That a sum, not exceeding £845,230, be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1945, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, and of certain Services administered by that Office, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.
Any Deputy looking at the Estimate will see that there are three main divisions under which the moneys provided for this Department are spent, namely, research work, agricultural education and development, and the administration of Acts and Statutory Orders. There is a net decrease on the whole Estimate of £110,124 as compared with last year's Estimate. There are two rather large sums that I want to mention first. Last year almost £200,000 was provided for the import of nitrate of soda and, as we are not getting any nitrate of soda now and we do not foresee any possibility of getting it for the coming year, that is not included. On the other hand, there is a sum of about £100,000 extra for the manufacture of superphosphate from imported phosphates and pyrites and native pyrites from Avoca. That leaves us £100,000 on the right side so far as fertilisers are concerned.
There are some sub-heads which show an increase, namely: sub-head A, Salaries, Wages and Allowances; sub-head F (1), Agricultural Schools and Farms; sub-head F (2), Grants to Private Agricultural Schools; sub-head H, Grants to County Committees of Agriculture; sub-head J, National Stud; sub-head O (10), Emergency Powers (Tillage) Orders. These between them give us an increase over last year of £50,000, roughly. Then there are smaller increases under other sub-heads amounting to about £8,000, making the total increase under various sub-heads £58,000. As against that, we have the decrease that I have already mentioned on sub-head G (3), Fertilisers, of about £100,000. There are also decreases under sub-head M (4), Loans and Grants for Agricultural Purposes; sub-head O (4), Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) etc., Acts; sub-head O (6), Acquisition of Lands (Allotments) (Amendment) Act; Potato Subsidies, and other sub-heads, which between them make up about £52,000. There is an increase in the Appropriations-in-Aid of £16,000, so that all the savings as it were, including the increase in the Appropriations-in-Aid, amount to £168,000, while the excess expenditure over last year amounts to £58,000, giving us a net saving this year of £110,000.
So far as sub-head A is concerned, there are the ordinary increments and emergency bonus for the staff. The personnel of the staff has only increased by 12, and these are in the minor grades. That accounts for the increase under that sub-head. In addition to that, salaries are provided for under many other sub-heads that any Deputy can see by looking through the Estimate. The amount under these various sub-heads, apart from sub-head A, for salaries for officials, is £262,693. If we add the £216,365 under sub-head A, we get a total of £479,058 for salaries, wages and allowances of all the personnel of the Department.
I want to comment on some sub-heads. It is not possible to go through the whole lot without taking up too much of the time of the House. As to sub-head E (3), for instance, Deputies may be interested to know whether any of these international organisations are working or not, or what is the object of keeping them going at the moment. The first is the International Institute of Agriculture (Rome) and the subscription is £420. This is an old-established institute which goes back before the League of Nations or any of these other institutions—it goes back to 1905. It aims at supplying reliable information on world conditions as respects production, imports, exports and prices of agricultural produce; on the progress of agricultural science and the improvement of agricultural practice, including research work in regard to plant diseases and pests; and on agricultural co-operation, insurance, credit, and other questions of agricultural interest. The annual subscription payable by this country is 8,000 gold Swiss francs, or £420.
The next is the International Seed Testing Association (Stockholm). This is an association of which most countries in the world are members. It deals with fixed standards for seed testing. Conferences are held every three years to discuss the rules to be laid down, etc. The annual subscription is only £20. Then there are the International Dairy Federation (Brussels) and the International Veterinary Bureau (Paris). There is only a token amount down for these because it is not likely that we will be able to get in touch with either of these organisations during the coming year. For the World's Poultry Science Association (London) a sum of £5 is down. That is the subscription payable by this country as a patron of the organisation, but other liabilities are involved as well. The association is a link between scientists and practical poultry workers in Ireland, England, Scotland, Australia, Canada and South Africa.
Then we have the various Imperial Agricultural Bureaux, the financial contributions to which originated in 1928 when the Irish Government, with the other Governments concerned, undertook to subscribe a total sum of £20,000 per annum towards the expenses of eight Imperial Agricultural Bureaux. At a later stage the contributions were increased to £21,800. The main functions of the bureaux and associated bodies are to undertake the work of collecting and disseminating the results of work of economic importance carried out in all parts of the world in these special branches of agricultural, etc., science, with which the several bureaux are concerned. You have the Imperial Mycological Institute, the Imperial Institute of Entomology, the Farnham House Laboratory, and the Imperial Agricultural Bureaux. The South American Potato Fund is the next one. This deals with research into the production of varieties of potatoes free from the influence of various climatic conditions, such as frost, or the influence of various pests, etc.
The amount provided for the International Beet Conference is merely a token Estimate, because the conference has not been working since the emergency commenced. The countries attached to that conference are Ireland, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentine, Brazil and Uruguay. The sum provided under sub-head E (4)—Miscellaneous Investigations, Inquiries and Reports—is required for experiments in grass ensilage, potato ensilage and trials in storage of onions, etc.
The next sub head to which I want to refer is F (4)—Scholarships in Agriculture, etc. A number of scholarships in agriculture, horticulture and dairy science are granted annually by the Department. The scholarships in agriculture and horticulture are tenable at University College, Dublin, and the scholarships in dairy science at University College, Cork. There are usually 20 scholars provided for. They receive free tuition, and a maintenance allowance of £64 3s. 4d. per session. They also get a free railway voucher when going on vacation and on returning when the holidays are over. As regards the training of instructors in horticulture, for which £700 is provided, the purpose of the sub-head is to qualify young men in horticulture who are afterwards open for employment by county committees of agriculture or in similar posts. Four men complete their training each year and these are replaced by other scholarship holders.
Sub-head G (1)—Improvement of Milk Production-is connected with cow-testing associations. There are about 200 cow-testing associations in the country at the moment, and about 50,000 cows are under test. Members of the associations are required to enter for tests all the dairy cows, pedigree and non-pedigree, in their herds. The income of each association includes the following:—(a) a fee of 2/- for each member in respect of each cow of his under test; (b) a grant of 4/- from the Department in respect of each cow under test; (c) a grant of £26 10s. from the Department to supplement the salary paid by the association to its supervisor, plus 1/- for each cow under test in excess of 250 cows. These societies are also helped by the county committees of agriculture. The committees of agriculture make allocations of funds for the purchase of the requisite initial milk-testing and tattooing apparatus and materials for the use of cow-testing associations.
The next sub-head to which I should like to refer is G (3)—Fertilisers Subsidies—for which £500,000 is provided. The provision for subsidies on imports of phosphates and pyrites and on Avoca pyrites, as already mentioned, is approximately £100,000 more than last year. A manufacturing programme for the production in the 1944 season of the same quantities of subsidised artificial fertilisers as were distributed during the 1943 season has been approved. The analyses and prices of the fertilisers will be the same as they were in 1943. The quantities of pyrites and phosphates already imported, together with the probable production of Clare phosphates, will be sufficient to complete the programme. There will, therefore, be available for distribution this year 31,000 tons of 30 per cent. superphosphate on the same basis as last year and 18,000 tons of compound fertilisers having an analysis of 20 per cent. soluble phosphate, 2 per cent. citric soluble phosphate, 2 per cent. insoluble phosphate, 2½ per cent. nitrogen and 1 per cent. potash. It is proposed to reserve 14,000 tons of this fertiliser for the beet crop, 2,950 tons for the production of seed potatoes, 450 tons for root seed production and 600 tons for unemployed allotment holders. There will also be available 3,800 tons of potato fertiliser having an analysis of 14 per cent. soluble phosphate, 2 per cent. citric soluble phosphate and 5 per cent. nitrogen for the poorer districts adjacent to the western seaboard. The retail selling prices of the fertilisers will be £13 per ton for 30 per cent. superphosphate and £14 per ton for compound fertilisers and potato fertilisers, ex railway or canal station, nearest to the premises of the vendor.
I should like to mention that advantage is being taken at the moment by certain people of the present scarcity of fertilisers to sell spurious products as fertilisers at high prices. In order to put an end to this practice, an Emergency Powers Order has been made which (a) prohibits the manufacture of fertilisers (except kelp) save under licence, and (b) requires the seller of a fertiliser, other than seaweed, farmyard manure and kelp, to give to the purchaser a full statement of analysis. The Order will, of course, carry the usual penalties.
We pass on to sub-head H—Grants to County Committees of Agriculture. The normal grant here, that is the grant on a £ for £ basis of the rate struck in the county, is £112,200. There is then a special temporary grant of £2,500, and a special grant to provide lime for agricultural purposes amounting to £75,000. There is an increase in the first and in the third case, and a decrease in the second case. Every county must strike a rate of 2d. in the £ for county committee purposes, but they are authorised to strike more than 2d. A rate of 2d. in the £ would bring in approximately £73,000, and the difference between that figure and the £112,000 provided shows that the great majority of counties are striking more than the minimum rate at the moment. The special temporary grant is for distribution amongst such committees as are in urgent need of financial assistance. There are a few counties which find it very hard to make ends meet. The poorer counties are not able to raise sufficient money for this purpose, and they get a special grant. The special grant to provide lime for agricultural purposes has been provided each year for a number of years back. I am sure Deputies are aware of how the scheme works. The county committee advertises for tenders for the supply of lime, and selects what the committee believes to be the best tenders in a particular county. Then the county committee is enabled by this grant to sell lime to the farmers below cost believes to be the best tenders in a particular county. Then the county committee is enabled by this grant to sell lime to the farmers below cost price. In that way, more lime is being used than otherwise would be used. The costs are higher this year than they were last year, and I felt that we should try to make it easier on the farmer by meeting at least some of those high costs. For that reason there is a little bit more given for lime this year than last year to meet those extra costs.