Private Deputies' Business. - Minimum Prices for Agricultural Produce—Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That, in view of the economically disastrous consequences which must ensue if there is a serious decline in the value of agricultural produce after the war, Dáil Eireann is of opinion that a five-year plan should be drafted and promulgated by the Government, which will guarantee remunerative minimum prices for the chief products of agriculture.

I have not very much more to say on this motion. I would put it to Deputy Cogan and the other sponsors of this motion that there is a further difficulty to be considered in case it should be decided to adopt a policy of fixed prices over a number of years, namely, the difficulty of setting up the necessary machinery. I have often given thought to this matter and have always found it impossible to come to any definite conclusion as to how prices should be fixed, what type of machinery should be adopted, what type of tribunal should consider the matter and what its personnel should be. I would like Deputy Cogan, in-concluding, if he has any views on that particular issue, to state what they are.

We are pleased that the Minister has not entirely shut the door on our proposals but, on the other hand, we are rather disappointed that in the public Press there was no intimation whatever of the proposals put forward in connection with our motion. Consequently, the people in the towns and cities are still under the impression that all is well with the farming community and that, in fact, a considerable section of them is making good progress. That, of course, is not a fact and we would be glad if the Press would see their way to indicate to the public the line of approach that we have made to this motion.

Farmers are extolled, particularly in war time, as being the backbone of the country, the mainstay of the people in the cities and towns, the people who are producing the wealth and the food generally. But how do they compare with other sections of the community as regards their output? The bank official, the county manager, Deputies, school teachers and others of that kind, all have guaranteed salaries for a number of years. They have a guarantee that their salaries will not be reduced, whether it rains or snows, no matter how prices fluctuate on the markets generally. The farmer is in a different position as, while he may be very comfortable this year, prices may fall in a year or two and bring him down to the brink of bankruptcy. That has been the tradition of farmers all along the line. There have been cycles of bad prices and it generally takes a great war to put him on his feet again, as may have happened during the past few years.

The farmer has no stability of income, no security in planning for the future; he cannot plan for his family, his children or his workers. If he has a fairly decent income this year, he cannot say that in two or three years time something on which he is dependent—like the price of milk or of store cattle—may not completely collapse and bring his income down 50 or 75 per cent. The other section of the community has sheltered salaries, but the man who is the mainstay of the country and on whom depends the life of the towns and cities is denied any security in his income. He is all the time on tenterhooks, trying to make ends meet, trying to pay his labourers, trying to provide some little pittance for his boys and girls. Therefore, he is, unfortunately, obliged to be conservative and has to be very careful in his outlook.

I think the time has arrived when steps should be taken by the Government to improve the position of the farmers who are the mainstay of the country, and who in peace time as well as in war time have to keep on working. At the present time, things are getting worse, and now he is dependent on the fertility of the soil to make ends meet and to provide food for the nation. Are we fair to the people who are coming after us, to our children and our grandchildren, if at the present time we reduce the fertility of the soil to such an extent, that in a short time it will not be possible to grow the crops that are required for the nation?

We appeal to the Minister to devise some scheme which will give the farmer some security in regard to the main commodities which he produces for the benefit of the people—that is, butter, bacon, eggs, beet and wheat. It should be quite possible to arrange now for prices for these commodities which will at least cover the cost of production and give a fair margin of profit, so that the farmer will be in a position not only to pay his workers, but also to provide for his children who are toiling and moiling day in and day out. We are told that the farmers are pretty well off at the present time. The Minister stated the other day that they have butter, bacon, and eggs— essential commodities—at comparatively low prices. But how do they get them, and how do they supply them to others? By slavery; by working seven days of the week, 13 or 14 hours per day; by working on Sundays, on holidays, on Christmas Day. The live stock must always be fed and attended to. There are no holidays for the farmer.

Consequently, he and his workers are envious of those engaged in industrial occupations, of those who are engaged on the roads, and even of those who are engaged on the bogs, with their half-day on Saturdays. Recently I had an opportunity of going through the country, and I visited several farms where they have large herds of dairy cattle. I found that the farmer and his family were working all day and every day, whereas those in the sheltered positions, those with the guaranteed salaries, are not called on to do any work from midday on Saturday until the following Monday morning.

What inducement are we giving to our boys and girls, our workers on the land, to continue at that work? At the present time they are drifting into the cities and towns. They are attracted by the glamour of the towns, the higher salaries, the social amenities. At the present time we have 20 per cent. of the population of Eire centred in Dublin. If a man only cuts his finger he must be brought to Dublin to cure it. If we have criminal cases, we bring them from the extreme ends of the country, from West Cork or Kerry or Donegal, to be heard in Dublin, no matter what the expense is. All industries are centred in Dublin. The lifeblood of the country is draining into the cities. The people are drifting from their natural homes. I ask the Minister to give us back our rural population, or at least to try to prevent any economic system which will continue to induce the people from the country into the towns. If present conditions continue, a time will come when one third of the population of this country will be within the Pale and two-thirds outside it. In my opinion, that will be a sad day for this country.

I do not want to repeat what has been said already by Deputies Cogan and O'Donnell. To summarise the situation, I would appeal to the Minister and his Government to devise some scheme—I do not think they would accept a scheme devised by us; I am afraid they would not—which will ensure to the farmers, for a period of at least five years, a price for their produce, butter, bacon, eggs, beet and wheat, which will at least cover the cost of production and leave a decent margin of profit. That will help the farmer to induce his boys and girls to remain in the country, and to induce his labourers to remain with him. At the present time, the farmer cannot say to the labourer: "I will want you next year; I will want you the year after and the year after that." He cannot say that, because he may not be able to pay them. We have not a guaranteed price for milk, except from year to year. Therefore, as Deputy Cogan said, we cannot develop our dairy herds to the extent to which we would like to do it. We cannot pay our milkers as we would like. We cannot get skilled workers. A case came to my mind yesterday in Ballsbridge of a particular person who had a 1,300-gallon cow. Because of an inefficient milker—in spite of the fact that the work was supervised regularly—that cow ran dry in 37 weeks. Her milk yield went down to 700 gallons, and it took two years before she got back to her normal production. Something will have to be done about providing skilled milkers.

As I said, I want to summarise the position. Give us guaranteed prices, to cover the cost of production and leave a margin of profit. Give to the farmers who need them loans at a low rate of interest, so that they will be in a position to develop their farms and lay their plans for bringing the land into full production. I maintain that, if our land were utilised to the greatest possible extent, there would be less unemployment, and the day would come when "doles" would go by the board. We also want more houses for our agricultural labourers, and the provision of those houses should be incorporated in any scheme of post-war planning devised by the Government. I wonder would the Minister consider the advisability of permitting the farmers to get the grants for building labourers' cottages? Somebody mentioned that the labourers' cottages are utilised mainly by labourers. I am afraid they are not. In my own district, I know 14 or 15 of them, and there is not a single agricultural worker in any of them. If the farmers got the grants for building labourers' cottages, those cottages would always be at the disposal of the men who are working on the land. Until we have proper housing accommodation for labourers, and can say to them: "You can settle down and make your home here," I am afraid the labour problem will continue to be what it is at the present time, the nightmare of the farmers.

In regard to any scheme that will be devised under this motion, we say to the Minister: "Give us back our rural population. Stop the drift from the country into the towns and cities." The whole position will be so jeopardised that food cannot be produced and will not be produced. In any scheme that is put forward for this purpose there must be some parity between the money paid to the producer for the produce of the land and the money which the consumer has to pay for that produce. At present there is a margin between the two which needs to be bridged. Our marketing system is deplorable and until it is better regulated you will have a vicious circle, the farmer getting the very minimum for his produce and the consumer paying the very maximum. Consequently, the people in the cities and towns are not as well off as they might be, owing to the high prices and the bad system of marketing.

We have explained our proposal and I hope the Minister will give it full and patient and favourable consideration. We are speaking honestly and sincerely. We have no axe to grind. Our only object is to try to raise the status of the rural workers, the people on the land, and to get back our rural population as far as we are able to do so. If we cannot get those back, we shall try at least to keep in the country those who are at present there by giving them a decent livelihood and a better outlook for doing the very important work which they are doing— that is, supplying the food, the fuel and the other necessaries for people living not only in the country areas, but also in the towns and cities.

The farmers deserve every consideration. It may be said to us by and by: "Where will the money be found?" I think it ought to be found for those who are the mainstay of the country, and who must continue to be the mainstay. I appeal to the Minister in all sincerity to give this matter his very careful and patient consideration. I am very glad the door is not completely closed, and, as a result of our discussion, I believe new hope will be brought to the farmers, who are at the present time not very happy at all and not very comforted at the trend of events.

I am afraid we have wandered very far from the motion. Deputy Halliden built houses for the farmers and farm workers, and secured cheap money for the agricultural community generally. I do not think the motion deals with those matters at all. While Deputy Halliden drew a rather vivid picture of our rural population and the drift from the land, he was not a bit constructive. The nearest he got to a solution was to ask the Minister to devise some scheme to solve agricultural and economic problems. Let us be realistic and let us try to be constructive.

It is true that the people are going away from the land, that there has been a fall in the population. Some people, when they are talking on this subject, speak of settling the maximum population on the land. Are we to learn anything from statistics or the experiences of other countries? Denmark, before her economic crisis towards the end of the last century, had 53 per cent. of her population on the land. There was a reorganisation of the agricultural industry in Denmark. We all appreciate the level of efficiency that had been reached there before the war, yet her population on the land had fallen to something under 45 per cent. That is true of most progressive countries. The poorer countries have a higher percentage of their populations on the land.

If you have an efficient agricultural industry it demands service—agricultural machinery, the transport of raw material and the purchase of raw material for production. You can appreciate that better social services— better clothing, improved amenities generally, housing construction and other things that are so necessary on the farm, and that Deputy Halliden referred to—can only arise where you have agriculture efficiently developed. Statistics have proved that where there is a high population on the land, it almost invariably follows that the country is poor. I am saying that merely to indicate that the test is not how many people we have engaged on the land, but how our population is divided as between agriculture and other industries.

I think that if the economic war proved anything, it proved the value of our export trade. We are different from Britain. We have a substantial surplus, or would have if agriculture were properly developed. If we had a maximum production from the land, we would be exporting well over 50 per cent. of our total production and Deputies must appreciate that the prices we receive for the goods we export must profoundly influence the prices to be paid at home. I am sure Deputy Halliden fully appreciates that the live-stock industry is by far the most valuable we have, and surely he appreciates, too, that that can only be prosperous if our export prices are attractive.

I would prefer if the farmers, in putting down this motion, directed the Minister's attention to what our position is likely to be in the post-war period. No matter what we may do in the way of guaranteed prices at home, if there is any collapse in the export trade it will profoundly affect our economic position here — affect it disastrously. It is true that there are a few items of production where you could operate guaranteed prices, and it might help to stabilise things for the agricultural community; it might act as an insurance in so far as prices for the future are concerned. Our aim in the future, I feel, is to ensure that our export trade will be not merely maintained, but considerably developed. We have a post-war planning committee busy at the moment, but I feel they are seriously handicapped by the fact that the Government have failed to explore the possibilities of the export market—they have failed to give sufficient consideration to what we can sell and what arrangements we can make.

At the present time, the Minister of Agriculture in Great Britain, Mr. Hudson, is reorganising the live-stock industry and, as a result of his activities, the English cattle population has gone up appreciably, particularly in the younger grades. His activities are reflected in rapidly increasing figures and there is definitely an improvement. It might be argued that any increase in the cattle breeding capacity of Great Britain would react on our potential cattle exports. I think the opportunity is there now to ensure that whatever plans are laid in Great Britain for the live-stock economy of that country, our live-stock industry is interlocked with theirs. The quota of our live stock will be taken into account in laying the foundations of the future live-stock economy of Great Britain.

I think that is generally appreciated throughout Great Britain. I spoke to a man from the east coast of Britain recently who assured me that farmers in those districts were most anxious to secure not merely store cattle but dairy stock and young maiden heifers suitable for dairy stock. He is a doctor, a county medical officer, who went from this country to the east coast of England and who, in the last few years, has bought a farm and is carrying on as an extensive farmer. He informs me that his neighbours are alive to the value of our store cattle. While we have sometimes criticised the fact that the prices obtaining at present for beef in Britain operate against the possibility of finishing cattle in this country, that the price for finished beef is not attractive and tends towards the creation of a forward store trade, if we take the long view, it is possibly to our advantage because it is creating an economy in Britain whereby the English farmer has come to rely more and more on this country as his source of supply. Once he turns to breeding his own stores, however, we shall be left sadly out of the picture.

Taking all the circumstances into account, the peculiar conditions here, the bone-building materials we have in our soil compared with much of the chalky soils in Britain, the opportunity is still there to ensure a future for our live-stock trade in Great Britain. The planning committee we have working at present cannot plan successfully if they have not got the necessary data on which to plan. We cannot possibly hope that plans made in a back room, wherever they meet in Merrion Street, without the necessary information so far as marketing is concerned will bear fruit. Deputy Halliden merely touched on one important aspect of the problem when he talked about marketing control and organisation. That is a vital matter which we have completely neglected for many years. We have given all our attention here to production, and, once we have produced, we hand the produce over to somebody else to sell.

Take the example of the cattle trade. We have experienced a pretty bad period for some months and now there is an upward trend, but the history of the cattle trade shows that, the moment the market improves, people in the trade rush out to buy a lot of stock with which they glut the market and down comes the price again. There is no attempt to control and feed the market and to ensure that it has enough but not too much. With the type of trade we have, it is not by any means an easy matter, but until we tackle the problem, until we examine it and get the advice of people who are sincerely anxious to promote the welfare of the industry, we shall never solve the problem of marketing.

I do not know whether Deputy Halliden has had any experience of Mark Lane before the war or has seen the methods of the countries in competition with us there. They had super-salesmen there looking after their produce. These salesmen would take a big factor, the man interested in buying huge quantities, to a theatre or other entertainment or to a dinner the night before the market and if there was any question of preferential treatment next morning was it we who had no salesmen to look after our produce who got it or the man who entertained the buyer the night before? Surely we can understand why Denmark and other countries have beaten us at the game. We have not attempted to provide the salesmanship necessary in world trade and that is one of the reasons why again I feel that the type of planning committee we have set up is not wide enough to embrace those people who have extensive experience not merely of producing food and commodities but in their export and sale. I suggest that those people who are sincerely interested in the welfare of the agricultural community should concentrate much more on that than on the other.

It is quite a simple matter to guarantee prices of particular commodities over a period, and, where it is possible to guarantee those prices for a period, it would be useful. Great Britain has done it in respect of certain commodities, and if Britain has a complete price fixation scheme in respect of production from the farm generally, it might be possible for us, by negotiation, to anchor our export prices to British fixed prices. There is, however, an aspect of price fixation on which the Minister did not touch. I think he will agree that there might be a danger of deflation. We are anchored to sterling and if any sudden deflation of currency occurs—in other words, if there was a scarcity of money—there would be a pro rata flop in prices. The man who had his fixed prices would definitely be at an advantage in that event, but the community as a whole would suffer from such an occurrence. We are legislating here for the general community, but I want to make it perfectly clear, coming from rural Ireland, that I am chiefly concerned with the interests of the agricultural community, and I say that if we promote the welfare of the agricultural community and expand the production of agriculture, we will be serving the community as a whole well.

There are aspects of this problem which might be outside the scope of the motion. Deputy Halliden made a brief reference to the question of fertility. I think that the Minister for Agriculture, who helped to step up the fertility of the land, will confer an enormous benefit on those who have to live out of the land. There is definitely a problem of fertility. We do not, unfortunately, talk enough in this House about it. We should pay a lot more attention to it. However, the Minister has indicated that he proposes to set up a soil research organisation in his own county and it is well that we are making a start in that respect, because very much more technical knowledge should be available to the agricultural community. Many people at present are labouring on soils from which it is physically impossible to secure favourable results because of their condition and it is only scientists who can solve the problem for the individual farmer.

So far as the motion goes, I welcome any attempt to fix prices where prices can be fixed and it is only in respect of a very limited way that that can be done over a period. It would help to ensure for the farmer security over a period of years and stabilise the production of the particular commodities. To plan the road back to normality with the least possible repercussions, after a world crisis and after an economic war, is always a difficult task for economists. That is not by any means a simple matter. Let us hope that this planning committee will help in that respect. So far as the motion goes, it has my support.

It was not my intention to speak on the motion, but, in view of the lecture given by Deputy Hughes——

It was not a lecture.

——I am compelled to intervene. It looked very like a lecture from a would-be Minister. The Deputy started off with statistics. It is said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.

Did the Deputy learn that lately?

I will teach the Deputy a little before I finish if he is able to learn. As far as the people on the land are concerned, statistics are the damnedest lies of all.

That is good argument.

Deputy Hughes has been in that line for many years, and it is that probably that has left us in the position that we are in. When an honest motion like this comes before the House he almost says to Deputy Halliden: "Why not be constructive?" Of course, Deputy Hughes speaks for our export trade. He is constantly talking about John Bull. That seems to be the only gist of his speeches. I want to put it to the House that before we can have economic prices ruling for our live stock, we shall have to build industries to consume that portion of our raw material represented by live stock.

The Minister says it is possible that prices can be fixed for a term of years for wheat, beet and milk. Why is it not possible to have prices fixed on a long-term policy for our live stock? The reason is that we have to depend on an outside market for the prices that we get for our live stock. That does not apply in the case of the other commodities I have mentioned. Therefore——

We should not export.

I did not say that. What I say is that we should try to develop the home market for the things that we export. There is only one way to do that, and that is to develop our Irish industries. I believe it is a bad thing for any country to export its raw material, provided you can have it manufactured at home. I think that is something the Government should give their attention to. At the moment, we are exporting our raw material and are at the mercy of an outside country to purchase it from us. Would it not be far better to establish industries at home and have this raw material manufactured here and exported in a finished condition? That would give a large amount of employment to our people. We often hear a case made for free trade. People often say that it is a terrible thing to have to pay 10/- or £1 more for an Irish plough than for an English one. They argue that the cheaper article should be allowed in free of duty. Those people never think of the large amount of employment which the Irish foundries give to our people.

Mr. Corish

Hear, hear!

The employment that they and other industries give helps to keep our people at home and to build up the population. One would imagine, listening to Deputy Hughes, that by going across the water and attending big dinners one could accomplish a lot in the way of getting great prices for our live stock. He referred a lot to that, but I think it would be nonsense to continue talking on it. The Deputy also made a comparison between Denmark and Ireland. Mistakes are often made in drawing such comparisons. We should be prepared to meet the situation as we find it here, and be ready to discuss our position on that basis and not be so ready to compare ourselves with other countries. The Minister said it would be well if a scheme could be devised whereby prices would be fixed for a few years in advance. I was delighted to hear him admit that. In my opinion it would be well if a board, on which there were representatives of the producers, were set up with the object of trying to arrive at what the prices should be for a term of years. As a representative of the farmers I am not here to ask on their behalf for a penny or for twopence. I think this motion is a fair and honest one. I am sure that Deputy Cogan fully agrees with me when I say that the development of a home market for our live stock is very necessary. Deputy Hughes knows quite well that Britain will always buy from us as cheaply as she can. She never bought our live stock from us because our fields were green or our eyes were blue.

Why should she?

Britain in the past penalised our people and our export trade. If our home market cannot be developed 100 per cent., let us at any rate start industries to deal with the raw material that we are exporting at present in the form of live stock. At least, the hides and the horns of our animals can be used in industry. If we do that we will be providing suitable employment for our people and helping to build up the population. We shall also be able to counteract any losses that we may suffer through a diminution of our exports.

I read in the newspapers this morning that the Minister for Agriculture, in an address which he gave in Dublin last night, said that the plough had done its job during the last 12 months. To a certain extent it did, but the Minister should remember that it was the men behind the plough who did the job.

I appeal to him to make sure that the people who did that work when it was necessary, the people who, through their labour and sweat, produced the necessary wheat, beet and butter, will not be driven back to the time when beet was sold at 30/- a ton and wheat at £1 7s. 6d. a barrel. It is concern lest anything like that should happen which is responsible for this motion. The people of rural Ireland are worried lest that should happen again. This motion has been put down because we want the Minister to give us an undertaking that he will set up some machinery by which prices will be guaranteed for, at least, a few years. We do not want to raise the cost of living in any way. Let it not be said that the people on the land want to take advantage of other sections of the community. That is not the spirit behind Deputy Cogan's motion. The aim of the motion is to get increased production, which is the one thing necessary. As regards wheat, we are not getting even the quantity required for home consumption and production will dwindle after the war if people are concerned lest prices go back to the figure which prevailed in times gone by. It is up to the Minister and the Government to see that that will not happen and this motion is designed to prevent its happening by warning the Government.

Everybody will agree that agriculture is our staple industry. The last speaker seemed to think that the home population was able to consume all the produce of our farms. Fianna Fáil, when seeking office, promised to reduce taxation by at least £2,000,000 and bring home our exiles from England and America to consume our produce. Then came the economic war. We were told that alternative markets were available. Some farmers seem to think that those alternative markets are still available. I have been in the cattle trade all my life. I was a member of the Cattle Traders' Association when alternative markets were being sought in any part of the world. In 1927, as a member of a Farmers' Union, I became a member of the English Gentlemen's Association for two years. I shipped large lots of cattle and sold them through that association at auctions in England. At that time, in London, Reading, Leicester and other markets we were on the look-out for alternative markets. Some farmers, including myself, were asked to go to London to meet a deputation there to consider possible alternative markets. The only alternative market offered to us was by some smart Jewmen, who told us that they had a market for big, ranch bullocks of from 14 to 18 cwt. each. We had no beasts of that kind to offer. They wanted big-bone bullocks and the prices they offered were hopeless—only the price of horse flesh.

The last speaker referred to John Bull. The Deputy is not converted yet but I think that the Government is converted to the view that we have no other market for our surplus produce than the British market. It is no disgrace for people who have produced the stock here to go into the British market. At present, we are not able to feed the ordinary number of animals, not to talk of a surplus. We are not in a position to feed the pig population or the stall-fed cattle and, unless we get some artificial manures, this country will be barren. The fertility of the soil is decreasing year after year. It is our duty at present to grow what wheat, beet and potatoes we can to help to feed the population but what is to become of the farmer and his farm if the present state of affairs continues? Is he to get no compensation? Is he to be asked to live on derelict land—land that has lost its fertility? I am not against growing wheat. I am growing as much wheat as any man in the country, having regard to the amount of land I have. But in the case of wet land, wheat cannot be sown in time. The Minister should reconsider the position and give a chance to farmers so circumstanced to sow oats, which could be sown in April or early May. I know cases in which farmers got only three or four barrels of wheat to the acre. However, that is a question for the Minister. The Minister, I am sure, realises that the slaughter of 500,000 calves at a cost of £250,000 led this country into debt. The economic war was the most senseless proceeding which this country ever experienced. Having led the country into debt, I am glad that the Government realise even now that live stock is the only hope.

I am sure the Minister will agree that something will have to be done in regard to transport. At present, it takes from 18 to 24 hours to get cattle from my constituency to Dublin—a distance of 100 miles. The cattle arrive in Dublin on Tuesday morning, or midday, and have to be shown next day in the market. I was in the live-stock business when we were feeding John Bull and, during the summer months, from May to October, we were able to buy lambs and sheep in Carlow, Kildare, Newbridge, Thurles, Templemore and other centres in which there were fairs on Mondays and Tuesdays. The stock so bought was sold in Liverpool on Thursday morning. At present, it takes 24 or 25 hours to get stock from Wexford to Dublin. The first necessity is to improve transport. Putting cattle on a goods train which takes that time to go 100 miles is treating those cattle like scrap. They cannot stand that treatment. A man who goes to the expense of feeding cattle must have regard to these considerations. The cattle might not be fit for showing on Wednesday and dealers have to safeguard themselves. If there were a better railway service, there would be keener competition. It is a serious thing to buy cattle which get into Dublin only on Tuesday and are shown on Wednesday. I ask the Minister to do all in his power to get better transport for our live stock. One of the gentlemen of the Farmers' Party spoke about feeding John Bull. Are they farmers at all? Do they not know that they must feed John Bull or some other bull? As has been pointed out, there are many of our people in England who need to be catered for, and I do not think that members of the Farmers' Party will get very far by criticising Deputy Hughes because, after all, Deputy Hughes is a practical farmer.

I listened with some attention to Deputy Donnellan, particularly in regard to his interest in economics, or, perhaps, lack of knowledge of economics. I wonder does Deputy Donnellan realise that if we in this country, not alone fed ourselves but stuffed ourselves with every available piece of agricultural produce that can be produced in this country—every available piece of beef or of mutton, and every available vegetable that can be grown here—we would still have a surplus over and above what we produce, and that we must sell that surplus some place. I am not concerned as to the particular country to which we can sell that surplus, but I am concerned to see that we can sell it to some place. If people, through some kind of historical antipathy to England, do not want us to sell our surplus produce in that country, then, at least, we should do the best we can to sell it elsewhere. I think that even Deputy Donnellan will realise that the nearest market is the best one, and the nearest market in this case is England. I understand that at one time Deputy Donnellan was quite a strong supporter of the present Government, but it is obvious that he has not benefited by the educational experience they have acquired during the last few years. It would appear from Deputy Donnellan's remarks that we should only develop the home market, but, as has been proved by experience, that can be only done in phrase rather than in fact, so far as absorbing our surplus production is concerned. No matter how far the home market is developed, we shall still have a surplus which must be sold somewhere, and if the agricultural industry of this country is not to decline disastrously, we must have a surplus and sell it abroad. That is in the interests not alone of the farmers but of the industrialists of this country.

The position here is that we have certain goods to sell and that we also need certain essential commodities which we cannot produce ourselves. Other countries are in the same position, and international trade is made up of people who, while they can produce a surplus of certain commodities, are unable to produce other essential commodities, and who purchase the commodities they need from the countries that can produce them, either on a cash basis, by means of a system of barter, or in other ways. To listen to Deputy Donnellan, one would imagine that our whole aim should be to produce everything that we can for consumption here at home and to cut ourselves off from the outside world. It is highly desirable to produce everything that we can, but having produced as much as we can consume ourselves, we must try to sell our surplus production in the market which will afford us the best price. There are certain commodities, such as petrol, oil, kerosene, machinery of various types, steel, various kinds of timber, artificial manures, and so on, which we cannot produce here at home and which have to be imported from other countries, or practically all of which have to be imported. We can produce a certain amount of them, or we can manufacture certain commodities on a small scale. Basically, however, the raw materials I have mentioned must be imported, and, in order to import those raw materials, we must either pay for them in cash or by the export of the goods which we can produce. If we can export our surplus produce and get back the commodities we need on a barter basis, well and good, but I feel that nobody in this country would be satisfied with having our trade conducted on a barter basis entirely. Modern trade must be conducted on a cash basis, and if the Farmers' Party think that a system of trade by barter is better, then I hope they will be able to convince the people of this country that such a system would be in the best interests of our people, but I do not think our people would agree with that.

I think it is not so much a question of dealing with elementary economics, so far as this country is concerned, as of dealing with our urgent needs and requirements and considering what are our contributions to future trading, not alone here but abroad, but if we can never discuss anything in this House without having a Deputy intervening, uninformed about economics and less informed as to the basic principles of sound agriculture, then I think it is essential, first, to have a lesson on elementary economics. In order to purchase goods from abroad, we must sell some of our surplus produce, and the nearest market to us is the one across the water. We do that because it is to our own interest, in the first place, to feed our own people, and then, as Deputy Keating has said, to feed our people who are over there. If we do not do so, we will have neither the cash nor the necessary machinery to enable us to carry on our home industries. I am fully in favour of extending and improving industrial production in this country, but in order to do that we must secure the essential raw materials which Deputy Donnellan seems to imagine we can produce ourselves, out of the air, if from no other source.

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a few matters with which his Department might concern themselves in the near future. One is the question of regionalising certain areas so far as agricultural production is concerned. During the war, the position has been that tillage was made obligatory on all areas in certain proportions and on a certain basis. Now, while that is absolutely essential at the moment, it is obvious from past experience and, indeed, from present experience, that certain areas are more suited to dairying production, certain other areas more suitable for tillage, and other areas in which mixed farming would give the best results. Now, in some of the areas in which dairying is the principal mode of farming, certain types of cattle, other than dairy stock, have been brought in and mixed with the dairying breeds. Premiums are paid in respect of dairy cattle, and every encouragement is given to the introduction of good dairy stock, but certain farmers, finding themselves unable to make sufficient money from dairying, have attempted to derive a greater profit by crossing their dairy Shorthorn stock with Hereford or Aberdeen-Angus bulls, as they found they were able to secure a better price. So far as dairying stock is concerned, any mixture in breeding of that kind inevitably leads to a diminution in the yield and quality of milk. Despite the increase in cow-testing facilities and the benefits which farmers should normally derive from them, a number of farmers do not seem to realise that the crossing of dairy breeds with other types of cattle lessens the milk yield and must eventually react, not alone on their own herds but on other herds in the area concerned. I think the Minister should seriously consider preventing the introduction of breeds of cattle other than dairy Shorthorns into such areas as Limerick, Cork, and so on, and particularly in connection with areas around cities such as Limerick and Dublin.

In all these areas large dairy herds are adversely affected by the introduction of other breeds of cattle. While farmers may temporarily benefit by the calves, principally because they are white-headed or black-headed, the resulting loss is not only theirs but that of the entire country. In the case of herds with premium bulls, if the advantages of cow testing were more widely appreciated by farmers it would do a great deal to increase the milk yield. It is peculiar that, while shorthorn bulls have been for years licensed and granted premiums, and while, in certain circumstances, the calves are better, there has been little improvement in milk yields. That may be attributable to other causes, that the progeny did not show the same milk yield as the sire or dam, or were not influenced to the same extent as they should be, or that it was a question of feeding which is one of the most important items in dairy herds. Farmers were not able to secure the same amount of concentrates as formerly, with a resulting loss of milk yield and in income.

I think the Minister should consider limiting some breeds to certain areas and also devote attention to the improvement of home-manufactured concentrated foods. Unless we can get the raw materials I suppose we cannot do that, but an effort could be made to secure imports of essential foodstuffs for live stock. We approve of the motion as far as it goes. Farmers are not looking for minimum prices. Minimum prices are only guaranteed where consumption equals production, but in this country, where production is greater than consumption, prices will regulate themselves by conditions either in the home or foreign markets. We have to endeavour to secure the best possible price for our exports. Minimum prices do not apply to the vast majority of the farming products of this country. The position in England is different, where consumption equals production. Consumption falls far short of production here, and except for a very limited number of products minimum prices would be of very little assistance to farmers. What would be of assistance would be a larger measure of trade, if we could secure it, for our surplus produce, and if we could get the benefit of any trade that other countries were willing to enter into. Certain countries were now willing to take imports, and we should be the first to secure the benefit of such markets. If we did not get first preference in these countries we should have an equal opportunity with others. Unless we do that agriculture here is bound to be depressed and will not benefit by minimum prices.

Mr. Corish

I wish to identify this Party with the motion put down by the Farmers' Party, especially when we remember the condition that agriculture found itself in for some years after the first Great War. I suggest that the anxieties of farmers are expressed in the motion. The Labour Party are concerned for the future of farming and with farming interests. This debate has wandered a long way, and I do not know why the question of surplus production should be introduced at this stage. The motion asks the Minister to set up some machinery to deal with the farming industry during the next five years. Those who remember the last war know that not alone did the farming industry suffer but that the impact of that suffering was felt in urban areas. This motion has been tabled in order to avoid a recurrence of that situation. I am not one of those who thinks that we can consume all the cattle raised here, but I suggest that when farmers find themselves in a position of having to export cattle to Great Britain, the Government here should see that they get an economic price for their live stock. That was done in New Zealand for a number of years, even before the present war, and export prices were guaranteed by the Government. Agriculture is the staple industry here and if it is to be safeguarded something on these lines will have to be done for it. If the position is allowed to drift after this war it will be very serious for this country. Deputy Cosgrave referred to surplus produce here and pointed out that even if our people were stuffed with food they could not consume all that farmers could supply. I differ with the Deputy there. We have had periods here when there was a shortage of certain agricultural produce. There is at present a shortage of potatoes, butter, eggs, oatmeal and wheat. If we have that shortage under prevailing conditions, when we have compulsory tillage, I suggest that we are bound to have it after the war unless some effort is made by the Government to secure decent prices for farmers' produce.

Does the Deputy realise that we only consume one-fifth of our total surplus?

Mr. Corish

I realise that it is necessary to export the surplus. I never said that it was not necessary to do so, but what I fear is that unless something is done, such as is suggested by the motion, before the end of the present war, we will find ourselves in the position that we will not have sufficient food for our people, not to talk of exporting it. That is the spectre that confronts farmers. They contemplate the lean period that they went through after the previous war. If this country is to survive something on the lines suggested in the motion should be done for farming.

I am glad that the Minister has met this motion in a reasonable way. As far as I could gather from his brief reference to the points raised, I think he accepted the motion, and presumably would not put it to a division.

I should like to explain my attitude. I could not advise the Dáil to vote for the motion, because it is for a five years' period. If the Deputy would withdraw the motion it would get every consideration. I think that is the best solution.

I was going to refer to that. While the Minister did express a certain measure of approval of the terms of the motion, he introduced an element of doubt, when he said that he was afraid the Minister for Finance might not approve of a five years' plan. There we have once again the sinister shadow of the Minister for Finance and of the forces of orthodox finance in this country cast across a definite constructive plan to put agriculture on its feet. Because of the system under which finance is organised in this country, the Minister for Finance is afraid to undertake the commitments which this motion advocates and we have the good intentions of the Minister for Agriculture set aside. I think it is about time that the Minister for Agriculture, if he is really determined to do the best he can for agriculture, should defy the Minister for Finance and should defy the system of financial control in this country. He should assert first principles first and the first principle upon which our national economy should be based is that we must have production in this country. We cannot have production unless the producer is guaranteed a reasonable return and guaranteed it over a reasonable number of years. We have, however, the position that the Minister for Agriculture cannot give that guarantee simply because he is afraid that forces which have no interest in agriculture, which have no sympathy with agriculture, are determined to thwart him.

It is a pity that the Minister could not accept this motion and allow it to be passed unanimously by the House, because I feel that if Parliament can give to the agricultural community a reasonable guarantee that there will not be what Deputy Hughes called a road back to the conditions which prevailed ten years ago, there will be some hope for our young boys and girls who have been reared in rural Ireland that there is a future before them.

The Minister accepted more or less the principle that fair agricultural prices should be based on costs of production. Unfortunately, we have no proper system of finding out costings. The Minister promised us, in another debate, that certain machinery would be set up for discovering costings and I presume that that promise will be fulfilled. The Minister also agreed that the first principle in regard to costings is the cost of labour and that the basis of fair prices must be fair remuneration for the workers engaged in the industry. He dwelt at considerable length on the comparison between the rewards of the agricultural worker or the farmer working on the land, and the rewards of the worker in industry. I am prepared to agree with him to a certain extent that the margin between the remuneration of the worker on the land and the worker in industrial and commercial employment has narrowed down somewhat during the past couple of years owing to the rise in the cost of fuel and certain other essentials in urban areas. But the margin has always been too wide. I think there should not be a margin in favour of industrial or urban employment at all. I think the margin should be in favour of rural employment. There are so many apparent disadvantages, particularly to the young, involved in living in rural areas that an effort should be made to give a strong incentive to work on the land. Man, I suppose, is by nature a social animal. There is a natural tendency to crowd into centres of population, which must be fought against and resisted. It can be resisted only by making living in rural areas more remunerative. That is the basis upon which agricultural policy and price policy must be founded. First, there must be an adequate return for the worker and costings must be based upon that adequate return for the worker. Having ascertained costings accurately, minimum prices must be fixed accordingly.

Many Deputies who spoke in this debate endeavoured to be constructive. I am afraid Deputy Cosgrave was inclined to play Party politics to a certain extent and to attempt to misrepresent the views expressed by Deputy Donnellan. We are all agreed that we have, and we will always have, and hope always to have, an exportable surplus of agricultural produce, particularly live-stock produce. The fact that we have an exportable surplus of agricultural produce should not make us—as some people seem to think it does—completely dependent on outside nations. We export only in order to import. If we did not require imports we would have no need to export, but we do require imports and it is a reasonable proposition to exchange our surplus for the surplus goods of some other nation. It is a reasonable proposition that since Great Britain is our nearest neighbour and since her economic system is somewhat complementary to ours, we should endeavour to the largest possible extent to exchange our surplus agricultural produce for Great Britain's surplus industrial and mineral products. That is a reasonable basis of trade and a reasonable basis upon which to found our economic system.

A point has been made that because we must export, we cannot guarantee prices except for a very limited number of commodities. In opening this debate I endeavoured to point out that the number of commodities which we can control and for which we can regulate is not so limited as has been represented. Everyone is agreed that wheat and sugar beet are commodities for which there is a home market and which can be easily regulated. I have pointed out that dairy produce also can be regulated. Dairy produce covers a very wide sphere of activity in agriculture. Milk, butter, cream, cheese and other dairy commodities consume a very large proportion of the raw material of agriculture and the tillage produce of agriculture and if there is security of price in regard to all the items of dairy produce which I have mentioned, we are a long way towards giving basic security of income to the farmer.

A question has been asked by the Minister. In this respect the Minister for Agriculture is, I think, one of the cutest Ministers on the Government Front Bench. He does not try to score political points, as a rule, he rather tries to tap the minds of other people and to find out how they will help him out in regard to economic and agricultural problems. Not being a member of the Government Party, I would be rather disinclined to help him out in regard to any other question but agriculture but the position of agriculture is so important that I think any cooperation or any help that we can give, even to a Minister of another Party, should be given and given freely.

The Minister asked what form of control we suggest in regard to the products for which we seek a guaranteed price. Of course, there must be some form of central control. In the dairying industry, if we are to guarantee a price to the producers, there must be a central control board which will guarantee that price. But it is essential that the producer must have adequate representation on that central board. The Minister, I think, was also anxious to find out what we had in mind in the event—it is rather distant at present—of there being a surplus in the dairying industry for export. As Deputy Corish pointed out, at present there is no surplus in the dairying industry for export. Butter is rigidly rationed; there is a shortage of supplies at present. Assuming we get the dairying industry into full productivity again and there is a surplus, the Minister is anxious to find out what system we intend to operate in order to stabilise the price of butter at a remunerative level. In that connection, the Minister should bear in mind that, if we do export butter, it will be in order to import some other commodity, and that, therefore, it is in the nature of a barter arrangement. Therefore, if a fund is to be created to stabilise the price of butter at a remunerative level, the money could very naturally be collected by a duty upon the imports which that butter will bring into the country. In that way, we would ensure that the consumer of the produce which would be imported by reason of the export of butter would contribute towards stabilising the price of butter, just as the consumer of butter would contribute towards making the price remunerative if there was only sufficient butter produced for the home market. That applies to other commodities of which we may hope to have an exportable surplus, such as bacon, eggs, etc.

In this connection I am glad that Deputy Hughes has put forward a suggestion which requires consideration. He has indicated the necessity for regulation and control even in regard to the live-stock industry. That is a very important step on the part of the Fine Gael Party. I was always under the impression that they stood for unregulated and uncontrolled trade in connection with all agricultural products. I believe that we have in the past allowed middlemen to dictate to a great extent the whole system of economy in that respect, instead of thinking first of the producer and of regulating the business of production and marketing so as to give the producer the greatest possible benefit. That would also be in the interest of the consumer, because it would lessen the cost of distribution. This motion, I think, sets our feet on the right road. It takes us away once and for all from the jungle law of supply and demand, the jungle law which regarded not the farmers and the farm workers who, during the period between the two wars, were plunged into a condition of destitution. I feel sure that the motion will be accepted by the House.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 48.

  • Beirne, John.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Cafferky, Dominick.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Finucane, Patrick.
  • Halliden, Patrick J.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Keating, John.
  • Larkin, James (Junior).
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donnell, William F.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • Roddy, Martin.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Brennan, Martin.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Carter, Thomas.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Kilroy, James.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lydon, Michael F.
  • McCann, John.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Connor, John S.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Skinner, Leo B.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
  • Ward, Conn.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Coogan and Halliden; Níl: Deputies O Cíosáin and O Briain.
Motion declared negatived.
The Dáil adjourned at 1.45 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 7th March, 1945.