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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 21 Mar 1944

Vol. 93 No. 1

Committee on Finance. - Vote 29—Agriculture.

I move:—

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.

Have not some committees got the county surveyor's engineers to burn lime?

The county manager has power, under a certain Order that was made, either to take over a lime-kiln by agreement or by compulsion, and work it. That is being done, I think, in some counties. The next matter with which I want to deal is sub-head J, National Stud. That is a new sub-head. I think I mentioned this some time ago, but it is possible that every Deputy was not here at the time, and it is no harm to mention it again. Negotiations were carried on with the British Government for a number of years—in fact since 1922, I think-to get the farm at Tully, County Kildare, which was used by the British Government as a stud farm, handed over to this Government. It was impossible to reach any agreement until quite recently, and the farm was taken over on 1st January. The farm stock, implements and machinery were taken over at an agreed valuation of £6,960 9s. 3d. The greater part of that —a little over £5,000—was for farm stock, that is for cattle and working horses. The thoroughbred stock had already been removed, so perhaps it was a way of getting over the difficulty that had been there for 20 years—the difficulty as to who owned the blood-stock. The British Government have agreed to pay us a sum for user in lieu of rent over the years that they held it. That amount has not been agreed on yet, but the general principles on which the amount will be calculated have been agreed. I do not know exactly what the amount will be. This farm, as Deputies know, is adjacent to Kildare town, and comprises about 870 acres of land—very good land, most of it. It has been run as a stud farm since 1916, and the Government has decided to continue to operate it as a stud farm. That will mean, of course, getting the necessary stock, and it may take a long time to build up a proper stud there. Proposals will be brought before the Dáil, I hope in the very near future, for putting this farm on a regular basis, and giving the Dáil our proposals as to how the place should be managed, and so on. I need not deal with that point at the moment because it will come up again, but in the meantime the farm is being managed by a temporary farm manager, and there are expenses with regard to fencing, drains, and so on. The grooms, stud hands and labourers were kept on, with the exception of some of the older employees, who retired at the changeover, and who were looked after by the British Government. They got gratuities and so on from the British authorities on retiring.

We took over 26 hands in all. A sum of £3,700 is required for the wages of the staff for 1944-45, and there is a provision of £12,750 for general expenses. That is made up of £11,000 for the purchase of cattle; seeds, manures and feeding stuffs, £650; implements and tools, £600; and miscellaneous, £500. Unfortunately, under the system of Government accounting, we do not give at this point what we expect to get back from the farm. That will come in under Appro priations-in-Aid. I do not know indeed whether we can promise that the farm will pay in this particular year.

Did all the blood-stock go to England?

They had all gone for some time. I now come to sub-head M (1)— Miscellaneous work, £20,002. This in cludes £13,100 for advertising and publicity, including food production propaganda. Of this £13,100, £3,100 is for general advertising, that is, for advertising, say, under the Livestock Breeding Act, announcing that bulls should be shown for licences, and so on. Then there is a special amount of £10,000 for publicity in connection with increased food production. Those advertisements for increased food production are operated through the Press, the cinema, the radio and by means of posters. Tenders are sought from advertising agents with regard to advertising through the Press. As a matter of fact, the cost would be the same, because the rates on all papers are much the same, but the most attractive display submitted by an applicant secures the tender. Then through that advertising agent, whoever he may be, the advertising in the Press is done through the morning papers, through 50 provincial papers, and also through weekly journals connected with agriculture, economics, and so on. The cinema advertising in 1943-44 principally took the shape of a special film connected with wheat growing. It was exhibited rent free in practically every house in Ireland. There were also other advertising films. Radio propaganda took the form of a series of weekly talks and discussions. Tenders were also invited for the display of posters, and posters are exhibited in railway stations, trams and buses, post offices, national schools, and public houses.

I now come to sub-head M (4)— Loans and Grants for Agricultural Purposes. The rate of interest here has been reduced recently to 4½ per cent. The first scheme mentioned here is: Loans for the Purchase of Stallions. A sum of £700 is provided. Officers of the Department purchase those stallions at sales both in this country and more frequently in Great Britain, and then they are resold to applicants, usually at a considerably lower price than that at which they are bought. The purchaser puts down one-third of the price that he has to pay, and he gets the other two-thirds by way of a loan which is paid back in five equal annual instalments, with interest at 4½ per cent. The next item is: Loans for the Purchase of Premium Bulls. In this case the buyer of a premium bull puts down one-third of the purchase price, and gets a loan of the remainder, which he repays in two equal annual instalments, also at 4½ per cent. interest. Then we have loans for the purchase of hand sprayers. The number of sprayer loans has continuously decreased, and the provision has been reduced from £1,400 to £1,000. Those loans are also repayable in two equal annual instalments.

Is the reduction due to the fact that sprayers are not available in the same numbers?

No. So far, I think we have been able to supply the number required. The next item is: Loans for the Purchase of Other Agricultural Implements. Any farm implement costing less than £40 is dealt with by the Department, and any implement costing more than £40 is dealt with by the Agricultural Credit Corporation. In this case the applicant puts down one-fourth of the price in cash, and he gets the other three-fourths by way of a loan, which he pays in three equal annual instalments, also at 4½ per cent. interest.

The next sub-head with which I want to deal is M (9)—temporary scheme in connection with farm improvements, £52,560. That is not the total amount which is spent under the farm improvements scheme, because in the Emergency Schemes Vote there is an amount of £350,000 for this purpose. That is the same as was provided last year. This scheme appears to be working very well, if we are to judge from the number of applicants. The number of applicants is very big. In fact, every year we have to close down at a certain date and say we cannot take any more, because there is great difficulty in providing not so much perhaps the money as the staff to deal with those various schemes. The scheme, although it has been operating for some three or four years, may still be regarded as in the experimental stage, and every year we have been adding to it works that might be carried out. This year we have added silos, liquid manure tanks, and the laying of concrete floors in farm buildings.

There are other improvements. In fact, the principal improvements that the scheme dealt with were drainage and reclamation. A number of applicants made the point that drainage could not be satisfactorily carried out during the time of year that this money was available. It was available only in the winter-time. We have now extended the time and it may be possible to get some of these works done.

Under sub-head M (10)—Potato Reserve Scheme—there is a token sum of £5. That is a scheme for the provision of a reserve of potatoes for Dublin and other cities and towns in case there might be a scarcity later on. The merchants who come under this scheme have purchased up to 5,000 tons of potatoes which are left in the pit and which will be called on if a scarcity should occur. It would not appear, from the indications, that there is any grave cause for anxiety in regard to the potato supply but, in any case, it is well to have this reserve on hands.

There is also a token sum of £5 under sub-head O (5)—Fertiliser Credits (Wheat) Scheme—which I should like to explain. Deputies probably know what the scheme is. When a grower delivers his wheat to a miller or to a miller's agent or to an authorised seed assembler, he gets a docket stating the number of barrels delivered. Whenever fertilisers are available in large quantities again— probably that will be when the war is over—the docket will be exchangeable for a credit voucher for the purchase of artificial manures. It will be useful then in aiding landowners to restore to the full soil fertility which they feel has been lost by extensive cereal growing during the emergency. I need hardly say that the docket is available for the 1944 wheat crop in addition to the 55/- per barrel that has already been announced and which will be paid in cash.

Under sub-head O (6)—Acquisition of Land (Allotments) (Amendment) Act, there is a reduction of £13,600 in the provision for free seeds, manures, implements, etc., compared with 1943-44. During the 1943 season 85 of the 87 local authorities in the country operated schemes, and in addition there were 45 associations that provided schemes, apart from local authorities, were 45 associations that provided schemes, apart from local authorities, but the total number of allotments cultivated by approved unemployed persons was 20,181, representing a decrease of 3,297 as compared with 1942. There was a slight increase—a few hundred—in the number of allotments cultivated by employed persons. Arrangements are being made, of course, for the continuation of the scheme in 1944, but it is not anticipated now that there will be any increase in the number of allotments worked during this year as compared with last year.

Under sub-head O (7)—Flax Act, 1936-there is provision of £3,680. The area under flax in 1943 increased to about 27,500 acres. This flax is exported, but against that we get, perhaps not our full requirements, but supplies of fibre for the manufacture of twine and yarn for binder twine and thread-making. In that way the flax fulfils a useful purpose. There are adequate supplies of seed and potash for this year's flax crop now available.

I wish now to deal with some of the items of produce that are dealt with under agriculture. The first is dairy produce. We can all agree that dairying remains, as it has been for many generations, the keystone of our agricultural industry. It not only provides an income for those who deal in milk production but it also is necessary for the production of cattle so that the cattle trade depends on dairying. It is also a very important factor in the bacon, poultry and egg industries. As far as one can calculate, there are about 90,000 households dependent to a great extent on the production of creamery butter and to these we must add a large number, which it would be difficult to calculate, who count farm butter as a very important item in their farming economy. Its influence on other branches also makes it a very important matter. After the last war the world price of creamery butter remained very satisfactory until about 1929. About that time there was a general depression in world agriculture which struck the dairy business in particular, and there was a very marked fall in the price of butter. It was hoped for some time that that might be a temporary matter but after a few years it became apparent that it was going to be a prolonged depression. In 1932 the Stabilisation Act was passed which had as its object to keep the price of butter on the home market at a remunerative level, that is, as far as the producer was concerned. We had to put up with what we got for our exported butter because the export market was not under our control. That stabilisation did not prove sufficient. Within a year or so it was necessary for the Exchequer to come to the assistance of the dairy farmer and from the end of 1932 until the present time there has been a certain amount voted every year to subsidise the price of butter. In 1939 there was a new crisis, if you like. It is difficult now to imagine that our crisis in September, 1939, was caused by the fact that we had too much butter and could not dispose of it. We had a big exportable surplus and there was no way of disposing of it, for there seemed to be nobody to take it. Of course, that position righted itself after a while. A few years later, the tables were turned the other way. We came to a point at which we had to stop the export of butter because we were no longer getting fats from other sources.

All these fats and oils which were imported prior to the war had stopped and the only fat we had, for all purposes, was butter. Then, butter commenced to get scarce. During all that time from 1932 when somebody had to interfere in the butter business the big consideration was to get a fair balance between the producer and the consumer. In September, 1939, the price of milk at the creamery was 5.4d. per gallon. There have been various increases since then. In April, 1942, the price went up to 7d. per gallon; in September, 1942, to 9d., and in December, 1943, to 1/-. It will go back on the 1st April to 10½d. From the 1st April onwards, the price of milk to the creamery will be 10½d., which is practically double what it was when the war commenced. To a great extent, the consumer has had to meet this increase; to some extent, the Exchequer. The consumer was paying 1/6 in December, 1939. He is now paying 2/4. The Exchequer will pay £70,000 during the coming year, as compared with £500,000 in 1939.

The production of creamery butter has varied downwards since 1936 or thereabouts; before that, it was moving upwards. To the 31st March, 1944 —there are not many days of the year remaining and we can make an estimate for the entire period—production will be about 601,000 cwts. During the previous year, up to the end of March, 1943, it was 611,000 cwts. The year before that, it was 658,000 cwts. For the purpose of comparison, I may say that production, before the war commenced, was 714,000 cwts, so that during the period of the war it has gone down more than 100,000 cwts., or about 17 per cent. It has not yet got the same shake that it got when the big crash came in 1929. If we take the year ended 31st March, 1932, only 605,000 cwts. were produced. There was a sudden crash at that time. During the past three or four years, production has gone down gradually. I am glad to be able to state that for January and February this year production is up 14 per cent. on that of last year. These are, however, months of very poor production and I should not like to argue from that increase that we shall have greater production in 1944 than we had in 1943. It is, however, a good omen and we may hope that, with the increased price, we shall get as much in 1944 as we got in 1943.

We had in cold storage for this winter—we take our cold storage figures in November each year—172,000 cwts. of butter. That was slightly higher than the figure for the winter before—about 3,000 cwts. higher. But we had not sufficient butter cold-stored and it is intended to continue the present ration for some time into the summer until we see how we stand. We feel that, if we could get 210,000 cwts. into cold storage, we could give a ration of half a pound during the winter. I think that Deputies will agree that it is more important to get half a pound of butter in the winter than it would be to get the same amount in summer, because in winter more fats are needed. In addition, more farm butter will be available in summer and that will make up for the deficiency to some extent. The strange thing about this storage question is that, in the winter of 1940-41, when there were no imports, we stored 88,000 cwts., which is practically half what we stored this year. We had then no rationing and no imports and we had plenty of butter. It is difficult to understand these matters. It was reported to me the other day that some people think that butter is being exported. No creamery butter has been exported since April, 1942—two years ago. Perhaps it is going too far to say that no creamery butter has been exported, because a very small quantity goes out under licence, with people leaving the country. So far as my recollection serves, that does not amount to one cwt. in the month. We closed down on the export of butter in July, 1941, with the exception of contracts already made. These contracts accounted for a little over 3,000 cwts., which we exported between that time and April, 1942. For a long time, therefore, we may say that no creamery butter has been allowed out of this country. A small quantity of farmers' butter—factory butter, as it is called—has been exported every year up to the present time. Recently it has amounted to only a few hundred cwts. It is very inferior stuff and it goes out in tins and is also used for ships' stores. There are, of course, other milk products going out. No cheese is going out. A certain amount of condensed milk is going out. We have a factory in Limerick which can be run only on a quantitative basis and the amount of condensed milk which would be used here would enable that factory to be run only for about a couple of months in the year.

It would have to be closed for the remainder of the year. A balance must be struck between the advantages and disadvantages. The factory gives very good employment. It fills a very useful function in providing condensed milk for us that could hardly be provided unless there were some exports as there would be difficulty in getting certain materials which are necessary such as tins. Unless we allowed these exports, it is unlikely that we should be provided with these materials and we should have to make up our minds to go without condensed milk. Condensed milk is useful to certain people and it is particularly useful as a stand-by in case of emergency. If we were to place these advantages against the consideration of the amount of butter that could be supplied if the milk were not to go out— the amount would not be very big— the balance would, I think, be in favour of allowing the export to continue. There is also an export of milk powder. I was very much misrepresented when I spoke about this matter before, and I hope Deputies will not misrepresent me on this occasion. An agreement was made some years before the war between the exporters of milk powder and certain manufacturers of baby powders in Great Britain. That agreement still holds. If we were to stop the export of milk powders we would get no more baby powders in. Deputies may say to me: "Then, why not keep the milk powders here for our own babies and not allow them out or the others in." I have always been afraid to face that issue because of the fact that mothers have such faith in certain powders for their children. If anything happened to them I was afraid that I would be blamed as being responsible. Now, the misrepresentation that I refer to is this: At the last election I said what I have just stated, but a certain Deputy in this House said afterwards that I now proposed to kill the babies as well as everything else.

It was a fair interpretation.

I did not propose to do that. In fact. I was doing the opposite. With regard to liquid milk supplies, they were better in 1943 than in the previous year. There was no serious shortage at any particular place at any particular time. As a matter of fact, as Deputies will remember, there was at this time last year—in January and February, 1943—a shortage of milk for some time in Dublin. We avoided that this year, and there was no shortage of milk.

The minimum price for liquid milk in the towns was raised last year, and evidently that had the desired effect as far as prices go. I would like to say this much about the supply of milk, especially to the two cities, Dublin and Cork, that there appears to be a steady increase all the time in the consumption of milk in both cities. Take the Dublin figures. The first reliable figures that we have for Dublin became available when the 1936 Act, dealing with the Dublin milk supply, was put into operation. In 1939 the average number of gallons of milk consumed per day in Dublin was 39,460, and in 1943 the average was 43,272 gallons—almost a 10 per cent. increase.

These figures do not coincide with the sort of opinions that you hear expressed by certain people that we are not getting as much milk here as we did formerly. We are actually getting more. With regard to price, since the Dublin Milk Board came into being, I think they have done very good work. They have succeeded in giving a good deal better price to the producer without increasing, to the same extent, the price to the consumer. The price to the producer from 1937 and 1938, when the Act came into operation, up to the present time, has gone up on the average from 1/0¼d. per gallon to 1/8¼d. per gallon, whereas in the same period the price to the consumer has gone up from 1/6¾d. to 2/4. The increase in the case of the producer was 53 per cent., and in the case of the consumer 38 per cent.

Our exports of eggs during the year 1943 were lower by 620 great hundreds than in 1942. This was due, I feel, to various causes. One was the increased home consumption of eggs. Unfortunately, we have not got any reliable figures either in regard to the production of eggs or to the home consumption of eggs, but there appears to be general agreement that the consumption is higher. There was a heavy selling of laying poultry on account of the high price for fowl. There was a scarcity of feeding stuffs, and in 1943 this was aggravated by the increase in the number of turkeys. In addition, there was a failure amongst poultry producers to hatch enough early pullets during the spring of 1943. We are using whatever propaganda we can in the Department to have an expansion in the poultry and egg business. I feel it should be possible to provide food for more hens. There is a very profitable business in more egg production. We have in mind the interest of the consumer in this country in the first place. As Deputies know, there was a scarcity of eggs for a lengthened period before Christmas in the last few years. We feel that the only way to get over that is to have a much bigger production. The surplus, of course, will be exported when eggs are very plentiful, but if we aim at a much bigger production, then we shall always have enough for ourselves.

We are using this propaganda and giving whatever expert advice it is possible to give through the county committees of agriculture in order to encourage and assist poultry producers to secure a much bigger production in 1944. We are emphasising in particular the necessity for early hatching so that we can have pullets that will come into production during the scarce period from October to Christmas. We are offering various inducements to achieve that. The price of eggs will be higher, probably by 4d. or 5d. per dozen on the average, taking the whole year round. We are also providing, in the case of cockerels which are a nuisance, that the big egg producer will get fancy prices for them from the months of March to June—about 2/6 per lb. live weight, so that they cannot claim that there is any loss sustained by them in rearing young chickens because there were too many cockerels amongst them. The feeding of this poultry should not cause any great difficulty because we have found, from experiments carried out throughout the country, that poultry can be fed quite successfully on potatoes, oats and barley, and a small extra amount of these crops will feed a good increase in the number of poultry on any farm. The exports of poultry in 1943 were the same as in 1942. In the case of rabbits the exports declined by 30 per cent. as compared with the previous year. I think we all look on that as a good thing. It is an indication that there are less rabbits in the country, and from that point of view we welcome the figures giving the decrease.

Coming to pigs, there was an order made on the 30th September, 1943, fixing a minimum price for pigs and doing away with the provision that was there of a fixed price. At that time the fixed price was 125/- per cwt., dead weight, for pigs of the optimum weight, and since that time the prices have ranged round 160/- and 170/- per cwt. That was a very welcome and very substantial increase, and if price were the only consideration it should ensure a big increase in pig production. It is quite evident, of course, that price is not the only consideration. There are indications, from certain quarters that there will be more pigs coming along.

We keep a very careful and, as far as we can, an accurate account of sow services from boar centres. It shows a slight increase, but not anything extraordinary. I feel, and I suppose everybody else must feel the same, that we cannot have any big increase in pig production until we first provide the feeding. If there is a good crop of oats and barley and potatoes during the coming year, it is possible there will be a bigger urge to go into pig production. That is the only hope of getting increased pig production.

A question was raised in the Dáil a few days ago with regard to the distribution of bacon from the factories. The Pigs and Bacon Commission are taking charge of that scheme of distribution and, as far as they can, they will see that every district gets a fair share of the bacon available.

Another matter that seems to worry some people is the export of milch cows and breeding heifers. Unfortunately, in this instance I cannot give figures, because I am not allowed to give figures of exports; but I can say this, that there were less heifers sent out in 1943 than in 1942. That did not apply to cattle in general, but there were less heifers. As to the heifers going out, everybody knows there is quite a number of heifers not good for breeding, like Hereford crosses and Aberdeen Angus crosses.

I do not think we need be alarmed that the foundation of our breeding stock is being lost to the country. In fact, when we come to cows, we find even more encouraging figures. The export of cows is controlled by licence and the number of licences provided in 1943 was much less than the number in 1942. We felt we were, perhaps, allowing too many out, but, in fact, although we reduced the number of licences in 1943, they were used to the full only in three months out of the whole year—in June, July and September. In every other month of the year the licences were not fully taken up. About 40 per cent. fewer cows went out in 1943, than in 1942.

Does that not prove they were not there?

If they were going out, the Deputy would probably have something else to say.

If they were there, the farmers would probably avail of the licences.

If the number of heifers that went out was also less, they must be keeping them for some reason. I might also mention that there were less cows sent to the canneries, so, judging by the figures—and I suppose one can prove anything from figures— we are going to have a lot of cows this year.

With regard to agricultural machinery, we imported, in 1943, a number of tractors, reapers and binders and threshing sets from Great Britain. These were got in by agreement between the two Governments, and they were allocated to the districts and counties that we in the Department felt needed them most. The counties that were worst off got the bigger numbers and the counties that did not need them so badly got the smaller numbers. They were given to applicants who, it was believed, would make the best use of them. Unfortunately, some of those binders and threshing sets were late; the binders were late for the harvest and the threshing sets for the threshing period.

How many binders were obtained last year?

One hundred altogether. There is some confusion among Deputies and others with regard to tractors. We do not control all the tractors that came in. There were 36 tractors and certain other implements that came in uncontrolled. They came to agents here in the ordinary quotas to which they were entitled as traders. We do not control them at all and we do not interfere with the people to whom they sold them. They were controlled with regard to price, but there was no control with regard to the people to whom they were sold. For the coming year we have 100 binders and we expect to get another 250. We may be optimistic, but we expect another 250. We cannot yet say how we stand with regard to tractors. I need hardly say that we have been pressing for tractors and binders since last July or August. A certain number of binders has come in and we are expecting to get more.

Horse-drawn machinery is in fair supply. There are occasional inquiries in the Department for ploughs and harrows and other implements but, so far as they are concerned, I do not think there is a real scarcity; it may be hard to get them, but there is no real scarcity. Parts are also in fairly good supply.

With regard to agricultural education, we all agree that to have better farming we want more knowledge, and the best way to get this is by trying to get education spread amongst the young farmers—it is not so easy to get the old fellows. The aim is to get the young men, to provide facilities for young farmers in the way of education. To ensure that the results of the various research works being carried on in various Government Departments and universities, the results of the experiments, will reach the farmers, is another very important matter. For that we have the publications of the Department, such as the Journal. That is not read by every farmer, I know well, but still, knowledge gets spread around, and there are very good articles from time to time in the Journal. Then we have leaflets on various subjects. They are being used very much more as time goes on. The demand for these leaflets has increased enormously in recent years. We have pamphlets and, as well as that, we have informative announcements through the Press and over the radio. Apart from anything the Department may be doing, we have the agricultural periodicals, which are doing excellent work, and even the ordinary newspapers and the weekly papers have special articles on some agricultural subject. That, again, is very useful, because these articles very often deal with some aspect of reseach work or some experiment that is being carried out either by the universities or by the Department.

The instructors in each county do a great deal of good work. I often hear people in the city talking about the deplorable lack of facilities for agricultural education. They have no idea what is being done by the county staffs. These instructors do a great deal of work. They give lectures to farmers on special subjects which arise from time to time. They lecture on ensilage and they lecture quite a lot on wheat growing and matters of that kind, wherever their services are required. They give special lectures and they carry on winter classes. These classes are very useful institutions. The pity is that we cannot get the county committees to increase their staffs, so that these winter classes could become more general, and it would be possible for the instructor to go back to the same parish more frequently with these classes.

At present he cannot go back more than once in every seven or ten years to carry on the course. Then the county instructor pays visits to farmers, and this is the most useful feature of all, because he can discuss agricultural matters with the farmer. These things all help to spread the necessary information. I am quite satisfied from my talks with farmers and their sons that their standard of knowledge is infinitely higher than the standard of 35 or 40 years ago. You never meet a farmer or a farmer's son now who does not understand everything about the analysis of foodstuffs, manures and the proper grass seed mixture. The farmers of to-day are definitely much better informed. I do not claim to have a very big experience of mixing with farmers on the Continent; I have some experience though, and I can say, from mixing with those people, that our farmers can compare favourably with them in knowledge and experience.

Our agricultural education is based on a certain pattern or structure. At the apex you have the university, with two faculties, agriculture in Dublin and dairy science in Cork. Next you have the residential colleges, one of which is in Glasnevin and which is under the university. We have three directly under the Department, at Clonakilty, Ballyhaise and Athenry. We have four more which are privately owned, but which have an association with the Department. We have a certain association with them and give them grants, provided they carry out the work in a certain way. One was added during the year in Monaghan, by the authorities of St. McCartan's College. There is an agricultural college there. It was opened during the year. Then for girls we have the Munster Institute, and we have 12 private schools in rural domestic economy that receive grants from the Departments.

The question of taking steps to augment the educational facilities in these schools for both boys and girls has long been under consideration. Our existing colleges want both renovation and extension. As a matter of fact, we have no permanent buildings at Athenry and Clonakilty, and it is intended to rebuild these colleges as soon as possible and to enlarge them. We may be able to extend the accommodation already existing in these colleges in the meantime, so as to accommodate the students who are applying, because we have more applications from both boys and girls, than we can deal with at the moment in our agricultural colleges. In this connection, I should like to tell Deputies that, through the generosity and public-spiritedness of the representatives of the late Lady Maurice Fitzgerald, Johnstown Castle, an estate near Wexford has been made available for the purpose of an agricultural school. That is a very fine property. The house is much bigger than most of our agricultural colleges. It will accommodate more students than any of our other colleges, and there will be a better opportunity for a variety of agricultural work there, including research and experimental work. As soon as arrangements can be made for a certain amount of reconstruction to be undertaken, the college will be open, and I hope that it will be ready for accommodation during the coming year.

How many acres of land are there?

About 1,000 acres.

What will the estate be used for?

It will be used as an agricultural college. There will also be a forestry section attached to it, but we have not yet considered whether that will be taken over by the Forestry Department or by my Department. Now, with regard to veterinary education: A few years ago I set up a committee to inquire into and report on this matter of veterinary education in this country. That committee reported in due course to the effect that our present veterinary college was understaffed, that the building was inadequate, and that it was poorly equipped. We had, therefore, to deal with all three questions : under-staffing, inadequate building, and poor equipment. The staff was improved both in numbers and in status, some new equipment was obtained, and plans for re-modelling, repairing, and adding to the building were carried out so far as the emergency permitted. These plans will be completed as soon as possible.

I should also like to pay a tribute to the authorities of Trinity College, Dublin, because they gave us part of their Botanic Garden at Lansdowne Road in order to enable us to improve our experimental facilities there. Were it not for that, we would not have been able to make the improvements that we have been able to make. When we get the necessary equipment we will have a very fine college there, which will bear favourable comparison with any other veterinary college. We have, to a great extent, got the equipment already, but when we have got all the equipment we will have a very fine college. Veterinary research has been carried out at a separate establishment, known as the Thorndale Veterinary Research Station, which is near Drumcondra. There is a small farm there, and also a laboratory for research work, but in the meantime the demand for more and more research work has outgrown the facilities provided at that establishment, and we are examining the question of the facilities which must be provided for inquiring into the causes of the various diseases which result in such serious losses to our live stock. In particular, we are examining the question of providing facilities for the production of vaccines and sera, which are so much in demand at the moment. Deputies know that vaccines and sera are coming very much into use for the prevention and cure of disease. We have been turning out there, for some time past, vaccines for three very important diseases: contagious abortion, mastitis, and blackwater. One disease which has given us a great deal of trouble is contagious abortion, and there has been a good deal of talk recently to the effect that the Americans have developed a vaccine, called Strain No. 19, which has had good results.

That has been tried to some extent in this country, but so far we have not found that it has any advantage over the vaccine turned out at Thorndale. Apart from that, special equipment would be required in order to turn it out here in any quantity, and it would be definitely difficult to get that equipment at the moment. Accordingly, I think it would not be very wise for us to go to any great trouble about getting in such equipment unless we were convinced that that vaccine was definitely superior to the vaccine which we produce here ourselves. As a matter of fact, we are carrying out experiments with a view to determining whether or not it is superior.

Is the Minister aware that the Mount Melleray Abbey people, in my area, are developing some vaccine to deal with contagious abortion?

I take it that the Deputy means Roscrea?

Yes, Roscrea.

Yes, I know about that. I was coming to the question of mastitis next. The question of treating mastitis by a vaccine or serum, I am afraid, is giving a great deal of trouble. It is not easy to treat a disease of that kind—especially, as the disease develops—by a vaccine or serum. The matter, of course, is being actively pursued, not only here, but in practically every country in the world, and I may say that no more progress has been made in any other country in the world than has been made here in that regard. In other words, we have made no progress at all, any more than other countries have made no progress, but we are keeping in touch with research workers all over the world, and if there should be any likely development we shall hear all about it.

Reviewing the whole matter, anyhow, I feel that the time has arrived when we must be prepared for much greater expenditure in connection with the measures to be taken for the control and eradication of live-stock diseases, and one of the first steps to be taken must be the provision of better facilities for veterinary research.

We must enlarge our laboratory, get better facilities of various kinds and also perhaps a bigger personnel. The men we have are as good as we will find in any country in the world. The quality is good, but we might want more. I should like to mention that the committee which is examining post-war policy has this question of animal disease under consideration and I expect to get a report from them in the near future.

I have been giving a great deal of consideration and thought for some years back to these bigger issues I have mentioned, that is, a higher agricultural education, research in general agriculture, veterinary education and veterinary research, and I am not satisfied that they are being managed to the best advantage. They are under different control; they are not co-ordinated; and one section is perhaps doing something about which the other does not know. I intend to have the question examined as soon as possible in a more regular, a more minute way and to see what action could be taken to bring about better co-ordination of the various people who are working on the matters, and perhaps even better control. The proposal was made some time ago—I cannot remember whether publicly or not —that one comprehensive technological college should control the whole lot. That is a very big problem. It may or may not prove to be the best solution, but, at any rate, we must have it examined in the near future.

Our big problem at the moment is food production and the need for making provision for our immediate food requirements overshadows every other consideration and every other aspect of agricultural policy. It must be evident to everybody now that there can be no safety for this country until we produce everything we want in the way of food, whether directly for ourselves, such as bread and sugar, or indirectly for the feeding of animals, to give us milk, butter, bacon and eggs. I must say that I am very favourably impressed by the amount of tillage being done. I have covered most of the country during the last month or two and I think that, with the greatly increased sowings of all crops which are now taking place, we should be practically independent of any foreign supplies. I would not like, however, to be taken as being too satisfied with the position. I should like to appeal to everybody to use all the power and all the persuasion he has to get more and more sown so that we may be on the safe side.

The necessary measures are being taken to deal with those who are impervious to appeals and do not appear to mind whether the country goes without food or not. There have been appointed this year 200 young farmers or farmers' sons who have spent a year at an agricultural college to assist the inspectors in getting tillage done. They can get my authority to enter a farm where tillage is not being done, or where it looks as if the owner is not going to do it, and much of the tillage is being carried out on farms which were entered upon. I feel that nobody will offer any excuse for people who, during these times, do not try to carry out their obligations in the matter of tillage. The position is so serious that we must ensure that each holding in the country will make a fair contribution to our food supplies. There are problems that have to be dealt with, and one of them is the problem of the carrying out of the tillage requirements in the letter rather than in the spirit, such as the growing of cereals year after year in the same field and not minding very much whether a return is got or not, both exhausting the land and giving us poor yields. We have to deal with that problem and we have dealt with many cases this year and last year by compelling the landholder to plough proper land for crops.

No land is too good to give us the wheat and the crops we want in this crisis, and the practice I refer to will not be accepted any longer. These landholders—they are few, but there are some who wish to evade their responsibilities—must adopt proper farming methods, proper rotation of crops, and good husbandry, which is the only way in which we can get the crops we want. I have been urged over and over again by, if you like, impatient people, to hand these landholders over to the Land Commission and let the Land Commission take the land from them. There is an obvious error in law there, but that, I suppose, could be made right. I did not, however, like to mix up my activities with those of the Land Commission, though I am beginning to see that there is some merit in the suggestion, because I believe the country cannot any longer afford bad farmers. We must have regard also to the period covering some years hence and we must make up our minds that, whenever the war may end, the emergency, so far as food is concerned, will not end then. It will not end for some years afterwards, so that in any plans we are making at the moment, we must assume that we are planning for the period at least five years, if not longer, ahead.

That is why it is so important to make landholders who are not already doing so carry out their tillage in the proper way, not to exhaust particular fields and not to give us bad yields by carrying on cropping year after year in the same field. The only proper method of farming is farming on the basis of proper rotation, with farmyard manure and so on. If we get the 3,000,000 acres for which we have planned on a percentage basis of tillage this year, we should be fairly safe. We should have all the food we require and a good amount of feeding for animals as well. That will give us a proper balance in our agriculture: a proper amount of tillage with pasture, making us independent of foreign supplies, and giving us a chance of carrying on here with a proper system, a sound policy, which will make for stable conditions.

To know how we stand, perhaps we should take the index of agricultural prices, although I know that these figures do not always give the picture one wants to get. The agricultural price index figure, which stood at 105 in September, 1939, stood in January of this year at 198, that is, an increase over the pre-war figure of about 86 per cent. If the farmer's income on average has increased by 85 or 86 per cent., we must find out how his outgoings compare with it. The cost-of-living index figure has gone up by 68 per cent., so that, so far as expenses for his household requisites are concerned, he still has a margin.

An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.

A question was asked about increased agricultural wages since the war commenced. They will be up by 50 per cent. I am now dealing with 1943. Up to that, wages were up only 33? per cent. Whether they are up 50 per cent. or 33½ per cent., they are on the index prices well within the increased income of farmers. Rents and rates are gone up by 10 per cent. Looking at farmers' balance sheets they have 85 per cent. more in the way of receipts. They are paying wages that have gone up by 33½ per cent., and that this year will be 50 per cent., more than they paid before the war. Rent and rates represent 10 per cent. and form a big item on the expense side, but a farmer has a good balance left, out of which he is able to meet the increased cost of living. That is on percentages. On the other hand, a farmer might say that his volume of output had gone down. On that theoretical computation there is a reduction. I find it very hard to understand how we could get anything to compare the volume. If farmers have 1,000,000 gallons of milk less than they had in 1939, and if they have £1,000,000 more from wheat I do not know whether the volume has gone up or gone down.

I know that there is a recognised system but the result would depend on how prices stood in 1929 or 1939. Taking the volume such as it is, we find that farmers got £32,500,000 more in 1942-43 than they got in 1938-39. Out of that £32,000,000, the increase in wages amounted to £2,500,000, and rent and rates, £600,000. If we ignore wages altogether, as many farmers do not have to pay wages, naturally their sons must get something out of the land. If we take everybody engaged in agriculture we find roughly that they have got £1 a week more than they got in 1939.

That is not saying much.

And working three hours longer each day.

A farmer with sons is able to give them £1 a week more than he gave them in the past, and he has £1 a week more for himself. Let nobody say that I said farmers were rolling in wealth. I am not sure that they are well enough off.

That is better.

They are better off than they were pre-war.

Their sons are working into the night.

I cannot answer in poetry; I shall do so in prose.

The Minister is more careful than the Taoiseach. He said that they were the best off class in the country. The Minister is more careful and is not committing himself.

Farmers are better off than they were pre-war. They are better off than they were since 1920. When Deputies tell us that farmers were better off before Fianna Fáil got into power, all I say is that they cannot complain now. The question is: Were farmers fairly treated before the war? Some say "yes", others say "no". Supposing we admit, for the sake of argument, that they were not. What has happened since then? The farmers' income has gone up considerably, something like 50 per cent. That is in cash, in pound notes, and represents more than 50 per cent., while in the case of most other classes incomes have stood still. In some cases the position has gone back and, in a few cases, there have been increases under strict regulation. Comparing one with another, every class of farmer is better off now than before the war. There is no doubt about that. They have got substantial increases.

I am not speaking of classes but of individuals. What I want to know is: Are farmers justly treated? Perhaps they are. I met groups of farmers, some at meetings of country committees of agriculture, at which many of them were present, and I said to them: "You have no grievance now; but what you have to be afraid of is the future." It is a fact, that farmers are afraid of the future. We should consider the future because that is the danger as far as farmers are concerned. We should give all our attention to that aspect of agriculture.

There are some things that we can do now and other things that we can plan to do later. The first duty of farmers is to supply our needs, and our duty is to see that they can do this. Our second duty is to put farmers in a position to export some of their surplus produce to pay for our necessary imports. These exports will be going to a market that it may be hard to hold. That will mean cheap but efficient production, as well as processing and grading to suit the buyer in that foreign market. It will mean organised marketing so as to prevent underselling, and to ensure that there will be a fair even supply all the time to that market. These are the things which must take the place of subsidies. I am afraid that subsidies must be regarded as a temporary measure and that they cannot be contemplated as a long-term policy for agriculture. It is much more difficult to plan a thing like that than to suggest that the farmers be given another 1d. here or 5/- there. The planning is difficult, but I can assure Deputies that I am very willing and anxious to listen to suggestions for the reorganisation and improvement of our agriculture for the future, to meet the position that may arise when this war is over. I believe we could have a profitable discussion on that question and from that angle. On the other hand, we could, perhaps, waste a few days talking about 1d. a gallon for milk or 5/- a ton for beet.

I move:—

That the Estimate be referred back for consideration.

I think I should add my word of protest to what has been said already about the way in which the House has been treated, by being given such scant notice of the intention of the Government to take this important Estimate to-day. It will be remembered that no Estimate appeared even on the Order Paper last week, and, so far as my experience goes, we never at any time in past years took the Estimate for Agriculture as the first Estimate. It seems an extraordinary decision that it should be taken first now, without due notice.

I think the Deputy objected soundly last year when it was left to the last.

Was that the reason why it was put first this year?

The Minister is wrong. I did not object.

Some of the Opposition Deputies did.

I was not the one, anyway. I am glad the Minister has approached this important discussion on agricultural administration in the manner in which he has approached it —on the assumption that anticipated imports will arrive, and that recent events regarding our international policy are unlikely to affect our supply position. I do not think that any provocative references by public men will help that position. Such utterances would be rash and indiscreet. Whatever significance we may attach to those events, we are not helping the position by making any reference to them. There should be enough statesmanship in the Government to deal with the matter, and public references of that sort would not be helpful.

It is a very important matter that we are discussing now—the use of the land. Land is one of the prime essentials of human subsistence, and the proper and profitable use of its land, measured not merely in terms of the individual man's immediate needs, but also in terms of man's collective requirements, both present and future, is of paramount importance to every nation. It is particularly so to this country of ours, where our prosperity—aye, our very existence— depends almost exclusively on our agricultural economy, on the type of husbandry that we pursue, and how we operate it.

Apart altogether from minor extensions which reclamation may make possible, the extent of arable land has been stated recently by the Minister to be about 10,500,000 acres. To all intents and purposes, that quantity is fixed and inextensible. Taking our geographical position, our climatic conditions, our soils and suitability for cropping, our whole live-stock economy and the volume in population, it is right and proper that this House should concern itself with our present position and with the future we are likely to face in the post-war period. The House should ask itself whether it is satisfied with the present position of our agricultural economy, notwithstanding the rather brave efforts on the Minister's part to defend it. He appears to view our present position and our future prospects in agriculture with complacency.

If one surveys the whole trend of our agricultural production over a long period of years, one is struck by the static position, notwithstanding the help and assistance that the Minister suggests have been brought to agriculture through agricultural education, the provision of scientific knowledge, the application of modern methods and modern technique and the use of machinery and mechanisation. Our position has not only been static over a long period of years, but in recent years it has shown a tendency towards a rather steep decline. We must compare that with what has occurred in other countries where the production curve has shown a steep rise, although those countries were in a similar position to ours. In view of all that, one is entitled to ask whether there is not something fundamentally wrong with our agricultural economy.

The Irish Trade Journal for December, 1943, page 150, Table 2, gives us a fair picture of our position, stating:

"The total volume of agricultural output declined by 7.7 per cent. in 1942-43, as compared with 1941-42, Live stock and live-stock products showed a decline of 7.8 per cent., and crops and turf a decline of 7.4 per cent."

Taking the volume of our live stock and live-stock products on the base of 100 in 1929-30, the table shows that it had fallen in 1942-43 to 78.7, a reduction of 21 per cent. in live stock and live-stock products.

The Minister went to considerable trouble to review at great length this evening our whole live-stock position, but he made no reference to the stagnation and decline in live-stock production. In the Statistical Abstract for 1942-43 we are informed that our production in starch equivalents was lower than that for 1941-42 by 12 per cent., while our total production was lower by 4 per cent. That shows that there is a progressive decline in agricultural production in this country.

The most dangerous aspect of that decline and of our failure to organise and rehabilitate our agricultural production is that we will not be, in the post-war period, in an efficient position to compete for whatever trade there may be. We may anticipate that the competition will be more keen than ever, because of the kind of economy and efficiency that other countries have been forced to adopt to step up production, particularly in Great Britain, during the present war.

Another aspect which the House cannot overlook is that, while the production curve here has been showing a steep downward trend for the past few years, our taxation curve has shown a steep upward trend. Even in this House, we have been anxious to provide more and more social services. No one can question for a moment the desirability of providing more and more social services for our people; but, like the individual so, too, the nation. Whatever service a man may desire to provide for his own home and family, if he is a wise man he will consult his pocket, to ensure that the services he is going to provide for his family will continue and be within his financial capacity. If we here, with our circumstances, are to continue blindly providing more attractive amenities for our people, without any regard to our national income, the day of reckoning is bound to come. We must bear in mind that this House is primarily responsible to the people, that it is the supreme authority so far as this country is concerned for making national decisions with regard to our social and economic policy and, no matter how desirable it may be to expand our social services—and I am anxious to ensure that our social services will compare favourably with those provided in other countries—we can only do that and we can only provide the capital that is necessary even for the service that we provided recently by legislation, which has stepped up considerably the amount spent on social services, by ensuring that our national income is stepped up too. I suggest that that expenditure inevitably must come to a very great extent from our primary industry.

In providing these services, we must ensure that the industries that must be burdened with the financial provisions for these services are capable of bearing the charges. There is another aspect of this whole matter that we ought not to pass over, if a recent speech by the Minister for Supplies represents the Government's outlook. In the National University recently the Minister for Supplies referred to the advantage that was coming to this country from the fact that we were exporting 100 per cent. more than we were importing; that for every £2 worth of animals and animal products we were exporting, we were only importing at present £1 worth; that we were building up a credit asset on the other side. It is true that we are a creditor country and that we have substantial sterling assets to our credit over there. But, no matter how anxious Great Britain may be in the post-war period for trade with this country—and I am not pessimistic about the future—I feel that Great Britain will not be in an economic position to liquidate her debts in goods. By that I mean that I think the Minister for Supplies is rather too optimistic if he feels that this country will be in a position to draw in an unlimited way on whatever capital assets we have accumulated externally. I think it would be unwise to build on that sort of economy now. We know that the moment goods are available there will be a very substantial capital required for replacements in industrial machinery, modern agricultural machinery of the mechanised type, huge replacements of all transport vehicles that we have on the road, such as buses, lorries and motor cars of every kind, as well as re-stocking the larder of industry. All that will require a huge amount of capital and, if there is a danger of any limitation being set to the financial position of the country where we have accumulated these credits, then our position will be very serious indeed if our exports have declined to such an extent that we cannot provide, through these exports, the medium of foreign exchange that may be necessary to secure these essential commodities. I feel that recognition will be given to these credits definitely; I do not think they will be frozen completely. At the worst, they may be frozen for a period, say, of ten years. But I think a definite limitation will be set on the use of them, that a certain quantity of goods will be demanded in exchange for goods. Perhaps facilities will be granted, to a limited extent anyway, for the use of these assets.

We are told that Russia in her Five Year Plan and in her scheme of development, owing to the fact that she was unable to secure loans and credits abroad, was forced to deny her people, in some cases, essential food in order to export that food in exchange for machinery. Let us hope that we will never experience such a catastrophe, that we will find ourselves in the position that we will not have the foreign exchange, by way of goods to secure goods. That is the reason why I suggest, in view of the present position of the country and the likelihood that the war will end in the next year or two, that now is the time to see where we stand and what can be done to organise properly—I was going to say reorganise, but I will use the word "organise," because I do not think we were ever properly organised—our agricultural economy, our agricultural industry, and to modernise it and to make it efficient in every way.

The Minister talked a lot about agricultural education. It is true that we are spending a considerable amount of money on agricultural education. If we turn to the Book of Estimates and run down the different sub-heads we find that under sub-head E—Technical and Advisory Work in Agriculture—we spend £7,899; sub-head E (2)—Veterinary Research—£7,000 odd; E (3)— Subscriptions, etc., to International and other Research Organisations— £1,754; Miscellaneous Investigations, Inquiries and Reports—£175; Agricultural Schools and Farms—£39,000 odd; Grants to Private Agricultural Schools, etc.—£17,749; Veterinary College— £18,000 odd; Scholarships in Agriculture—£1,425; University College, Dublin: Faculty of General Agriculture—£24,984; University College, Cork: Faculty of Dairy Science— £13,000; Training of Instructors in Horticulture—£700; Printing of Special Departmental Publications— £2,100. In the aggregate all these represent a very considerable sum of money.

Mr. Larkin

What percentage?

I have not calculated that.

Mr. Larkin

It is less than 1 per cent.

Whatever we are spending, and I do not think we are spending enough, whatever scientific knowledge we have in this country, I do not think it is being disseminated. I absolutely disagree with the Minister. I do not think it is reaching the ordinary farmer in rural Ireland. I think that the medium of disseminating that knowledge, the channels through which that knowledge should pass down are choked in some way and that it is not reaching the people. It does not redound to our credit that during the most favourable period so far as food-producing countries are concerned, during a war period, we have ignominiously failed even to maintain production.

In the last two or three years there has been a steep fall in our agricultural production. I do not think the Government or this House can take that development in a complacent way. I think that if we are to prove that this Parliamentary institution is a real asset to our people, now is the time to pay very close attention to this whole problem. We should examine it as minutely as we can, point out what we think is wrong and suggest what should be done. One thing that strikes me about agricultural education is that normally we have a number of peripatetic instructors, and if a farmer consults one of them, he gives the farmer a certain amount of verbal advice, but that is not sufficient. The ordinary farmer is very sceptical about advice like that and is slow to accept it as correct. I think we want much more practical demonstration to convince the farmer. Ocular demonstration will convince the farmer of the advantage of pursuing certain methods to secure success.

Taking a particular branch of the industry, what is wrong with our live stock? Has anything been done to improve live stock? If not, in what respect have we neglected our live-stock industry and what should be done? I was delighted to hear the Minister state in this House, I think for the first time, that the dairying industry was the keystone of our live-stock industry, and that our cattle industry and the maintenance of the cattle population depended on the condition in which the dairying industry is carried on. That is true. We know from the type of live-stock economy that operates in this country that a considerable number of the calves produced in the dairying districts are distributed over other areas. The type of live-stock economy that operates in the country depends on the number of cattle and calves produced in those dairying districts. If anything were to happen the dairying industry, it would react detrimentally on cattle-raising and necessitate a complete change in the live-stock economy of the country as a whole. I think the Minister has accepted that fact, and I do not want to travel over all the ground he covered with regard to our production.

The Minister admitted that there has been a steady progressive fall in our production from 1936 onwards. That is continuing during the present war. He is aware that there is a continuing fall in our cow population as well. The cow population in 1936 was 1,348,625, and the last figure given in 1943 showed it to be 1,202,034. That shows that there has been a steady decline down the years from 1936. What the Minister states about prices is true. Prices fell in 1929, but notwithstanding that fall in price, production in the countries which have been our competitors on the British market— Denmark and New Zealand—continued to expand. In 1927, which was the peak year as far as our exports were concerned, we exported to Britain 586,485 cwts. of butter. In 1937, ten years later, our exports had fallen to 319,937 cwts., and they continued to fall right down to the outbreak of war. Then our exports disappeared altogether, and to-day we have to ration our own people to 6 ozs. per week. In 1927 our exports of butter represented 10 per cent. of the total imports to Great Britain, but in 1937 they represented only 3.4 per cent. of Britain's imports. Imports from New Zealand in 1927 represented 21 per cent. of the total imports to Great Britain, and in 1937 the figure had increased by 10 points to 31.3 per cent. Imports from Denmark showed a slight decline during the same period.

We, Sir, have a motion on the Order Paper, and the arrangement with your consent was that we could discuss the subject matter of the motion on this Vote.

As part of agricultural policy, yes.

The whole question of butter production has already been discussed on a motion in the Seanad. The discussion there hinged to a great extent on the provision of fats for our people, on the fact that margarine and other fats have almost disappeared, and that there has been an alarming decline in the production of the only source of fats we now have, butter. Reference was made to the danger of our finding ourselves without a sufficient production of butter for our own needs and it was urged that every precaution should be taken by the Government and the responsible Minister to ensure that such a situation should not develop. I do not want to repeat the same arguments, but I do stress the fact that this country is pre-eminently suitable for live-stock production. The Minister rightly stated that the keystone of our live-stock economy is the dairying industry. A progressive decline in the dairying industry, from our point of view as a Parliament here, is so alarming that something definite must be done about it. We suggest, Sir, that the present price must be maintained for the summer months if we are going to avoid a further decline. We want that done definitely pending an examination by a select committee set up by this House into the position of our dairying economy.

I am not in favour of subsidies in the ordinary way, particularly the type of subsidy that gives the impression to the taxpayer that he is bolstering up an inefficient industry, but this subsidy is not a subsidy to bolster up the dairying industry. It is a consumption subsidy; it is to bring the price of the article produced within reach of the vast majority of our people. Subsidies generally, in their application to the agricultural industry, must be treated in the same way because the agricultural industry is entitled, in the same way as any other industry, to charge for the article produced the cost of production plus a fair margin of profit for the producer. All subsidies generally have the effect that they help to crystallise the status quo, and if there is anything fundamentally wrong in an industry, if the industry is declining or decaying in any way or becoming inefficient, the mere provision of a subsidy helps to crystallise that inefficient condition. I would much prefer, in the provision of the very substantial sum we are providing here—the Minister has told us it is going to mean a million of money this year—that at least some of it should be spent in the organisation of the industry, in making it more efficient and, first of all, in examining what is wrong and trying to put that right. I was speaking recently to some dairy farmers and they complained bitterly of the fact that under the operation of the Agricultural Wages Act, it was impossible to get labour to milk cows at the present time, and that 90 per cent. of the milking was done by family labour. On a dairy farm or on a mixed farm where tillage has to be done under the Compulsory Tillage Order at the present time the family have to milk the cows and they are milked before the working men arrive at the farm. As a matter of fact, the working men are gone before the cows are again milked in the evening. We all know the reason for that. It is undesirable to have cows milked twice within nine hours and, on the other side, there are 15 hours. That does not make for maximum production from a cow. Hence, the family are forced to milk the cows.

It has been suggested that special provision should be made to cover the conditions that obtain in dairy districts. I am not suggesting that labour should be asked to do that work outside the normal nine-hour day without any payment but, having regard to the circumstances of our dairying industry, surely it is unwise to ignore that matter. It is not the first time it has been mentioned in this House and we have ignored it for the last few years. Numbers of men have gone abroad seeking work and to-day a situation is developing in the dairy districts where for large herds it is almost impossible to secure the necessary labour. The effect of that is that the bigger herds are being rapidly reduced. The farmer who milked 30 to 40 cows a few years ago is now cutting the number down to 15 or, at most, 20, and the farmer who milked a herd of 25 is cutting that down to the neighbourhood of 12. I am not suggesting that whatever decline is shown in the statistical returns of our cow population has occurred on the small farms. I think there is not very much reduction shown on the small farms, but among the big herds there is a substantial reduction in the number of cows. One of the difficulties that have given rise to that situation is the operation of the Agricultural Wages Act.

May I ask the Deputy in what way the Agricultural Wages Act affects it?

I know there are certain provisions——

How does it affect it? Tell the House.

There are extra hours provided——

In what way does the Agricultural Wages Act affect the situation? This is nonsense.

There are extra hours provided and provision is made for seasonal employment. This provision is suitable where there is a tradition of that sort of employment but where there is no tradition of that sort of employment, in counties where the workers are hired and paid on a weekly basis, the provisions in the Act are not suitable.

How does it prevent them working longer hours?

There are no hours laid down in the Act where dairying is concerned.

There is no use in talking if you cannot explain it.

I am aware that the Deputy is supplying milk to the City of Dublin at 2/- a gallon.

No, I am not.

He might not be so glib if he were trying to supply it in Tipperary and Limerick at 10½d. a gallon.

The hours do not apply where dairying is concerned, according to the Wages Order.

Is it not perfectly obvious that the price is wrong? You cannot pay the men to work overtime. Is not that the kernel of it? If the price is paid for the milk, it will be produced.

Deputy Hughes is in possession. Other Deputies, who are so eager, will get an opportunity of giving their views.

If we examine the production side of the dairying industry, we find there is a definite decline in the milk yields recorded. Where cow testing is carried out by a number of societies, I think it is borne out that there is a definite decline in our milk yields. When one considers the average milk yield, calculated in this country at 390 gallons, and compares it with the standards that have been reached in other countries, Denmark and New Zealand, we are completely out of the picture. I do not want to draw an unfair comparison because these countries have not the same problem as we have. Their problem, as a matter of fact, is much simpler than ours because they are interested in dairying only and they provide dairy breeds. We, of course, want dual purpose cattle. We have a valuable dry stock export to Great Britain and we must keep that in mind all the time. We must not let it decline. The provisions of the Live Stock Breeding Act, to eliminate the scrub bull and to step up the quality of our cattle, were framed with that in mind. They aimed at improving the standard of our live stock generally. I think the administration of the Live Stock Breeding Act has reacted to some extent on the dairy industry. I refer to bulls that are brought to the cross roads for inspection. I think those bulls were judged and passed on conformation only and that milk records were not adverted to or were rarely adverted to. Milk records cannot be taken into account if they are not available.

That brings us to a consideration of cow testing. The Minister for Agriculture gave us a figure of 50,000 as being the number of cows that are at present registered for cow-testing purposes. That is roughly about 4 per cent. of our total cattle population. So that we have not attempted to cow test to any great extent, although we are spending a considerable amount of money on it. We have spent little or no money in trying to educate the farmer in this respect, in trying to convince him of the advantages of recording milk yields, and, of course, in the absence of records it is very difficult to have the Live Stock Breeding Act administered properly in the dairying districts. The bulls in almost all cases are judged on conformation and without regard to records of milk yields.

I am also aware that even in dairying districts—and this is an amazing situation—a number of farmers are using Hereford and sometimes Aberdeen Angus. They are using the Hereford because a Hereford cross bullock is a valuable store and commands a very high price. They appear to overlook the fact that whatever is gained on the store bullock will inevitably be lost on the Hereford heifer as compared with the Dairy Shorthorn, that if we proceed along that line of breeding and cross-breeding it will destroy the dairying industry completely and absolutely, and that it is most unwise and injudicious to breed from Herefords in the dairying districts. On that matter I asked the Minister recently, with regard to the Dublin Show, the number of bulls purchased for premium purposes, distinguishing, in the case of Shorthorns, between Dairy, Single Dairy and Beef. I was informed that the number of Beef Shorthorn was 74; Double Dairy Shorthorn, 80; Single Dairy Shorthorn, 28; non-pedigree Dairy Shorthorn, 12; Aberdeen Angus, 48; and Hereford, 80. The Herefords were higher than the Beef Shorthorn, and there was the same number of Hereford as Double Dairy Shorthorn.

I think that that has produced a nondescript collection of animals of various breeds and crosses. It is undesirable to encourage that sort of cross-breeding. All over the country we have had it extensively and, bad as the Hereford is, the Aberdeen Angus cross has done an infinite amount of harm to the quality of our basic stock of shorthorns. While I do not go so far as to suggest that people should be prevented from breeding the Hereford or Aberdeen Angus, I think that the State should not encourage that, and that they should limit very strictly the provision of subsidies in respect of either the Hereford or Aberdeen Angus. It may be that in certain districts the Aberdeen Angus has an advantage. He is a hardy type of animal but it is a different question when we find the Aberdeen Angus in the centre of the dairying districts. In some cases, farmers are helped by State subsidy to keep such bulls. We can have no hope for the future of the dairying industry so long as that condition of affairs obtains.

I see in the dairying industry great possibilities not merely as regards the provision of basic stock for the whole country but in the provision of that type of dairy stock for export. We can pride ourselves that, in the past, at all events, our dairy stock—maiden heifers and in-calf heifers—compared very favourably with anything they had in Great Britain and we had a monopoly of the trade in that respect. There are great possibilities of developing that trade if we are alive to the opportunities. The consumption of milk in Great Britain before the war was only about half a pint per individual. According to medical authorities, that is well below the safety level for health purposes. The absence of certain essential vitamins found in milk has led to outbreaks of rickets and other diseases in children which must be tackled and the proper way of tackling them, according to these British authorities, is by the provision of more milk. Therefore, they are stepping up their consumption of milk and that is bound to continue. Their intention is to step up the consumption of milk to, at least, a pint per individual. That will double the consumption and that means the provision of more dairy stock. That is where we come into the picture. When we talk about breeding dairy stock, we mean not only the breeding of that stock for our own requirements so as to preserve the basic stock of the country but the breeding of suitable dairy stock for that monopoly trade which we have with Great Britain.

We have done little or nothing to control breeding so as to obtain the right type of stock. Examining the type of animal obtained from the shows—the double dairy bull and the single dairy bull—I think it is unwise to have any provision for the single dairy bull. He may have a milk record on his dam side and a beef record on his sire side and it is almost inevitable that he will revert to beef. The sooner we get rid of that type of animal the better for the dairying industry. Even when you have the double dairy bull—the bull with a milk record on both sides—you do not always get results. Whatever hope we may have of producing the right type of dairy stock, we can only do so if we use animals with milk records on both sides. In making that provision, we must not lose sight of the fact that we still must preserve decent standards of conformation if we are to have a dairy-stock export trade. We cannot completely sacrifice conformation to milk records. Because of that, we can never hope to raise our milk yields to the level of those of Denmark before the war or of New Zealand. I do not think that it is necessary to do that because we are not absolutely dependent on the profit arising from the milk produced. We have the progeny —the bullock that is going for export and the heifer. There is growing up in Canada an anxiety to provide stock for the attractive market, from their point of view, in Great Britain. We must be alive to the potential danger in that respect. We are told:

"Canada has plans for shipping into British markets after the war large numbers of beef and tuberculin-free dairy animals."

I want to draw the attention of the Minister particularly to that.

"The numbers of beef cattle— they will be up to the standard of the best Scottish types, according to statements in Canada—have been estimated at 300,000 head. The dairy stock will be mainly Friesian and Ayrshire from non-pedigree stock unless the Friesian and Ayrshire Cattle Societies change their minds and accept pedigree animals from Canada for their herd books. In that case— which is understood to be unlikely— pedigree animals—all tuberculin-tested—will also be brought over in considerable quantities for sale with the other stock on the open market. The animals will be shipped in cattle boats to such ports as Birkenhead and Liverpool and sold without reserve."

Mr. J. Gardiner, Minister of Agriculture, said in the Canadian House of Commons recently:—

"We are attempting to work out at the earliest possible date a plan by which we can send high-quality beef to Britain.... The plan is somewhat the same as we have been operating in connection with bacon and ham."

As the House is aware, Canada has been sending huge quantities of bacon and ham to the British market since the commencement of the war. That supply has been stepped up enormously. The British Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Hudson, speaking recently of their live-stock policy and their anxiety to build up a better type of live stock, said:—

"A year ago we foresaw the increase in young leys that was bound to come. We knew that more live stock, especially cattle, to graze them would be necessary. I suggested that we were short as much as 1,000,000 head. I, therefore, urged farmers in their own interests as well as in the interests of minimising the meat shortage that seemed bound to occur in 1946 and 1947, to rear as many calves as they could. We cannot compel save in occasional exceptional cases... I hate to have to admit it, but from what I have heard from those—and they are competent observers—who have come back recently from the United States or Canada, we no longer lead the world in the general standard of our herds either in breeding, in type or in performance... That is why I attach so much importance to the improvement of our live stock. We are also, to a large extent, a nation of small farmers and live-stock husbandary is pre-eminently an art for the small man. I repeat what I said at Taunton: I believe that, with a proper organisation, the small man can be as efficient as the large. He can give personal attention to his stock and concentrate his energies on quality rather than on quantity. Provided that he is properly equipped for his job, that he knows his job and that he is keen on and works hard at his job, then he should be able to hold up his head in any company."

I refer to that to show that there are eyes envying our position on the British market and that, in Canada, they are preparing for the possibility of an export trade to Great Britain not merely in beef but in dairy stock. In respect of this dairy stock, we had a monopoly trade and let us hope that that monopoly trade will continue in the post-war period.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.
The Dáil adjourned at 9 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Wednesday, 22nd March, 1944.