Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Stock Animal Scheme.

40.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries by whom the scheme for the sale of stock animals at reduced prices to breeders in congested districts is administered; how long it has been in operation; the amount spent on the scheme in each of the past four years; the number of cattle, sheep and pigs sold in each year; the average extent of the reduction in price; if the scheme has been successful; and, if so, if the Government has considered extending the benefits of the scheme to small farmers outside congested districts.

Schemes for the provision of stock animals at reduced prices in the congested districts have been in operation since 1905. Schemes for the provision of bulls and rams to selected applicants in these areas, at about one-third cost price, are administered by my Department. A scheme for the provision of "extra" premium boars in the congested districts, at approximately one-fifth of their cost, which was also administered by my Department, was superseded in 1970 by an improved premium scheme applicable to the whole country and administered by the county committees of agriculture. The schemes are effective in improving the quality of livestock produced in the congested districts, by ensuring the use of high standard breeding stock. It is not proposed to extend the schemes for bulls and rams outside the present areas of operation, which are the most needy.

The following are the particulars requested of the number of stock animals provided and of expenditure in each of the past four years:

Year

Bulls

Rams

Boars

Expenditure

£

1968

159

593

10

42,300

1969

159

681

6

46,300

1970

157

653

5

54,000

1971

148

705

55,800

Can the Minister tell me when the congested districts were defined for the purposes of this scheme?

On the establishment of the Congested Districts Board, I expect. I mentioned in the reply that this scheme started in 1905 under the Congested Districts Board. Possibly that escaped the Deputy's attention.

Would the Minister agree that the pattern of agriculture has changed significantly since 1905——

Quite significantly.

——and that what were not congested districts in 1905 might be considered to be congested districts by present-day standards? Therefore, this scheme should be extended to small farmers all over the country. If it is a beneficial scheme, why should small farmers in County Meath be excluded?

The general basis upon which the areas were selected still stands to a great degree in that the highest concentration of low acreage farmers on marginal land remains in what were once called the congested districts.

I do not think the figures would bear out what the Minister says.