secure should war break out. If he does not now get the security he expected, what will he do?

I think you could not blame the consumer should he adopt a certain attitude when the war is over, if he does not get the security that he is now looking for. His argument will be: "Why should we subsidise the farmer in peace time to grow wheat if he does not stand by us when a war is on?" The same applies to beet. I do not like the scheme put up by Deputy Corry, because it is a gamble, and so also is Deputy Belton's scheme, about half white flour, a gamble. Then there was an objection put up by Deputy Hughes, and I believe it is a very valid objection. There is too much gambling in those schemes. Farmers do not grow wheat as much as we might expect them to, because it is such a gamble.

The price of wheat has gone up by 50 per cent. since the war commenced. It has risen from 30/- to 45/-. How are you going to cost wheat now in comparison with 1938? A farmer might say: "I used artificial manure in 1938, and I cannot get that manure now." Some incidental costs may have gone up, but, on the whole, I do not think the cost to the farmer for growing wheat has gone up anything like 50 per cent. My impression is this: that much more than half the wheat was grown always without artificial manure, and it always will be. After manured crops and in lea land it was grown to a large extent without artificials. I will say that the farmers' prices have gone up by 50 per cent. We have heard a lot about men getting away with huge profits. Where are they? There is no wage earner in this country who has got anything like a 50 per cent. increase since the war started. There is no man earning a dividend who could get anything like that.

That is not correct. Firms that never before paid a dividend are now paying up to 6 per cent. The farmer is not getting 6 per cent. on his capital.

I think he is, and a bit more. The man with the dividend, the man with the salary, and the man with the wage is tied by the standstill order, but the farmer is getting 50 per cent. more for his wheat. Maybe that is not enough, but there is no use in making the point that everybody else can get away with it and the farmer cannot. That is not true, because everybody else is not getting away with it. The farmer, we are told, is not getting enough, and there are business men who say they are not getting enough either.

Is the Minister arguing that the farmer is making more profit than anybody else?

I am not arguing anything of the kind, but I say it is not right for any Deputy to suggest that everybody else is getting away with it and can charge what he likes, while the farmer cannot do anything like that. That is not the position.

What about Jordans?

They are all tied up, in their salaries and profits and wages. The Labour Deputies are now interrupting me on this point, but I have heard them complaining about the standstill order, and I submit that it is that order that is keeping all these people where they are.

This matter is not getting the consideration that it deserves, particularly from the Minister. Deputy Hughes does not agree that half of our bread should be white. He thinks that that would set up an invidious position, that we would be making the white bread for the rich, while those who would not be able to pay the high price would have to do with brown bread. The price of white flour in Dublin to-day works out at 11d. per lb. There is no use in Deputies claiming an economic price for wheat unless they can create an economic market. I have suggested that economic market.

The Minister regretted that he had not more time to deal with this interesting matter. There are several motions on the Order Paper, including one that proposes an annulment of the Tillage Order. It is not really for the purpose of an annulment; it is put down in order that we can have a debate on the matter. That is the only way to get a debate, and we are availing of that opportunity. The Minister stated that the prices for the farmers have gone up by 50 per cent., and nobody else got that much. I am amazed at a man in the responsible position which the Minister occupies trotting out an argument of that sort, an argument which is without foundation. The farmers are being asked to cultivate 600,000 acres, and instead of the choice land being put under wheat, the farmers are being asked to cultivate the second-rate and third-rate land for that purpose. Last year Deputy Corry said 50/- a barrel was too much for wheat, but a few days ago he thought the proper price for wheat would be 50/- a barrel. When he spoke against 50/- a barrel last year, he had in mind getting a return of eight barrels to the acre—unfortunately for him, it is here on the records of this House—but instead of that he only got five or six barrels to the acre. Equating the result of eight barrels to the acre at £2 per acre, which would be £16, even six barrels to the acre at 50/- would be only £15. I have not the least doubt, if we are all alive and here in 12 months' time, that he will say that if we did not get £3 a barrel next year, we should have got it.

What is the price that it has been pushed up to? The price it has been pushed up to is 45/- a barrel. Nobody expects that we will get the required quantity at that price. Nobody can produce it. The Minister appeals to the patriotism of people, but the Minister knows that many acres of wheat were sown this year which did not produce even the seed that went into them. Now the thing is spread out further, and without fertilisers there will be a less return and, therefore, in order to get the wheat, we must spread out still further. Now, there is only one way of spreading out in order to get it, and that is by paying for it. Why does the Minister propose to import 80,000 or more tons of wheat and pay four guineas a barrel for it while he is only giving just a little over half of that price for wheat produced at home? What is the argument in favour of that? I do not want to labour too much the price element, because there are other motions on the paper dealing with the question of price and this motion is essentially not one dealing with price.

I had intended to put this motion to a division just as a matter of record, but I decided that I would not do so when I heard the Minister's speech because, from start to finish of his speech, he admitted that we were short but that we were not dangerously short. Let him look at the reduction in the pig population and the reduction in the poultry population. Why have they been reduced? Do we not know that sows were fattened off and that hens were sold because there was not feed for them? Does he not know that, and does he not know that corn is not coming on the market?

And what is sold to the merchants would not be distributed to the farmers for feeding stuffs.

No, that is true. So that there is a shortage. I admit that the Minister and the Government had a big job, but they did not approach it in the right way. Now, Deputy Hughes, who takes a very intelligent view and who has certainly the practical man's mind and view on these matters, said that he disagreed with having an order within an order, as suggested by me— having an order fixing a minimum percentage for the crops of which we were short. I know no way of getting an article except by producing it. I know no way of getting an adequate wheat supply unless we put an area under wheat that will produce the amount of wheat we require. If it takes 5 per cent. of our arable land to produce a sufficient supply of wheat for this nation there is no way, on God's earth, of having it except by cropping 5 per cent. of the arable land.

You cannot apply that to the individual farmer. That is what I said.

Then we should not apply a 25 per cent. tillage order to the individual farmer, according to that. Of course, there will always have to be a certain amount of elasticity in those things. You can have arable land which is not all wheat land.

That is what I said.

Yes, and I am only pointing out that there has to be a certain amount of elasticity. I suggest, however, that as a base line you should start with a minimum area under the crops you require. The Minister said that he is satisfied that the price is an economic one. I agree that, if you are not thinking of quantity of production, if you are not up against the problem of producing three times as much as you were producing in peace time, then the price is attractive. There is not a farmer who cannot produce a little wheat and be well paid for it at £2 a barrel or less even at the present time. Every farmer has a choice bit of land that will grow a good crop of wheat. But if you expect the land of this country to produce an adequate supply of wheat, then you are asking the farmer to spread out over land that, normally, is not fit to grow wheat, and down goes the productivity. If you have to sow four acres in order to produce what a well-manured acre or two acres would produce, then the cost of tillage, of seed, and of going through the whole routine is just as large over a bad acre as over a good one, and the price will have to go up.

The Minister quoted figures as a way of parrying the blow that the Government had not made adequate provision for man and beast in the matter of food. He produced figures, but these figures only dealt with areas and not with quantities produced. He cannot, I presume, ascertain the weight of production, but we all know that with the shortage of artificials, the shortage of manures and the increased tillage, the volume of production has gone down per acre. So that the Minister is very far wide of the mark when he quotes increased areas as showing that the Government has done its job in this matter. I am sorry the Minister had not time to deal with the scheme that is put up. The Minister knows that there is a trade in foreign wheat in this city at the present time, and that the people of this city are hungering to buy flour at a price that is equivalent to £8 19s. per barrel. That is the price of white flour to-day. It may be more now, but that was this morning's quotation.

Who is paying that for it?

Thousands of people in the City of Dublin. I could show you shops where they are selling white bread, half-pound loaves, at 6d. a loaf. The price of the white bread, at today's quotation, would be 3/6 for a two-pound loaf. Does the Minister deny that?

Oh, I do not deny anything, but I did not see white bread for months.

Is he not aware that that trade is going on?

So I heard.

I am sure the Minister more than heard it.

No wonder the farmers are poor when those fellows can get it.

Why should you not put out your wheat and ask them to pay you even 1/6 per loaf? This is a serious matter. If we produce half the flour we require and sell it at cost we will have a white loaf at 1/6 for the two-pound loaf. We will be able, without any more subsidy, to sell the present type of loaf at 11d. I challenge contradiction on that. The Minister for Supplies, a fortnight ago, introduced his £2,000,000 subsidy. That subsidy was based on the following figures. Last year the cost of flour was £5,800,000. In the current year, owing to the increased price of native wheat and the increased cost of importing wheat, the cost of our flour ran up to £7,800,000. The difference of £2,000,000 had to be put up by the taxpayer in order to keep the loaf at 1/-. Now, with the increased risks, are we going to get imported wheat next year as cheaply as we did this year? It cost us £4 4s. this year. Will we get it as cheaply next year?

The Minister for Supplies told you he will get it at £3 10s.

Never mind the Minister for Supplies; we are talking about realities, not Ministers for Supplies.

The Minister for Supplies said £3 5s.

120/- a quarter comes to £3 10s.

Since the Minister for Supplies spoke those words the cost of our native wheat has been put up by 5/-, and it will not stay there, or, if it does, there will be less produced at home and we will have to pay £4 4s. or more for the increased amount imported. What will be the subsidy for which the Minister for Supplies will then have to ask the House if he wants to keep the loaf at 1/-? Mind you, he threatened us here the last day that if there is any increase in the cost of wheat it must be put on the loaf, and that he will not ask for a subsidy. Now, is the loaf to go up anyway? I have suggested a way of keeping it down, and I will challenge any member of the House to find a flaw in it. I am not putting this motion to a division, as the Minister for Agriculture has tacitly admitted, if not expressly admitted, that they have not done the job.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.