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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 3 Dec 1970

Vol. 250 No. 3

Committee on Finance. - Vote 37: Agriculture (Resumed).

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

A fair yardstick of the success of the Government's agricultural policy is the degree to which the targets set out by the Government in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion have been reached. The proposed terminal year for the Second Programme for Economic Expansion is 1970. If we compare the projections made then as to what agricultural output would be this year with the actual results it can be seen that the agricultural policy has been a substantial failure.

The Second Programme projected that agricultural output in the sixties would rise by 62 per cent, but in actual fact agricultural output up to 1968 had only risen by 24 per cent. It is highly unlikely that we shall reach the targets in 1969 and 1970. Agricultural targets have fallen well below the targets set set out in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion. This should cause the Government considerable concern. They cannot sweep under the carpet the projections which they made in 1963 when drawing up the Second Programme. These projections were made by the Fianna Fáil Government, they have seen them through and if the programme has failed it is indicative of the failure of the policies the Government introduced to ensure that programme targets were met.

The target for cattle production for the year 1970 was 6½ million but in actual fact we only have 5,800,000 cattle at present. We failed to reach that target. An unfortunate aspect of cattle numbers is that the payments made by the Government under the beef export guarantee scheme have not kept pace with payments made to British factories and, in particular, to Northern Ireland factories. The Government have kept pace with the most recent increase in Britain, and this is commendable, but I cannot see why they cannot now restore parity and pay the same amount to our factories as is being paid by the British Government to factories in Northern Ireland. This puts these factories at a considerable advantage over our factories and, while the effect is not yet evident to any great extent, it could well become evident at any time if our factories get into difficulties. Northern Ireland factories would be at a very considerable advantage and the danger would be that employees in the meat factories here would be put out of employment. Because our factories are not receiving the same support, in a competitive situation they would be the first to go to the wall.

On artificial insemination, only 63 of the 265 dairy bulls in the service have been progeny tested. This is a very bad situation. We should ensure that all bulls used in the AI service are progeny tested. If they are not tested no one will know what kind of progeny they will produce and people will be working more or less in the dark. We should ensure that the highest proportion possible of these bulls is progeny tested. This could be done quite easily. So many bulls would not be necessary with modern methods of semen dilution and, by adopting the methods used in New Zealand, we could make a smaller number of bulls go much further, thereby ensuring that we use only the best.

In relation to performance testing, the Department takes a certain amount of credit in staling they are introducing performance testing and setting up a station to do this at Tully in Kildare. It is worth noting that in the Second Programme they were also talking about performance testing. That was in 1963. They are still talking about it. Nothing has actually been done yet. If the case for performance testing is as strong as it apparently was in the minds of those who drew up the Second Programme for Economic Expansion why have we had to wait until 1971?

It is, I think, very unfortunate that there is no representation of farmers' organisations on the CBF. The producers and their organisations are the most important component in the beef industry. They should have representation on CBF. I understand a classification scheme is at present being drawn up. This is being drawn up by a body made up of representatives of the CBF, the Department of Agriculture, An Foras Talúntais and the meat factories. Why is there no producer representation on the body responsible for classification? Surely, the farmers have as much interest as anybody else in ensuring that a proper classification system is drawn up? Such a system is one of the best ways of ensuring a good export trade for our beef because people will know what they are getting and the system will ensure they get what they want. The farmers have as big an interest as anybody in having a proper classification system in existence. I should like to know why it was decided not to give producer representation on the body drawing up this classification system to the farmers. I should also like to know when the system will come into operation.

With regard to milk production, the multi-tier system has been partially modified as a result of the recent announcement by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The system acts as a severe disincentive to expansion. That has been accepted by all responsible bodies in the industry. It is extraordinary that the Government have not responded to the repeated representations made to them by all the responsible bodies in the creamery milk industry. I notice that those producing over 30,000 gallons per annum are getting no increase. This is very unfortunate. This will operate as a disincentive to people to increase production beyond 30,000 gallons per annum. It is worth noting that under the most modern dairying methods in Britain and in the EEC countries the production of 30,000 gallons means that very good cows provide employment for only one man. The ideal in Irish agricultural policy is to ensure that on any given farm there is employment for two men so that there will be some time off for each and that no one man will have to be on the farm all the time. It is unfortunate that our agricultural policy in relation to creamery milk should contain a regulation which has the effect of preventing people reaching a level of production which, using the most efficient methods, would give employment to two men. With the most efficient methods of production a level of 30,000 gallons per annum would give employment to only one man. I think this policy will discourage the most efficient methods and also discourage people reaching a level of production which would give employment to two men. This is not in line, I think, with the policies we should be adopting.

In the last two years there has been a substantial decline in creamery milk production. The greatest decline has taken place on the small farms. These are the farms the multi-tier system was intended to benefit, the best price being given to those producing below a certain level. Yet these are the areas in which the greatest decline in creamery milk production has occurred. It is entirely wrong that we should have a system of pricing which discourages an increase in creamery milk production, particularly in view of the fact that it is essential, if we enter the EEC, that we should produce the maximum amount of creamery milk in order to ensure our taking full advantage of the opportunities offered for creamery milk production in the EEC. One of the sectors which should benefit most from EEC membership is the creamery milk industry and any policy which allows creamery milk production to decline is highly unwise. Such a policy means that we are reducing our capacity to take advantage of the opportunities available to the creamery milk industry in the EEC.

I notice that in the early 1960s creamery rationalisation was recommended by a study group set up by the IAOS. Subsequent to that there was the Knapp report which made the same recommendations. Now the Minister is setting up yet another study group to make recommendations to him on rationalisation. When will the studies and the reports stop? When will some decision be taken on creamery rationalisation? Surely we have done enough study now to enable us to take decisions? Is the Minister putting off decisions because he is afraid to take decisions which might make his party unpopular in certain areas? I sincerely hope that is not the case. It is clear we will not be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered in the EEC unless we have an efficient creamery milk industry. It is also clear that without rationalisation we will not have an efficient creamery milk industry. I should like to know why the Government have not yet taken decisions in relation to rationalisation.

In the case of liquid milk production supplied for domestic consumption, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in 1969 there was only one increase totalling three-pence per gallon to liquid suppliers. In that year the bottlers of liquid milk received an increase equivalent to 8d per gallon, or 1d a pint per bottle. Why should the Department sanction such a large increase for the wholesalers, who are merely the middlemen, and only give 3d to the producers? We should also remember that the increase of 3d this year was exceptional and that in previous years increases for the liquid milk suppliers were much less.

It is also worth noting that the 3d increase for the suppliers this year was intended to cover only the increased costs that had occurred to the end of 1969. Since 1970 there have been further increases in costs for the suppliers and the Government should consider whether the increase is sufficient to cover those increased costs since the beginning of 1970. Wage costs have increased by 25 per cent; fertiliser costs have risen by 10 per cent; and feeding costs have increased by 15 per cent. All these increases are reducing the profit margin for the liquid milk suppliers and the Government must look into this matter.

I am glad to see that the scheme in relation to farm buildings is being revised in order to achieve parity between dry stock and milk suppliers. I I hope that when this revision takes place certain bureaucratic requirements will be removed. There are many requirements for farmers to qualify for a grant under the farm buildings scheme —requirements that bear no relation to the productive needs on the farm. In some cases the requirements laid down by the Department would entail too much expenditure and it is not worthwhile for the farmer to apply for the grant.

In relation to the small farm incentive bonus scheme, at the end of 1969 there was a considerable decline in the numbers accepted for this scheme. In the last three months of 1968, some 1,646 people were accepted, whereas in the last three months of 1969 the number had declined to 621. These figures indicate that while this scheme was quite promising in the initial stage it has been declining in effectiveness. The scheme should be revised and made more attractive to farmers. I am sure that many who could benefit are not availing of the scheme. Something needs to be done, either by way of publicity or by improving the terms of the scheme to ensure that farmers are made aware of its benefits. In this connection it is important to note that there are some counties where the number of applicants have been high relative to the population and in other counties the number is very low. The areas that give greatest concern include Counties Donegal, Longford, Monaghan, Kildare, Roscommon and Meath. In these areas the small farmers have not been taking advantage of this scheme to such an extent as, say, farmers in County Mayo. These regional discrepancies need an explanation.

This scheme introduces the idea of farm planning and the keeping of accurate accounts. This is valuable. It should be applied to a wider range of farmers than is currently the case. If a farmer wishes to qualify for the scheme he must have a system of farming that in the last calendar year gave an estimated gross profit margin of less than £700. This figure should be increased at least to £1,000, particularly in view of the fact that inflation has been so high and the figure of £700 now bears no relation to its value when the scheme was introduced.

The greatest failure in our agricultural policy has been sheep production. It is worth noting that had the target set out in the Second Programme been reached, sheep numbers in 1970 would be in the region of 6.6 million. Sheep numbers in 1970 are no more than 3,900,000 and this indicates clearly that the policy adopted by the Government has been a monumental failure. It has also had a serious effect on our balance of payments. In 1966 our exports of sheep to Great Britain and Northern Ireland exceeded our imports from those areas by 66,000. However, in 1969 imports of sheep from Great Britain and Northern Ireland exceeded our exports by 41,000. The Minister claims to have evidence that the trend of the decline in sheep numbers in the past few years has been reversed. However, he has not produced any concrete evidence to back up his statement.

This decline is particularly serious when we consider that sheep production has the greatest opportunity for expansion under EEC conditions. The consumption per head in the Common Market is much lower than in Great Britain. In France the annual consumption of mutton and lamb is only 6 lbs. per head of the population, whereas in Ireland and Britain consumption is 23 lbs. or 24 lbs. per head of the population. Obviously, therefore, there is great opportunity to expand consumption of mutton and lamb in the EEC. We produce mutton and lamb effectively. There is an opportunity to increase consumption and to expand exports. It is worth noting that it has been estimated that in an enlarged EEC the self-sufficiency in relation to sheep and lambs, even taking into account the fact that consumption levels are so low and that there has been no effort to increase the consumption in Europe, will be only 60 per cent. There is great scope for sheep production in EEC countries. There are great opportunities for Irish farmers. It is a great tragedy that we allowed, and are continuing to allow, sheep numbers to decline. The numbers of sheep mentioned under the Second Programme target are twice what we have in 1970. There has been a constant decline to date in sheep numbers. It is a pity that this has happened. The advantages under EEC conditions may be lost. Emphasis should be placed on sheep production to ensure that we take advantage of EEC conditions. Under the Wool Marketing Act, 1968, a grading system was to be brought into operation in relation to wool. This system is not yet fully effective. I do not understand the delay in this matter.

A report of a body set up by the Government to consider pig production recommended rationalisation in relation to the number of pig factories in this country. Nothing has been done. We will not be in a position to take full advantage of pig production under EEC conditions because of this. There are a large number of bacon factories in the country at the moment. For this reason they are not as efficient as they might be. Lower prices are being given to producers and higher prices are being charged to the consumers in order to keep the factories in existence. The conditions prevailing in the future may force some of these factories out of existence. We must do something now about the number of bacon factories so that the employees can have proper re-training in preparation for the time when the numbers employed in the bacon factories decrease. These people must get re-training early enough to ensure that they will qualify for alternative employment. We have neglected to do anything about bacon factory rationalisation. It may be too late for many of the employees. We are misleading them. These factories cannot all continue to operate under competitive conditions. We should be doing something about the departmental report. If we are rejecting the report we should give good reasons for doing so. If we do not reject it we should be doing something about the factories. That report was introduced seven years ago. Pig numbers could be increased substantially. In Belgium pig production has been trebled over the last three years.

We have been talking about the damage done by sheep scab for many years. Efforts have been made to eradicate sheep scab over the past 50 years. The Department admit that a proper system of eradication could rid us of this disease within two or three years. We have not been resolute enough and have not taken the measures necessary to eliminate the disease. Perhaps a scheme similar to the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme should be put into effect, by which the matter would be handled on a county basis and eradication would be carried out in certain areas first and then extended to other areas. Farmers are quite used to this method. The eradication of scab does not involve the extensive use of blood tests as in the case of brucellosis. A scheme for the eradication of sheep scab could be introduced without undue expenditure. The short-term expense might be heavy but in the long term the savings would be great. The amount spent on small schemes which do not make eradication effective is probably greater than any expense involved if we adopted a full eradication scheme over two or three years. The severe losses to the national economy and to the sheep industry arising from this disease must be taken into account. I hope something will be done soon.

I deplore the attitude of the Minister and of the Government in relation to warble fly eradication. I quote from the document "Main Activities of the Department" which says in relation to the increase in warble fly infestation between 1967 and the beginning of 1970:

As a result it was decided to reintroduce a general autumn dressing campaign in 1970 but because of opposition by some farming organisations this was not practicable.

Clearly the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was trying to put the whole blame for the failure of the warble fly eradication scheme on the farming organisations. This is entirely wrong. There may be blame on all parties but to blame the farming organisations entirely is grossly unfair. This is serious in view of the fact that the most important component in a successful scheme for the eradication of this pest is the farmers' co-operation. If the Minister blames the farming organisations entirely he will ensure that he will not get the farmers' co-operation which is vital to the success of the scheme. In his speech the Minister says :

It seems that in future treatment of the warble fly will have to be on a voluntary basis.

It is clear to me that there is no hope of the warble fly being eradicated if it is to be done on a voluntary basis. We might as well cease calling it a warble fly eradication scheme if we operate it on a voluntary basis because the same thing will happen as happened in 1967. Infestation will rise fast and we shall be back where we started. In 1967, warble infestation was approximately 1 per cent but, by August, 1970, it was up to 12 per cent. Obviously, the scheme on a voluntary basis is not effective.

I should like the Minister to introduce a general autumn dressing with a price for the drug not of 4s which was considered by the farming organisations to be excessive. The Government withdrew the general autumn dressing in 1967 and the farmers naturally considered that a cost of 4s per beast for dressing was excessive. I trust that, in the near future, the Department will make a contribution towards the dressing costs in view of the fact that the scheme would not be necessary now but for the mistake made by the Department in 1967. That is one way of ensuring co-operation from the farming community. Then, some time next August, there should be an announcement that, in the following spring, spot checks will be carried out to ensure there is no warble infestation and that penalties will be imposed on farmers who have a level of warble infestation which indicates they did not have their cattle dressed according to the compulsory dressing scheme. If these spot checks are announced well in advance and if there is some penalty involved it will ensure that all cattle are dressed.

During the general autumn dressings in 1965 and 1966, a minority of farmers did not dress their cattle. Their farms became the seed beds for warble infestation and gradually it has spread throughout the country again. We should aim at rooting out these pockets of infestation. We must stop fiddling with the problem and get rid of warbles in a short space of time. There has been a considerable expenditure, a lot of which has gone for naught.

I am generally satisfied with the progress of the brucellosis scheme. However, under the voluntary brucellosis certified herd scheme which is in operation in all counties since June, 1965, and which is particularly important in counties where full-scale eradication has not been introduced, there is a possibility that a herd could become certified by using not only the negative blood test but also the milk ring test. This would be a more economical and less cumbersome way of testing for brucellosis. Careful consideration should be given to the use of the milk ring test under the brucellosis certified herd scheme.

A point which causes me some concern is the limit on the price to be paid per beast destroyed as a reactor under the brucellosis eradication scheme. Recently, this has been raised from £100 to £125 per beast as a result of pressure in this House and also from the farming organisations. A limit is unwise. Why can we not pay the actual value of the beast to be destroyed? With a limit, there is a tendency for people to go right up to the limit. The limit system is probably costing the Department more than would be the case if the actual value of the beast were paid. Does the Minister not trust his inspectors to settle the real value of animals destroyed under this scheme?

There has been a substantial decline in potato production. This fact is mentioned without comment in the notes dealing with the main activities of the Department. We do not know if the Department are prepared to accept this continued decline in potato production. Do they intend to arrest this decline? There has been a particularly bad potato harvest in parts of the country due to flooding. The potato harvest in Donegal has been very bad. Emergency measures may be needed here in the way of, perhaps, interest-free loans to farmers to help them to cope with their losses on this crop this year.

In relation to agricultural advisory services, we are told that in-service training is being given to advisers. They are being brought back for various types of courses even after they have completed their formal training as advisers. How many of them can avail of this? Another factor in relation to advisers is that many of them move from one county to another very quickly in order to obtain promotion. They move from one county to another to a great extent because promotion may, as a result of some staff changes, become difficult in a particular county and the logical thing is to move to another county where opportunities may be greater. As a result, we have a position in which agricultural advisers are playing musical chairs, moving from one county to another. This is very bad when you remember that the most important thing in regard to agricultural advisory services is the development of a confidential relationship between the farmer and the adviser so that they know each other personally. If the adviser is changed from one year to the next and there is a succession of different advisers they will not be able to develop this relationship. A bonus should be given on salary to advisers who stay in the same area for a considerable period and are thus in a position to develop confidential relationships with farmers in that area.

It has been generally pointed out in regard to international organisations that our contribution to the relief of poverty in less developed parts of the world has been well below that of other countries and certainly below the 1 per cent laid down, I think, by the United Nations. I do not know if it was that body: I have not done much research on this but I believe it is generally accepted that we have not been playing our part as a developed country in helping undeveloped countries. We all have a great feeling of sympathy when we hear of a disaster such as the recent Pakistan disaster but this is an emotional reaction, not something that takes much practical effect. It is easy to feel sympathy about something as obvious as the recent disaster in Pakistan but the need for aid in these countries is a continuing one. It does not arise when a disaster like this occurs; there is poverty all the time in some parts of the world. While I recognise that the Department have been increasing their contribution, it is clear that as a developed country, which we are, our contribution is not on a par with that given by other developed countries. I sincerely hope something will be done to improve the position. As an immediate measure I suggest that the annual grant-in-aid of £10,000 to Gorta should be substantially increased.

On page 47 of the notes on the main activities of the department it is stated that Ireland in 1967 signified its readiness to make a contribution to the Food Aid Convention and a nominal provision of £1.000 has been made for this purpose. I should like some information as to what this Food Aid Convention is and as to why, if the convention became effective in 1967, we are still making only a nominal provision of £1,000 towards it. Has the convention not become effective? Perhaps that is so. I should like some information on this matter.

I see that officers of the Department have attended meetings of the OECD committee for agriculture and its working parties during 1969. Among the matters which continued to engage attention, it is said, were the position and prospects in respect of agricultural commodities particularly dairy products and meat. I should like some information as to the result of our participation in these international bodies. We are sending civil servants to various parts of the world to attend meetings of bodies such as this but the House never gets much information as to what is happening, what our representatives are doing, what policies they advocate and what are the results of participation in these bodies. The OECD committees are only an example. There are many bodies to which we send representatives every year. The House never knows what is happening. I do not think that is deliberate; if we sought the information I am sure we would get it but I hope that the Minister, when concluding, will give more information than is given here about our participation in these organisations.

In regard to information and publicity, there is reference in the notes to the Farm Bulletin published monthly now. Deputies receive this publication. I do not know how much it costs. I do not suppose it costs a great deal. I do not know who else receives it or how wide its circulation is but I wonder if any reader research has been done to ensure that it meets the needs of those receiving it. Is it read or just thrown away? We should find out. I am not sure if the format has changed very much over the years but if we are spending money on it we should ensure that it is readable and fulfils an actual need. If not it should be withdrawn and we should cease spending money on it. I hope some reader research will be done on this bulletin and on all the Department's publications to ensure that they meet a real need. I am sure the £50,000 the Department spend on publicity and information each year could be more effectively spent.

Credit and fertilisers are probably the two most important inputs of any farming enterprise and I hope the Department will continue to extend the grant to the Agricultural Credit Corporation to ensure that all the credit needs of farmers will be met so that they can expand and take advantage of EEC conditions.

Under the technical assistance scheme grants are made to firms in agricultural-based industries to meet part of the cost of (1) training management supervisory personnel, (2) study courses and tours abroad, and (3) engagement of consultants to advise on matters relating to improvement of productive efficiency. Representatives of agricultural and rural organisations as well as officials employed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and by the county committees of agriculture participate in the programme. I should like some information on what type of enterprise gets assistance under this programme, what agricultural and rural organisations are represented and how long the programme has been in existence and how successful it has been. We should have this information. The figure of £45,000 is not very great but if we have this programme we should know more about it than we are told here.

In regard to the EEC the Minister said he had made arrangements for regular consultation between his Department and representatives of agricultural organisations on agricultural aspects of the negotiations. How often have these consultations taken place or how often is it proposed that they should take place? Is there any possibility of the Department bringing representatives of farming organisations to Brussels when the negotiations are taking place there so that the Minister would be able to have on-the-spot consultation with them if any problem arose in the negotiations which affected the interests of the farmers and so that he would not have to make an agreement without consulting them first? He could ensure immediate consultation with them if a difficult problem arose in the negotiations in regard to the position of our farmers. As these negotiations proceed farming organisations should participate on a day-to-day basis, not on a post facto basis where the Minister comes home and tells them what he has negotiated. That would not be true consultation but would be merely informing them of what he has done. I hope the Minister will adopt the idea of bringing representatives of farming organisations to Brussels with him or, alternatively, find some other method of having this day-to-day consultation as the negotiations proceed.

The Minister said :

Sheep numbers have been declining but there is evidence to suggest that this period of decline is now ending as a consequence of our improved production incentives and of the satisfactory level of sheep prices.

I should like the Minister to give us the evidence he has, and I should also like him to tell us the scale of the increase which is indicated by this evidence. To make a bald statement like that is not sufficient. The Minister also said that the Government decided to increase the level of support for our carcase lamb exports to Britain "by a similar sum". That was in relation to the increase in the British guaranteed price for sheep. I do not think this has meant anything so far as the Government are concerned because our exports of lamb to the British market do not reach the level where Government contributions are made from our side. So, that is really a rather meaningless statement.

Are there any new pastures for the Deputy to go into now?

No, my tour de force is completed. My speech was more or less concerned with the details of the Estimate. I did not introduce any total concept of agriculture. It is very difficult for a speaker in my position to put forward a total concept of agricultural development. The best we can do in our position is to concentrate on the various commodities and make proposals in relation to each commodity. I hope that in time we will be in a position to adopt a broader approach.

The Minister regards himself, I think, as an artist of a kind. I was informed that he engaged himself yesterday evening in setting down some impressions of me. I am very thankful to be honoured by the Minister and I am sure when the masterpiece is seen on the canvas it will be very nice. Am I right? There is nothing wrong in setting down impressions of anything or anyone. I do not find fault with the Minister on that score but I like to return compliments and I should like to set down my impression of what has happened here since this debate on agriculture commenced at 7.7 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, December 2nd.

If I may digress a little, many people throughout the country feel that important debates in this House should be televised—debates such as this which is regarded as one of the most important, second in importance to the debate on the Vote for the Department of Finance—and that people should know what is happening.

Supposing our friends who are employed by Telefís Éireann, Joe Fahy and Arthur Noonan, had the task of commentating on the Dáil proceedings to date in this debate, what would they be telling the people? They would say that this debate commenced at 7.7 p.m. on Wednesday last with the Minister taking his place and reading his statement with a small attendance in the House, which possibly could be excused yesterday evening; that having concluded his statement he drank a glass of water and departed from the House and his place was taken by a Parliamentary Secretary. The general public would say that was a rather unusual procedure because the speaker from the main Opposition party, Deputy Bruton, indicated that he went to a great deal of trouble in researching his statement on this debate and the general public would expect that a Minister would be courteous enough to wait and listen to what he had to say.

The debate proceeded for almost an hour. The quorum bells rang and a House could not be found. The Ceann Comhairle had to adjourn the debate for 18 minutes. It was then resumed at 9.30 p.m., the Minister being present on the resumption. From 9.30 p.m. until 10.30 p.m. Deputy Bruton continued to address the House and the Minister engaged himself in child-like drawings. He has the finished article. I am setting down my impression of this debate up to the present.

The debate was resumed shortly after 10.30 this morning. It seemed to me that the Minister went to sleep shortly after the resumption. He woke up at about seven minutes past 11 but while Deputy Bruton was speaking the position was that the Minister was sleeping. After a few minutes he dozed off again until 11.30 when Deputy Bruton resumed his seat. I mentioned that these two commentators would be telling the people that the attendance was exceptionally limited and that a quorum was not present in the House during any part of this discussion. An impartial observer, or possibly the commentators, would say that the general feeling was that the discussion seemed to be of no avail, that here was an elected representative of the people expressing the views of his party, the main Opposition party, and not being given the courtesy of the Minister's attention. I think that is bad. That is my impression. The Minister has set down impressions of me and I think it is no harm for me to set down my impression of what is happening here.

It was a very good drawing of the Deputy. I do not think he should take offence.

I am not taking offence at the drawing the Minister made of me. I have seen previous samples. I thought it was a most inopportune time for the Minister to be engaged in drawing when Deputy Bruton was addressing the House. I thought the Minister should engage in that after 10.30 p.m. or before the discussion commenced. He should have availed of some other time to set down his impressions. I am not taking offence——

I am glad of that.

——but I maintain the right to set down my impressions of how this newly-appointed Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has been behaving in this debate up to the present.

Deputy Bruton was reading from notes with which I supplied him.

He was commenting on them.

I do not like to be hard on the Minister.

That is very kind of the Deputy.

I know he is in a peculiar position. Possibly even the date of this discussion is notable, the date of the by-elections in Donegal and South County Dublin. It would be reasonable to assume that a man of the stature of a Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries would be engaged on electioneering yesterday. If he had been exception would not have been taken. More junior Ministers were absent in Donegal. In fact, the State went to great pains on Monday night, according to press reports, to tell them to stay at their posts. I am not judging the charges and counter-charges that have been made, neither do I intend to take up time going over these charges but to a constituency such as Donegal South West, mainly a farming constituency and possibly like parts of South West Cork made up of small farms, one would have thought that the most influential man for any Government to send along would have been the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and that he would have been much better employed at the peak hour yesterday evening trying to persuade voters to vote for his party than setting down on canvas his impressions of me.

I did not think the Deputy was so sensitive.

I am not sensitive. It is not that.

Is he not rather a handsome man? I cannot get over that.

I do not blame the Minister for whatever is in this Estimate or whatever is not in it. The fortunes of war appointed him quite recently. I am sure his senior officials thought up this statement and I will not take the Minister to task for the activities of his Department since his appointment. He has had a hard time from his own people and I do not propose to add to that. He had difficult assignments of a repetitive nature. He was unfortunate in having to cover ground twice in our courts and I appreciate that that was a difficult task and possibly the Minister could be excused for not taking great pains about his Department during that period and subsequent periods. I am of a very sympathetic nature. I know that the by-election in part of this county is supposed to be largely attributable to the Minister. At least it is definitely attributable jointly to the Minister and the Taoiseach. That is not my statement. It is the statement of the former Deputy and Minister, Mr. Boland. He said he would resign to preserve his honour. He castigated severely the Minister and the Taoiseach. I am not pronouncing judgment on whether that was justifiable or not except to say that Mr. Boland and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Taoiseach were, I am sure, close friends over a period of years. They worked closely together. They were able to assess one another better than we could. We could be regarded as outsiders in comparison with those within the Cabinet and within the party. There is this position then of a Minister and his Taoiseach being responsible for this upheaval in South County Dublin, responsible for a great deal of public expenditure. Polling costs must be met from public funds. I shall not prejudge the result now but it could be one of some significance.

The Deputy has made his point. He should come to the Estimate before the House now.

It relates to the Minister. It is quite in order.

Acting Chairman

Does it relate to the Estimate before the House?

He is discussing by-elections.

I intend leaving the matter, Chairman. It was scarcely worth your while to interfere. The result of this by-election could be significant. It could be the first time for a substantial number of years that we would have a constituency without Fianna Fáil representation.

I wonder would the Deputy excuse me? I have to meet a deputation at 12 o'clock.

I excuse the Minister. I am pleased that he waited on so long. I am sure our friendship will continue.

Oh surely. Not only that, but flourish.

Anything I said was not of a personal nature and I am sure anything the Minister said was not of a personal nature either. Before the Minister goes I want to say that I do not intend to lay any charges against the Minister in so far as agriculture is concerned. I concede that he has been Minister for only a short period. I concede the fact that he had big commitments to handle during that period. They were big, big, big.

The Deputy means they were big.

The Minister had not got the time to deal with departmental work.

May I go now?

That is a matter entirely for the Minister.

Before I go, Mr. Chairman, I should like to thank the Deputy for his courtesy.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Murphy is in order.

Since becoming a Member of this House I have never brought along as much documentation as I have on this occasion, so you might start praying that I do not use it all. It is unusual for me to do this because I do not see much point in Deputies reading from books or statements that are available in the Library. However, I have departed a little from my usual custom on this occasion and I have brought with me the Minister's statement as well as the notes on the activities of the Department and some other notes also.

Last Tuesday night I was amazed to hear the announcement on the 10 o'clock news bulletin that increases were to be granted for certain agricultural products. I was not disappointed with the announcement but I was disappointed that it was made on the night before the Estimate was to be introduced in the House. So far as I know, nothing of this nature has ever happened before. Of course, the idea was to influence the voters in the by-elections but while we all like to influence voters at election time we realise that there are certain standards to be upheld in relation to departmental work. I regret that such standards were not upheld on this occasion

There might be some justification for such an announcement if there was no question of a debate on agriculture arising the following day but the manner in which this announcement was made was almost akin to making a Budget announcement on the day prior to the reading of the Budget statement in the House. Certainly, this was a break with tradition. Whether the announcement, made as it was on the eve of the by-elections, has had any effect on the results of the elections, remains to be seen.

We are told that we are living in an inflationary world. Some of us are prepared to admit that we cannot be regarded as being economists in any sense of the word. Like the majority of Irish people, we have limited education but, of course, some people set themselves up as economists and they lecture in depth on such matters. What the people want to know is what is going to happen here. What will become of the country and where is all the extra money that is being demanded to be found? It is only to be expected that there would be increases but the present situation in this regard is unrealistic. Looking at the Estimates for the current year I notice that the amount required is £418,085,000; last year it was £354,180,000 and for the year 1968-69 it was £302,000,000. Surely such a rate of increase cannot continue. It must be remembered that these increases are apart altogether from the increases voted through local revenue and through increases in rates, a matter about which the Acting Chairman, being a member of three local authorities in Cork county, will be well aware. To my mind this kind of money is not available. We are leading up to a situation such as that which obtained in relation to the stamp auctions some years ago. We are borrowing all the time but one day someone will have to do the reckoning. I suppose we can continue for some few years until that day is reached.

This year the increase in the Estimate for agriculture is £64 million; last year the increase was £52 million. An amount of £52 million is a sizeable sum of money in a country with a population of only 2.8 million people. I shall go back for a moment to the year 1956-57, a year about which we hear much from Fianna Fáil speakers, I was here during that period and I saw nothing wrong with the Government of the day. My only criticism was that the Dáil should not have been dissolved at that time. In the year 1956-57 we were told that the amount required was £109,123,280. It will be seen, therefore, that, 13 or 14 years later, the amount has increased almost fourfold. We are moving at a fast pace but can we stand that pace? I am sure that the rate of increase in taxation coincides with the last period of this Government's time in office. Fianna Fáil have governed continuously since 1957.

That increase is a feature the people should not overlook. One need not be an economist to know that it is a formidable increase. As well as that, we have borrowed money everywhere. We have tried to get what we could from our own people. I appreciate the necessity to get money for capital services, but we have borrowed from Germany, Britain and any other place willing to lend us money. I think we are about to go to the World Bank for a loan this year. In the meantime one of the State-sponsored bodies are busily engaged in seeking capital, which I hope they will get for the work they are undertaking.

Not enough attention is being given to this alarming increase in the demands on the tax-paying public. I repeat that Ireland cannot continue at that pace. We are travelling too fast and we are bound to become tired and fall by the wayside. Something must be done to halt that mad race in taxation that seems to be on at the moment. How it is to be done is a matter for the Government of the day. I assume the previous speaker, Deputy Bruton, scrutinised closely the figures he gave to this House when he said the personnel of the Department of Agriculture has almost trebled since 1961-62. I was surprised to hear that statement and on the assumption it is correct I ask: can we afford to expand and employ people at this rate? Are the Department of Agriculture employing people in work of a nonproductive nature and are they contributing towards this upward trend in national taxation?

From reading the particulars of the Estimate and taking into account the overall increase of £64 million in the taxation rate to be levied this year it can be seen that the expenditure of the Department shows a decrease in 1970-71 of £1,062,000 as against 1969-70. The Minister mentioned last night—and I cannot understand why the figures are not included in this Estimate since the year is eight months old now—that supplementary Estimates would be forthcoming to the extent of £4 million. In any case it is reasonably evident that the Department are responsible for only a relatively small percentage of the gross demand, for taxation purposes, on our population. How have agriculturalists benefited from the increase in taxation and from the many schemes which are supposed to be in operation to assist them since Fianna Fáil took office in 1957? The agricultural organisations' representatives, even in statements made as late as this week, tell us they are not doing very well. They tell us their members are leaving the land, that in some years up to 14,000 have left agricultural employment. Last year the figure stood at around 10,000 and it is steadily decreasing. Those who remain in the industry find that their incomes have not risen, a fact which was admitted by the Minister in the course of his statement, in comparison with the incomes of those engaged in industrial activities. The figures are given in page 1 of this memorandum submitted to us, so I do not think it is necessary to delay the House reading them.

Despite all that has been said about agriculture and all the props and aids that have been given to it, it is strange that the Government have failed to measure up in a reasonable way to the requirements of the organisations' representatives. I am well aware of the general position obtaining at present whereby our population is divided into several groups and in most instances such groups are engaged in fighting for a greater slice of the national cake than they are entitled to. There does not seem to be anyone to arbitrate or to say to any section of the people : "You are looking for too much." If this is said the language is relatively mild. The reason for this is the danger of losing public support, of losing votes. That is possibly one of the defects of a democracy, that people cannot be spoken to, even by a Government such as the Fianna Fáil Government who are regarded as dictatorial, in firm language when their demands are not in keeping with their rights. I claim that agriculturalists are not getting a fair slice of the national cake. I do not blame organisations, elected representatives and members of committees of agriculture claiming increased incomes for the farming community particularly the small and medium sized farms. We are told that only 2½ per cent of the farmers are deemed to be big farmers. This relates to those producing milk in excess of 30,000 gallons.

What do we find on the other side of the picture? When I speak about the other side of the picture I mean land of lower fertility yields such as the 12 western counties or to be more exact the 11? western counties because peculiarly enough less than one-eighth of Cork is deemed to be in the western counties for the purposes of some departmental schemes. How do we find agriculture there after 13 years of Fianna Fáil Government plus years and years of it in the thirties and forties? We find the agricultural community are incapable of making ends meet out of the moneys received from their agricultural activities. Direct payments are being made to farmers all over the area because of this. I think it is most exceptional and most peculiar that this should be the case.

I have never been favourably disposed to giving hand-outs to able-bodied men. I shall continue to say that irrespective of what effect it may have on me politically or otherwise. We do have obligations to those who are mentally and physically handicapped but it is very unfortunate that the farming community are placed in the position of getting hand-outs. The Irish people are known for being an independently minded race and I hope this tradition of independence will continue but this system of giving hand-outs is not conducive towards helping or building up that tradition. People cannot bring up children on air. They must be paid a fair wage. Despite what Fianna Fáil have told small farmers down through the years about being well-off if they were voted back to power, the fact is that they are not well-off, they cannot enjoy the comforts of life without availing of this type of assistance.

Why must we ask these people to go along to exchanges once a week in order to receive their assistance? If this system must continue would it not be better to assess their means, assess what their entitlements are and post the money to them? If they engage in work or their means change the same system which operates in relation to old age pensioners could operate here and they would be obliged to report a change in their circumstances. I do not like the idea of this system being in existence at all in 1970. I do not like bringing these people along to exchanges to sign forms; it is a waste of their time and I am sure they do not like it either.

The Taoiseach said last night that once we get into the Common Market we are going to be in heaven on earth. Apparently once we are in the Common Market we shall all be able to go around in Mercedes. I am elected to this House mainly on the votes of small farmers and I am obliged to look after their interests and help to promote beneficial measures for them. I am sure Deputies know that the Labour Party have been diligent in their efforts to get assessments of what is likely to happen in various fields should we become a member of the EEC.

I have been a member of my party's delegation to Brussels and other parts of Europe with a view to getting that kind of information. In May last, I think it was, we had a three-day session in Brussels and we dealt with agriculture in a most detailed fashion. We had the deputy head of the Department with us, as well as a member of the Commission. I expressed views, personal views, on the agricultural position in Ireland and I mentioned the direct money aids given to some of our farmers in order to bring their incomes up to a living standard. The commissioner had never heard of such a position obtaining anywhere else. He said it certainly did not obtain in the Common Market countries and, since it did not, there was no precedent. He had no hesitation in staling that, if Ireland were to become a member of the Community, he was quite satisfied that that position would not be allowed to continue. He was quite satisfied that after a short transitional period these aids would have to disappear. As well as that the Commission member gave some detailed views on the matter; he said Ireland would not be free to indulge in this kind of system if she were to become a member of the EEC and if she had to continue this system, she would have to get the Community's permission and, if the permission were given, it would have to be set down as a local charge and not as a Community charge.

The Government and others feel, apparently, that we will become members of the EEC within a few years. This question has been with us since 1957. We will have to make changes and we must start making those changes now. I want to say in this Parliament this morning to the farmers concerned that one definite result of our membership of the Community will be a change in the present system. We will have to set about providing an alternative system. The Common Market officials have sent us a great deal of material. The Government have also sent us a great deal of material on our proposed membership of the EEC. I am sure the number of books and pamphlets of different kinds must be exceptionally large. I am sure it is in excess of 100, or more, so that we have got a variety of information on what will happen when we become members of the EEC.

Now the Government are shelving many matters by telling us that we are on the threshold of entry and whatever problems or difficulties exist will be wiped out overnight. No one exemplified that more than the Taoiseach in a statement he made somewhere last night; it is reported in this morning's papers. Everything would be all right; we would be living in a kind of heaven on earth. Possibly the Taoiseach paints a brighter picture than the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries does as to what will happen.

Agriculture is tied up with every industrial development in the country. We are too prone—I have said this all down the years—to discuss agriculture in isolation. We discuss agriculture without reference to industrial activities, activities which have a bearing on agricultural interests. We should have more interdepartmental relationships in order to get the best possible return from the funds expended by the State on development. The Minister did not deal at great length with our EEC membership application. He said he felt compelled to comment on it and he went on to say: "I refer to the unbalanced and distorted arguments which have been promulgated by certain groups and personalities against membership." In a democracy people must accept criticism; people must accept other views and, if we are not in a position in which that is done, then we must have laws and regulations similar to those in operation inside eastern European countries where criticism of public affairs is not allowed.

I do not know to whom the Minister is referring. I know my colleagues on these benches have made some criticisms. I said earlier that there is no party and no one group who have gone to greater pains to get information on the European Economic Community than the Labour Party have. We went along as free agents and we got a great deal of co-operation on different parts of the Continent from different people. We got numbers of booklets. In our discussions the one thing that struck me was that these people seemed to be very frank and objective in their views. I had the opportunity of being a member of the Council of Europe and had the opportunity also of visiting Europe on a number of occasions. I believe, as I have always believed, that a country like ours cannot live in isolation. We must have in the changing world of today some kind of federation amongst the western States of Europe. You have that federation or amalgamation—call it what you will—in eastern Europe. It is very difficult for a small country like ours, with a population of less than 4,500,000 people, if we include the entire country, to live on its own. Once our main market becomes limited, as it will if Britain joins the EEC, we will have no alternative but to join the Community.

I visited the six Common Market countries and I was favourably impressed by the standards obtaining in those areas. This applies even to the poorest parts of Southern Italy. Standards in France, Holland, Belgium, West Germany and Luxembourg have improved and this trend is continuing. It is a pleasing feature to note that these countries, which not very long ago were devastated, are once again prosperous. When we see the progress they have made it is obvious that we will not lose by association with them.

However, the over-optimistic picture that has been painted about the EEC contrasts with the facts and the statements made by member countries of the Community. An impartial observer could with justification hesitate about our entry into the Common Market. There are many people who are totally dissatisfied with the picture painted by the Government. So far as agriculture is concerned, the view of the Government seems to be that once we enter the Community all our troubles will be over.

We must realise we shall have to pay a high price. There has been much talk about the restructuring of milk prices in the Community but, if we become members, we shall have a lot of work to do in this direction. I have here an official booklet issued in 1968 by the secretariat of the Commission which deals also with small farmers— a subject I discussed earlier in my speech. The Parliamentary Secretary is deemed to be a knowledgeable man and I assume he has read this booklet. Several chapters are devoted to agriculture and I shall quote from some statements made on the subject.

I must confess to the Deputy that I have not read the booklet.

The booklet is worth reading. Although it is endeavouring to sell the Community, it is quite objective. In the chapter on agriculture it is stated:

Certainly, the market and price policy which is the basic element of the common market for agricultural products and which, therefore, will have to be extended to a number of additional products, can be conducive to specialisation and further rationalisation, and thereby make a more effective contribution to raising the general level of prosperity in the Community. But this will be possible only if the pattern of production and the farms themselves are adapted to the end in view. Otherwise the common agricultural market will create serious problems for those farmers who, because of the structure of their enterprises, cannot adjust to it, let alone derive any benefit from it.

A point that is worrying some of my colleagues is what is the percentage of farmers in Ireland to whom this last sentence could apply? I can make a guess and possibly the departmental advisers could give a more accurate figure. However, it has been stressed by the Community—and I know I am repeating myself—that raising the level of prosperity will be possible only if the pattern of production and the farms themselves are adapted to the end in view. Otherwise serious problems will be created for farmers who, because of the structure of their enterprises, cannot derive any benefit from it. I assume the percentage of farmers to whom this might apply is high; I would hazard a guess that it might be around the 30 per cent mark.

Under the EEC policy the numbers engaged in farming will decline considerably. In the booklet issued by the secretariat it is stated:

The rapid diminution of the agricultural population is a feature of the times. But if the living standards of farmers are to rise enough within ten years to make good the present leeway, then the rate of decrease in the agricultural population must be greatly accelerated.

They are not satisfied with the decline of 10,000 per year. Despite the decline in the numbers engaged in farming, the problems in regard to the standards of living and conditions of farmers are becoming more serious from day to day. Can one see where the farmers are going? What will happen to them? They have more to say about this. It reads:

Many farmers who had hoped that the creation of the common agricultural market and a common price policy would solve their problems are today disillusioned, especially in view of the critical situation of the market in dairy products.

They are disillusioned in Europe. Dairy products are very important. They are the most important aspect of our agricultural policy. The main incomes of farmers are derived from dairy products. I would not use parliamentary time reading from a booklet such as this, were it not from official sources. This is the official communication from the Community. It is produced and published by the Commission. That is why I attach a great deal of importance to the statements contained in it. It also reads:

In the past 20 years it was still possible to produce in order to meet a steadily growing demand. But today it is the case of most products that output is growing faster than consumption. Our prices are too high to enable us to export on satisfactory terms. Except for beef and veal, there is not much room left for expanding production. The Community is forced, therefore, to adopt a cautious policy on prices.

There is much food for thought in that chapter. We are dealing with dairy products. All this led to the man in the street being very doubtful of entry. I was able to see personally what was happening. Apart from the advantages which there are in consolidation and in building this super-power in mid-Europe, I know that many people feel we will not benefit from the advantages but that there will be disadvantages as well. This is not a very bright picture in so far as the small farmer or the milk producer is concerned. They realise that these products are important and form a large part of the income of the small farmers. This is an important change-over. The farmers' position will be completely revolutionised. From what one can gather, numbers will decline by 50 per cent within a relatively short period. This booklet also states:

What is needed then is not merely to act quickly on the markets suffering from structural surpluses, but even more to initiate a fundamental transformation of the structure of agriculture, which will contribute to the integration of farming into the economy as a whole.

The Community is now having to pay so heavy a price for an agricultural production which bears no relation to demand, that measures to balance the situation on the market can no longer be avoided. Without them, it would be extremely difficult to achieve a lasting improvement in farm incomes, and they are, in addition, necessary for reasons of trade policy.

But the solution of the agricultural problem calls first and foremost for radical structural reform. Simply to treat the symptoms will not lead to the desired result. The reform must lead to a new structure of production, to changes in marketing arrangements and to a new outlook on the part of the agricultural population—those who want to stay on in agriculture, those who want to retire and those who prefer to take up another occupation.

Such statements are set down here in the Commission's report. They are pointing to the obstacles. They are pointing out that the numbers engaged in the agricultural industry will diminish and that there is an absolute necessity for restructuring our farming position. They point out also that many small farmers are likely to be disappointed when they find themselves within the Economic Community.

Having regard to the Taoiseach's statement that the Community holds out such great hope for us one would have thought that some effort would be made at restructuring. Within the Community agriculture is not a very important industry. It bears no relation there, in so far as importance is concerned, to the importance it bears in Ireland. The books tell us that 16 per cent of the population is engaged in agriculture within the Six and that the agricultural activities produce 8 per cent of the gross national product there. These figures are relatively small in comparison with what agriculture means in Ireland. We are told that the number engaged in agriculture here is somewhere in the region of 330,000 persons and that were it not for the export prices for our agricultural products we would not be able to balance our economy at all. The Government are overlooking that fact. They are giving no evidence of that fact receiving attention. There are many booklets like this one.

I am sorry the television does not focus down here because the illustrations on those booklets are very colourful.

This is a useful little booklet. I was reading what the farmers had to say. That is only an opinion. I prefer to read what the secretariat of the Commission had to say. That is the most important of all. I give it pride of place. It does not support the Taoiseach's statement yesterday that everything in the garden will be lovely.

I have here a few notes I made in Brussels concerning the Mansholt Report. They had great fears for milk and butter production and milk product production. They were very worried about milk. In the course of discussion on what would happen to the numbers having to leave farming, their case was that the rapid decline in the numbers engaged in farming presupposes that alternative employment will be made available-locally, if at all possible. I have seen no evidence in this country of any great efforts to provide alternative employment for these people.

Our last visit was in May or June and our previous visit was in 1967, three years ago. The price level for agricultural products had not changed in that period. The prices were the same in the Community last May or June as they were three years prior to that. They admitted that production costs had increased but they felt that the price level of 1967 for agricultural products was entirely too high and the only way to beat down production was to leave prices at a standstill. In Ireland, costs increased sharply between 1967 and 1970—maybe to a lesser extent within the Community but undoubtedly costings increased, but there has been no increase in prices. Furthermore, the Community representatives were unable to state if prices would increase this year, next year or the following year or whether this level would remain for a longer period until, even according to our own standards, such prices may be deemed to be barely economic. I do not know if the Government have addressed their minds to the freezing of prices for agricultural products. The Minister's statement in regard to price support centres mainly on dairy products. I believe the Irish people are not getting a proper assessment of what is happening in relation to this Common Market question. There are different views. Let me quote from page 2 of this same booklet:

The alarming situation—

—this is of interest to us because there is £30 million plus there for milk support although it is not deemed sufficient. I should love to hear the Taoiseach explain to a group of farmers at Skibbereen Mart or at Bandon Mart the statement that everything will be bright for them.

Does the Deputy disagree with the assessment which was published by Deputy FitzGerald a few days ago in the paper?

Deputy FitzGerald is entitled to make his own assessment. I hold the same line.

I agree. I do not know if it was in the Deputy's constituency that the warble fly breakdown occurred but it was somewhere around there.

Let me put this quotation on the record:

The alarming situation on the milk market necessitates a coordinated set of measures the purpose of which would be to bring about a sharp reduction in the butter surpluses which have accumulated. Concurrently, action needs to be taken with a view to establishing structural equilibrium on the market at a later date. In the long run, it is only structural measures that can help here effectively. The measures proposed by the Commission to this end are as follows:

(1) Special campaigns to increase sales of butter;

Well and good. That is difficult at the moment here in Ireland because there is more or less a campaign against increased consumption of butter.

(2) a general and appreciable reduction in the price of butter whether coupled with revision of the values of the non-fat components of milk;

(3) an increase of 250,000 in the number of dairy cows to be slaughtered in 1969 and again in 1970, so as to speed up the current structural adjustment in milk production.

At the end of 1968 they want an increase of 250,000 cows in the numbers to be slaughtered in 1969 and 1970. They suggest a production subsidy for specified grades of beef and veal during 1969 and 1970. I do not like to delay too long on this but it also says:

However, the problem of surpluses cannot be solved otherwise than by a set of measures that must be adopted as a whole and fitted into a reform programme which lays down when and where they shall apply.

The measures proposed ... will not be enough——

these are the measures I have read out

——to reduce the Community's stock of dairy cows to a level at which a lasting balance could be established between supply and demand; to achieve this dairy herds will have to be diminished by about 3,000,000 cows within five years. Special measures will therefore have to be taken as part of the plan to reform the structure of agricultural production. The medium-term measures listed in section 20 above should, therefore, be followed by others as indicated below:

(i) For farmers who own at least two dairy cows, the "structural reform grant" recommended in section 70 below would be raised by an amount calculated on the number of dairy cows on condition that these farmers cease all agricultural activity within three years of the date when the reform programme enters into force. This supplementary amount may be paid in instalments spread over four years, or in a lump sum.

That chapter centres around reducing the farm force. The next measure suggested is:

A grant of 75 UA per year per dairy cow disposed of;——

I think UA refers to unit of account and I believe it is equivalent to 1 dollar, so that there would be about £30 bonus for a cow.

At paragraph 22 in the book it says:

In the light of the supply position in dairy products it would, of course, be well to discontinue such measures as lead to the maintenance or increase of existing dairy herds.

Farmers here are seeking increased prices for milk and the NFA and ICMSA are telling us of their disappointment in this morning's papers. Mr. Maher yesterday told us of the advantages of EEC membership, but is this EEC statement conducive to an increase in the price of milk? It could be said that an increased milk price leads to both the maintenance and the increase of existing dairy herds. It is quite clear that will not be allowed when and if we move into Europe.

The representatives from different organisations in this country who went to Europe to appraise the position— I refer in particular again to the members of the Labour Party—performed a very useful service because, so far as the two main parties are concerned, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, they are both quite satisfied that entering EEC is the best thing to do. To my mind, neither of them indicated sufficiently the many obstacles and barriers and difficulties in our path to Europe. These are all set down here by the Commission themselves. This programme will revolutionise farming completely. We can only guess what may happen. The Commission indicate quite clearly that numbers must be depressed. That will happen. If our present aim is realised we could be full members of the Community by 1978, which is not so far away.

If numbers are to be depressed what will happen? What steps are being taken by the Government to provide alternative employment for those who will have to leave agriculture and possibly other industries? Perhaps we should confine ourselves largely to the agricultural industry today. There is nothing in the Minister's statement or any indication by his Department about any policies formulated to provide alternative employment. As we were informed, it is presupposed by this Commission that some farming population will become redundant. We are making no provision in that field.

I shall not stress the probability of people from Europe buying up some of our farms. If they do they will be acting legitimately. They will be quite entitled to bid competitively for any holdings on offer. I think that policy will be rigidly adhered to by the Commission as part of our price for entering. I discussed this matter with the Commission. It arose directly during our party's discussions there because comments had been made in the German Press about the manner in which Germans were treated in Ireland. A great deal of publicity was given to the fact that three farm homes of Germans in the midlands were burned and that they were, so to speak, bounded out of the country and that the Land Commission was pestering other German owners of lands. That was their side of the story. That led up to a discussion on what would happen when we get into EEC. It is quite clear that there will be no interference with any outsiders coming to buy our land. They will be legally entitled to do so and if we object we shall be told that we can go to Italy or Germany and buy farms there if we want to do so.

Why this bright picture now? This is what came to us from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. We will have a look at what they have to say. In all fairness I do not think it bears out to any degree the statements made by the Taoiseach and other Ministers in recent times on the question of the Common Market.

I referred at some length to milk and dairy products. We will have a look at what the Department have to say. They agree on the difficulty of selling milk and dairy products. Some people feel very pleased that the market price for milk within the EEC countries at present is 50 per cent or more higher than ours. That is one of the things that has been bandied about as an advantage of Irish membership of the EEC. We are told in this booklet, and in statements made by the Commission, that our share of this market may be greatly reduced and if the price freeze continues the price obtainable when we become a full member, say, in 1978, may not be much greater relatively than the price our farmers are in receipt of today.

The Community stressed to us in their booklets and leaflets that milk and milk products are out. I have read at length from their statements. I want the dairy farmers to take note of that. I have seen their statements. I do not agree entirely with some of the statements made by their leaders because the quotations I put before the House are from the Commission's Secretariat. They are not mine. I depend more on their statements than on views given by organisations of any kind. So far as dairy products are concerned I should like the Taoiseach or the Minister to tell a group of farmers, and particularly small farmers, what the advantages are and to stress in detail what the advantages are.

I hope they are far in excess of what I think they will be. I hope they are, but our type of agricultural structure does not fit in with the European structure. We are an island far removed from the EEC. We will have to make changes, and big changes, if we are to measure up to their standards in a reasonable way. We are not doing that. I want to stress again that neither are we making any moves towards providing alternative employment for our redundant farming community.

Poultry and eggs are out. I think the Irish view agrees with that. Poultry and eggs used to be a very important industry. Now it is scarcely worth mentioning. Its value is confined to a small number of people. The traditional producer has disappeared. The price is too low and markets are not available. There is no need to quote from their statements or from the Department's statement on poultry and eggs.

It all depends on how long the Deputy wants to go on. There is a lady waiting.

Deputy Murphy is making his speech as he is perfectly entitled to do.

The Deputy is not entitled to read a newspaper in the House.

The Parliamentary Secretary rouses himself from his reverie to make that sort of comment to a Deputy who is making a perfectly good speech.

I wonder are there any signs trickling in from South County Dublin?

I have the first count.

It does not arise on the Estimate.

Labour will not be too happy.

That may be responsible——

It is a Fine Gael seat. We knew that to start with.

The Parliamentary Secretary will not be too happy about it.

Happier than the Labour Party anyway.

The Parliamentary Secretary should not waste the time of the House with interruptions that have no relevance whatsoever to the discussion.


Potatoes are out. Fruit and vegetables are out. We are left with two big items which are stressed very forcibly by the different organisations, and I hope rightly so, cattle and beef, veal and so on. Through the beef incentive bonus scheme we are developing that trade and I hope we will continue to develop it. Possibly the fact of being within a community of 270,000,000 or 280,000,000 should be helpful so far as such commodities are concerned. I say "should be helpful" because their own booklet tells us that the production within the Community at present is almost at par with their requirements.

I do not think it is necessary for me to take up any more of the time of the House on the question of the EEC so far as it relates to agriculture. I have referred to some of the main features and I have endeavoured to give a valid, balanced view by quoting the Commission's official policy sectors which are important sectors to Irish agriculture. I mentioned milk products, pigs and pig meat, eggs and poultry, fruit and sugar beet. Our price for sugar beet is as high today as, if not higher than, the Community price, we are told.

To sum up, while the Government are making great claims about, and endeavouring to get some kudos out of, our proposed entry into the EEC, they are taking no definite steps to prepare us for this changed society which will exist if we become a member of that Community. I am referring to the agricultural side. If the Minister had anything to offer it should have been embodied in his opening statement.

There will be a full moon on December 13th.

December 13th is an auspicious date and I am quite prepared to digress and to discuss December 13th with the Parliamentary Secretary, our deputy Chancellor of the Exchequer. On December 13th we will, by virtue of the Democratic process under which we labour—a good word —be holding a Convention in Cork which could have a bearing on agriculture just as well as what I have read out.

Like the full moon.

I am hopeful that w& will have delegates from all over Ireland truly representative of the Labour Party and that we will reach a decision there which will be the beginning of the end of Fianna Fáil.

Does that deal adequately with the question? The Taoiseach is terribly worried.

Wait till you get the results from South County. You may be more worried.

He did not look so well this morning. He is haggard looking. Maybe he should get a few tranquillizers to get him back in balance again. That is a little outside the scope of the Estimate.

I shall be brief because I do not like keeping Deputy Mrs. Hogan O'Higgins waiting too long. Horticultural production is doing well now in West Cork. We are very pleased with the factory at Skibbereen. It is providing a good market for local produce and it is providing good employment at good rates of wages. However, it is about time they paid some dividend on the share money they got from subscribers. When this factory commenced perhaps there was some doubt about its survival but they collected amounts of up to £200 from various people all over that area and having regard to the reports we have seen, and were delighted to see, it is about time they thought of declaring a dividend. I would not like them to operate in the same way as a notable firm in Dublin operates.

The Irish Press?

Not likely.

I got that.

People who paid contributions, even though in most cases the contributions were small—in no case did they exceed £200—are entitled to a dividend. I am glad to see this factory doing well but I do not agree with this business of keeping all the money to themselves. Let them pay a dividend.

I agree. Deputy Browne is a shareholder in the Irish Press.

How much?

He made the same point at a meeting of the shareholders before he joined the Labour Party.

Of course at that time he was managing director of your party.

Just in between.

The development of horticulture is very pleasing and it could possibly be developed further along the west coast. It may be the best method of providing some of the alternative employment that will be needed for redundant farmers. Another advantage is that in the Skibbereen area now there are a number of small farmers employed in this factory. Of course there are a number of them employed growing the products for it directly. Part-time farming is a good idea. I have stressed this here time and time again. Possibly if we could provide part-time employment for farmers it would eliminate the necessity to pay out money to them directly, as happens at present.

In regard to bacon production it is most disappointing to me that we seem to have failed in our efforts to encourage the small and medium farmers and indeed cottiers to increase the number of pigs kept by them. I hoped years ago that pigs and sows would be a great side-line for the small farmer. The idea does not seem to have got off the ground. What is happening? Are prices too low? Is there a move to weed out the small pig producer just as there was in the past a successful move to weed out the small poultry or egg producer? Are these combines, stations of 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000—perhaps 10,000 pigs later on—to take over? Are we to have sow farms of 100, 150, 200 sows? Is it likely that in the not too distant future the pig industry will be confined to a relatively small number of people? Will these big combines, favoured of course by processing plants, take over? The factories will say that the bigger combines can supply pigs with greater regularity than can small producers but I have stressed here, and I believe the former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was of the same view, that it would be a much greater advantage to our people as a whole if we were able to tackle this question again of trying to get farmers, cottiers and other country dwellers to keep more pigs. I notice that the guaranteed price for the higher grade has increased by only 10s but the prices of all feedingstuffs have increased sharply of late.

The only conclusion I can reach is that the margin of profit per pig is too small for the producer. If a man is fattening, say, 15 pigs at a time and is making a reasonable profit, one would expect him to increase the number to 25 or 35. Even lower percentage increases would result in a sizable increase in the pig population. As this booklet indicates, the increases are hardly worth mentioning. There is no great change in the number of pigs. It is a pity that this should be the case.

Although I am a member of the Cork Committee of Agriculture, I do not know what our agricultural advisers are doing in relation to pig production. They should be advising people to engage in pig production and encouraging producers to increase their numbers. For some years past I have been pessimistic about the prospects for the small producer. As I see it, the industry will be taken over by combines. We know that there is quite a lot of interest now in the establishment of units. Regardless of whether those concerned are private individuals or persons working on a co-operative basis, if this idea is implemented, the day is over for the man who keeps five or ten pigs.

During the years I have spoken here on the question of bacon processing and from time to time I have expressed resentment that there is no bacon factory in south-west Cork. It is pleasing to note that during the past 12 months indications in this direction are favourable and I can only hope that they will prove to be correct. In Cork city there are four bacon factories but, of course, the city is a distance of some 100 miles from parts of Cork county. A factory should be located where the pigs are produced. In West Cork there is produced 11 per cent of the total pig population of the country. Why, therefore, should we not have a factory in West Cork? I know that there is opposition from the pig factories in Cork city but pigs are not produced in Cork city. I am not advocating a cutting down in the number of factories in any one place but I see the present situation as being a result of bad management. This idea of centralisation is not good. There are other areas of activity in Cork city that would cater for anybody who might become redundant. I am aware also that the bacon factory people in Cork city are endeavouring to get the co-operation of the trade unions in hindering the establishment of a factory in south-west Cork—a factory that it is our right to have. I am glad that some business people in Ireland have realised that the place to locate a factory is where the raw material is produced. I have not the slightest doubt that if we were to get this factory the result would be a marked increased in pig numbers.

Pig producers usually like to be present when their pigs are being sold, weighed and so on, but of course this is not possible when the pigs must be sent a long distance to a bacon factory. I want to impress on the Government the desirability of co-operating with those who are interested in having a factory located in south-west Cork. If I were not to do so I would not be doing my duty on behalf of the people who sent me here. Representations in this direction are being made to every public representative in West Cork. Each representative is being asked to help in any way possible towards securing this much needed factory for the area.

I have no wish to delay the House unduly but I must say a few words in relation to brucellosis. I notice that some improvements have been made towards eradicating the disease but I am disappointed that Cork county is excluded from the scheme at the present time. The Minister has stated that grants of up to £75 for pedigree animals and £25 for non-pedigree animals are payable when the herd is certified free of the disease. I understand that applies to all counties. The case I made in the past about brucellosis was that some farmers—these may be small in number—sold infected animals at public marts with the result that untold damage was caused in some instances. On the other hand, anyone who goes to his veterinary officer to report an outbreak of the disease among his herd and who takes steps to isolate his cattle gets no help from the State. I am tired raising that matter. I thought that Deputy Blaney would have done something in this regard on a national scale. The unfortunate person whose herd is afflicted by this disease but who takes steps to contain the disease within his own herd is acting in the national interest and should receive some reward.

I am not satisfied that we have done enough in relation to brucellosis. People have sold at public marts and fairs animals which should never have been taken to any such public place. I am not suggesting that the incidence is very high but it is of the greatest importance that the disease should be contained.

I shall refer briefly to sheep scab. A former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Deputy Haughey, said in 1966 or 1967 that animal diseases cost the country £25 million annually.

Sheep scab is supposed to be responsible for a sizable percentage of that loss. We are told by our technical advisers that with complete co-operation sheep scab could be eliminated entirely within two years. If that is so, and I am satisfied it is, surely this disease should have disappeared long ago?

Cork County Council set up a special committee to deal with sheep dipping and sheep scab or other ailments common to sheep. We formed a joint committee with Kerry County Council in view of the substantial numbers of sheep in the mountain ranges of the Cork-Kerry border. Every effort was made to ensure that all sheep in Cork and Kerry would be dipped and that regulations would be rigidly adhered to. However, I regret to say we have received very little co-operation from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in recent times. They scarcely answer our correspondence.

The joint committee was approved by Deputy Haughey when he was Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. He also approved of another committee in Cork, the Cork animal health committee, and assured both of his full co-operation. In fairness to him let me say he did give that co-operation during his period as Minister, but since he left that office we are not getting the co-operation we should get.

I am surprised that Department officials are not able to formulate some system whereby sheep owners would have to measure up to their obligations to the community. The position in Cork at one time was that offenders would be prosecuted. There have been no prosecutions of late because the case was made that the district justice treated the prosecutions with contempt by fining the offenders 1s. The reason I am attaching importance to this matter is that the good suffer as much as or more than the bad. One farmer may comply rigidly with all the regulations but the fellow next door—they have a mountain range in common— does not, and the man who abides by the regulations cannot tell his neighbour to do likewise but has to go to his local councillor or other public representative to get the Department and the local authority to ensure he will do so. I do not think we are getting the help we should get from the local authority.

The pilot areas are set down here. I know the Cork pilot area quite well, and I am satisfied the idea was a good one. Is there any possibility of increasing the size of the areas? That is a demand we get every other day. We are asked that the grants under the farm buildings scheme operating in the pilot areas should be extended to the 12 western counties. It is noticeable within the 12 western counties that farm buildings and indeed roadways leading to farm houses are not up to standard, and it is a reasonable request that the farm building grants should be extended.

I do not want to hold up the House much longer. There are some matters in the document supplied by the Department with which I have not dealt, nor have I dealt to any great degree with the Minister's statement because there was very little in it with which to deal. One thing I would ask is why they change their minds so often. A forceful case was made here about the advantages of these higher prices for the smaller farmer, that the higher grant was being given to the farmer producing under 7,000 gallons. He was to be given a special inducement because he required it and the other fellow did not require it because he was much bigger. Now that is all changed. I see here that the man producing up to 7,000 gallons of milk will get an increase of 1d. Am I right in saying that the man producing between 7,000 and 30,000 gallons will get an increase of 3d?

A strong case was made for the small man last year, and the case against a change, which was advocated by some Deputies here, was resisted strongly by Deputy Blaney at the time. Are we to assume then that because Deputy Blaney was from Donegal, where possibly there is a high percentage of small farmers, and because Deputy Gibbons is from Carlow-Kilkenny, where the land is much more productive and the herds are much bigger, this change in policy has come about to help the bigger farmer? The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries do not seem to have fixed views and it is not today or yesterday that happened. That position has obtained within the Department for a long time.

I do not want to go back on old history, but I remember that when Deputy Smith was Minister for Agriculture he brought a measure into this House setting down that the membership of committees of agriculture should be comprised mainly of farming organisations—at least 50 per cent. Deputy Blaney came in a few years later and said that it was all wrong, a change was made and we are now back where we started. This chopping and changing shows the Government are not sure of themselves; they are not positive about which road they are taking. An increase of 1d a gallon for 7,000 gallons of milk or less cannot amount to more than £29 even for the man at the end of the scale. If the man producing between 7,000 and 30,000 gallons is entitled to 3d so is the man producing up to 7,000 gallons. Why will the Department not give this extra 2d? I think they should.

A number of years ago I made a case for a subsidy for island holders. I was quite satisfied the case was justifiable and it would not cost very much to implement, but it fell on deaf ears until Deputy Haughey became Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. In fairness to him he saw the justification of the island holders' claim and acted without much delay. He gave them a subsidy of 1s 6d in the £. Deputy Haughey left Agriculture some years ago now and incomes and costings have increased sharply since then. I am now asking for an adjustment to be made in the figure laid down by him because I think it is about time it should be increased. I do not have the slightest doubt that if Deputy Haughey were Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries today it would have been increased before now. I am asking Deputy Gibbons, the present Minister for Agriculture, to increase the subsidy. At the time the Is 6d was introduced the islanders were quite satisfied but I hope this figure will be increased.

As I mentioned at the outset, I have used documentation today which I seldom use when making my contributions. I thought it well worth while quoting from this book because it gives valuable official information. I suggest that books of this kind which come from the Commission be made available so that farmers can purchase them. If they were sent out to organisations free of charge it would be a job well done. A book such as this which gives official information should be at the disposal of all farmers and I would ask the Minister to consider the feasibility of publishing such books. There is much more information in them than in books put out by different organisations which, it could be said, are slanted in their views and in any case they are the views of the particular organisation and not official ones.

I apologise to the House for delaying it so long. I think it is justifiable to delay in order to discuss the many aspects of our agricultural policy in a detailed fashion on the occasion of the annual debate on this Estimate. It would take a full day to deal with all the headings so I have referred to what I think are the more important ones and I am sure the other headings will be covered by later speakers.

In conclusion, I want to say I am surprised the Minister has not returned to the House. I think the Minister should be in the House when the debate on his Estimate is taking place unless there is some valid reason for his absence. The Minister left as soon as he completed his address and he has not returned. I do not think this is correct. It may be that Fianna Fáil are too long in power but I disagree entirely with the absence of a Minister when discussions on his Department are taking place. I think it is treating the House and democracy with contempt. If it is not possible for the Minister to be here discussion on his Estimate should be postponed. I am sure Deputies would agree with that because, after all, the Government order the day's business. I want to voice my disapproval of this growing practice.

It is seldom my voice is heard in this House. The Chair can be sure that it would not be heard on this occasion if I did not class myself as a fairly practical farmer. Great play is made inside and outside this House from time to time, and at every crossroads especially at election time and at every county council meeting, about the small farmer. I am glad to be able to say I came from a stock of small farmers even though I am now living in a county of larger ones and I may have graduated to high levels. Small farmers have never had an easy living at any time in their career. The small farmer always had to work hard and it was he, of all people, who earned his bread by the sweat of his brow. He never had it easy and, apparently, he never will.

There is one consolation, which anybody who is honest will admit : the small farmer today is much better off than he was at any time in the past. It is not unusual today—in fact, it is quite a common thing—for small farmers all over the country to own their own motor cars. Again, it is not unusual to see them using a tractor instead of tramping along behind a pair of horses. Surely this is a sign of progress.

Great play, too much of it dishonest, has been made about the small farmer. I should like to stress to the Minister and to the Government that the small farmer is entitled to hold his small farm and to get subsidiary employment convenient to that small farm. If all those who wail about the conditions of the small farmer and bemoan his lot would put their heads together and provide subsidiary employment for him convenient to his holding we would then have a prosperous community of small farmers. We have evidence of that in the midlands where there is work to be done for Bord na Móna which brings the small farmer a weekly wage plus the benefits he can reap from his small farm. One can see the improvement where there is a weekly wage coming in; there is an improvement in the land, in the housing, in the mode of transport and, above all, in the farmer's family. This solution has been proposed by the Minister for Lands, Deputy Seán Flanagan, but it does not seem to be getting any further. I should like to see this proposal put into operation. We would then have, if not a wealthy community, at least a comfortable community, a community of which we could be proud. Surely it is admitted that there is no better stock than the people I am talking about.

The larger farmer also has one consolation. I do not count myself an old man by any means but I remember the time when cattle, sheep and pigs were unmarketable. That happened on many occasions in the past. We were and are dependent on the British market, except for some European contacts which can be very dicey at times and, at times, very disappointing. Over the past year practically any kind of livestock in reasonable condition made a good market. That is a relief to a great many people—to the producer, to the country and to its economy by and large—and that is why I think the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries should give every encouragement to the farmer engaged in livestock production to produce more and to bring his stock into better condition. This is one sphere in which there is no burden at all placed on the Exchequer.

We have heard a great deal about the Common Market. This year I spent three weeks in two Common Market countries. To the very best of my ability I tried to acquaint myself with conditions in these countries, with prices and with production. I went to livestock sales, to beef and bacon factories, and I saw the products going out by rail and plane to France and Germany. I am satisfied beyond all doubt that there is no reason why we should not go ahead and push our way into the EEC. That is my own personal opinion. I am glad to say it is also the opinion of the Government and of the main Opposition party. Everyone is free to hold his own opinion but I cannot see any reason why it should be to our disadvantage to join the EEC. I do not pretend that by joining the EEC life would become a bed of roses.

The people in the countries I visited are very well-established. Their populations are much larger than ours. They certainly work much harder than we do here. They are prepared for longer hours. I have here figures for the EEC in regard to agriculture, veterinary services, the statutory organisation of industry in the Netherlands, production costs in the consumption and export of milk and dairy products.

There is nothing that these countries are doing that we cannot do. We have one great advantage. We have good land and we have an equable climate. These are very much to our advantage. I would like to see the Government and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries giving every encouragement to the farmer to become more efficient and to produce more because of our proposed entry into Europe. The heifer scheme met with a great deal of criticism. We heard a good deal about racketeering and the evils of such schemes. I believe it was a good scheme and, were it not for that scheme, I am very doubtful that we would have today the cattle population that we have and, God knows, we can do with more. I am not saying that the subsidy should be increased for the beef cattle incentive scheme but the scheme should be revised. At the moment it is necessary that two checks be carried out and this does not improve the efficiency of the scheme. Nowadays the farmers can be trusted and one check carried out by officials of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries should be quite sufficient. Farmers are well aware of the value of the calves. There were cases last summer where calves fetched as much as £50. I am appealing to the Minister to have this scheme revised because it is not good enough that the farmer must wait until the second check is carried out before the grant is paid. I am sorry the Minister is not here but I intend to discuss this matter with him later.

I do not deny that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have done good work and much progress has been made in the matter of livestock breeding and progeny testing. However, much more work remains to be done. In view of our application to join the EEC I should like to see more cattle of the European-type, such as the South Devon and Charollais breeds, introduced into this country and the bulls made available to farmers throughout the country.

Deputy Murphy mentioned the western counties. In my business I buy cattle for my own farm and for other people and I have occasion to visit fairs and marts in the west every month. The farmers in the west of Ireland are the best producers of quality cattle in the country. They have certain breeds of cattle there and once they leave the area they cannot be replaced. Unfortunately, in recent years the farmers have tended to go into dairying and I am doubtful if this is an economic proposition for them, apart from the fact that it constitutes a further burden on the Exchequer. It would be an advantage to the Exchequer and would be in the national interest if, instead of following this course, a subsidy was paid for every calf in the west. The farmer in the west generally operates a small farm and he would be better off if the method I recommend were introduced rather than changing the breed of cattle and stocking low-producing cows.

The lack of farm workers is a serious problem. I do not blame the people who do not wish to work on the land when they find they can do much better in industry. However, some recommendation will have to be made by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to the Department of Social Welfare, or some concrete proposals must be made if this country is to have sufficient farmworkers. It is often stated that the small farmer is the backbone of the country but the farmworker is the backbone of the farm. It does not matter how much mechanisation is carried out on the farm, the owner cannot continue to operate without reliable farmworkers.

We all know that the farmworker does not obtain the same wages as the worker in industry but it is essential that something be done to improve conditions for him. He must be given sufficient wages to enable him to remain on the land. Years ago people were interested in remaining on the land and in many cases there were families who had a tradition of working on farms throughout the country. However, that situation does not obtain at the moment and unless we take some steps to help the farmworkers we will not have a sufficient labour force.

We are sometimes told that the farming industry suffers because of the lack of education among farmers. I do not believe that. I know very competent farmers who had very little formal education. However, with all the changes in the world in future it will be necessary for every young man who intends to work as a farm manager or farm worker to get some specialised education. Such a man would benefit from one year at least in an agricultural school in which he would be shown the methods he would be using in his later life. I attended such a school myself and never regretted it. Such education is a help to anyone in later life.

Our committees of agriculture give some help in this direction but they are only scratching the surface. There are certain types of people who can send their children to school for a time with the help of a little subsidy from the Department but the subsidy is not sufficient for the people I have in mind.

We hear about the various farms which have been set up by the Department in places like Mayo, and here and there around the country. I would like to have a record of the numbers of farmers from each county who have even seen one of these farms. I do not believe many farmers visit those places. I would like to see many more research or demonstration farms set up in the various parishes with the help of the committees of agriculture and local organisations. The Department would do very useful work if they set about establishing small demonstration farms in the various parishes in rural Ireland. Very few people visit the present demonstration farms. This does not reflect credit on the Department or on the farmers. I spent three weeks in the countries I mentioned earlier and have practical knowledge of what is happening in them. In conclusion, I must say that I hope we will have speedy entry into the European Economic Community.

I would like to protest about the taking of this Estimate at this particular stage. I appreciate that arrangements are made by the Whips for the taking of business. When one looks at the three Whips one is struck by the fact that they are all urban Deputies. Two of them are from Dublin city and one is from Dún Laoghaire. The Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries might not seem as important to them as it does to those of us who represent rural Ireland. Some Deputies may be inclined to give what appears to be lip-service to the agricultural community. We like to boast that agriculture is our major industry. We like to boast that farmers are getting more grants than anyone else. The fact remains that the most important Estimate of the year was taken on a day on which there were two by-elections. Whether it is proper or not, it has become the practice for Deputies to go out and work on by-election days. For that reason very important Estimates should not be taken on such days. I must be very frank and admit that I was not in the House yesterday. I was in south County Dublin. I did not hear a news bulletin. I did not hear the Minister's speech. It was not until I got an urgent telephone call this morning to ask me to speak on agriculture that I was aware that the Estimate was under discussion. Some of that is my own fault. I should have been in the House, but it has become the practice of Deputies to work in by-election areas. In such circumstances either the House should be adjourned or business that is not quite so important should be taken. Quite recently at a social function a certain Minister said to me that there was not much interest taken in what I say in the House. That is not important, but it is important to remember that I represent a very large constituency which goes from almost Athlone town to Killaloe and from the bridge of Banagher down to the parish of Ennistymon. That constituency is mainly composed of small farms. It is a 3-seat constituency and because of the illness of Deputy Carty and the professional commitments of Deputy H. Gibbons I feel that I am the only Deputy in the constituency who really is aware of what the position is there. Whether the Minister takes notice of my contribution or not, I would be grateful if the House took notice that we in the west are falling behind the rest of the world. We have the largest number of small farmers in the country.

I also feel that the Minister should not have left the House this morning leaving us with the Parliamentary Secretary, excellent in his own way, but Dublin-born and reared. By the very nature of his environment he cannot be sympathetic or understanding towards the problems and conditions of rural Ireland. The Minister should have sent in a rural Parliamentary Secretary. This is not asking too much. I am rather shocked at the Government's handling of the whole affair. No Government speaker has offered or even sat in this morning to hear the debate. This must be an indication of the view that the Government take of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries as a whole. I hope it is not.

Much has been said this morning about conditions in the EEC. In this House we have not been entirely helpful to the farmers. We have not been truthful to them. One reads speeches in which the farmers are being told that most of their problems will be over once we enter the EEC. They are told that life in the EEC will hold great advantages for them. This is not a fact. Whether we go into the EEC or not depends on what the British position is. If we go in we will get better prices for our better stock but we will have to work harder in order to compete with the Dutch, German and French farmers. We cannot say that we will be better off in the EEC. We must make conditions here such that we will be better off in the EEC. We have not been frank enough. We have not tried to educate our people about what the position of the Irish farmer will be in the EEC. It has been said that there is no future for farmers unless they have 200 acres. I am convinced that in some circumstances some of our small farmers can survive in the EEC. It is not so much the size of the farm that matters but the use that is made of it.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.