Quite, but derating would be a substitute for it. That case has been made here on various occasions on the Estimate for the Supplementary Agricultural Grant, that if the Supplementary Agricultural Grant were increased to such an extent that we need not have derating, there would be no necessity for derating. I maintain that it is quite in order to advocate derating on the Vote for the Supplementary Agricultural Grant. because it simply means an increased Supplementary Agricultural Grant. The case was made on various occasions in this House that if derating were granted, and if rates were taken off large farms, it would be no advantage to the small farmers. I do not think that anybody ever tried to prove that case home because any concession that benefits land as a whole is bound to affect everybody working on the land. If the overheads of the big farmers are reduced it would enable them to compete at higher prices when purchasing live stock.
I think at the present time when administration has been taken very largely out of the hands of local authorities, when the cost of roads, hospital charges, asylums, etc., is increasing daily, it is not fair that the farmer has to bear this increasing burden every year. People who away back in 1927-28 were paying only £5 or £6 in rates have now to pay up to £25 or £26, and these are only small farmers. The burden has been increasing year by year until it has really become unbearable. At the present time the only income to which farmers can look is the price they get for whatever live stock they have. It may be urged that the fixed price given for cereal crops is a great advantage to the farmers. It is not a great advantage to the farmer because, unfortunately, there is a very reduced yield. That is due to the fact that we have had to till without manure. I am not apportioning the blame for that; I could possibly say a good deal about it if I wanted to, but we are having decreased yields as far as grain crops generally are concerned. That is due to the fact that we have tilled a good deal more than in former years, and that we have less manure than ever we had. Even though there are fixed prices, the agricultural community are very badly hit at the present time. The amount of rates that they have to pay has increased enormously, and the assistance they are getting from the Government was reduced by £100,000. I do not know exactly what was the underlying motive at the time, but before Fianna Fáil came into office there was a feeling all over the country that we were to have derating. Although the Taoiseach would deny that he ever made that promise, I think it was pretty well understood that there would be derating. When the Government came into power they gave us a pretty good supplementary agricultural grant, but reduced it the following year, and the grant still remains at that reduced figure.
On the question of applying the grant as it stands at the moment, the case is very often made or attempted to be made that the small farmer is already practically derated, and that, consequently, if derating came it would benefit only the larger farmers. Well, the large farmers and the average sized farmers are the men we have to rely upon at the present time to give us the tillage that we require, and I think when all is said and done they are standing up well to it. The evidence that has been given by the inspectors in my county is that, whatever remissness there is in County Roscommon is on the part of the small farmers. I think the Government should seriously consider the complete derating of agricultural land in this country. There ought not to be any more supplementary agricultural grants given; instead, there ought to be complete derating, as there is in Northern Ireland and in England. We are not asking anything unreasonable.
As I said in the beginning, the case the Minister made originally was that local government would have to go if we had derating. But local government has in fact so altered that derating would not affect it. At the present time, the farmers have to foot the bill for the roads, although they cannot use them very advantageously, and they have to foot the bill for hospitals and so on. It is very questionable indeed if there is a good case in equity for that. There are travelling on the roads large numbers of lorries of various descriptions which are not owned by the farmers, and the farmers have to foot the bill to a major extent. As things are at the moment—the pig industry has been killed and production is not what it should be owing to the fact that we have no manures—I do not think the Minister or the Government can say that the farmers are too well off. In equity, I think we ought to have derating. The example shown across the Border and in England is evidence of the fact that we could have it, and that there would be no disadvantages from it as far as local government is concerned. I should like to impress on the Minister that, before they came into office, he and his colleagues were very keen on having this done, and they had facts and figures to show what it would cost. They have those figures still, and I think they ought to use them. They should endeavour as far as possible to meet the case, and try to relieve the agricultural community of the very heavy burden of local rates that has been accumulating year in and year out. The local rates are still going up. In our county and in every other county there is an increasing demand every year. That is discouraging to the farmers, and is keeping production down. To my mind, this is one way in which the Government could and should assist the farmers in present circumstances.