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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 26 May 1966

Vol. 222 No. 15

Committee on Finance. - Vote 38 — Agriculture (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.
— (Deputy Sweetman).

Last night I was dealing with the deputation that came from the Dairy Farmers Association in Cork, Limerick and Tipperary to the Minister for Agriculture in his office here in Dublin. Deputy Crowley and I could not see eye to eye as far as that deputation was concerned. I said here last night I was sorry the Minister was not present and I am glad he is in the House now, as he may be able to clarify the position. This deputation came to the Minister in relation to a problem they considered a serious one concerning the butter fat test. What they wanted done was to get the butter fat test inserted in the pass book the day after the test was taken. I said the Minister had informed those people he had no function in the matter. Deputy Crowley did not agree with me. I would like the Minister to clarify the position.

I am informed by this organisation that the Minister has in fact made it known to them that he has no function in this matter and that he could not make the necessary arrangements to have the butter fat test inserted in the book. I appreciate that the fact that we have different organisations in the farming community makes it more difficult for the Minister to come to terms with these people. But following that deputation, I was present when Deputy Crowley informed the secretary of this organisation that he had discussed again with the Minister the question of the butter fat test being inserted in the book, that the Minister informed him he was having this looked into and that he would get the Dairy Disposal creameries to get this butter fat test inserted in the book. This attitude of leading the farmers up the garden path is, to say the least of it, very serious.

You also said last night that the price of milk was never discussed there, which was completely untrue.

I shall come to that point if you give me the opportunity. Deputy Crowley informed this organisation that he had discussed it with the Minister and that the Minister was going to accede to their request.

I said the Minister was very sympathetic to their request. I was very specific in the use of the word.

If I am putting a finger on a sore spot as far as the Deputy is concerned, I am sorry.

You are not.

I suggest the Deputy be allowed to make his statement.

I was present when Deputy Crowley informed the secretary of the Dairy Farmers Association that he had a discussion with the Minister. I will refresh his memory. The secretary told him he was to attend a meeting of the organisation and asked could he inform his organisation that the deputation to the Minister had been successful. Deputy Crowley told him that he could inform his organisation that he was very optimistic but that he was not to make any statement to that effect. The Minister has now informed this organisation that he has no function in the matter. I know that members of this organisation travelled from 190 to 200 miles to attend the deputation to the Minister and the Minister should have informed them then that he had no function in the matter.

Now I want to come to the price of milk. The Minister informed this House by way of answer to a supplementary question — I know there was a lot of heat in the House at that time; it was the day that Deputy T. O'Donnell was ordered to leave the House — that I was a member of a deputation to his office and that I expressed satisfaction with the price of milk. I want to say here and now that the members of that deputation never said they were satisfied with the price of milk. The price of milk was not mentioned. There may have been a passing reference to it but it certainly was not discussed. The Minister is using one organisation against the other and that is only aggravating the situation generally.

It was discussed. I do not think Deputy Creed was there at all.

On that occasion the price of milk was not discussed.

That is incorrect.

The Minister made it clear in the House that the deputation had expressed satisfaction with the present price of milk. If Deputy Meaney and Deputy Crowley were members of that deputation and if they say that they expressed satisfaction with the present price of milk, I am quite prepared to withdraw what I have said. I disagree entirely with the impression given that day by the Minister. He may not have said in so many words that he would give them what they were looking for but he did give them the impression that he would deal with their claim sympathetically. This impression has now been borne out by Deputy Crowley and the members of this organisation are annoyed that they had to spend a day in Dublin without getting any result from the Minister.

It is a fact that we have three organisations representing the farmers, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, the National Farmers Association and the Dairy Farmers Association. That is, I think, one reason why the present price of milk is not what it should be. I hope the Minister will make an announcement regarding the price of milk here this evening and I would say that there must be some concession for the small farmer as distinct from the big farmer. The Minister stated that this year the farmers' incomes would have been above that of former years, were it not for the inclement weather but the small farmers and the dairy farmers have just come through a very long and severe winter, with the result that there is a great scarcity of fodder and they are finding it impossible to carry on.

The average farmer who has from 15 to 20 cows has 15 calves to sell at this time of the year. The price of dropped calves is down £10 a head on last year's price and I cannot understand how the Minister can come to the conclusion that farmers' incomes are up. The farmer with 20 cows has to feed his cattle over the winter at great cost. In the spring, if the price of dropped calves is reasonable, he can sell them and so offset the cost of providing fodder and maintenance over the winter. This year the price is down by £10 a head and this will result in the small farmer having to keep his calves for another year. That is a serious position because these farmers, in having to provide fodder for their cattle over the winter, are usually in debt at the end of the winter and must depend on the sale of their dropped calves to pay off that debt.

The gravest problem facing any Government or Minister is how to provide a decent standard of living for the small farmer. I am living in a district made up of small farmers of from 40 to 50 acres and these men have now reached the stage where they find it impossible to carry on. They have had increased costs and their prices have remained static over the past couple of years. I know several farmers in my locality who are deeply in debt from the past winter. Unless there is some concession given to the small farmer as distinct from the big farmer, I do not see any hope for them in the future.

There is another problem which I would like to discuss with the Minister and with which Deputy Meaney and Deputy Crowley are familiar. Recently in my locality we had the closing down of a Dairy Disposal Board creamery. The Dairy Disposal Board informed the 60 or 70 suppliers to that creamery that they should take their milk to some other creamery and there was no concession offered to these suppliers. They consulted Deputies Crowley, Meaney and myself and a meeting was held. Some of these men had to travel three or four miles to an alternative creamery and after four meetings were held with the Dairy Disposal Board, they agreed to give some concession and to pay something extra for the increased cost of transporting the milk.

I was present at those meetings and it was a very difficult matter for the farmers to get anything at all from the Dairy Disposal Board. When this creamery was closed, the Dairy Disposal Board should have realised the hardships being imposed on the suppliers and it should not have been necessary for the farmers to have to meet them four or five times to get some concession for the inconvenience caused. Even if we do have several organisations at present representing the farmers, I can assure the Minister that the present crisis will be responsible for organising the farmers into one body. I am glad that this crisis will help them to forget any petty differences they may have.

Kilcolman got the concession.

I agree that they got it but only after they had four meetings with the Dairy Disposal Board. It should not have been necessary for those people to organise themselves and to have so many meetings with the board. That was not treating them fairly.

The Minister has stated that he is not going to introduce the two-tier price for milk. I do not know what he will do in relation to the farmer's income. He has explained that this system could be abused and would be a barrier to increased production. I do not agree that it would be abused or that it would be a barrier to increased production. If the Minister is in any doubt about this, one way to ensure there is no abuse is to pay this two-tier price for milk to those people who can present a demand note. This would ensure that the two-tier price system would be operated successfully.

The Minister has also suggested that the small farmer should keep one extra cow in order to increase his income. There are some farmers who could be described as dud farmers but there are amongst the smaller farmers the best and most hardworking farmers there are in the country. The majority of the small farmers in Minister are fully stocked; in most cases they are stocked to the point of diminishing returns. Therefore, I cannot understand how the Minister could see his way to advise these farmers to get one extra cow. Over the past two or three years they have increased their herds and there would be no room for any more in the herds of the small farmers in the south.

Does the Deputy really believe that?

That with better fertiliser and better grass, none of those farmers could carry an extra cow or two cows?

I am not saying all of them, but I am convinced that 90 per cent of the small farmers in Cork have stocked to the point of diminishing returns.

I cannot tell the Parliamentary Secretary that.

One would need to know that.

It depends on the condition of the land, whether it is good or bad land.

I am convinced that they could not take an extra cow. In page 2 of his speech the Minister says:

It was unfortunate that one organisation chose this particular moment to initiate a campaign which makes a calm and objective assessment of the position very difficult and can only delay the implementation of possible remedial action.

We all regret that the dairy farmers found it necessary to picket the Parliament of their own country, but is it not a fact that the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association and the NFA have met the Minister on several occasions and failed to get the Minister to realise the serious situation in which the farming community find themselves? While I do not condone the picketing of Leinster House, I believe that these two organisations, the ICMSA and the NFA, had tried every legal method of bringing the serious situation to the notice of the Minister.

I listened yesterday to some speeches made by the Members opposite and I was rather amazed to hear Deputy Crinion stating that we should realise how important and essential grass was as a crop. I can remember at one stage reading — I was not in the House at the time — that Deputy Dillon, when Minister for Agriculture, made this very same statement and he was described by some Members in the Opposition as being the "Minister for Grass". We cannot overemphasise the importance of grass for fodder because it is the cheapest way in which the farmer can feed his cattle. I would ask the Minister if he is aware that at the present time there is a great scarcity of nitrogen. Farmers have found, after keeping their cattle for the winter, that the prices are now very low and are finding it impossible to get sufficient grass to feed their cattle. I hope the Minister will look into this problem, as the farmers are very worried about the scarcity of nitrogen which they need to boost the grass crop.

The greatest problem facing the Government today is that of providing a decent standard of living for the small farmer. Every scheme introduced by the Government benefits the bigger farmer. The in-calf heifer subsidy scheme has been mentioned several times by Deputies. That was introduced for a special purpose and I expect it has achieved that goal. Would it not be advisable now for the Minister, in regard to the amount of money to be made available for that scheme, to siphon it off into an increased price for milk? The small farmer did not benefit from that scheme. It improved the cattle population which had remained static for a number of years. The bigger farmer, the butcher and the cattle dealer, have all availed of it, but the small farmers were not in a position to increase their stock and were unable to avail of this heifer subsidy scheme, except perhaps in a few cases where they might have been able to increase their herd by one or two at the most.

Something must be done if the small farmer is to survive. In rural Ireland today, small farmers find it impossible to get an extension of the electricity supply just because they are situated in some remote place. There is no longer an inducement to them to stay on the land. I often ask myself what will be the situation in 20 years time if the present trend continues. Small farmers are going out of production and either emigrating or moving into the bigger centres, the cities or towns, because they cannot provide for themselves a decent standard of living on the land.

I can remember the time when the small farmer had an income from poultry and pigs, but now that is all gone. I can remember the time when the farmer's wife was able to sell 30 to 60 dozen eggs per week at a fairly good price. Now you could travel the whole county of Cork and you would not find six farmers' wives selling the 30 or 60 dozen eggs. The only income these farmers have now is the cheque from the creamery. That lasts for only about nine months of the year. It is a very serious situation at present. Rates are increasing and in Cork county also farmers are affected by the reduction of £48,000 in the county road grant this year. That hits the smaller farmers in remote parts of Ireland because county roads and by-roads were always kept in reasonable repair but now the money is not available for them. I trust the Minister will realise the seriousness of the situation and provide something for these farmers in the form of an increase.

I should like to remind the Minister of the deputation — to come back to it — of the Dairy Farmers Association. Is the Minister aware that milk supplied to Dairy Disposal Board creameries on 1st May is not paid for until between the 15th and the end of the following month? A farmer supplying milk is not aware of the result of the butter fat test and is not in a position to do anything about it until the end of the following month. They are very often disappointed at the butter fat return they get but it is too late to do anything about it. I would ask the Minister to consider that and I hope, before it is too late, he will make an effort to increase farmers' incomes particularly in the case of small farmers.

I was very interested in the statement by Deputy Creed about the position of the small farmers. Coming from an area populated to a great extent by small farmers, I agree with the Deputy that small farmers did not benefit to any great extent from the heifer scheme because the majority of them were over-taxed in respect of their herds even before that. It was always customary in the poorer districts to graze as much of the land as possible by milch cows and buy hay and feedstuffs for the winter months. This year they found things pretty hard and as a result small farmers will probably be working for the greater part of the year to pay off the debts they incurred in the past three or four months. The small farmer is on the way out, unless some special assistance is given to him. By small farmers, I mean those who are trying to exist with from 15 cows down. They are not in a position to make a decent living for themselves and their families and the farm is too small to maintain the families, who must emigrate. It is nonsense for anybody to say the income is sufficient to keep them in comfort. Such farmers are always held up as an example but little is done to improve their position generally over the years.

The Minister's Estimate this year is not in keeping with the wishes of the farming community generally. Without going into the pros and cons of the situation, the farmers' organisations do not seem to agree between themselves. It is tragic that the agricultural community could not decide to have one organisation to speak for them. If they could unite among themselves, they would probably get somewhere.

Some years ago the Minister's predecessor attended a meeting of Cork County Committee of Agriculture and the committee impressed on him the need to include in farm improvement grants, grants for fencing. He went a certain part of the road with them and considered the inclusion of grants for mountain fencing. That in itself was good but I think the Minister should go further. At present we have a considerable number of farm boundaries which are hard to maintain, such as boundaries between two farms on narrow streams or large rivers. It is hard for those who own stock to have ample protection for their lands and livestock. Fencing of rivers can be very costly, and unless properly done, it will not last. I ask the Minister to consider this matter. I see no reason why this should not be done.

Last night Deputy Crowley was very hot and bothered about questions that Deputy Mrs. Desmond and I put on the Order Paper yesterday. The Deputy need not have worried. Deputy Desmond and I put down these questions for one good reason, because a dispute exists between the milk suppliers to a co-operative society and the management and staff of that society. It was a good thing to put down these questions and clear the air. I am not taking sides with either the management or the suppliers, but I should like to have, once and for all, a clear picture giving the facts so far as management and suppliers are concerned. We represent the interests of the employees there and it would be a bad thing if anybody were under the impression that the manager and staff of that concern were doing an injustice to the creamery milk suppliers in the area. It would also be bad if anybody in the area thought the creamery milk suppliers were sending adulterated milk to the society.

I think the four questions elicited from the Minister a true picture of the situation and I very much regret that Deputy Crowley last night referred to those questions. I make no apology to Deputy Crowley for putting my name to these questions. I do not now represent the area in which that co-operative society is but I did represent it for many years and in addition, I know the suppliers and I know the manager and staff of the creamery very well. I shall leave it at that for the moment. Deputy Crowley would be far better off if he had not referred to the questions last night. I am satisfied at present with the replies given by the Minister and in the event of both parties not being satisfied, we are prepared to put down other questions should the necessity arise. That is all I have to say on this matter.

I deplore very much one thing: we find at the present moment that it is very difficult for the agricultural community to get men to work on the land. I should like to know the reason for that. My personal belief is that the agricultural worker is too lowly paid and that it is for that reason that the majority of good farm workers have left the country and have gone to England to seek employment there because the prospects of a better income and better remuneration for their services were on offer there. That is rather tragic because it is very difficult to get the best type of men to work on the land. An agricultural worker is a very skilled person and a man must know his job from A to Z. A real effort should be made to improve the income of these men. Everything should be done to induce these people to remain at home and to work on the land. One way in which that can be done is by increasing the remuneration available to them.

Of course, that would entail an increase in the employer's income. I am not for a moment suggesting that farmers are very well off. They are not. The majority of the farmers of this country today are not well off. They are trying to exist. One hears the suggestion that farmers never had it better, that there is a string of cars to be seen outside the chapel gate at Mass time. A considerable number of these cars one sees outside the church gate on Sunday morning or outside the creamery on a week day are not paid for and the unfortunate owners are trying to exist and to save in order to pay the hire purchase instalments on these cars. Farmers are entitled to have cars the same as anybody else. They find it hard to exist. In particular, the farmer with up to 15 cows finds it difficult to exist because the income from 15 cows at the present moment is not sufficient to maintain a family.

I would ask the Minister to give particular consideration to the point I have raised in regard to fencing. It is very important. A considerable number of people are interested in this matter. If the suggestion I have made is adopted, it will be in keeping with the request put up many years ago in the Cork County Committee of Agriculture that fencing should be included in farm improvement grants. It was included when the scheme was first introduced but was cut out by the Department subsequently.

I again want to assure Deputy Crowley that the questions put down by Deputy Mrs. Desmond and myself yesterday were put down for a good purpose, not for the purpose of trying to create dissension between the committees of management of the creameries and the suppliers, but for the purpose of clearing the air in general.

First of all, I should like to express my appreciation to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in respect of his Department's activities during the year.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the farming scene at the moment is what appears to be the widening gulf between some of the major farming organisations. Coming at a time when farming interests should be joining forces in order to be competitive in world markets, this is a matter of the gravest concern to us all. Nothing could be further from the truth than the suggestion that disunity is condoned or encouraged by anybody interested in the welfare of our country, much less the Minister for Agriculture whose policy-making must be influenced to a great extent by responsible personnel in these organisations. The best interests of the agricultural community cannot be served by competition between the various farming organisations.

As I see it, and from my experience in the Beet Growers Association, absolute integration is possibly not the best answer to farming unity. Down through the years, the Beet Growers Association as a commodity group have done excellent work and a federation of groups, possibly, would be the most effective and efficient answer to unity amongst farmers.

Having regard to the very bad year, it is difficult to put the current farming position into true perspective. One aspect clearly emerges, that is, the worsened lot of the small farmer. He is the man who forms the foundation of our dairying and tillage systems and in any consideration of farming reliefs, I would ask the Minister to give special sympathy to the small producer, whose interests are well represented in the proposal for a two-tier milk price. With harmony and goodwill again prevailing, I think a decision will come that will prove acceptable to all.

A great deal has been said in regard to dairying. Personally, I am very concerned about the decline in tillage. Because of the hazards of grain growing, as emphasised in 1958 and subsequent bad harvests, farmers have tended to keep their tillage commitments within manageable proportions. This drop is a matter of major concern. Because of the necessity for crop rotation, if grain acreage drops, sugar beet, potatoes and vegetables are likely to fall to seriously low levels. Any decrease in tillage must result in the importation of feed for pig, poultry and cattle production. Cattle and pig production are dependent largely on home-produced course grain, sugar beet by-products and wheat offals. Increased cattle and pig numbers demand a greater output of these items and unless they are home-produced, they must be imported, with adverse effect on our balance of trade.

Tillage farming, properly integrated with milk and cattle production, will keep employment figures at a very high level and a national tillage programme, taking in a possible two million acres, would employ a very great number of people on the land and a still greater number in allied industries. In my town of Mallow where, thanks be to God, we are pretty well equipped with industries, all our raw materials come from the land in the form of beet, milk and vegetables. If the tillage acreage declines seriously many such industries will suffer.

The policy of the Irish Beetgrowers Association, an organisation which I have already mentioned, in introducing a farmers' machinery syndicate, is highly commendable. These syndicates consist of a number of farmers who buy machinery and use it on a co-operative basis. This is a very good method of halting the decline in tillage. I might add that the Sugar Company are playing a very considerable part in making the operation of these syndicates possible. At the moment, there are eight groups in Carlow, three in Tuam and two in Mallow and I look forward to the expansion and extension of this scheme because, to my mind, it is one of the best answers we can get to the decline in tillage and a means of arresting it.

An aspect of agricultural activity at which we should take a very hard look is the agricultural advisory services. The advisers are dedicated and very conscientious persons but I would say that the system of operation hardly permits them to get through to the farmer at a proper level. I am convinced that, in the first place, an agricultural adviser should attend at each national school once a week. There they could get at the foundation of our farming interests. I would say as well that farm trials should be carried out more at local level than national level. The farmer is more more inclined to take note of and copy what goes on around him than what happens in various institutions. If there is a good farmer in a district, his neighbours tend to copy him; therefore, trials and experiments should be carried out close to the farmer in order to give him an opportunity of improving his methods.

In the sphere of agricultural advisory services, I am glad that beet and vegetable production now come within the scope of the county committees of agriculture. This makes for more orderly supervision and control. In regard to animal diseases, the Department should receive the wholehearted co-operation of the farmers, particularly in regard to the campaign against brucellosis which is the enemy of the day. It might be no harm to mention that our calf mortality rate is in the neighbourhood of seven per cent and if this figure could be reduced even by one per cent, with the cattle to go on to slaughter, it would mean over £1 million to our agricultural industry. Mastitis remains a recurring challenge and possibly the widespread use of milking machines may have an influence on the spread of this disease. I am pleased to see in my constituency that the Mitchelstown and Ballyclough co-operatives have established laboratories for the examination and control of mastitis. They are to be congratulated on their enterprise.

In regard to milking machines, I wonder if sufficient precautions are taken to ensure that unsuitable machines are not put on the market. There are at least ten different foreign outfits supplying milking machines and, to my mind, the farmer is somewhat at the mercy of these suppliers. As I said, a milking machine is a very potent instrument for transferring disease and this is a matter which might warrant a little attention. In particular, I welcome the provision of extra funds for the extension and modernisation of the dairy science buildings in University College, Cork. This Faculty has served the dairying industry with credit and distinction down the years.

I have deliberately avoided mentioning the in-calf heifer scheme because this has been comprehensively covered in the debate and without doubt the scheme has yielded very great benefits. In conclusion, I would again exhort the people to support home-produced food. It is a very regrettable fact that many millions of pounds are sent out of the country annually for the purchase of foods which we can produce at home.

One of the essentials of the economy of any country is a fundamentally sound agriculture. It is unnecessary for me to say that practically our entire economy is dependent on agriculture. I do not think anybody could say that our economy in relation to agriculture is fundamentally sound at the moment. There has been a lot of unbalanced thinking in relation to agriculture not alone in this country but throughout the world. The tendency of economists and those who direct policy in such matters has been towards a restriction of production generally in the world. Out of that have suddenly emerged considerable shortages of supply. If we are to make a success of our agricultural policy, we should concentrate more on the production of those things which are likely to be in demand in the foreseeable future.

At the moment the Minister faces considerable difficulties, and I might say considerable disaffection in the agricultural community, in regard to dairying policy. It is largely due to the agricultural policy of this Government that we find ourselves in the position in which we are. The farmers have always been ready to produce that which they have been able to sell. No one can accuse them of doing otherwise. When they were sure of a market for a product, they produced that to the fullest extent. In recent years a great many more farmers have gone into milk. Getting into milk is a costly process; it costs a good deal of money generally and involves capital outlay, but it has ensured a regular cash return of some sort, even though that return has been insufficient. What has virtually happened is that where at one time milk was produced by the big farmer and by the small farmer, the middle-grade farmer has found himself gradually forced into milk production so that he may have a reliable, or at least a basic, return of income which he cannot get from any other facet of the industry. Whereas some years ago the middle type of farmer, that is, the man with from 50 up to 80 acres, was not in milk, today he is gradually moving into it. That is one of the things that the Government will have to consider.

There is no point in my referring to these things unless I am prepared to try to explain to the Government and to the Department where I think they are going wrong. There are three things which emerged in short supply globally but particularly in the countries with which we might hope to trade. They are meat and course grains and a considerable falling off in sugar production as well. To my mind, the reason farmers who heretofore were in beef production have moved into milk is, as I stated, that they have some sort of basic return. Farmers are getting tired of the unnecessary uncertainty in the meat trade and they are also getting tired of tilling and producing at a loss because the Government will not guarantee sufficiently stable prices for course grain production.

I should like, before I go on to deal with that, to say a few words on the subject of wheat. At one time it was the overall policy of the Fianna Fáil Government to encourage people to grow wheat. There was a gradually dwindling demand for wheat globally, I agree, but at the same time, there was considerable exploitation of the farmers in regard to the growing of wheat. That has continued down through the years. I might say that there has been no real attempt on the part of Ministers for Agriculture to defend the farmers against the restrictive practices that have existed since the inter-Party Government went out of office in 1957, when Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture.

The fact is that farmers grow wheat under difficulties. Personally I do not think that this climate has ever been suitable for wheat, although it may have been necessary to secure seed in the event of a national emergency so that we could expand into wheat, if so desired. As against that, there has been a restrictive practice that the millers have taken the wheat and given for it whatever price they choose to give. In addition, very often they refused to take it as millable and the farmers have no redress. Therefore, the acreage of wheat has fallen. The average farmer has got out of wheat altogether. In my opinion, he will never return to it until he is assured that he has a Minister for Agriculture who will protect him against restrictive practices.

We then come to the question of what we can grow here. What we can grow here and grow with benefit is barley. It is a far more successful crop, particularly since the lime scheme became a national institution. Since we realised that lime is essential, we had been able to grow barley. If we were encouraged to grow it, we could grow sufficient barley so that we would not have to import £20 million worth of coarse grains from overseas. That is an indication to the Minister of where he can move farmers into new production and assure them of a remunerative return.

To do that, he would have to give them a reasonable floor price because with barley, like wheat and everything else, there is exploitation of the farmer unless he is protected. That is what the Minister is there for. The floor price we have for barley at present is the lowest in Europe. Of course somebody will jump up indignantly and say that is untrue; but it is absolutely true in substance and fact. Our price is lower than that of any other country. Probably the next country above us in low prices is France, but generally speaking, the prices in the EEC are higher than they are here.

The costs to a tillage farmer as compared with a few years ago are out of all proportion. I believe in tillage myself. I have the honour to represent Wexford, the premier tillage county in Ireland. I know the difficulties and expenses facing the tillage farmers. It is absolutely unrealistic to offer them the floor price being offered at present and expect them to produce barley. I cannot see why the Minister cannot guarantee a proper floor price for barley and ensure that we produce at home what we have to buy abroad. Are we in a position at the moment to buy anything abroad? Our balance of payments and balance of trade are in a disastrous condition. It should be our aim to produce anything we can within the confines of our own territory.

Barley is the producer of beef. That is why there is a demand for barley, because there is a demand for beef. There is a demand for barley not only within our own territory. If we grow in excess of what we require, we will have no difficulty in disposing of it elsewhere. Not only will it be bought in Free Europe but it will be bought behind the Iron Curtain, where their agricultural policy has been so disastrous that production is practically falling to zero and they have come on the open market and changed the whole situation. I wonder if these facts, which have been freely available to me for the past two years, have been fully absorbed by the Minister and his advisers?

With regard to beef, the standard of living has been raised gradually all over the world. A great many new countries have emerged. Even though some of these may not be financially very sound, at the same time they are producing in various ways people who are consumers of beef. There is a market for beef and there is a shortage of beef in the world. Despite all the gloomy prognostications of the economists a few years ago talking about restricting production, production is falling below the present demand. That is likely to continue beyond my lifetime and possibly into the lifetime of my children. There seems to be no reason why this demand should be whittling down.

Therefore, it is desirable that we should concentrate on those two things — beef and barley — which are likely to be economically sound, to be marketable and of immeasurable benefit to our economy as a whole. That will possibly reduce the amount of milk being produced in the country at present. It is a truism to say there is an excess of milk. There is an excess of milk, shall we say, in the higher economy countries, the highly-developed countries within the Common Market and EFTA groups and in North America. Therefore, milk is a product difficult to sell at a profit.

Before I leave that subject, lest anybody should think I believe the price being paid for milk at present by the Government is adequate, I do not. I think they will have to give an increase on the price of milk. I believe it likely when the Minister stands up to reply he will announce to the nation that the price of milk will be increased. Of course, it is long overdue. I believe that at a rough guess he will probably announce an immediate increase in the price of milk and a further increase in the autumn. We sometimes have a little political intuition on this side of the House the same as Fianna Fáil have.

I doubt if there would be any increase but for the election.

I think there will be an increase because there are many reasons for an increase at the moment. If there is not, there will be a revolution within the milk farming community. It is a dreadful state of affairs in an agricultural country like this that they have had to take extreme measures to bring their case home to the Government. There has been a tremendous amount of talk by the Government about the benefits they are conferring on farmers. It has been stated by several Deputies from this Party and the Labour Party that these benefits are largely conferred on the big farmers. That is, in effect, what is happening in the agricultural community as a whole all over the world. All the support given to farmers has not eased the difficulties facing the family farmer — the backbone, the fundamental strength and stability of every country in the world. Even industrial countries are dependent on the way of life on farms. Everything we do in this country should be to support them.

In the earlier part of my speech, I mentioned that a great number of people were turning over to milk. This is because there is no real stability in the cattle market. I read the reports that come from the Department. Whenever I ask questions about cattle prices, I am told they are better than before and are stable. Cattle prices are not stable and never have been. This is because our thinking here is one-track-minded. To have a stable market, you must have alternative markets. In effect, the recent Trade Agreement signed with the United Kingdom places us definitely in one market and we must stay there. Whenever the British agricultural economy wants to buy store cattle, prices are good; when they do not, prices are bad.

It is all very well for economists to think in terms of figures. Those who direct our agricultural policy should think on the lines of those who live on the land and have to face the situation. I have a farm myself. When the price of cattle falls, I am in a position to hold on and keep my stock a bit longer until it rises again. The small man is not able to do that and particularly the man who has been producing a lot of livestock for us, the man of 60 or 70 acres. He is nearly always short of fodder and it means that he has to unload his cattle on a falling market.

I can assure the Minister that there is a falling market and that when the market falls, the fall is out of all proportion to the matter of supply and demand. The British buy our cattle when it suits them; they buy them and export them to Europe. The price of livestock in Europe is higher than it is in the United Kingdom and much higher than what we get for our cattle here, higher by as much as £20 a head. That should indicate to the Minister and to his Department that an alternative market is necessary and ought to be sought.

It may be argued that if we seek an alternative market, we will have to face the tariffs of the Common Market and the tariffs the French and Germans impose on imports. We buy from these countries a considerable amount of their produce and we should talk with them at ministerial level to ensure that they will buy our produce. The day we could build up an alternative market is the day we will have stability in the cattle trade throughout the entire 12 months of the year. The falling off in prices as soon as grass beef comes into production in the summer and autumn is not good enough because it is detrimental to the production of livestock. In this country, despite all the shibboleths, we are dependent on what livestock we can export. If the Minister is prepared to look for and secure an alternative market, then most of our difficulties will disappear.

The British want a certain amount of stores every year and they want dead meat as well but they will buy only when it suits them at different periods of the year. For that reason, you are going to have these valley periods in the cattle trade unless there is an alternative market. This brings me to the future of the livestock industry and whether the Government are going to carry on with the present system, which was suitable 30 or 40 years ago, of the British market being the be-all and end-all of our export trade. I do not agree with that system. I think there is a greater and more extensive market which can only be gained through the processing of beef.

A Fianna Fáil Deputy has spoken here of the co-operative movement. I know that there are people within that movement who are anxious to produce and process beef on a co-operative system. One of the difficulties of the dead meat trade at present is the dependence for sales on the existing manufacturers in that industry. There is not a great number of them in this country and the price they pay is not satisfactory compared with the price of livestock. There is not a comprehensive price paid all the year round. I believe the dead meat trade is essential for this country because through it we would retain here a great deal of the raw material which is essential for some other industries.

A co-operative movement assisted and encouraged by the Department of Agriculture is highly desirable. The farmers themselves should be encouraged to form big co-operatives which would buy the cattle at a fixed and reasonable price. Then these co-operatives could open up the markets for themselves. I was for many years associated with the Committee of Agriculture of the Council of Europe and I spent much time listening to these people, many of them economists. I may not have agreed with all they said, but they pointed out how it was possible to build up a co-operative movement and to process beef at home. I would suggest that the store trade should be continued but that we should gradually move over in the other direction. That is what other countries are going to do and if we do not do it now, we will find ourselves having to jump into that trade without preparation. It should be easy for the Minister to ensure that the meat processing trade would provide a reasonable price to the farmers for their cattle throughout the year.

There is another operation by which we can export our agricultural produce. I was glad to see in the Finance Bill some remission on taxation on glasshouses. It is one of the few things on which I could congratulate the Minister and it is not often I find myself in a position to do that. Some years ago a Commission was set up to report on the position of glasshouses in this country and I believe they have issued a report and that the matter is under consideration by the Minister. When reports of this nature are said to be under consideration by the Minister, it usually means that they will be held for an interminable period.

In his opening statement the Minister commented on the weather. It was unnecessary to do so. We have all suffered from the effects of the climate which seems to be changing in Europe as a whole. There has been bad weather all over Europe but we seem to have got more of it than elsewhere. If we are to try to meet the demand for horticultural produce, which is growing all over the world, I would suggest to the Minister that he should concentrate on glasshouses and that he should encourage those who have the necessary facilities to produce under glass as much as possible. The sun shines occasionally in this country. I have a small glasshouse myself and I find that it is only in it that I can grow anything with any security.

There is a growing demand for things produced under glass and particularly for tomatoes. We still import a great amount of tomatoes into this country. I remember listening to a lecture by an economist in the United Kingdom not long ago who pointed out that the future of the tomato growing in Europe was non-existent and that it would even die out in the Channel Islands. He said that in future all tomatoes would be grown in Spain. That is economic nonsense.

There is also a new demand for processed vegetables, and there is no reason why, in our climate, we should not be able to grow these things as raw material for an industrial by-product. To do that, we would need a deep-freeze policy. I have made some tentative inquiries in the course of my travels. The Dutch are experts on that, and they also go in for it in Scandinavia. It is a very expensive process and one that would have to be carried out on the co-operative basis.

Owing to the changing circumstances of the day, it is impossible for domestic help to be procured as it could be heretofore and, therefore, the demand is for processed vegetables more than for fresh vegetables. Of course, although we can produce fresh vegetables in bulk in our mild climate at an earlier date than in other countries, it has to be remembered that they are perishable commodities. The Minister should start to think on the lines that horticultural produce is marketable, provided it is used as raw material for industry. However, as I have said, it would want to be backed by a deep-freeze policy which involves a good capital outlay.

I have heard a lot about all the aids and assistance the Fianna Fáil Government have given to agriculture as a whole. The results are there. Fundamentally, we are not a sound agricultural community. The wages in agriculture are less than in other occupations in the community. A large portion of our agricultural production is carried out by family labour and there is no 40-hour week. I believe we are not using the benefits we have. We are not watching the world markets and world conditions. We must stop looking to the parish pump as we did 30 years ago. We must think globally today and we must look towards Europe particularly, if we are to play our part in a wider agricultural integration. I have tried in these few remarks to instruct the Minister and his advisers and, I hope ultimately the Fianna Fáil Party, on what I believe are the things which would help in the future in increasing agricultural production.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on the excellent presentation of the agricultural picture which he has given us in introducing his Estimate. If I have any criticism to make, it is that the Minister does not go far enough. At this stage it is necessary to have a stocktaking of the general position of farming. We are channelling a colossal amount of State subsidy into agriculture and I do not think we are getting the results we should be getting.

Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst farmers as to the income they are getting from agriculture, but it would appear that there are farmers who are getting as much as £600 or £700 subsidy now as against the position that obtained in 1958. The small farmers are really up against it because they have no way of collecting that subsidy and of availing, to the extent I would like, of the help which would give to them a reasonable livelihood. The figures show that between 1958 and 1965 there has been an increase from about £17 million up to £44 million in direct subsidy. There would also appear to be an increase of almost £25 million in the value of cattle and livestock. On the other side, there is a reduction in the acreage under tillage of 383,095 with resultant loss in the production of grain and cereals. Therefore, one wonders whether we have made any progress at all, notwithstanding the fact that we have injected into agriculture over the eight years a total of close on £150 million and when you add what our farmers and landowners have injected into it by way of borrowing and otherwise, the figure must be far higher. It is time for an examination of the situation. We must endeavour to plan along lines that will give the farmer stability and something to catch on to.

One of the greatest mistakes we made was to bring about derating of land. Since 1958, we have added an extra subsidy of up to £11 million. Unfortunately, the farmers who succeeded in getting the very extensive reduction in their rates are now, much as they were in the past, producing out of 200 to 400 acres what would normally be produced from 30, 40 or 50-acre farms. I do not think it was our duty to come to the assistance of those people. If they are not able to make a living out of 200 and 400 acres of land, then the sooner they get off the land the better. I have always looked on those people much the same as on the person who has £100,000 and invests it in either a national loan or in a good company to earn five or six per cent. He has his £5,000 a year return out of it. He does not have to worry; he still has his capital and a good income from it.

The large landowner is much the same. He always has an asset. If it is a 200 acre farm, it is nominally worth £20,000 and he need not worry about the future except to ensure that he will get the figure he has in mind as necessary to maintain himself and his family. Our assistance to him has merely got him to produce that much less. The figures of overall production per acre indicates this. We are among the lowest in Europe. We are reputed to have ten million acres of arable land. At the very low figure of £40 per acre gross output, we should have an output of £400 million. We are far from that. The Minister should go into these figures and try to find out what is wrong and what is happening the amount of subsidies we are channelling into agriculture and for which we are not getting the desired results. A £25 million increase in capital assets over the eight year period after an injection of £150 million by subsidy plus all the money put in by the farmers as well, gives rise to concern. It should be possible to have a thorough examination and start planning for the future lines of policy that will get the most out of all our people.

The small people are working hard because they must. If they are among the four, six, seven or eight cow farmers, they must work hard to get the necessaries of life. The bigger farmers should not be allowed to avoid what is a national duty. They should be made to produce the maximum amount from their land and if they are not prepared to do that, there should be a policy of taking some land from them or compelling them to let some of it to somebody who will work it. It is not our duty to keep them living on easy street because they are big and have assets to which they are holding on because these give them their essential incomes without too much trouble.

Agricultural policy should also be directed along the lines of assigning certain areas to necessary tillage production and certain areas to beef production. We had hoped that the bigger farmers, with the introduction of the heifer subsidy, would have gone over to beef animals, Herefords and Angus. Evidently those people have turned to milk and are glutting the market and becoming a serious threat to the dairying industry in Munster which had traditionally produced butter, milk and milk products. The bigger farmer with his broad acres can get the maximum from his cows with modern methods, milking machines and so on, and can make the money he needs in milk. He can afford to sell milk at the present price because we must remember that this type of farmer can collect anything from £600 to £800 in subsidies. He is subsidised to this extent through relief of rates, ground limestone, manures and so on, and can buy supplies at lower cost. The small farmer with eight or ten cows with the equivalent of 12, 15 or 18 acres cannot collect much subsidy because he cannot use very much manures and so on. Therefore, subsidies do not apply equally for each holding. The Minister should have a general examination of the position, getting down to facts and figures once and for all so as to straighten out this position which is causing so much strife among farmers.

There have been extraordinary increases. Sheep have increased in value by practically £1 million. That is not a section of livestock that has been subsidised in the extreme, if it has been subsidised at all. I suppose it is done through manure and ground limestone but, largely, sheep are produced in the early stages on the mountains where people do not use fertilisers. Pigs have also increased and add to the picture of an increase in agricultural production but they do not come in for subsidisation to the same extent as cattle. I think that cattle at present prices are quite capable of standing on their own feet and do not need subsidisation as such. Unfortunately, again it is to the big people the benefits go.

By and large, the farmers are doing a good job. They are prepared to follow any lead given but the time has come for new thinking on the overall pattern of agriculture which is a very valuable industry and plays a major part in our economy. But we have reached the stage where the ordinary citizen is no longer able to subscribe increasing help in the future. The pattern of help given to the producer must, I think, come in future from within the present structure. We cannot go on subsidising for ever and at some stage we must face the end of the road. I think we have reached it already. The taxpayers cannot carry increasing burdens any longer and the increases that are necessary within the productive field must in future come from within their own scheme of things. Our production figures per acre are the lowest in Europe and countries with which we are competing are producing many times as much per acre as we are out of land not as good as ours and in climates that generally are not as good.

The Minister should consider the question of the processing of vegetables. The sale of imported goods by supermarkets is a serious danger to our balance of payments. There is too much prepared food coming in from countries that are not paying the trade union rates of wages we have to pay. Some of these commodities come from South Africa and Hong Kong. These channels should be closed and steps should be taken to preserve the market for home producers. Some of the large food processing firms, or packaging firms, bring in imported materials. They buy a certain amount of home-produced materials and because of that, the finished article is supposed to be Irish. This matter should be examined because there was a very considerable increase in imported foods last year over the previous year. It is an awful state of affairs that a country which is one of the greatest food-producing countries, and certainly the producer of the best food, in the world, should have to import food. There must be some way of improving that position.

The cost of feedingstuffs, particularly for bacon production, is too high. In my constituency, the producers, with whom I am in very close touch, were getting along reasonably well until early this year when the balanced ration went up from 30/- to 35/-. That increase meant that there was no money at all in pigs. The increase occurred somewhere along the line. Probably high transport costs affected the position. There is room for examination of this matter and I would ask the Minister to investigate it as quickly as possible.

I should also like to draw the Minister's attention to a matter raised yesterday by Deputies, namely, the question of milk tests. It is causing grave concern in my constituency because farmers believe they are not getting the grading to which they are entitled. I would ask the Minister to arrange that in each creamery a sample of the milk will be handed to the farmer's representative at the same time as a sample is taken by the creamery manager. The ICMSA should be in a position to provide personnel for the purpose of making spot checks. I am given to understand that in Kerry creameries last year a certain figure was paid for milk which averaged 1/8d a gallon. There has been a considerable increase in wages to managers and creamery personnel. The only source from which this could come is the milk but there was no corresponding reduction in the price of milk. That would give reason to believe that tests are not carried out as they should be. Many farmers believe that they are paying for the installation of expensive plant in the creameries and for the lorries and various other equipment. A system should be inaugurated which would satisfy the farmers in regard to these tests. Samples could be taken. There could be spot checks and the results could be checked with the creamery returns at a later stage.

I should also like to draw the attention of the Minister to the question of the warble fly dressing. A number of cows have been affected. Calves were lost, not immediately following the dressing, but within a fortnight or a month. I would ask the Minister to insist on absolute care in regard to this dressing. I believe that the material is all right but that perhaps the animal is not quite fit for the dressing at the time it is applied. The Minister should keep a watch on this matter because there have been losses, not to a very great extent but, unfortunately, to people who could least afford them.

I should like to compliment the Minister on this document which has helped us all to follow the various statistics. I would ask him once again, when the time comes, to give us a more comprehensive picture of the value and the output achieved as a result of the colossal sums of money we have channelled since 1958 into agriculture and I would ask him to prevent this change-over from one type of farming to another. I know that agricultural advisers advised people two years ago that grass was the thing to go into, but, unfortunately, too much of our land has been switched from tillage to grass and milk production. A balance should be maintained. There is too much switching and too much money is being put into machinery of one kind and another. A stocktaking of the general position and a new pattern for agriculture are necessary.

I merely want to ask the Minister if he will clear up one point with regard to the arrangements under the Free Trade Area Agreement in respect of deficiency payments or subsidies for cattle and sheep dead meat exports. Irrespective of what one's general view may be of the Free Trade Area Agreement, people engaged in dead meat exports were somewhat delighted with the provision that a subsidy or deficiency payment would be given, as and from 1st July, by the British Government. As the matter was presented and as it appeared at the time, they had considerable justification for their delight. However, on last Friday I had the experience of being present when two veterinary officers from the British Department of Agriculture were over here for the purpose of explaining to our veterinary officers the standards that would be required for payment of a subsidy. There were also present a number of exporters of dead meat.

I should like to ask the Minister was he aware, or is he now aware, that, on the standards laid down by these people on last Friday it would be next to impossible to qualify for subsidy, particularly in respect of cattle? Last Friday, several carcases were examined and what were obviously very high-grade, marketable carcases were disqualified by these British veterinary officers for the purpose of subsidy. They set down standards to which very few cattle would conform. One description I heard was that it was like expecting every female to have the vital statistics of a Jane Russell. Just as in the case of humans, the vital statistics of cattle do not always conform to the ideal. In view of the original presentation of the Free Trade Agreement and the high standards that have now emerged, the Minister could usefully explain if he was aware that these very high standards must apply before a subsidy will be paid. I am afraid we were hoodwinked with regard to the subsidy in the negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement. It would be well if we could have some indication from the Minister as to how this is to be applied.

I intend to be very brief because I know that the Minister is very anxious to announce his Presidential election gift to the people, and to the farmers in particular, and I will not delay long as they are very anxious to hear what he has to say. It is unfortunate that we should have to have farmers parading outside Leinster House and Government Buildings before such a gift or before justice is given to them.

Deputy O'Connor referred to the warble fly dressing of cattle. Five or six weeks ago, I asked the Minister if there was any relation between the number of abortions in cattle and the warble fly dressing and he assured me that his advisers told him that there was no connection between the two. The Minister's reply was not accepted by the farmers and it was not accepted by many veterinary officers whom I have met. They are convinced there is a direct connection between the two. I should like the Minister to comment on what the farmers and veterinary officers think. This involves great loss to many farmers, and even in cases where the veterinary officers established that it was on account of the warble fly dressing that there were abortions in cattle, the Department have not paid what they said they would pay to the farmers. Some of them have been told that they will not be paid at all, in spite of veterinary advice that they should be. I should like the Minister to refer again to this very important question which is causing such annoyance to many dairy farmers.

I do not know if the Minister or his advisers are aware of the disastrous losses to livestock which farmers have suffered in the past winter and in the spring. Some of my neighbours have lost more than half their cow stock. We do not seem to realise the plight of those farmers. We talk about increasing the price of milk, and no doubt such an increase is justified and long overdue, but when we consider the losses which these people have had, we must realise that they are going to come out of it very badly financially. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister and his advisers sympathetically to consider the position they are in. Generally, farmers have had to face the same increases as others in regard to rates, wages and so on and they have an unanswerable case for a readjustment of farm incomes all round.

Deputy Esmonde referred to the decline in the growth of wheat, oats and barley. It is rather alarming that we are not encouraging farmers to grow more barley because, as Deputy Esmonde said, barley means beef. This country is ideally suited to the growing of barley but the statistics for the amount of barley grown this year will show that the acreage was amazingly low. There is only one way to encourage farmers to grow more barley, or anything else, that is, to give them a decent floor price. In view of the value of barley as feed, I would ask the Minister to encourage farmers to grow it, especially in the south, where the land is particularly suitable, by giving better incentives.

I do not know if the Minister is aware that at the moment there is a very great shortage of nitrogenous fertiliser in the south. Many farmers approached me over the week-end and asked me what the cause of this was. This is at a time when crops are backward and this fertiliser was never more necessary. I cannot understand why it should be in short supply. I can assure the Minister that at least six farmers approached me about this last Saturday. They could not get one cwt. of nitrogenous fertiliser. I do not know if the Arklow factory is exporting all its manure, but if it is, no matter what the price, it is not the thing to do in our economy. I do not know whether the position has improved since Tuesday when I came to Dublin, but I should like the Minister to tell us if it has been remedied and if not, when it will be remedied.

I am glad the Minister is interested in the horse breeding industry, which is important to our economy. I am afraid we are slipping back a lot in regard to the production of good hunters, which were our greatest export. I do not know whether this shortage is due to a lack of the right type of soil, but whatever the reason, there has been a decline on all the markets in these hunters and I would appeal to the Minister to see if something can be done to improve this situation.

Whenever there is talk of increasing farmers' incomes, the Minister always says that this will involve increased taxation but the status increases were paid some time ago and there was no mention of increased taxation. How the money was got is still rather a mystery.

My final comment is in regard to feeding stuffs for pigs. I have no doubt that some people are putting feeding stuffs on the market which are not up to standard and are not balanced rations. The Minister should take a serious look at this and have a better control over the sale and the price of these feeding stuffs. If something is not done to ensure that decent feeding stuffs are on the market at a fair price, the pig population is going to decline more and more. I did say that I would not delay the Minister because I know how anxious he is to make his announcement. I only hope, whoever wins the Presidential election, that it will have the effect of giving justice to the farmers.

The country awaits with interest the announcement we know the Minister is about to make as regards increased prices for the tillage farmer, the dairy farmer and all other farmers. We agree it is long overdue. This is the Fianna Fáil plan to win the Presidential election. The Minister for Agriculture, as Director of Elections, knows Fianna Fáil have lost the city votes. They never hesitated in the past — they gave the 12 per cent increase to win two by-elections and the status increase to win an election— to use the people's money to bribe the electorate to vote for Fianna Fáil. There is no denying that that is their intention now at the eleventh hour. If Fianna Fáil did not do it, it would be a departure from old ties. There are 110,000 creamery milk suppliers in the country who with their families, would provide over 200,000 votes. There is no doubt that this wily politician, the Minister for Agriculture, will have his eye on those votes.

But the people of the country should not be fooled any longer. When the Minister makes that announcement, they are entitled to be told where the money will come from. Those of us on public bodies know that money cannot be got at the moment for housing work of any kind. If we cannot get money for that important purpose, it is the Minister's duty to tell us where he intends to get the money for this increase. It is his duty to tell us whether he intends to put 6d or 9d on the pound of butter or whether he intends to double the turnover tax. We know that in the past they did not hesitate to remove the food subsidies and impose this tax on the necessaries of life. The Minister may give with one hand but he will certainly take it back with two in the autumn Budget we have been promised.

I do not like to interrupt the Deputy but this is a Vote for a certain amount of money for the administration of the Department of Agriculture. The Deputy should confine himself to the administration of that money.

Am I not entitled to say I believe the farmers are in a bad way?

I do not think the Deputy has said that yet.

Perhaps I said it before you came in, Sir.

What the Deputy has said since I came in is scarcely relevant. I will not argue with the Deputy. He should accept the rulings of the Chair.

In my opinion, the farmers of Ireland are in a bad way and they are entitled to an increase. The milk producers are entitled to a fair deal. They have not got it from the Government. The Government should not have waited until the eve of this election to give the increases about to be announced. Those increases should have been announced at the time of the Budget when an extra £12 million taxation was imposed. It is unfair and unjust of the Minister and several Fianna Fáil Deputies to claim here that if the farmers get an increase to which they are justly entitled, it means an increase in taxation immediately. When other increases were given in the past — the increases to the Garda and the status increases — it was never announced that there would be an immediate increase in taxation. It is unfair to single out the farmers in this respect. However, the Minister knows that the wrath of the city people will be turned against the Government and he wants to turn it instead against the farmers. It is a wrong policy for any Party or any Government to try to divide the people in rural Ireland from our city people.

It is a sad state of affairs when decent, law-abiding citizens, as the farmers have proved themselves to be in the past, have to leave their homes, their families and their work and come to Dublin to protest and demand the right to live in frugal comfort in their own country and to bring up their families with a decent standard of living. They have not been given that under the Fianna Fáil Government. They have been denied justice and fair play. A few weeks ago the Minister referred to the farmers protesting outside as a "circus" and the Minister for Justice referred to "anarchy". Those words should not have been used about the most law-abiding section of the community. No doubt that section of the community will now be used as a vehicle to win, if it is at all possible, the coming election.

In his opening remarks, the Minister said:

I want at the outset to repudiate any suggestion that the Government have been indifferent to the interests of the farming community or that they have been prepared to let every other sector improve its position and do nothing to help the farmer maintain his position. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nothing could be further from the truth than the Minister's statement. The NFA and other farming bodies co-operated with the Minister for years but got very little in return. As far as the farmers were concerned, the Budget was a great betrayal. The NFA, the ICMSA and other farmer organisations were completely dismayed. They had co-operated for years. Promises were made to them if they would call off strikes. Because they co-operated with the Minister, they got nothing in the Budget. The farmers have been disillusioned by the Golden Boy on whom so many of them pinned their hopes in the past.

The farmers cannot afford the kind of progress Fianna Fáil propose for them. Fianna Fáil policy has been a failure. No wonder during Deputy O'Connor's contribution the Minister looked back to see who was speaking. One would think it was a Deputy from this side of the House. He illustrated how their policy had been a failure. Pie in the sky and a promise of some crumbs in the future are no use. People cannot live on promises alone. During the Fianna Fáil term of office, thousands of people have been driven from the land of Ireland. These figures should frighten any Government out of their slumbers but up to today have not done so in regard to the Fianna Fáil Government. The Budget was disappointing. The farmers had made their claims and consulted the Minister for Agriculture. They have always been prepared to shoulder a fair share of taxation but they believe they are entitled to justice.

The Minister talked about farm incomes but the gap between farm incomes and industrial incomes is widening every year. The average income of people living on the land is about £7 a week and those farmers and their labourers work, not a 40 hour week, but a 50, 60 and 70 hour week in order to keep a roof over their heads and to rear their families. Those who work in industry have had their earnings increased from £10. 8. 0. per week for a 40 or 44 hour week to £11. 10. 0. this year. The gap is widening and nothing has been done by the Minister to narrow it.

It has often been pointed out here that the farmers were always in the front-line trenches in every war in this country, national, social and economic. Now the farmers claim justice and they are entitled to justice. They are entitled to a fair crack of the whip and to a fair share of the national cake. Not since the days of the Economic War has there been such hardship among small farmers as there is at the present time. They are the hewers of wood and the drawers of water as far as the present Government are concerned.

It has been very depressing for me in the past month to be meeting, night after night and evening after evening, small farmers in the west of Ireland, in Longford and in my own constituency. They come to me with tears in their eyes and tell me that if things continue as they are, they will have to sell their homes and emigrate. They can no longer earn a decent living on the land of Ireland. That is a depressing state of affairs and we have all seen the keys turned in the doors of the houses in the west of Ireland and the people going to earn a living in Britain. These people withstood the British in the past. They were able to earn a living on their own land in the worst of times. Now, because of Fianna Fáil high taxation rates, because of higher rates even though Fianna Fáil promised complete derating, and because of the reduction in farm prices which has taken place under all headings in the past few years, they can no longer earn a living on their farms.

The standard of living of every man, woman and child in this country depends on what the farmer and his labourers are able to get from the land. Because the primary producers, the backbone of the country, have been neglected by the Government, the small farmers are leaving the land and the ship of state is floundering on the rocks. Unless there is a change, there is danger of its sinking with Seán Lemass leading on.

It is a pity that there is a division in the farmers' organisations and whatever announcement the Minister makes today, I hope he will not try to perpetuate that division. The Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Lalor, spoke of bringing the farming organisations together and I agree with that. They should come together in their own interests. Many of us had hoped to find a unified voice drawing the attention of the Government to the condition of the farmers. There is a limit to what any section of the community can stand and unless there is a change in this country, there will be a revolution among the small farmers and nobody can blame them. They have been completely let down by the Government's refusal in the last Budget to increase the price of milk and they have been exposed to the most shameless racket ever perpetuated in this country.

In former years Fianna Fáil campaigned for a big increase in the price of milk. In 1956, when the Milk Costings Commission was sitting, Fianna Fáil Deputies asked questions day after day and week after week about that Commission. They asked when would the report be available, when would the farmers get justice and when would they get the increase they were entitled to. Fianna Fáil moved in on the farmers' organisations and used them to conduct a venomous campaign against the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon. Milk marches were organised in Dublin and they were led by Fianna Fáil county councillors and by at least one or two Fianna Fáil Deputies. The farmers were deceived into thinking that if Fianna Fáil got into office, they would get increased prices for their milk.

That was not the reason for the Fianna Fáil campaign. The reason behind it was to put out the Government of the day and Fianna Fáil used the milk marchers to good effect. They did put out the Government of the day but the dairy farmers have been badly let down since that time by steadily increased taxation, increased costs of production and increased wages for their labourers. I want to say that the farm labourer is entitled to justice. He is one of the hardest working members of the community and I am now going to say something which may surprise many people but I believe that until the farm labourer is paid £15 a week, things will never be right in this country. If the bus driver, who produces nothing, can get £15 or £16 a week, the farm labourer who is helping to produce our exports is entitled to a fair reward for his labour.

If the farm labourer were to get £15 a week, any Government in office would have to put the small farmer into the position that he also would be able to earn that amount so that he and his wife and family would be able to live at home and enjoy a fair standard of living. The farm labourer and the small farmer are entitled to the same wage as people working half their hours and producing very little.

If we study the statistics since Fianna Fáil came into office, we find that there has been a drop in milk prices and a drop in the acreage under tillage and under wheat. We have all heard people in the cities say: "The old farmer is at it again; he is looking for more." Few of these people realise that the farmers produce 90 per cent of what we sell and that they are getting less for it than they were getting ten, 12 and 15 years ago. We can remember when wool was selling at 6/- and 6/6 a pound and last year it sold from 3/- to 4/1 or 4/2 a pound.

Let us take the wheat farmer. Away back in 1953, he was getting £4 4s. a barrel for wheat. Last year, according to a reply to a question asked in this House, the price paid by the millers of Ireland for Irish wheat was £3 5s. per barrel, a reduction of 19/-.

The Deputy is cheating. Compare average with average.

Compare it with what you like, those are the figures at that time.

The Deputy is a "hooky" mathematician.

If the Minister looks at page 328 of the Statistical Abstract of Ireland, he will see that in 1953 the price was 32/- per 112 lbs; in 1963, it was 29/4d. The £ was then worth 20/- as compared with 14/3d or 14/4d last year. If you compare like with like, as the Minister would wish me to do, the farmer is not getting half the price he was getting in 1953.

Let us take oats. The same statistics show that in 1953 the price was 24/6d per 112 lbs., and in 1965 it was 20/3d, a reduction of 3/3d per 112 lbs., and we must bear in mind that the pound was worth 6/- less than in 1963. Very few people realise those facts at the present time.

Let us take barley. In 1953 the farmer was getting 39/4d per 112 lbs. The Minister need not tell me the official statistics are wrong. In 1963 he was getting 26/2d. If my arithmetic is correct, that means that for 112 lbs., for only half a barrel, he was getting 13/2d less; in other words, he was getting 26/4 less for a barrel than in 1953, and we must again bear in mind the value of the pound at that time.

For feeding barley, the farmer was getting 27/6d per 112 lbs. in 1953; in 1963, he was getting the glorious price of 18/5d per 112 lbs. That is nearly £1 a barrel less than he was getting 13 years ago, and again we must take into consideration the value of the pound.

The dairy farmer is dependent to a large extent on the price of the calf. In 1958, the average price at which a calf under six months old was selling was £18 17s. 9d. In 1963, it was down to £13 17s. 0d. Those of us who know anything about calves know they are down another couple of pounds a head. Therefore, according to those figures, the farmer has lost £8 to £9 per head on suck calves over the past few years.

In 1958, the price of young cattle six to 12 months old was £30 15s. 9d; in 1963, it was £26 6s. 6d. The Minister knows that this year many farmers cannot sell them. I know a small farmer who bought two heifers last September for which he paid £25 each. He fed them on hay, barley and the grass of his land, and he sold them recently for exactly the same price as he paid for them six months ago.

He did not feed them. That is the greatest rubbish I ever heard.

That is not uncommon.

That is rubbish.

The Deputy should get up and make his maiden speech and contradict me if he wishes.

I made a speech before the Deputy came in.

He did not make many before I came in. Let him make his maiden speech. In any case we have to go by the figures that are here and the Deputy will hardly deny the accuracy of the official statistics. The figures are there.

The £25 calves are not there.

The Deputy should restrain himself.

The Deputy should tell the truth.

I am stating what is here.

The two heifers the Deputy was talking about—he did not get the figures for those out of the statistics.

Let us take fat cattle. Page 328; Table 343 of the Statistics shows that the average annual price paid for cattle was £60 17s. in 1955. The average annual price in 1963 dropped to £57 7s. 6d.

The Deputy is the "hookiest" statistician I ever heard.

Any cattleman would laugh at that.

The figures are there.

In January, 1956 the price per cwt. was £4 10s. to £5.

The Deputy was supporting Fine Gael at that time and England was paying only £4 10s., due to the Suez crisis and the economic conditions in England. It is different now.


Deputy L'Estrange is entitled to make his speech without interruption.

He should not be blaming Nasser.

The figures are here and if the Minister can deny them——

I deny the £25 calf statistics.

The Deputy knows that the small farmer who fed his cattle for six or eight months got less than he paid for them, in many cases.


The Secretary can laugh at any joke he likes.

The Deputy will not insult officials in this House.

The Deputy will not contradict the Chair either. He will act in accordance with the rules of the House.

The rules should apply to everybody.

The Deputy made a remark about officials in this House. He may not do that.

I withdraw the remark.

He must not comment upon the ruling of the Chair.

I did not comment on your ruling.

The Deputy said the rule should apply to everybody as if it were not being applied to everybody.

Take the price of fat cattle three year old and over, Table 343. Take the average price of livestock at fairs and marts. Some people might not like marts included but they are going well in spite of its being said an end would be put to them at some time. The average price in 1955 was £66 12s and the average price in 1963 was £63 19s, a decrease of £2 11s.

We are discussing the administration of the Department of Agriculture for the current year. The Deputy is going back to 1963 and 1962. I was allowing him to do that in the belief that he was about to make a comparison but the year 1963 does not come under discussion except for comparison purposes.

In all categories farmers were getting much better prices five, six, seven or eight years ago, despite the fact that the value of money has fallen considerably since.


Deputy O'Connor also mentioned that there had been a reduction in the acreage of wheat and beet and tillage generally in the past few years. We are entitled to ask where is the Fianna Fáil policy? So far as tillage is concerned, it is in ruins. That cannot be denied. When Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture—

A shilling a gallon.

——he made the best Trade Agreement ever made in this country. He negotiated a Trade Agreement in Britain and tied the prices our farmers were to get to the prices that British farmers were to get for their produce.

I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but it is not Deputy Dillon's administration we are discussing, but the administration of the present Minister for Agriculture.

When thorns are thrown across the House——

The Deputy should be above these prods.

Deputy Dillon did more for the farmers than many others did. Although his policy was condemned as a grass policy, is it not true that there is a huge reduction in tillage now under every heading? If the Minister wants to know, he will find in volume 221 of the Official Report for 24th February, 1966 that in reply to a question I addressed to the Taoiseach, it was stated that the acreage of wheat sown in 1954 was 486,400 while in 1964 it was 214,400 acres, a drop of 272,000 acres, under a Party who always claimed they represented the small farmers and the tillage farmers, the Party whose Minister for Health said at one time in this House that we should produce an all-Irish loaf and that Irish farmers could, and should grow all the wheat needed and that there was no need to import wheat for an Irish loaf. Those are the people who referred to other Ministers for Agriculture as Ministers for Grass. I wonder how we should refer to the present Minister.

Deputy Dillon cut the price of wheat by 12/6d per barrel.

It has been cut by many a 12/6d since.

It was raised by 10/- this year.

The Fianna Fáil Party were returned to power in the following year. Why did they not increase the price of wheat?

We increased it this year by 10/- per barrel.

The average price paid last year was £3 6s 3d per barrel and has not the value of the £1 dropped to about 14/- so that the price of wheat has fallen by over 33? per cent? The acreage has fallen by over one-half and the price by over one-third. Is it any wonder there is less wheat sown today?

The same applies to oats. On 24th February, 1966 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach in reply to a question gave the acreage of oats sown in 1954 as 533,100. The corresponding figure in 1964 was 288,600, a drop of 250,000 acres under the Party who claim they always stood for the tillage farmer. As to cattle prices, it may be no harm for Deputy Sheridan and others to listen to these figures. I asked the Minister for Agriculture the average price for store bullocks at Dublin sales on 8th and 9th February, 1966 compared with 1955. In his reply he said—and this is reported in volume 221 of the Official Report—that average prices at Dublin sales were not compiled but the range of prices for such bullocks at Dublin Cattle Market on 8th and 9th February, 1966 was 140/- to 173/-per cwt. live weight as compared with 162/- to 196/- per cwt. for the corresponding period in 1965.

Will the Minister or any other Deputy deny those figures? Is it not true that this year farmers got, on the bottom rung, 22/- and on the top rung, 23/- less for their cattle than last year, despite the fact that the Minister told us that under this new Trade Agreement everything in the garden would be rosy?

Deputy Cluskey raised a very important point and it is up to the Minister to clarify it. It is in regard to cattle, whether or not the quality of our cattle will qualify for this subsidy. If what he says is true, the delegation must have been more mesmerised than we thought. The family doctor image must have mesmerised our little Golden Boy on the Front Bench if he accepted what we have been told by Deputy Cluskey. I have no doubt what the Deputy told us is true. We seem to build far too much on this Free Trade Area Agreement. I do not believe that it will be a cure for all our ills and that everything will be adjusted overnight.

We all remember what we were told in the past by those people who swallowed every promise they made over the past 25 to 30 years. I remember when they told us that the British market was gone and gone forever, and thanks be to God. There is no denying that they did that and they will never live it down. Not far from where Deputy Sheridan and I were born, at the fair of Arva, we were told by a certain person that, not alone was the British market gone forever, but that his advice to the farmers was that they should keep bees and that he had it on good authority that the best type of bee was the Egyptian bee.

I do not see what this has to do with the administration of the Department of Agriculture. It has no relevance whatever.

When the Taoiseach was going over to negotiate——

It has no relevance whatever. The Deputy had better drop the bees.

The Deputy has a terrible "down" on the Egyptians.

No, no "down" on them at all. I could love them. Is it not a great thing that we had cattle over the last few years, that the cattle industry was saved, and that when the Taoiseach, the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Industry and Commerce went over to Britain to negotiate with the British Government they had cattle and sheep and pigs to sell, that it was not swarms of bees they had under their arms?

No matter what may be said here or elsewhere, it will take years to repair the damage done to the farmers of Ireland through Fianna Fáil policy—high taxation, high rates and, as I have already pointed out, poor prices for agricultural produce. The high rate of taxation is a disincentive to production.

The Minister has no responsibility for the striking of rates.

The Minister has responsibility for the high taxation rate.

The Minister is responsible for the administration of the Department of Agriculture and the fixing of rates and of taxation is not a function of the Minister for Agriculture.

The Minister's policy, in association with the Government's policy of high taxation——

The Deputy will not get it in in that fashion. I want the Deputy to confine himself to what the Minister is responsible for.

It is very hard to know what the Minister is responsible for.

Administration of the Department of Agriculture.

If he is responsible for it, God help Ireland, because he has been a definite failure. He does not seem to be showing responsibility in that position because, as I have stated, the farmers are not getting a fair price. The figures show that 300,000 farmers have been driven off the land over the last 30 years since Fianna Fáil first came to office. I know the Minister is not responsible for that but, according to his own Second Programme for Economic Expansion, he envisages that a further 69,000 to 70,000 farmers will leave the land before 1970. Can any member of the Government say now that that trend will be reversed as a result of the new Trade Agreement? I do not think it will. In my view, instead of 69,000, another 80,000 or 90,000 farmers will have been driven off the land of Ireland in the next three or four years.

The farmers represent approximately 33? per cent of the population. They are responsible for 75 per cent of our exports. Last year, they got only 20.3 per cent of the national income. Unfortunately, in Ireland today there are thousands of farmers who are unequipped and who have not got the money to allow them to take advantage of the new Free Trade Area Agreement on which the Minister has built such hopes. Active and courageous measures must be taken at once to put the agricultural producers into a position to avail in full of whatever benefits there are for them in the Agreement. In my view, the benefits are small. Certainly, there is nothing in the Agreement for the poultry producer, the egg producer, the milk producer. As has been pointed out, we are selling milk at the lowest price in Europe. Last year, turkey producers had to sell their product at a price well below the cost of production. That is wrong.

The percentage of the national income that the farmers receive has dropped over the past five or six years. In 1953, the farmers got 29.4 per cent; in 1958, 25 per cent—they still were not getting their due share as primary producers—in 1959, 24 per cent; in 1961, 21.3 per cent and in 1965 the figure was down to 20.3 per cent. That is unfair. The primary producers, representing 33? per cent of the population, should get at least 30 to 33? per cent of the national income. The standard of living of everyone in city or town depends on what the farmer can produce from the land and export profitably abroad and the sooner the Minister realises that and gets back to the position that he will give a fair and just price to the farmers for wheat, oats, barley and other produce, the better for the nation.

Last year, there was an adverse trade balance of £147 million in which there was £14 million for grain and foodstuffs we could have grown in this country. At least the Minister for Health recently told us we could have produced all the wheat we need. There was £14 million included in that adverse trade balance and perhaps £10 million to £12 million of that could have been produced at home. The Minister's own Deputy O'Connor from Kerry pointed out about an hour ago that tillage has declined and that we are importing cereals that the farmers of Ireland could grow and, he said, were in a position to grow better than any other people in the world.

The farmers' reaction to the Budget was one of disappointment. They got no compensation in it for last year's huge increases in their overhead expenses. There is little use in the Minister telling the farmers, as he did in his opening speech, that if the gap between the farmers' income and the city persons' income gets any greater the Government may take action. The gap is already big enough—around £5 a week—and now is the hour if the Government are in earnest and intend to take action.

Fianna Fáil Ministers, including the present Minister for Agriculture, are under the illusion that talk about increased production will lead to increased production. It will not. It is time that the Government had some definite plan for the future. The Government seem to have no plan for the future as far as agriculture is concerned. We are told that they have been planning for years. We are supposed to have this Second Programme for Economic Expansion. I have already pointed out the decline in tillage crops. One of the most serious matters is the drop in the acreage under beet by 7,000 or 8,000 acres last year and 13,000 the previous year. That is a matter for concern of which the Minister for Agriculture should take note and do something about.

We deplore the tendency of the Government, especially of the Minister, to make important announcements outside Dáil Éireann. One day last year I asked him at 3.15 p.m. about the price of wheat and he refused to make an announcement. Later in the same day he made the announcement to an agricultural committee of the Fianna Fáil organisation. We should have consultation and co-operation and if the Government have important announcements to make, they should be made in this House, especially if they are asked a particular question. It is too late in the month of January to announce the price for cereals for the following year. Such announcements should be made in October or in November, because we have all been told that the good farmer starts ploughing before Christmas. This year the Minister should mend his ways and make whatever announcements he has to make in October or November.

As I have already stated, the farmers are leaving the land because of the bad prices they are getting for their produce. If there is a more depressing fact in Irish life today than the flight from the land and the emigration, it is the Fianna Fáil acceptance of this as a normal, natural and easy solution of many of their troubles. I should like to ask the Minister, as one who sees thousands of young people fleeing from the land, does one have to be an expert to realise that there is something wrong in the country and something wrong with living conditions on the land? When one sees farms and homesteads abandoned all over the country, especially in the West, one realises that there is something radically wrong with the Government and with the Minister's policy.

Statistics, if viewed merely as such, can present deadly and dull reading but when they relate to the number of people driven from the land, they spring to life as vital elements of human nature. So it is when we think of the 300,000 who have been driven off the land since Fianna Fáil first came to office, of the 25,000 to 30,000 driven off the land in the past few years and of the further 70,000 you envisage in——

I do not envisage anything.

I am sorry—which the Government and the Minister envisage will be driven off the land between now and 1970. I think both sides will agree that in the financial mess in which we find ourselves today, it is to the farmers, large and small, that we must look for the necessary revival if the country is to survive as an independent and economic entity. The latest figures in regard to manpower on the land are so disastrous that one wonders if in fact there can be any economic revival at all. There was nothing in the last Budget which would help to keep people on the land. We can only hope that there will be something in the announcement the Minister will make today. Reading the newspapers, we see that eminent churchmen are disturbed by what is happening in Ireland today. In the Irish Independent of 1st February, 1965, we see that Most Reverend Dr. Fergus, talking about the number of people leaving farms, said that the issue at stake is survival, or the extension, of the small farming community of the West. He also said that in his diocese in the past 30 years, chiefly since the end of the last war, they had lost more than one quarter of their people. Comparing the statistics for 1948 with those for 1963 he found that in those 15 years the annual number of baptisms had decreased——

I would remind the Deputy again that we are discussing administration for the year. The Deputy has gone back to 1963.

If you read the Irish Independent for the day before yesterday, you will see that Dr. Lucey stated that 10,000 farmers had been liquidated last year and driven off the land. He stated that the country was in a rather bad way, that industrial unrest was widespread and that there was a stirring among the small farmers who found themselves being liquidated at the rate of 10,000 a year. Things must be very far gone when eminent churchmen have to speak out and warn the Government. It is only natural that any man who has the future of the country at heart should speak out. He also said that all in all there is a feeling of national frustration and a national crisis such as there has not been since the Thirties. He said that this is a dangerous feeling, that this is a dangerous moment, and added that there would have to be security and prosperity for all of the country and not just for the few.

Certainly, the time has come when there should be a decent standard of living provided for the farmers and for the people generally in rural Ireland. Some people will argue that there will be emigration anyway, whether we like it or not, but to me it is pointless to argue that young people born into the atmosphere of farming, through successive generations of farmers, suddenly develop a wanderlust and turn their backs on their homes and families and on their way of life. These people have been lost and are being lost because they see no prospects of a decent standard of living or a future for them on the land from which they sprang, despite all that we have been told by the Minister for Agriculture and by the Minister for Transport and Power.

The fact that so many farmers are leaving the land is a blazing indictment of the policy of the Minister, or a policy that has masqueraded as an agricultural policy. Each and every one of us public representatives should remember that the tragedy of this exodus is to be found not so much in its stunning total but in the agricultural knowledge and agricultural training that have been permanently lost to us. The Minister will have to agree that in the competitive period ahead, never was it more necessary to have educated people with the necessary technical training who are prepared to stay on the land, work the land and get a decent standard of living for themselves and their families and help to increase the exports which are so vitally important at present. Unfortunately, because of a lack of policy and planning, our primary export from the land has been not the produce but the people who are destined by God to help use the land for themselves, their families and the nation. It is sad to have to say that under an Irish Government, instead of having increased exports of agricultural produce, we have under the Minister increased exports of our boys and girls from the land of Ireland. The Government's Statistics Office have found the Government and the Minister guilty of neglect and inaction.

We all know there was a time when the maladministration natural to a foreign occupation could be blamed for our national illnesses when wealth accumulated and men decayed. The present flight from the land is chronic but we cannot blame the foreigner for that. We can blame nobody but the man who occupies the position of Minister for Agriculture and the Government who have responsibility along with him.

Deputy Smith, the former Minister for Agriculture, realising that some sections of the community, whether through the strength of their organisation or because they were holding the Government up to ransom, were able to get more than their fair share of the national cake, stated in this House he would not live under tyranny. Because the small farmers were not getting a fair crack of the whip, he was prepared to resign from the Government and did so. So far, there has been no change under the present Minister. Up to the present the farmers have not got justice. Whether they will get it in the next hour or so I do not know.

Never in the history of the country was it more necessary than at present to have a period of stability so that our primary producers, the farmers, can prepare and equip themselves for the more competitive period ahead under Free Trade. The Minister told us in the past he expected the farmers would get over £10 million through this Free Trade Agreement. We are entitled to a breakdown of that. I do not believe there is anything like that for the farmers in this Agreement. Because of the steadily rising cost of living and the trebling of rates in the past few years, the incomes of the farmers have decreased. Today, not for the first time under Fianna Fáil, the farmers are cast in the role of hewers of wood and drawers of water in their own country. That deplorable situation cannot be tolerated. It is the Government's duty to help and that must be done straight away.

Today there are thousands of acres of land not producing half what they are capable of producing if the farmers were given the wherewithal to do the work. The farmers ask nothing from any Minister but justice and fair play in return for their labour. The farmers are the only people to whom the Minister can look for an increase in exports to wipe out our adverse trade balance. As I said earlier, it is the Minister's bounden duty, even if it is only one week from the Presidential election, to tell the people when he announces these increases where he is going to get the money.

From some of the speeches I have heard, I am greatly afraid that agriculture is still the plaything of politics with some people. It is all very well to point out the faults and failures of this or any other Government. I have not heard any suggestion made as to where the remedy lies. I have not heard one remark about the unfortunate past season. I have heard criticism of the decline in the acreage of wheat, oats and other cereals. Would anybody tell me why any farmer with intelligence would lay himself open to such complete loss as this year or last year? I am a practical farmer. I have been brought up in an agricultural community and have been close to agriculture all my life. Farmers as a rule are fairly intelligent people and nobody knows what is best for the farmer better than he does himself. Surely if he does not plan ahead for himself, it is hard to expect anybody else to do it?

I am prepared to say that the farmers here have never had it easy and never will have. They were always hard workers. They and their wives and families were always bound to a seven-day week. The bad weather of the past two seasons, an act of God, has been a major misfortune. Another misfortune is the fact that it is almost impossible for a farmer to get agricultural labour at present. Deputy L'Estrange suggested that the farm worker is entitled to £15 a week.

No. I said there will never be prosperity in the country unless his wage is fixed at something like that.

Let it be fixed at whatever it is. There is an old saying that you cannot have your loaf and eat it. If the farmer is in the impoverished condition he is supposed to be in—and he is in it— where can he get the £15 per week to hand out to a farm labourer or perhaps two farm labourers?

I said he should be put in the position to do it.

I would suggest to the Minister that when the state of finances of the country permits it, the employment of farm labourers should be subsidised to enable the farmer not only to employ a man but to employ an extra man, if possible.

Nobody can say that it is the fault of this Government, the previous Government or any other Government that the people are leaving the land. Deputy Dillon, for whom I have the greatest respect, stated on one occasion that he would not blame any young boy for going to Manchester or Birmingham or anywhere else if he could earn £30 per week there. That is the reason they are leaving the land today. In my constituency there is a big building scheme in Mullingar and I see young people going into Mullingar to work on that scheme. The farmers could not afford to pay them the rates they are being paid by the builder. Neither would those young people want to work with a farmer who has to work a seven-day week. When these boys can work a five-day week in the cities and towns, you cannot blame them for leaving. They are entitled to go where they can get the best conditions.

The phrase "small farmer" is becoming very hackneyed. I do not see how he is to be raised from his present level. The small farmers used to have one great boon. In County Longford, where I come from, the small farmer always depended on his milk production and on the raising of bonhams to the pork or bacon stage. It is true to say that many years ago pig prices were the same as they are today and I would ask the Minister to look into this matter. If the small farmer is given a chance, he will not beg from anybody. He is a proud man and wants nothing from anybody. I am sorry I did not get an opportunity to speak on the Estimate for Lands but I would like to say that one way to help the small farmer is to get him into intensive production or to increase the size of his holding. With all the misfortunes under which the small farmer is supposed to labour, if there is a farm of land up for division, he will eat out of your hand until he gets an acre or two of it.

The division between the dairy farmers' organisations is not my business. I do not belong to any of them and I do not want to, but it is a good thing for the farmer to be properly organised. He is as much entitled to be organised as any other section of the community but I question here whether some of the people who are representing the farmers represent the practical and small farmer. I will not comment on the matter beyond saying that I am very doubtful if they do.

I must mention the matter of milk prices because I am a milk producer and I will say that if the price of milk can be increased, the milk producer is entitled to an increase. There is no such thing as a five-day cow and the farmer and his wife and family, when other people are enjoying their two days rest or recreation, are on the ball for the whole week. I do not think there can be any complaint with regard to cattle prices for the past couple of years.

You can lord all you like but for ten years I have been a cattle salesman on a prominent stand in this city and I have been over and back to England with my own cattle. I have been closely associated with the trade all my life and I keep my eye on what is going on. It is sickening to listen to people quoting these statistics. They say that two-year-olds fetched so much in 1957. You can have a two-year-old weighing 10½ cwt. and a two-year-old weighing six cwt. and there can be as much difference in the quality as there is between chalk and cheese. Some Deputies have quoted prices for 1955-56. At that time I bought in the south of Ireland and in Dublin, in January of that year, weanlings for £4 10s. per cwt. There is no doubt that in the fall of 1965 the people who held their young calves and brought them to a certain stage were disappointed with the price. They were not making as much as dropped calves should.

I can give a reason for that, the reason being the act of God which brought about the severe weather which left the hay last year almost unsavable. The farmers had as much water as silage in their pits. These are things that cannot be changed.

If you take credit for the sun, you must take credit for the rain.

Deputy L'Estrange should not interrupt. He has made his speech.

I am only too glad of interruptions because I know what I am talking about. The Trade Agreement with Britain is a good thing and I hope it will benefit the farmers and give them the injection they need so badly. We do not yet know all about the benefits but at least the farmers now have an assurance that they never had before. There is one little clip that I would like to give the Minister. Since 1963, a year in which he announced the heifer subsidy scheme with which I agreed, we had a big increase in the production of calves and in the number of in-calf heifers.

It has done its job. It may be abolished today.

I agree. I am coming to that. I certainly thought that the progeny of these heifers were to be kept in the country until they reached such proportions that they would be worth some kind of money. The kind of money I would like to see is £80 to £100. Instead of that, whatever about Deputy L'Estrange's reference to Egyptian bees, we are now sending out Egyptian cattle and the price of these cattle is £35 to £40. It is not a good thing to produce cattle to that stage and then send them out of the country. I am all against it, and I know what I am talking about.

I have mentioned wheat, and I will say again that, no matter what Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil say about it, nobody but a complete fool would put himself into a mess with wheat.

We are getting a fairly liberal subsidy under the fertiliser scheme but if and when the finances of this country come into better shape, that subsidy should be increased 100 per cent, because good grass is the backbone of the country.

I am disgusted that some members have tried to make a political plaything out of agriculture. It is all right to talk about the small farmer and the big farmer, to tell them they are down and out and that they are on the road to perdition. It is encouragement these people want. Farmers need all the encouragement, all the help, they can get by way of advisory services and supplements under the fertiliser scheme and under any other scheme that will be of benefit to them. No farmer expects the Government to do everything for him. The land is there and that is his job. Given a chance, he will work that land satisfactorily. In conclusion, may I express the hope that the Minister, when replying, will have good news for the farmers?

So many Deputies have spoken on so many subjects of agriculture during this debate that it would not be possible for me to reply to them in an itemised way. What I should like to do is to reply in general terms but in doing so, to endeavour to cover as many as possible of the points which have been raised by Deputies.

I do not think I could do any better than to take as my text the words said of me by Deputy Tierney who spoke very early on. He said, in effect, that I was doing my best but that it was not really good enough. In any job it is a reasonably good compliment to have it said of you that you are doing your best. It means at least that your heart is in the right place and that you are trying to do something. That is more than can be said of a great many people. However, I am really more interested in the second half of his epitaph, when he said my best was not really good enough.

Epitaph? That is a very prophetic observation.

I am inclined to agree with Deputy Tierney in that remark. The task which confronts me, indeed any Minister for Agriculture, is of such vast proportions and the problems are so intractable that I do not think it is possible ever to be enthusiastic about the progress which is being achieved at any given moment compared with what still remains to be done.

What has to be done is to try to get a whole community, very diversified in its form, moving forward in a certain direction. It seems to me that this is both a physical and a psychological problem. It is only possible at any stage to record relative or interim progress. Until such time as every farmer in the country is winning for himself and his family a satisfactory, acceptable standard of living, there can be no suggestion of any Minister for Agriculture being satisfied with his efforts. We are far from such a situation, and all I can do is to explain what we are doing, why we are doing it and what success, if any, is attending our efforts in the different directions.

First, I want to claim that we have a progressive approach to agriculture and its problems and possibilities. In recent years we have introduced many new schemes, adopted many new approaches and many new concepts. We have shown ourselves flexible and adaptable, ready to meet new situations and to take new measures if they appeared to be necessary to cope with the difficulties that arise. I claim that my mind is not closed in any direction. I am prepared to sit down and discuss any suggestion or proposal put to me by any Deputy, any farmer or any organisation, in a receptive way. It is an essential part of my policy to conduct the affairs of my Department in the closest possible consultation with farmers and their representative organisations. It is very important that I should at this stage emphasise that. I have worked assiduously and patiently towards this objective.

I readily admit that current developments represent a setback to that policy but I want to assure the House that I have no intention of abandoning it, because I believe it is the only way possible to succeed in Irish agriculture. I know also that calmer times will return and that it will be possible to develop this whole process of consultation and co-operation fully and fruitfully, because there is a great deal to be done.

When I hear farmers or their spokesmen saying angrily or impatiently or in any other way that some scheme is of no benefit to the small farmer, I realise then there has been a breakdown in communication. It must be possible to get some reasonable amount of agreement. There will always be cranks with their own hobbyhorses, and we shall have to rule them out, but with the general body of farmers, it should be possible to get a reasonable amount of agreement, given the amount of money available, for the aids and incentives which we should have.

I have said recently I am prepared to sit down and discuss in complete detail with farmers' representatives every scheme we have in operation to show what each scheme is costing, who is availing of it, what the results are, and on the basis of that examination of each scheme to try to get an agreed assessment of the particular scheme, of its utility and effectiveness. That sort of operation would be well worth doing at this time.

In that connection I want to mention we have had very useful meetings with the Western Regional Agricultural Council since it was established. In the course of these meetings, we covered a wide range of topics. In particular, the Council has given a lot of attention to this question of the degree to which the small western farmer is benefiting from the present schemes or is able to avail of them. Among other things it emerged during these discussions that there was widespread concern among the members of the Council in regard to the decline in pig numbers which had occurred in many western areas and also the underlying importance of sheep in the economy of the West. These discussions have been of very great value to me in taking certain decisions which I shall come to later. In any event, we can, I assert, only make progress in agriculture in an atmosphere of reason and co-operation through constructive discussion. I hope that principle will be more widely accepted in farming as its fruits become known.

I want to say a brief word at this point about farmer unity. This is a subject about which I am deeply concerned. I deliberately refrain from talking about it in public to the greatest possible extent because I do not think that uttering platitudes about the desirability of farming unity is of the slightest use. But I want to assure the House that I earnestly and sincerely desire unity amongst farmers. It would make my task as Minister for Agriculture infinitely easier if we had such unity.

I want to say a word about the general economic framework inside which our agriculture has to operate and the overall approach we have to our economic policy. As the House knows, the Government's Second Programme for Economic Expansion is based on the assumption that Ireland will be a member of the European Economic Community by 1970. Apart from the political, cultural and other considerations which motivate us in seeking to become part of this European community, the arrangements being introduced for agriculture within EEC hold a very special attraction for us and the great significance of agriculture in our economy makes the achievement, if at all possible, of full membership of the EEC by 1970 a matter of the very greatest importance.

The Common Agriculture Policy which is being introduced in the EEC involves a managed market for agriculture. Producers will be assured of a fair return for their output. Membership of the Community will enable all farmers to compete in a huge market on an equal footing with other producers within that market and should give our farmers returns comparable with those obtained by continental producers. The price structure for agricultural products within the EEC should operate to bring about an expansion in our agricultural output and exports and should undoubtedly result in very real benefit to our national economy as a whole.

I said before, and I want to repeat, that the Free Trade Area Agreement which we negotiated with Britain provides a substantial measure of opportunity for Irish farmers. The arrangements made are in accordance with the desire of the Government to bring about the greatest co-operation and harmonisation between the two agricultures; to try to bring policy and prices in the two countries into closer alignment. And this, of course, is entirely consistent with our eventual membership of the Common Market. Agriculture is the largest single sector of our economy.

Hear, hear.

Over 30 per cent of our people are engaged in it and it produces over 20 per cent of our total national product. It generates some two-thirds of our total exports.

Hear, hear.

Naturally, the Government are acutely concerned about the future development of this fundamentally important industry.

But it gets only one-fifth of the national income.

The development of our agriculture is, of course, bound up with the growth of the economy as a whole. It has been repeated time and again but, I suppose, it is no harm to mention once more, that as agriculture becomes more efficient and produces more food with less manpower, it must look to industry for increased home demand and for greater employment opportunities for those who have to leave the land. Industry, in turn, finds in agriculture an increasingly important source of raw materials and also a market for industrial goods which farmers use in greater quantities as they become more highly mechanised and capital intensive. Agriculture helps to pay for the imports of raw materials for industry and, of course, it plays, as some Deputies have pointed out, a fundamentally important part in the whole balance of payments problem.

It took you a long time to learn that.

I learned that when I was a student of economics at school.

You disagreed with the Government at that time, when you were a student at college. That was when the Minister was in Fine Gael.

Deputy L'Estrange, who has already spoken, should allow the Minister to make his speech.

The trouble with the Fine Gael Party is that they cannot come out of the past. They are hopelessly embedded in a past which is sterile, conservative——

That comes very well from a Fianna Fáil director of elections in connection with the present election campaign.

Why do they not stop Deputy MacEntee from living in the past?

We had better allow the Minister to get back to his avocation as Minister for Agriculture.

It is very necessary that the Government's plans for agricultural development should be included in any national expansion programme, and ours have been. I want to suggest that these plans are precise and comprehensive. They envisage a growth in agricultural output which is possible and practicable and which will bring about a substantial improvement in the conditions of farmers and of rural Ireland as a whole.

Some of these targets of ours are well on their way towards realisation. Our broad aim was to increase total agricultural output by approximately one-third between 1963 and 1970. We wanted to achieve a situation where the annual output of cattle would rise from 1,126,000 approximately to one and a half million; milk sales would go up from about 525 million gallons to about 760 million gallons; sheep output per annum would go up to about two and a half million; pig output up to about two million per annum; barley up to 600,000 tons per annum and so on.

The question, of course, is, how were we to bring about this expansion? The plan, I suggest, takes account of the situation as we find it both at home and abroad. It indicates the general policies to be pursued and it also sets out the wide variety of measures of one sort or another which the Government may take to help the farmer and assist his efforts to achieve a reasonable standard of income for himself.

I am afraid it is fundamentally true of our situation and the peculiar conditions that seem to affect the primary producers the world over that the very best efforts of the farmer to help himself will be of no avail unless they are fully and adequately supported by Government measures. These Government measures must be of two kinds. First of all, there are those designed to improve efficiency of production of the farmer and then there are those which are designed to try to maintain the prices of agricultural produce at a reasonable level. In the first category we can include all the various facilities for education and training, the assistance towards land reclamation and improving the land generally, assistance towards better buildings, assistance towards better quality of livestock. All these come within the first category— a very important category—a whole structure of aids and incentives designed to help the farmer increase his own productivity.

The second category includes all the measures which the Government take to support prices and to try to safeguard the farmer's income and his investment from the hazards which the inherent instability of food markets brings upon him.

These are the two sets of measures which we operate to try to ensure that the targets for agriculture set in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion are achieved. They are expensive and, unfortunately, they are becoming more expensive every year. They are fully justified but we must admit that they are expensive and it is to be hoped that the operation of improved marketing methods and systems and better trade arrangements, particularly eventual membership of the EEC, will make this whole series of measures a great deal easier for our community to bear in the long run.

In this context of policy objectives, I want very emphatically to state, in case there should be any doubt about it, that it is this Government's aim that agricultural production should be based on the maintenance and strengthening of the family farm system and that we are particularly concerned to help the small farmer. We accept completely and entirely the principle enunciated in Mater et Magistra in the following words: “We are bound above all to consider as an ideal the kind of farm which is owned and managed by the family”. I want to say that it is entirely wrong to suggest that we are neglecting the small farmer and it is a malicious and dangerous falsehood for anyone, no matter how exalted he may be, to talk about some wish to exterminate the small farmer.

They are exterminated. They are gone—300,000 of them.

It was this Government who set up the committee that produced the first comprehensive report ever seen in this country on the problems of the small farmer——

If reports could save them, they would be well saved.

——and this Government are acting energetically on the recommendations contained in that report. The 12 pilot areas which are going ahead in the west of Ireland are producing good results. In Glencolumbkille, as an experiment, we have inaugurated a very special intensive scheme specially devised to take into account the particular features of a mountain area of that sort and an area composed of small farms and that scheme also, I am very glad to say, has had a very good beginning and it is very encouraging indeed. But I want to say that I believe in a comprehensive approach to the problem of the small farm and not any piecemeal commodity approach. It does seem to me that the very serious problems, which every Deputy in this House recognises, attaching to the small farm cannot be solved or will not ever be solved by increases in the guaranteed prices for different products on an ad hoc basis. The problems go very much deeper than that and the idea behind our Pilot Scheme in the West was to enable us to get a first-hand, grass roots grasp of these problems and, as a result of a first-hand study of them, to come up with well thought-out schemes designed to enable every small farm in the country to reach its full potential.

I intend to work out and launch such a scheme using the experience already gained and which is being gained still in the pilot areas. I do not want to rush our fences in this regard and I do not think any Deputy would wish me to do so. To do anything like that and to come up with half-baked, ill-conceived plans would be only doing a disservice to the small farmer about whom we are all so very genuinely concerned.

Hear, hear.

We hope to get a carefully worked out practical plan which will be realistically related to the actual circumstances of the Irish small farmer and we have included in this year's Budget a sum of £100,000 which was merely a token of our intention to get such a plan under way.

One-tenth of a penny on cigarettes.

One of the troubles about agriculture is that when you try to do something constructive and forward-looking you will always get someone who, for Party political reasons, will misinterpret and sneer at it.

Brother, you have said a mouthful.

The Minister can teach us a lesson in that regard.

I think that ball rebounded.

That one will be hopping for a while.

There have been a number of statements made in this House and elsewhere which seem to have a sort of hypnotic effect. They are repeated ad nauseam. The latest statement of this sort which is gaining ground in popularity in certain quarters is that some or all of our Departmental schemes which are designed to encourage better farming and higher productivity in farming benefit only the large farmers, that, in fact, they are no good at all to the small farmers. I want to make it clear, because it is important that I should, that this is just not true. Take, for instance, our farm building scheme. Since that scheme began, the total number of grants paid was 311,222. The total amount of money paid out was £12.4 million. We have made an analysis of that scheme on the basis of a random sample. Of these 311,222 grants, no less than 179,000 totalling about £5½ million, were paid to holdings not exceeding 50 acres. We also had a similar analysis made of the heifer scheme.

This was on a sample basis?

A random sample.

And it was grossed up to arrive at that percentage figure? It is not an exact figure?

No, but the analysis we made of the heifer scheme is exact. It is not based on a sample. The number of herds in the country is 237,000 and of these 120,000 have benefited from the scheme. Of the total number of farmers who participated out of that 120,000, you have 79 per cent who came into the scheme with herds which did not exceed ten cows. A total of 79 per cent of the participants started the scheme with ten cows or less and 54 per cent had five cows or less.

The man with 100 bullocks might come into the scheme and he would have less than ten cows.

You can argue until the cows come home, but the men with five cows or less, constituted 54 per cent of the applicants for the heifer scheme. Basically the scheme is for the cow herd owner and more than half of the 120,000 had five cows or less.


The men with ten cows or less in their herds coming into the scheme got over £3,600,000 out of the total of £5¾ million which has been paid to date. It seems to me that that effectively disposes of this particular catchcry "the heifer scheme is of no benefit to the small man". It just does not stand up to examination. I wonder why there is this attempt to decry any particular progress we make in agriculture. I find that the more successful the scheme is, by some perverse thinking, it seems to attract a greater degree of criticism.

Can the Minister deny that only 50 per cent of the farmers benefited from the scheme?

I have given the Deputy the figures. It is not a question of denying anything or not denying it. I am not emotional about this. I am giving the statistics. There is a total of 237,000 herd owners of whom 120,000 participated in the scheme. We are concerned with the 120,000 who participated and of that number more than one-half came in with a cow herd of five or less. These are simple facts.

And possibly 100 bullocks.

They could also have a yacht in the Mediterranean but all I am concerned with is that they had——

Do not talk about the Mediterranean or we will talk about somebody else who lives over there.

Give statistics for the whole herd.

The scheme has been the most successful single incentive scheme ever introduced into Irish agriculture and for the first time we have broken through this half-century old barrier of a cow population of 1,200,000 head. That is a significant and spectacular achievement by the farmers, aided by the heifer scheme.

It has also been suggested by some of the critics of the scheme that the increase in cow numbers has been achieved by the retention of old cows in the herd. I had a very careful analysis of the scheme carried out by experts and they found that the retention of old cows in the herds exists only to a very minor degree and that, in fact, the average age of our cow herds is now appreciably less than it was five or ten years ago. In view of the continuing attacks on the heifer scheme, I asked the Central Statistics Office to make a detailed, scientific examination of it and the results achieved to date. I wanted an outside, detached and impartial examination because it could, I suppose, be said that in the Department we might be prejudiced in favour of the scheme. I have the report of that examination which was carried out by the Central Statistics Office and I am going to publish it for all the Deputies and others who are interested to see——

I was told that figures can be very misleading.

The Minister told us that these official statistics could be misleading.

I said that the Deputy's interpretation of them was very misleading. It is very easy to misinterpret statistics if you are dishonest.

Are we to take it that the Minister is being honest?

I am glad to be able to tell the House that this examination, which was carried out in a completely objective and impartial manner, indicates that the scheme was in fact a great success and was instrumental in the main in achieving this break-through in this barrier of traditional cow numbers. It is hard to understand what are the motives of some of the critics. I suppose it is reasonable that they would criticise the scheme just because it is a Fianna Fáil scheme.

Deputy O'Connor criticised it.

Order. Deputy L'Estrange has already spoken and the Minister should be allowed to speak.

The fact is that this scheme has been particularly successful. I also want to say that there is no suggestion of this scheme being suddenly and abruptly terminated. Any alteration in it, or any decision ultimately to terminate it, will be announced well in advance so that everybody will know exactly how he should plan his breeding programme.

The Minister will agree that it is of really no benefit to the farmers who have already brought their herds up to the maximum?

This is an argument which is advanced. It is suggested that a farmer who was already a good farmer and was stocking his farm to the maximum would not benefit from the scheme.

That is right.

I am not sure that there is such a farmer in the country.

The Minister's knowledge of agriculture is very limited.

Wait a minute. I am not sure that with modern methods and so on, any farmer cannot increase the stocking of his land. Deputies would be saying to me that every farm is at its maximum possible carrying capacity. I admit that the farm may be at its maximum, having regard to the capital and so on available to the particular farmer, but I do not think there is a farm the capacity of which could not be increased if we could go about it in the right way.

I want to deal now with some aspects of our policy related to the different types of farming which we have. I suppose in this connection I should take the dairy farmer first because to a large extent this debate has centred on his particular situation. Indeed, an outside observer in the Gallery might tend to get the impression that there is only one type of farmer in the country. It is true of course that we have a wide range of dairy farmers. We have the farmers who supply liquid milk to the towns and cities, who are situated mainly in Leinster and also throughout the country; we also have creamery milk suppliers who are situated mainly in the south and in the west, but, of course, represented to a greater or lesser extent in other counties as well; then we have in the West and elsewhere what I regard as new dairymen, men who have taken up dairying recently, either as a more intensive form of farming than that in which they have been traditionally engaged, or in substitution for some other type of husbandry.

Dairy farmers also vary greatly in the size and scale of their operations. This makes it very difficult to deal with the income position of the dairy farmer and apply any measures which are uniform in their effect. This is, I think, the reason behind the ICMSA proposal for a two-tier milk price increase for creamery milk suppliers. This disparity in the size and output of our dairy farmers is something which makes a basic increase in the price of milk have a disproportionate effect in different parts of the country. I mentioned in my opening speech very cogent arguments, as I saw them, against this system of a two-tier price.

Will the Minister report progress so that we can follow his theme intelligently?

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.