I need hardly remind farmers that the cattle are not the Government's cattle or the taxpayers' cattle and it is up to the farmers themselves to clear their herds of disease and keep them clear. I have no objection and the Government have no objection to providing large sums to help farmers eradicate diseases but we are entitled, in the interests of the taxpayers in general, to insist on results. I am now setting about a complete reorganisation of the brucellosis scheme and it will be my ambition to develop it in such a way that it can progress speedily and efficiently.
We simply cannot afford to have any continuation of what I have just described as the stagnation and indifference which in recent years have characterised the business of disease eradication. There is too much at stake. Already the British have taken action to counteract our failure to make progress in disease eradication. Further restrictions are threatened from the North. Our temporary derogations from the EEC rules will soon be coming up for review and, if we cannot make rapid and sustained progress, the pocket of every farmer who keeps cattle will be affected. At the end of the day it is he who will be the ultimate loser if the job is not done efficiently and well. I thought it necessary to make a detailed statement on the whole dispute that has gone on, as I say, for far too long, a dispute I never wanted because I realise how important it is, if we are to have success, that we should have the complete co-operation of all the people concerned, and that includes the veterinary practitioners, the administrative people in the Department and, above all, the farmers and the people who deal in cattle. There has been a good deal of unscrupulous traffic, I am sorry to say, and it has made the job of efficient eradication extremely difficult for all concerned.
I still want to appeal to the veterinary practitioners, even at this late hour, to decide to co-operate. Too often the veterinary practitioners are regarded by farmers themselves as a fire brigade service. This is a wrong attitude. There should be contractual arrangements set up between groups of farmers and veterinary practitioners to advise the farmers on the best way to keep out disease and not to keep the animal from dying when it is seriously ill from disease.
Deputy Gibbons made the point that the British market was rapidly disappearing for our cattle and beef, that the British were becoming more self-sufficient. That is quite true, but he went on to say that the Department did not seem to be aware of the importance of Europe and the importance of encouraging the European breeds here if we were to sell our cattle in Europe. There is a committee permanently in existence on which all the farming organisations, all the breed societies and all the people who have an input to make to the Department, to advise me on what should be done about the breeding of cattle. What we have done is to make all these breeds available in the AI stations. The fact of the matter is that the demand for these breeds has been disappointingly low. We can do no more than make these breeds available, advise the farmers that, if they want to remain in the beef business and if they want to get the highest possible prices, it is in their own interests to improve the beef quality of cattle, certainly improve it from the point of view of producing the type of lean cattle that are required and that get premium prices in Europe. We cannot do more than make farmers aware of the situation, and they must make their own decisions in the long run.
There was a good deal of comment about the modernisation scheme, and some Deputy over there said he did not like the idea of consigning so many to the limbo of the transitional category because this led to the decay of rural Ireland. The grants being made available to transitional farmers are higher than any grants given before. It is wrong to say that these people are being put out of business. We are trying to do what we can to look after any of them that it is possible to bring up to development status. We are also trying to get Directive No. 159 amended to be more suitable to this country.
I want to keep the maximum number of people on the land, even as part-time farmers. I heard criticism some time ago of the fact that we have 40,000 part-time farmers. I was very pleased to hear there were that number, and provided these 40,000 have worthwhile employment outside the farms, I am anxious to keep them on the land. It will be a poor day for this country if we go on reducing the number of people in farming as has been done in the past. All the evidence we have now indicates that there are fewer people leaving the land than ever before, that more young people have gone into farming in the last year or so than has happened for a very long time.