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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 23 May 1980

Vol. 321 No. 4

Estimates, 1980. - Vote 39: Office of the Minister for Agriculture.

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £140,041,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1980, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies and sundry grants-in-aid.

The formal motion for the Estimate for Lands will be put at the end of the debate but the debate itself will cover both Estimates.

Notes on the main activities of my Department, both Agriculture and the Land Commission, have already been circulated to Deputies. Before dealing with detailed aspects of the Agriculture Estimate I should like to make a few general observations on the current situation in agriculture and the important role of agriculture in the economy.

Agricultural output in 1979 was worth £1,750 million at farm gate value. This represents an increase of about 9 per cent over 1978. However, most of the increase was accounted for by higher prices for farm products, and the volume of gross output showed only a slight rise. At the same time there was a significant increase in costs, particularly energy, feeding stuffs and other major inputs. The difficult weather conditions last year, particularly the long winter, had an impact on the volume of inputs which rose quite sharply. It was this sharp growth in farmers' cost which was largely responsible for the decline in farmers' incomes during the year.

But we should put last year's outturn in perspective. By 1979 total farm income in current terms had risen to more than four times its 1970 level. In real terms farm income per head has grown by 70 per cent—equivalent to an annual growth rate of 6 per cent. This compares favourably with growth in the nonagricultural sector.

Agriculture contributes nearly 18 per cent of our total national income, 37 per cent of total earnings from exports and directly employs nearly 20 per cent of the working population. In volume terms gross agricultural output has increased during the period 1970-79 by more than 36 per cent which is well in line with the expansion that we projected at the time of joining the EEC. Indeed, during the seventies the growth in our agricultural production has been the highest in Western Europe. According to official FAO statistics, agricultural production in Ireland has grown at twice the rate in France, Denmark, the UK or in Europe as a whole. This should be borne in mind by those who are constantly criticising the performance of Irish agriculture.

Of course, there is still much to be done but we should recognise the great advance that has been made already by Irish farmers. There is great potential for further expansion, particularly through more efficient use of our grasslands. Irish producers can compete successfully with producers in other Member States of the EEC in both livestock and crop production. In the past decade very substantial capital investment has been made in new equipment, buildings, extra livestock and in land improvements. New methods and new technology have been adapted to Irish conditions by our farmers. These developments have been reflected in the growth in output which has already taken place, but there is still much scope for further progress and our agriculture is still far from realising its full potential.

Progress in the primary agricultural sector has also been reflected in the development of the agricultural-based industries. Gross output in the main agricultural processing industries is estimated to have reached nearly £2,300 million in 1979. This is nearly double the level of only three years earlier and represents a large proportion of Ireland's total manufacturing output. The most important of these agricultural-based industries are the milk processing sector which in 1979 had a gross output of almost £850 million and employed some 9,000 people, and the cattle and sheep processing sector which had an output of over £600 million and employed more than 5,500 people.

The total employment in the main agricultural processing industries in 1979 is estimated at more than 25,000.

It is against this background of an industry growing in economic strength and with considerable expansion in its own resources that the Estimates for 1980 were framed.

Turning to the Agriculture Estimate itself, the gross sum required is £7 million up on the amount provided in 1979. The main increases occur under salaries and wages, the disease eradication programme and the farm modernisation scheme. Extra money is also being provided for agricultural research, education and advisory services. Receipts are estimated to rise by almost £15 million over last year's provision. The main increases here are in contributions from the EEC for accelerated eradication of bovine diseases and for the farm modernisation scheme. Farmers, too, are contributing towards the cost of eradicating bovine diseases.

The gross estimate of £193 million and the net estimate of £140 million represent only part of the picture in regard to expenditure in connection with agriculture. These figures exclude most of the money handled by my Department in respect of EEC agricultural operations. As is well known, Irish farmers have fared well from EEC membership. The Community have provided opportunities far above anything we experienced previously and through hard work and skill our farmers have made considerable use of those opportunities, with resulting benefits not only for the farmers themselves but also for the entire national economy. Last year, in direct payments for the various agricultural operations the EEC paid £396 million to this country.

All this, of course, means that my Department, as the Community's intervention agency, is involved in a range of market support activities far in excess of what it was undertaking prior to 1973. It means also that the figures in the Estimates do not show the full magnitude of the moneys being handled by the Department. For instance, last year total money handled by the Department on behalf of the Community in relation to the £396 million agricultural support already mentioned, amounted to some £623 million. These transactions related to the payment of refunds, MCAs and other aids and premia as well as to the purchase and sales of intervention products, especially beef and to the collection of MCAs and other agricultural charges. By any standards, these sums constitute high finance.

I should now like to deal with some of the main agricultural products.

The cattle industry had a mixed year in 1979. On the whole, prices held up well, subject, of course, to the usual seasonal variations, but beef exporters were unable to achieve their full potential because cattle numbers have not kept pace with the increased slaughtering capacity. Factory throughput, at 1,175,000, head was slightly down on 1978 while live exports fell from their 1978 high level to 310,000, a figure more in line with the trend over several years. The overall result was a limited build-up in stocks, which will be reflected in higher disposals in the current year.

There is, of course, considerable scope for the expansion of cattle production. We have the grassland resources to carry much greater numbers of cattle without great difficulty. A number of new measures in the pipeline should help to improve confidence in beef production and encourage expansion of the breeding herd. The suckler cow scheme—which forms part of the proposed 1980 Community price package—should be of considerable help in expanding the suckler cow herd, which has been declining for many years. When finally agreed this scheme will provide payment of £13 per cow in respect of all cows in herds which are not supplying milk to a creamery. Then, in the case of the west, there will be aid for a calf-to-beef scheme as part of the west of Ireland package. This aid will be in the form of interest on a loan amounting to about £150 per year over a two-year period in respect of each calf born or purchased at the beginning of the first year, provided that the animal is maintained on the farm and finished off as beef at the age of two to two-and-a-half years.

Confidence will also be improved by the introduction next month of the beef carcase classification scheme. Producers selling direct to factories will be able to see how their cattle were classified and their factory cheques should reflect the results of their investment in quality production. This will encourage them to give more attention to producing the right kind of animal for the most profitable markets.

More than any other element in the agricultural sector of our economy, beef is an export-oriented industry. We export up to 85 per cent of our production and the prosperity of the entire industry is, therefore, very much dependent on export market conditions and on how we market our beef abroad. The new statutory CBF is now implementing an aggressive export promotion policy, and I am confident that if our meat exporters avail of the market opportunities, the benefits of this will become apparent in the next year or two.

While cattle disposals in 1980 can be expected to be up on 1979, the maintenance of this trend requires an expansion in the breeding herd. The new measures I have mentioned should help to bring about such an expansion and enable the Irish beef industry to move closer to the realisation of its full potential.

At the same time, my Department will, of course, be continuing the various measures for the improvement of the quality of both beef and dairy breeds. In order to raise further the genetic merit of our cattle, imports of semen of high-quality bulls, including Hereford semen from Canada, were made last year. In addition about 130 top-class continental-type breeding cattle, mainly French Charolais, were imported. An expanded progeny test programme was also operated and lists of approved progeny tested bulls are published annually. The increasing usage of continental-type bulls has emphasised the importance of easy calving and bulls are now assessed for this quality.

On the dairy side, the Friesian breed accounts for over 60 per cent of all inseminations. The breed is also the main source of calves for the national beef herd, and it is estimated that at present up to 80 per cent of all cattle disposals are Friesians or Friesian crosses. Accordingly, it is important to ensure that our dairy cows produce calves suitable for the beef herd as well as being efficient in milk production.

As regards the licensing of bulls, an EEC directive provides that approval of pure-bred bulls for breeding will be governed by common Community standards. This may entail the dismantling of our existing national bull licensing rules for those bulls. The directive does not, however, provide for the control of non pure-bred bulls and the question of what control, if any, should be exercised in respect of those bulls is at present being considered. I have consulted with the Cattle Advisory Committee which keeps all aspects of cattle breeding policy under review, and I will take full account of their views. In the meantime, as already announced, I have decided to continue the existing licensing system, for this year.

In 1979, creamery milk production increased from 860 million gallons to 886 million gallons and producers received an average price of about 53p per gallon as against 52p per gallon in 1978. It was not an easy year for the Dairy industry. The rate of increase in output slowed down somewhat and EEC support price increases were minimal. Despite this, however, the value of dairy produce exports reached a record level and intervention was used to a very limited extent, with only about 9,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder and 3,000 tonnes of butter being sold into intervention. This satisfactory outcome again indicated the important role being played by Bord Bainne as an effective and progressive central marketing body.

Because of the many variable factors involved—and the recent dry spell has not helped matters—it is not possible to give a realistic forecast of milk production in 1980 but it looks as if there will be another modest increase. It seems evident now that, in the light of the milk surplus situation in the EEC, the era of significant milk price increases is over and that future increases in milk suppliers' incomes will have to come from more efficient production generally, including higher yields per cow based on improved husbandry and better land use. In an era of limited price increases there will be growing pressure on producers, but I am confident of the ability of Irish producers to withstand such a situation as well as, if not better than, producers in other member states. In order to get the best possible returns we must intensify efforts to diversify production. Developing the processing capacity necessary for diversification will naturally take time and considerable investment but aid from the IDA is available under the normal conditions for this type of investment.

Despite a gradual but sustained improvement in the international market for dairy products, the surplus problems and especially the budget difficulties are likely to make the years ahead somewhat more difficult than the seventies. I am satisfied, however, that our industry, which has a sound production base, a well-organised and efficient processing sector and a marketing arm as good as any other in the Community, will meet the challenge. The Government will, of course, continue to do what it can to help. Since January last, the State guarantee for Bord Bainne's borrowings has been raised from £40 million to £90 million. Also, I have received a promise from the EEC Commission that they are prepared to consider on a case by case basis the provision of Community aid for diversified cheese production in Ireland. Further diversification of our product range is vital to the future development of the industry and cheese is the crucial element in this. But we must get away from an overdue dependence on cheddar and the promise of Community aid for diversified cheese production is a distinct encouragement in this regard.

In the dairy sector, our concern is not confined to the farmers alone. There is provision in the Estimate to help everyone in the country who drinks milk or eats butter. The consumer subsidy on mild for human consumption is being continued at about 1½p per pint. The estimated cost of this in 1980 is £11.7 million, payable out of Subhead E.1. That subhead also includes £9.8 million to meet the cost of the Exchequer contribution to the consumer subsidy for butter. That subsidy is currently close to 27p per lb of which 11.8p is payable by the Exchequer and the balance by FEOGA.

Turning now to other products, the sheep industry remained buoyant during the past year, Access for Irish Lamb to the French market continued to ensure satisfactory returns to producers of export quality lamb. Indeed, according as our producers became more familiar with the requirements of the French market, a higher percentage of lambs delivered for slaughter met the quality requirements. Some mountain lamb producers, however, have not gained full advantage from the improved market situation. In my view, the problems of these producers can best be resolved by the adoption of improved feeding and management practices. I have, therefore, asked the advisory services in the counties concerned to pay particular attention to the educational and advisory needs of the mountain producers. To help these producers and to maintain their confidence in sheep production, I re-introduced the mountain lamb extension scheme early this year. CBF are looking at this whole question, with a view to resuming exports of sheep and sheep-meat to the Mediterranean countries.

The negotiations for a common organisation of the market for sheepmeat in the Community have been very protracted but there are grounds for believing that a solution may shortly be arrived at. A satisfactory market organisation should provide sheep producers with a more stable market and increase confidence in a sector where there is plenty of scope for growth.

Pig production continued to expand in 1979. Output for the year was nearly 2.3 million pigs, representing an increase of over 12 per cent on 1978. There is now far greater stability in the pig industry, as a result of the trend to large-scale units. We have top-class breeds capable of high performance and many of our producers are among the most efficient in the Community. Those factors augur well for the long-term.

Recently pig producers have been going through a difficult time. Tight credit, high interest rates and rising fuel and labour costs are testing even the most efficient. At the same time, returns for our exports have suffered because of the weak UK market and our own fragmented selling. On this latter aspect, I must express my keen disappointment at the attitude of some people in the industry. We account for a very small proportion of the UK market, yet we weaken our position further by selling some of our small supplies outside the centralised arrangements of the Pigs and Bacon Commission. I still believe that efficient centralised exporting is best for the industry as a whole and that the short-term gain is far from being the most rewarding in the long term. Our quality bacon is on a par with the best available, and our marketing arrangements should assure us prices that will reflect this.

The output of the poultry and eggs industry showed a slight increase in 1979, mainly because of some expansion in boiler production. In 1980 production of eggs and poultry is not expected to change significantly. As we can no longer exclude imports of poultry from some Continental member states on animal health grounds, there may be increased competition from imports. Any such imports to date have been relatively small and, given the advantage of proximity to the market, it should be possible for Irish producers and processors to compete successfully with the Continental suppliers.

Although the cereals acreage in 1979 showed an increase of about 3 per cent on 1978, production did not rise correspondingly because bad weather affected yields. As a result the 1979 production of 1.7 million tonnes of grain was about the same as in the previous year. Feeding barely is now by far the largest grain crop, accounting for about two-thirds of the total cereal acreage. Each tillage farmer is, of course, quite free to make his own decision as to which crops suit his own situation, but I should like to refer to our long tradition of growing good quality spring wheat for bread-making. I would hope that this tradition will continue and that the maximum amount of Irish breadmaking wheat will be available to the flour milling industry in the future.

Production of compound feedingstuffs has been increasing for a number of years. The increase last year was particularly striking and brought total production to over 2 million tonnes. The main reason for the sharp rise in 1979 was the very severe weather in the first half of the year, which increased the demand in the cattle sector.

It is disappointing that, despite the high acreage of beet last year, adverse weather conditions kept sugar production down to about 175,000 tonnes. Nevertheless, beet growing remains one of the most profitable farm enterprises. For this reason, and also for the purpose of protecting employment and investment in the sugar industry I opposed the recent proposal of the EEC Commission to reduce the Irish quotas. These quotas will now remain at their present level for the coming season, and the longer term arrangements will be considered later in the year.

As part of the programme of public service reform, the Government decided that primary responsibility for Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann should be transferred from the Department of Finance to the Department of Agriculture. The transfer was effected last February. The Sugar Company continue with their programme of modernising the sugar factories so as to achieve the highest levels of efficiency and thus provide the best possible returns to beet producers. Two aspects of the programme are of particular importance—firstly, the shortening of the beet campaign with a view to minimising beet losses and, secondly, the achievement of more efficient sugar extraction processes. The company have to compete for export markets against the highly developed modern industries of some of the other European member states and indeed has to ensure also that its position on the home market is safeguarded. This requires the highest possible levels of efficiency and enterprise and so the programme of continuing improvement of the sugar industry in all its aspects is of the utmost importance.

The area under horticultural crops in 1979 was about the same as in 1978. Growers experienced difficulties arising from market pressures and particularly from the escalating cost of energy although the latter, of course, is not solely an Irish phenomenon and affects our competitors also. I have recently appointed a horticultural development group representative of all sectors of the horticultural industry to examine and make recommendations for the further development of the industry, with particular reference to the potential for creating new jobs and for establishing young people in commercial production. I look forward to receiving in due course the group's suggestions as to how the industry might be improved.

Financial aid continues to be available for horticulture under the Farm Modernisation Scheme and under schemes for the promotion of better marketing and for the formation of producer groups. A few such groups have already been approved for assistance. I hope to see others established as they have a significant role to play in improving the marketing of horticulture produce.

This season both the supply and price of ware potatoes have been generally satisfactory. While prices have tended to drop in recent weeks, good quality ware is still in demand at reasonable prices. With the implementation of the Community's plant health Directive from 1 May potatoes can now be imported from certain countries whose plant health position meets specified conditions. This has meant that new potatoes may be available to consumers somewhat earlier than normal. Irish new potatoes are, however, likely to be available in quantity shortly, and present indications as to the state of the crop are encouraging. While exports of seed potatoes this season were down somewhat on the previous year, higher prices meant that returns to growers were generally satisfactory.

During the past year a number of the outstanding issues concerning the proposed common organisation of the market for potatoes were settled. It is anticipated that the remaining issues will be resolved shortly and the Council of Ministers recently indicated their determination to decide on a common market organisation by the end of the year.

A major element in our livestock policy is the eradication of bovine diseases. A sum of £24.4 million is being provided under Subheads C2, C3 and C5 for the eradication of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis. This represents an increase of more than £8 million on the amount provided for these measures last year, the increase being due mainly to an intensification of the brucellosis eradication programme.

The 1978-79 round of TB testing showed a welcome drop in the incidence figures to roughly half those of the 1977 round. The round now ending is showing a further significant reduction. I expect that the acceleration measures—in particular the 30 day pre-movement test—will continue to reduce the level of TB significantly. Among the other changes made recently was the introduction of the Rotterdam bovine tuberculin for general testing purposes. This tuberculin is more potent and more specific in disclosing real focuses of infection. The next couple of years will be a critical period in the fight against TB. Far from slackening our efforts, we must intensify them. It is, therefore, more essential than ever that all the interests involved—that is, herdowners, veterinary practitioners, farming organisations, marts, factories, exporters and my own Department—should keep up the all-out campaign to ensure that this disease which has plagued us for so long is quickly conquered. This is the only way to safeguard our valuable export trade in cattle, beef and dairy products. The latest extension of the full-scale compulsory brucellosis eradication programme was to County Cork in August last. Full-scale eradication is now operating in 16 countries. The compulsory brucellosis testing of all herds was also introduced last year in the remaining counties of the south east where full-scale clearance measures do not yet apply.

The results from the round of brucellosis testing which is just ending in the free clearance areas show an encouraging reduction in the number of infected herds as compared with the previous round. As in the case of TB, however, much still remains to be done over the next couple of years. Neverthless, I believe that probably for the first time we can begin to be optimistic about total eradication of brucellosis in those areas.

Progress has also been satisfactory in the pre-intensive counties. The great majority of the herds there have been tested and a considerable number of reactors have already been removed. I should like to express my appreciation of the valuable help given by the co-operative societies as well as by the Farming organisations and by the veterinary profession in the operation of the campaign in those areas. I am at present considering how best to proceed to the next stage of the eradication programme there. The best course may well be to extend full compulsory eradication measures to this entire area in one move as early as possible, rather than do so on a piecemeal basis over the next few years. I have asked the Animal Health Council for their views on this and when I have got them I will be taking a final decision. It is important that we should keep up the momentum towards total eradication that has been built up in the last two years. The enthusiasm and co-operation on the part of farmers and their organisations that has become so evident in that time must not be dissipated. Instead we must build on it and push ahead with all speed.

The general progress being made on the brucellosis front has led me also to set up a voluntary register of officially brucellosis-free herds. This is the highest status of herd recognised under EEC regulations and herds of that status enjoy the advantage in that they can be exported more freely than others. The conditions for registration are pretty strict but there should, neverthless, be many farmers capable of attaining officially brucellosis-free status and I hope that they will seek to do so.

While there is no doubt at all about the very positive attitude of the general body of farmers and of most other interests in relation to disease, it is unfortunately still the case that we have a minority who persist in abusing the regulations. We must all be vigilant and ruthless in pursuit of those people who have no regard for the damage they can cause to others and to the farming industry generally.

Once again provision is being made at Subhead C5 for payment to the Hardship Fund out of which money, additional to normal compensation grants, can be paid to persons whose herds are seriously depleted as a result of outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis.

As I told the Animal Health Council recently, we appear to have eliminated bovine leukosis from the national herd. All tests of suspect herds in recent months have been clear. We are continuing to test these herds and to maintain restrictions on movement out of them until we are certain that each one is completely safe from further infection. However, at this stage we can look forward to the possibility that restrictions on some of the herds at least can be lifted in the near future.

Almost six million cattle were dressed for warbles in the second successive national compulsory eradication campaign last Autumn. The wholehearted support given to the campaign by the vast majority of those involved is reflected in a significant reduction in the number of warbled animals being found during the early months of this year.

Present indications from the farm organisations are that they accept that it will be necessary to have another compulsory scheme this year. My Department will co-operate fully with them in this. Again, this is an area of animal health where a final onslaught and scrupulous care to ensure that things are done properly and at the right time could produce dramatic results.

Another disease to which I should like to refer is rabies. With the spread of rabies westwards across the continent of Europe there is an increasing risk that this horrible disease may reach this country through a smuggled dog or cat or other animal. All the air and shipping companies, harbour authorities, travel agencies, home and continental yachting clubs and so on have been alerted to the danger of an illegal importation. Continuing publicity in the press, on radio and on television will emphasise the risk to human and animal health that could arise from any evasion of my Department's import requirements.

There has been some publicity about a new disease known as Contagious Equine Metritis. This venereal disease of horses continues to be a hazard to the Irish horse breeding industry, especially the bloodstock section. The Irish Liaison Committee on Equine Diseases, with the full support of my Department, has been organising voluntary co-operation of those involved in the horse breeding industry to prevent the outbreak and spread of the disease. My Department's Veterinary Research Laboratory and a number of other approved laboratories are engaged in the examination of specimens for CEM. I hope that horse owners and stud managers will avail themselves of the services provided for the control of the disease and co-operate wholeheartedly in its rapid eradication.

Turning to the investment levels in farm production, as Deputies are aware, the farm modernisation scheme is now the framework for State aid for on-farm investment. Apart from field drainage in the western counties, to which I shall refer later, the scheme covers virtually every type of capital investment by the farmer—land improvement, farm buildings, farm roadways, farm water supplies and so on. Up to the present, over 90,000 farmers have participated in the scheme. This rate of participation is itself indicative of the increased willingness displayed by farmers during the last five or six years to undertake investment in the development of their farms. In that period the scheme has generated an enormous expansion in on-farm investment. This is most welcome as the investment must be raising efficiency and helping to increase output and farm incomes. From its introduction in 1974 to the end of 1979, total investment under the scheme has been on the order of £300 million. During that period, grant aid from the Exchequer and EEC funds has amounted to £100 million.

Measured in terms of the positive effect on the level of investment the scheme has been very successful. That does not mean that it cannot be improved. I would like to see many more farmers undertaking planned development programmes and availing more fully of the advisory services. This applies especially to those farmers in the small and medium-sized range. The proposals put forward by the EEC Commission for amendment of Directive 159 are intended to provide greater incentives for a much wider band of farmers to undertake farm development plans. These proposals are at present before the Council of Ministers and I have been pressing to have them adopted quickly.

In the past year considerable progress has been made under the Western Drainage Scheme. This scheme came into operation at the beginning of 1979 and the response has exceeded all expectations. To date over 27,000 applications have been received. In the early part of last year progress was slow, due mainly to the inclemency of the weather which made field inspection difficult. With the improvement in the weather and the augumentation of the field staff, the scheme gathered momentum and by the end of the year over 8,000 approvals had been issued. These approvals cover over 42,000 hectares and the cost is estimated at £21 million. It is expected that there will be even greater progress this year. By the end of the year, therefore, we should be well on the way towards achieving the target of 100,000 hectares.

This scheme is the first major attempt to tackle the problem of drainage in the west of Ireland and should provide the impetus for a major improvement in western agriculture. All the indications are that it will be highly successful. For this scheme and for the main farm modernisation scheme we are providing £36.5 million under Subhead M.1.

Further measures designed to improve the position of agriculture in the west of Ireland are in the pipeline. A comprehensive package of proposals has been before the Council of Ministers for some time. This covers a wide range of development measures, including infrastructural improvements such as roads, water supplies and electricity, the expansion of educational and advisory facilities, land improvement and farm development, forestry development and aids for agriculture-based industries. The EEC is to contribute about £150 million towards the cost of implementing the measures over the next 10 years, and this will be matched by a corresponding Exchequer contribution. Since I became Minister I am glad to say that my efforts seem to be meeting with some success as approval of the west of Ireland proposals was included in a compromise which was accepted recently by eight of the nine Member States. I am hopeful that final approval of the package will be forthcoming in the very near future and then work can get underway immediately on the various measures.

The compromise to which I have referred also provides for an increase in the rate of FEOGA recoupment to Ireland in respect of headage payments under the disadvantaged areas directive. At present FEOGA recoup 35 per cent of our expenditure but when the compromise is finally approved we will become entitled to 50 per cent recoupment. This improvement which applies only to Ireland and Italy is a positive indication of Community concern for the less-favoured areas of two of the weaker member states. In the Estimate now before the House, we are in fact providing as much as £21 million under subhead M.3 to help our Disadvantaged areas by means of headage payments on cattle generally, beef cows and sheep.

Incidental expenses arising out of market intervention are expected to amount to £25.3 million and this is provided under subhead M6. These expenses include the cost of storage, handling and transport as well as interest on the capital used for the purchase of the products. Intervention activities are carried out on behalf of the EEC and the expenses incurred are recouped from FEOGA in accordance with a scale of standard allowances based on average costs throughout the Community. Recoupment is estimated at £18.6 million as indicated under subhead N.19. The difference of nearly £7 million reflects the relatively high interest charges here as compared with the standard level allowed by FEOGA. My Department have to provide the capital for intervention purchases and, while the capital losses on disposal are eventually met by FEOGA, the interest allowed to us on our borrowings falls appreciably short of the actual cost of borrowing. The standard rate of interest allowed by FEOGA is 8 per cent whereas my Department are paying as much as 18¼ per cent for money at present and so there is a significant net burden on the Exchequer. This matter has been pursued with the EEC Commission over the past few years but while there is some appreciation of the inequitable result of the present arrangement, no adjustment has yet been secured.

Under subhead B.7 a sum of £5.775 million is being provided for county committees of agriculture and An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta. The whole position in regard to advisory, education and training services is, of course, in a state of change at the present time, and completely new organisational arrangements are in process of being introduced.

Up to now my Department in close co-operation with county committees of agriculture have been providing advisory, education and training services to farmers and their families. The improvement and expansion of these services has been vigorously pursued in recent years. To date 47 agricultural training centres have been opened and several others are currently under construction. The Department have encouraged this development through a special grant of £20,000 for each centre in addition to the normal State financial participation in the activities of the committees. Further aid totalling almost £400,000 from FEOGA was negotiated in the case of 18 of these centres. With the final adoption of the comprehensive western proposals, the scale of EEC grant-aid towards training facilities in the western counties will be substantially stepped up. It will in fact amount to some £4 million, covering half the cost of a further 26 centres together with the provision of 200 student places at existing residential colleges.

As from an early date these various services will become the responsibility of An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta. The board of An Chomhairle first met in December last and since then have been pressing ahead actively with the planning of the administration and operation of the reorganised advisory and training services. The transfer to An Chomhairle of the advisory education and training functions of my Department and of the committees of agriculture together with the appropriate staff and properties is now imminent. The reorganisation of the services on a basis designed to cater for the conditions of the eighties constitutes a major advance in the continuing work for the development and expansion of the agricultural industry. I am confident that An Chomhairle will bring immense benefits to the industry, and I am sure that Deputies of all sides will join me in wishing them every success.

Also in connection with agricultural education we are providing over £5.8 million under subhead B.1 for grants to the university colleges concerned for the faculties of general agriculture, dairy and food science and veterinary medicine. The grants include capital provisions towards the dairy and food science project at University College, Cork and the new Faculty of Agriculture Buildings at University College, Dublin. These capital works have now been completed, and so the provision shows a reduction as compared with 1979.

Following discussions between my Department and University College, Cork, a four year course leading to the conferring by the University of a degree in farm home management will commence from the beginning of the 1980-81 academic year. The degree course, which will replace the existing three-year diploma course at the Munster Institute, will be conducted partly at University College, Cork, and partly at the Munster Institute.

The amount of the grant-in-aid for An Foras Talúntais under subhead B4 is just over £9.7 million as compared with £8.85 million last year. This will enable An Foras to continue to make their significant contribution to Irish Agriculture. An Foras, of course, also receive financial contributions from the agricultural industry itself, and these constitute a practical and tangible recognition of their valuable work.

Under subheads K1 to K5 £1,447 million is being provided for international co-operation and aid programmes as compared with £1,272 million last year. In fact, when account is taken of some EEC export refunds on wheat supplied previously under the food aid convention our total expenditure under these various programmes in 1980 will be in excess of £1.6 million. A new provision this year is that for our contribution to the international fertiliser supply scheme. Under this scheme fertilisers are supplied to developing countries to enable them to grow their own crops. We propose to contribute £200,000.

The Estimate also provides for assistance to a number of State-sponsored bodies and agricultural organisations. I have already referred to the support for An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta and CBF. Other state-sponsored bodies covered by the Estimate are Bord na gCapall and An Chomhairle Olla, while the agricultural organisations that will be assisted include the Farm Apprenticeship Bord, the ICOS, the ICA, Macra na Feirme, Muintir na Tíre and the Federation of Bee-keeper Associations. Each of these in their own way are making a valuable contribution to the development of some part of the agricultural industry or rural life generally.

I now want to refer to the farm price increases for 1980-81. I should like to say straightaway that I fully appreciate the concern of farmers at the delay in fixing prices this year. It is, however, a hard fact of life that over the years the price fixing has become an increasingly difficult task because of the tendency for the price discussions to embrace other major issues which are usually rather contentious. This year we have the added complication of the link that has been created between the farm prices settlement and the problem of the UK contribution to the EEC budget. Now, however, there is agreement among eight of the nine member states on an outline package involving prices, anti-surplus measures, farm structures and elements of a sheepmeat policy. The UK has withheld its agreement pending a satisfactory solution to the budget contribution problem.

The package that has been agreed to by "The Eight" includes increases of 4 per cent for beef and milk and 5 per cent overall—the latter being twice what the commission originally proposed, and the anti-surplus measures included in the package are considerably different from those originally proposed. The most important change is that there will be no super levy on milk this year. Neither will there be any reduction in our sugar quotas. No agreement has yet been reached on the question of the suspension of beef intervention during the summer months, But I am continuing to oppose this in the absence of adequate safeguards to protect our beef industry.

A further major element for us in the outline package is the agreement on a set of measures for improvement of agricultural structures in the west to which I have already referred. These would mean an injection of about £300 million into the west over a ten year period, with half of that investment coming from Community funds.

As I have already said, the main obstacle preventing the adoption of this package is the problem of the UK's contribution to the EEC budget. The Council of Agriculture Ministers will be meeting again next week, and there are some expectations that final agreement on the outstanding issues can be reached.

I turn now to the Estimate for Lands which is being taken in conjunction with the Estimate for Agriculture.

The total Lands Estimate is £9,852 million, an increase of £681,000 on last year's provision. In the main, this reflects salary and wage increases under subhead A and increased contributions towards revision and reduction of annuities under subhead E. The moneys required under subhead E are in the nature of statutory commitments. In the main, they represent the taxpayers' contribution towards the service of the land purchase debt accumulated since 1923. Of the total provision of £3.8 million under this subhead almost £3.6 million will be utilised to make good deficiencies in the land bond fund arising from the halving of annuities under the Land Act, 1933.

The recent debate on the Land Bond Bill, 1980 afforded Deputies an opportunity to express their views on the present programme of the Land Commission. While I would not wish to go over the same ground again, there are certain aspects of the commission's work on which, I think some comment might be appropriate.

During the recent debate a number of Deputies expressed concern at what they alleged was a virtual close-down on acquisition. This is just not so. Over the years, there has been criticism of the Land Commission for retaining lands on hands for too long a period. The retention of lands in this fashion has meant that potential allottees were unable to get their hands on the extra acreage needed to develop their holdings and improve their incomes. The Government decided that this situation was not in the general interests of smallholders and that, accordingly, for the present the main thrust of the commission's efforts should be directed towards the more expeditious disposal of the considerable acreage of lands on hands or in the course of acquisition.

I need hardly remind Deputies that the annual Vote for Lands does not fully reflect the activities of the Land Commission in a particular year. Last year, for instance, in addition to the amount voted, a sum of £12 million in land bonds was provided to pay for acquired lands. The recent land bond legislation has given statutory authority for the creation of a further £25 million in bonds. My own view on land bonds is that they are by no means the ideal medium of payment but, at present, it is simply not practicable to provide cash of the order that would be required.

In the debate there were also some comments on the level of annuities charged on lands now being allotted by the Land Commission. I appreciate, of course, that a new annuity at present levels can be a considerable burden on a small holder. But it is also necessary to have regard to the interests of taxpayers. The annuities are fixed by reference to the price paid for the Lands and the interest rate of the relevant bonds. The purchase price of the land must be the full market value and the interest rate on the bonds must be such as will ensure that the bonds will remain at or near par for a reasonable time after their creation. These are statutory requirements. If annuities were to be reduced, the resultant deficit would have to be met by the taxpayer.

What is causing problems for some allottees is that the Land Commission are now allotting land bought at relatively high prices and paid for when interest rates also were high. For example, the annuity on land of good quality bought at £2,000 per acre and paid for in 16 per cent bonds, works out at £325 per acre. This is above the economic return that can be obtained from the land, but there is clearly a limit to the help that the taxpayers can be expected to give.

The Land Commission are now almost 100 years in existence and during that time there has been no fundmental change in their basic policy. As the House knows, the Government are giving consideration to proposals for a fresh approach to land restructuring. This is an extremely complex issue, and whatever new measures are brought into effect now will undoubtedly leave their imprint on the face of Irish agriculture for many years to come. It is, therefore, important that we get the mix right from the start. In the meantime, as I have said, the traditional operations of the Land Commission must continue, with special emphasis on the rapid disposal of acquired lands.

In this address I have covered a number of the main topics arising in regard to agricultural and land policy. No doubt, some Deputies would have wished me to deal with other topics. When replying to the debate, I shall do so in so far as that is practicable.

We are discussing here today Ireland's greatest industry, an industry which is making a huge contribution to the progress and development of the country's economy and is capable of contributing far more. Of course, there have been ups and downs, and there will be again. But the long-term trend in production has been, and continues to be, upward. In recent times there has been a growing confidence among producers after the difficulties which they faced last year, and all the indications are that the current year will bring a further increase in agricultural output. Despite the difficult economic situation and the cost-price squeeze in which farmers find themselves at present, there is considerable scope for increased productivity, particularly production achieved by more economic and more efficient methods. There is room for more planned development, where producers in consultation with their advisers work in accordance with farm plans designed specifically for their particular circumstances, designed to make the best use of their land resources, buildings and equipment, and designed to yield the best returns for their own efforts. Irish agriculture made tremendous advances in the seventies. Through the maximum utilisation of modern methods and technology at all stages of production, processing and marketing, it can make equally impressive advances in the eighties, to the benefit of all engaged in the industry.

The Minister's speech which we have just heard consisted of a lot of bureaucratic data which all of us knew already. There was no plan or even an idea of a plan to cope with the growing crisis which exists in Irish agriculture. I have never, in all my 11 years in public life, seen a greater sense of depression, retrenchment and uncertainty amongst the farming community than now exists. The source of that is easily seen. The simple fact is that Irish farmers are receiving EEC prices which are increasing at a negligible rate while at the same time having to pay Irish costs which are increasing at 20 per cent or more. Independent experts have shown that in the last year, taking interest payments into account, farmers' incomes have fallen by 9 per cent. What has been the response of the Minister who is the leader of Irish agriculture to this situation affecting the people who are within his care? His response is best typified in a passage from his speech in the budget debate in which he described farmers' reaction to their situation and to the cumulation of new measures of taxation imposed on them in that budget as narrow and selfish. It seems very hard to believe that he has any understanding of the way farmers feel if that is the way he can describe their reaction to the situation that now faces them, a situation of unparalleled seriousness in my memory. We can see the evidence of this depression in a number of statistics. This year has seen a 15 per cent drop in the use of phosphate and potash by farmers. This, as the House will be well aware, will do long term damage to the fertility of our soil and to its ability to produce product in income.

The use of nitrogen, which had been increasing considerably every year up to this year does not show any increase. There has been a decline in the use of feed on the farm to increase output. In the first two months this year supplies of milk were well below last year's level and the evidence is that at present supplies have only just barely reached the level they were at in the corresponding months last year. If there is any increase in milk production this year over last year it will be very small.

One might remark that any increase is something to be pleased about but the answer to that is that our creameries who have borrowed very large sums of money, far more than would be tolerable in private industry, did so to make investments in increased processing facilities on the assumption that there would be a continued rate of increase of 8 or 9 per cent in milk supplies. If that increase does not take place, as every index indicates it will not, then our creameries will face a very serious situation. The hope that we had that they would be able to diversify out of the production of products like butter, which are in surplus, into products like soft cheeses, which are in deficit in the Community, will fall on the ground for a simple lack of resources, lack of supplies and an inability to pay the debts they have already contracted because they have not got the throughput to pay for their overheads and set aside a sufficient sum for investment. Few people realise the serious situation which many of our creameries are now facing. It is evident to me from the Minister's speech that he is amongst those who do not realise the extent of this situation.

One area in which the Minister could have taken action to restore confidence in the dairy industry is in a matter entirely within his own control, that is in the adjustment of the liquid milk price. Not surprisingly, he has not done anything about that. One of the biggest problems that farmers face at present is the restriction of credit and the very high interest rates which are obtaining. These phenomena are not mere accidents. They are a direct result of Government policy which states that the burden of maintaining the value of the Irish pound will not be borne by the Government or the public sector. The Government and the public sector will continue their level of borrowing, their level of activity and all of the restrictions which will be necessary to reduce our balance of payments deficits and maintain the value of our currency will be borne by the farming community and other people in private industry in the form of high interest rates and credit restrictions.

In other words, the Government are transferring their burden and their responsibility for the maintaining of our currency on to the backs of our farming community and failing to tackle the root cause of the difficulties that our currency faces. The farmers are paying the price for the Government's abdication of financial responsibility in the form of the credit squeeze and high interest rates which now obtain. Although other European countries have recognised the acute credit difficulty of their farmers the Irish Government have not done so. It is tragic that the farmers who find themselves in greatest difficulty now as far as repayments of their debts are concerned are the very farmers who are and have been the leaders in expansion and the leaders in improvement in production over the past four or five years. They are the people who went to the banks in order to invest to adopt modern technology and improve their levels of production. Those farmers, the opinion leaders in our community, are the people who are now finding themselves in trouble and in many cases unable to repay their debts. They are facing the threat of being sold out by the banks. I ask the House to contemplate the effect a forced sale on the farm of a farmer who has been held up for the past five years as an example which everyone else should follow will have on the confidence of other farmers who have been less inclined to make investments in the past. It is the best in the farming community who now find themselves in the greatest difficulty and there does not seem to be any realisation of that.

The Danish Government responded to that situation which obtained in their country by introducing special credit guarantee schemes for farmers. In the course of a Parliamentary Question I asked the Minister if he would do the same here. He ruled that suggestion out of hand in a one-line reply to that question. Practically every country in Europe, with the exception of Britain, has a special scheme of subsidised credit for young farmers who are seeking to establish themselves in the industry. Ireland, in a situation in which that would be most appropriate because the farmers who are in greatest difficulty are young farmers, has not done anything along that line either.

The response to the situation of falling income in the farming community has also been one where the Government have reduced rather than increased their level of support to the farming community. The share of the overall Irish Government budget devoted to agriculture has consistently fallen since the Government took office. They withdrew the lime subsidy, the phosphate subsidy, the beef incentive scheme, technical assistance which had previously been available to people in the food processing industry, and they increased the fees for milk recording. The Government also reduced the grant of support to small farmers paying high levels of rates. They also introduced a disease levy. Those measures were introduced in an industry where farm incomes have been declining.

The Government also failed to keep specific promises made to the farmers in 1977 in their manifesto which was successful in having them returned to office. Approximately 18 separate promises made in that document have not been kept. I will briefly record those unkept promises. They promised in the cases of hardship full compensation for reactors removed from herds but that has not been kept; they promised higher grants for on-farm storage and that handling of tillage products would be introduced, but that has not been done. They promised that a grain marketing and information board would be established, something which would be of great value at present, but that has not been done. The manifesto also promised tighter control in the production and marketing of sugar substitutes but that has not been done. A potato marketing and development board was also promised, something which we all recognise in the uncertain situation of the industry would be of great value, but that has not been done. They promised to retain the notional system of taxation for farmers, a specific and categorical promise in the manifesto, but that was washed down the river in the budget. Fianna Fáil also promised the establishment of a land development authority but that has not happened. They promised to introduce a system of long-term leasing but that has not happened. We were also promised that farmers in the retirement scheme would be eligible for social welfare and health benefits but that has not happened. Fianna Fáil promised the establishment of a farm inheritance counselling service but that has not happened. They promised a uniform rate of capital investment of 40 per cent for land improvement and 20 per cent for farm building, but that has not happened either. We were promised a 10 per cent grant on performance, but that has not happened. Some may say these require the consent of the EEC. It is all very well saying that now but none of these things were said in the manifesto and if they required EEC consent that was the time to tell farmers. They promised that a simplified system of farm planning would be introduced under the farm modernisation scheme. That did not happen. They promised action to assist co-ops and producer groups in improving their capital structure and extending services to members and increasing producer control. At a time when co-ops are facing unparalleled difficulty that promise has not been kept either.

They promised to establish a new domestic marketing council representative of producer and consumer interests to set standards for farm products with a special team of domestic economy instructors to ensure that quality standards were maintained. That was not implemented even though we now face greater import penetration of our market than at any time in the past. The Government evidently have no plans for the future of Irish agriculture. They seem to be mesmerised by Brussels and consistently using it as an excuse for their own failures. As far as the public are concerned the only thing one sees our Ministers doing is getting on and off aeroplanes, making press statements of little consequence——

And making progress.

We have not seen it.

What about the super levy?

I intend to concentrate on what the Government could have done within their own competence and in this country to improve agriculture. Perhaps the greatest failure of all on the part of the two Ministers we have had was their failure to do anything about land policy. The most disappointing evidence of this is contained in the Minister's interview with the Irish Farmers' Journal. It was clear that he had not made up his mind whether or not he would keep the Land Commission. In fact, he contradicted himself during the course of the article as to his intentions in the matter. He was asked whether the Land Commission would be retained and he said:

The first point I must make here is that the Government is currently looking at possible future policy options in relation to land. Given that situation, I would suggest that the question of whether or not the Land Commission should continue or whether there should be a new land agency is not by any means the first issue that has to be settled.

It would, I suggest, be more appropriate to settle first the broad lines of policy and to identify what kinds of functions and operations that policy would entail.

His answer would give the impression that he had not got a clue whether or not to keep the Land Commission. He was reminded of a Fianna Fáil commitment in the manifesto. Mr. Maguire said:

Can I put the question another way? Does the Fianna Fáil commitment to replace the Land Commission with a new land agency still stand?

the Minister said:

The commitment is there and it still stands.

The commitment was there in one answer and he had not made up his mind in the other. Could anything be more contradictory or confusing or show greater uncertainty on the part of the Minister on a simple fundamental issue which any Government worthy of its salt with reports available to it for two years should have made up its mind about?

One has been given the impression that they were at an advanced stage in the preparation of legislation on land policy but the evidence in this interview is that not even the heads of the Bill, let alone the drafting, have been completed. The Minister said:

I would hope that we can make definite progress on this, this year. I will be pressing hard to have the Bill out before the end of the year, but it all depends on what actual decisions will be made by the Government, and what delays there might be in trying to have these decisions converted into the heads of a Bill and into legislation.

They do not even have the heads of a Bill, let alone have legislation introduced.

The impression is given that even if the previous Minister had not done very much about land policy at least he knew what he wanted, but we have no evidence that the present Minister even knows what he wants to do about land policy. This is not good enough. The fundamental problem facing agriculture is in the area of land policy. Unless we do something to bring control and management of the land into the hands of young trained progressive farmers we will make no progress no matter how much development aid, price increases or assistance of all kinds there are. These will be of no avail unless the land is in the control of such people who will respond to these initiatives. Nothing is happening to bring that situation about. Land policy is the key to progress.

There is another problem on which nothing is being done and that is the increasing danger of import penetration of our market. Ireland is a food producing country and should be able not alone to supply the entire needs of its own market but to export substantial quantities of food. Yet over the last two years increasing quantities of food we could be producing are imported. There is little evidence of anything being done by any official agency to counteract this. There are substantial imports of fresh and frozen potatoes which are well capable, as any knowledge of our history would show, of being produced in substantial quantities. There are substantial quantities of foreign apples and eggs imported. Our imports of eggs far exceed our exports and this an agricultural country. Our vegetable acreage is down and at the same time imports of the kind of vegetables we can produce are rising rapidly. Our pig industry will face competition in the immediate future from large scale imports of bacon and pork and nothing seems to be done to prevent it.

All these eventualities will result in a loss of jobs unless something is done urgently. The Government could have kept their promise in the election manifesto to establish, as they said, a domestic marketing council to promote the consumption of Irish food on the Irish market. That has been forgotten about. They could do something to improve quality control, one of the difficulties many of our industries face. This is so in the pig industry and in the case of certain vegetables which are not adequately graded. The legislation which exists to control the quality and grading of these products is not being adequately enforced through lack of manpower made available by the Department or through lack of direction or action in the form of prosecutions against people——

We cannot criticise legislation on an Estimate.

I am not criticising legislation but the enforcement thereof.

To the Chair that seems to be the same thing.

If one cannot discuss the importance of legislation what can one discuss because everything is based on legislation? There is obviously a need to improve hygiene in the bacon industry, to improve quality in the matter of the amount of brine pumped into carcases and in the matter of the maintenance of the real weight of our commodities. This will have an effect not only of safeguarding the home market but of improving our export performance also. The Government must take urgent action in this matter if they are serious about protecting this industry.

As a result of the insistence by the former Minister for Agriculture on scrapping the work of his predecessor in establishing a national agricultural authority, we have had two wasted years as far as improved planning in the agricultural advisory research and education services are concerned. Two years have been completely wasted in a pointless wrangle about the bureaucratic structure that should govern agricultural advice, education and research. In the meantime nothing has been happening. That has been the sole, personal responsibility of the Minister of the Fianna Fáil Party. Because county committees of agriculture are limited in the amount they may spend in eastern counties, to the amount of the increase in rates, which is 10 per cent this year and in respect of which contribution from the county councils they receive a matching grant of 10 per cent from the Department of Agriculture, having had 11 per cent in the two previous years, we are now faced with the situation in which these county committees of agriculture, providing advisory services—and education—whose costs have been going up at 20 per cent and 30 per cent, but whose funds have been restricted to 10 per cent or 11 per cent will be faced, unless something is urgently done in the latter half of this year with the prospect of having substantially to cut their advisory and education programmes next winter. There is no evidence yet that the Government will do anything to alleviate that situation. I hope they will do so and that the Minister, when replying, will give some definite assurance about the maintenance of the funds of county committees of agriculture.

There is one area in which I believe there are great prospects for this country, that is in the production of sheep. As everyone knows, we have a situation now in which the Community is deficient in sheep products. I welcome the measures taken by the Minister to improve the situation of mountain sheep producers, people who have no option but to remain in sheep production. But I regret the failure of the Minister to take any action to do what must be done if the complement of mountain sheep production—which involves lowland fattening of sheep is to survive, namely, to combat the problem of maurauding dogs. In Northern Ireland they have established a proper wardening service based on realistic licence fees, where dogs which are wandering at night are being effectively policed and taken into custody so that they will not damage sheep. Indeed, very few farmers are prepared now to go into sheep production for fear of the colossal damage that can be done to the sheep in one night by a band of dogs.

I believe the Government must take action to establish a dog wardening service similar to that in existence in Northern Ireland. At present the Government's line is that that is a matter for the local authorities. If local authorities are having their funds squeezed—as every Member of this House who is a member of a local authority knows they are—to a limit of 10 per cent, they simply have no money available to them to take on the additional service of dog wardening. If this is to happen it must be undertaken by the Minister who is responsible for sheep production, the Minister for Agriculture. As yet at least he has shown no sign of tackling this problem.

In many respects the question of food quality and hygiene, where it is being sold on the home market—and I mentioned already the fears there are and the real evidence there is of import penetration of our market because of these deficiencies—also is the responsibility of the local authorities under the veterinary services operated by them. Of course they have not got the resources available to them to enforce it and indeed they have no particular or direct interest in the subject. Again that is something the Minister for Agriculture must take under his control, the maintenance of food quality and hygiene on the home market.

I should like to say something now about the beef industry. I welcome the introduction of the classification scheme. Its results so far show that it is a very good scheme and is having very beneficial effects. Farmers are already talking openly about the classification of different animals. There is a wide level of understanding already of the way the scheme operates. But all of this emphasis on classification will be of little value if the farmer who produces the good animal, which grades highly under the scheme, is not paid a price commensurate with the quality. At present what is happening is that while farmers who produce notably bad animals lose out somewhat, the farmer who produces the really top-class animal is not getting any significant improvement in his price vis-à-vis the farmer who produces the medium quality animal. I believe the classification scheme must be backed up by a scheme under which the factories are encouraged strongly by the Minister to pay a good premium to the farmer who produces the high quality animal, commensurate with the good price the factory can obtain when it comes to sell meat from that animal abroad. The benefits of the classification scheme must be passed on to the farmer and not simply used by the factories to improve their profit-making position.

I also expressed some fear—and this is something to which the Minister should address himself—about the trend evidenced in insemination at present. I am sure the Minister is aware that in many AI stations inseminations of the Friesian breed, which were in excess of 70 per cent last year, have now fallen right down to something in the region of 40 per cent. This may have two effects. First of all, it may lead to a glut of beef on the market in two years' time and, possibly, a cattle crisis of similar magnitude to that experienced last year unless markets exist for the selling of that beef at a profitable price. The Minister should now be informing himself as to whether similar trends in insemination are occurring in other Community countries. If they are, then there will certainly be a glut of beef in two years' time. Certainly that is not something to which one could look forward with any degree of confidence particularly because of the very serious effect it would have, as had the 1979 crisis, on store cattle producers in the west. There is also a serious danger, if this trend in inseminations continues next year, that there will not be a sufficient number of Friesian heifers being born to provide adequate replacements to maintain the numbers, quality and output of the dairy herd.

I would draw attention to the fact also that whereas when farmers in the west, as a result of the cattle crisis and various difficulties experienced in 1974, were assisted by the then Minister for Agriculture in the form of a feed voucher scheme, nothing was done by the present Minister to assist farmers in the west in 1979 when they faced a similar crisis. The simple reality is that, when the cattle industry is bad, the people who are squeezed hardest are the people in the middle—not the calf producer, nor the beef fattener, but the store producer. During last year's cattle crisis nothing was done by the then Minister to assist farmers in the west in the very difficulty situation they were facing.

As far as beef is concerned, there are fundamental grounds for confidence. The greatest problem beef farmers are now facing is that interest rates are so high that they cannot bear the cost of holding on to stock for a long period. They are forced to sell cattle prematurely for bad prices, simply because they have not got the credit to hold on to them. We must move to systems which will enable farmers to turn over stock more rapidly and get a return more rapidly, and not have to make the huge interest payments that are necessary to hold on to an animal from birth to three years of age.

We must aim at two-year-old beef. It is to be hoped that assistance will be made available for the introduction of a calf to a two-year-old beef system in the west under the new western package. That could be of great importance if operated properly. It would give farmers an opportunity to produce the most profitable beef in the west, where in the past such has not been the case. It would give a real prospect to the industry as a whole to reduce its overall interest costs by producing animals at a younger age and, being younger, of a better grade for sale abroad.

I want to mention the disease eradication scheme. I fully support the efforts being made to eradicate these diseases. We cannot exaggerate the dangers that exist to this industry, and to this country, if we do not eradicate bovine tubercullosis and brucellosis. We will be unable to export some of our commodities unless these diseases are eradicated quickly, because other countries will take action against us if we have traces of infection in our herd.

The emphasis in disease eradication has been very one-sided under the existing Government programme. All the emphasis has been on regulations and on punitive measures, and very little emphasis has been placed on prevention or educating the farming community. A great deal could be done by farmers to prevent disease breaking out in their herds. A great deal could be done by farmers to improve hygiene in their systems of production to avoid the creation of sources of disease. The district veterinary offices are so over-worked and so pre-occupied with the task of administering the mass of bureaucratic detail which is required within the existing system that they have no time to go out to the farming community to seek to promote better measures of prevention of disease. There is no positive approach to disease eradication. It is all negative and punitive. It will not work unless far more is done to educate farmers on what they can do themselves to prevent the outbreak of disease in their herds.

There is a failure in many cases to enforce the law that is already there because of inadequate staff. Take one example. There is a requirement that all lorries be washed at marts. The mart committees were required not long ago, at considerable cost to themselves, to provide washing facilities at all marts. I was at a mart recently and I asked about washing facilities. I was shown lovely, clean and bright washing facilities. I asked if all lorries used the facilities every time they came into the mart and I was told that only one or two used them, that the vast bulk of lorries completely ignored them and would load up again into a dirty lorry. There should be someone at the mart to ensure that, if those facilities are provided at the farmers' expense, they are used. It would be better not to provide them at all if they are not used.

There is another area where the Government could take action in the interests of our industry. They should encourage older farmers to retire in order to hand over their farms to younger farmers. We have a retirement scheme which does not work because the level of pensions available to farmers under the farm retirement scheme has not kept pace with the level of pensions available to other people under the social welfare code. The Government promised in their manifesto that they would not only make available the farm retirement pension scheme to farmers but that they would make social welfare payments available also. That promise has not been kept and they have not kept pensions under the scheme in line with other pensions.

Since the scheme was introduced pensions have been increased by approximately 60 per cent, while other pensions have increased by over 100 per cent. In this year's budget there was an announcement that other social welfare pensions would be increased by a further 25 per cent. Although last year an increase in the farm retirement pension scheme was given on 1 May, we are now at the end of May and no announcement has been made of any increase in the rate of pensions under the farm retirement scheme. These people are forgotten. People who did what the Government advised them to do, handed over their farms in order that younger farmers could do a better job, are now being left to stew in their own juice. The Government are breaking faith with them by failing to maintain the value of their pensions. This is a scandal and, if that record is maintained, it will be very difficult to get farmers to agree to retire under this scheme.

I have criticised the Minister for failing to give any indication of a development plan for agriculture, to give any reason for farmers to have confidence in their future. I believe there is ground for confidence. The major fear at the moment is that posed by the milk surplus and by the budget restrictions which exist in the European Community. I believe if the Community is to survive in any way, apart from agricultural considerations, it will have to solve its budget problems. It will have to devote more money to agriculture which is the only common policy it has. That will happen. I believe that the milk surplus situation that exists is not inherent and will not continue. It arises from the fact that our industry has devoted too much of its resources to producing commodities which are not demanded by the consumer, and insufficient resources to producing commodities which are demanded by the consumer. As soon as that adjustment is made, out of butter and into cheese and yogurt and the production of raw materials for other industries, there will be a fundamental basis on which one can expand in dairying in Ireland.

It is up to the Minister to say something like I have said, to show to the farming community, to demonstrate with all the authority his office gives to him, that there will be greater concern about and investment in agriculture. The Minister has not done anything to create such confidence. Everything, almost without exception, done by the Government has been pointed in the opposite direction, and if this debate serves any purpose I hope it will be to move the Minister and his colleagues to do a great deal better for Irish agriculture.

Our land is the most important natural resource we have. We hear a lot of talk about how we should control different types of things, like our mineral wealth and other natural resources, but our land comes first. There does not seem to be a plan at all in the Minister's speech for the development of this first natural resource. This complex industry, particularly land structure cannot be dealt with adequately in this kind of a debate, yet the Minister dealt with it in a few miserable pages of his speech.

Four pages.

It is not even four pages—one of them was short. The most important problem to be faced is the management of our land structure, and until that has been tackled there will not be progress. The previous Minister promised us that he would have the heads of a Bill to deal with this area before the Government in 1979 and that legislation would be before the House by the end of April this year. We know what has happened. This lack of action indicates the lack of concern of the Government about land structure. Three years ago they got an interDepartmental committee report, commissioned by the National Coalition Government, but action of any discription has not been taken.

Despite what the Minister said today in relation to land acquisition—he said it had not been stopped—I can tell him it has been stopped. Acquisition of land by the Land Commission has ceased, it is not in existence at the moment.

Another serious concern because of absence of new legislation is that multi-national companies are buying land. In my constituency a multi-national company bought a farm which should have been acquired by the Land Commission and divided among young farmers in the area who are crying out for land. I am charging the Government with allowing that to have happened in a grey period when we are being told that legislation is being prepared. If such legislation is not prepared quickly and brought before the House soon, this situation will snowball and we will be faced with the problem of how to get the land back into the hands of needy Irish farmers.

Fianna Fáil in their pre-election manifesto promised that the Land Commission would be replaced by a land agency. What difference that would make I do not know. In this House on all sides we have been blaming the Land Commission for years for not doing this and for doing that. I am not here to criticise them; we never seriously gave them the wherewithal to do what we wanted them to do. We have made similar accusations against the local authority who are now depending on Government financing to maintain their essential services.

The only way the Land Commission ever were allowed to acquire land was through land bonds which are an unfair method of paying for land. There are people in my constituency who have had reams of land bonds for years, poor people, and the only way they can sell them is in ones and twos, because if any quantity of them appear on the market at once, they are unsaleable, not to talk about a reduced price.

I am dwelling on the land structure topic because of the seriousness of the situation. The size of farm which gives the greatest production nowadays must be not less than 70 acres. The policy made by this House and imposed on the Land Commission of the 40-acre farm is rubbish in present conditions. A farmer needs 70 to 75 acres now if he is to be viable. We must have that size of farm on average if agriculture is to be progressive, and this would be the policy if the Government had acted on the inter-Departmental committee report. The Minister for Agriculture and his predecessor do not deserve anything but condemnation——

Hear, hear—condemn us.

These two Ministers deserve condemnation because of the position land structure is in. They did not do anything although they had a constructive report before them.

The Minister did not mention agricultural workers in his speech. Possibly this is not an issue in his area and he may not have any interest in it. Agricultural workers have contributed much to the industry but they are ignored in any agricultural debate in this House or elsewhere. The National Coalition Government set up a more equitable system for arranging their wages. For years the workers had been under the aegis of the Agricultural Wages Board but the Coalition Government set up a committee under the Employer-Labour Conference to deal with the wages of agricultural workers. However, much more is necessary than just fixing wages, even though that seems to be the total of the Government's interest in their affairs. What they can avail of in the matter of education from the county committees of agriculture and the farm advisory services is very limited. Agricultural workers must be skilled in the operation of complicated machinery even though there may be an impression in urban areas that the work of agricultural workers is confined to digging ditches. The Minister has not taken any interest in this section of the agricultural community. He did not think them worthy of a mention in his speech.

Nonsense. That is utter bunkum.

Did the Minister mention them in his speech? Perhaps they do not exist in his area.

I mentioned the number employed in agriculture at the beginning of my speech.

Agricultural workers are an important sector in many other areas. I am sorry the Minister is losing his cool about the matter.

That is not so.

In the Fianna Fáil manifesto there is a bald statement telling the country that Fianna Fáil would see to it that we would process all our food. I say that nothing has been done to expand the food processing sector. The Government have said that so far as the food processing industry, including the sugar factories is concerned the people concerned have been saved from cutbacks and I am glad to hear that. The industry is safe for another year at least and that is worthwhile.

The Minister stated that 5,000 people are employed in the meat industry. The meat processing industry is important in my area because it employs 1,000 people but they are under serious threat because of the high rate of interest charged to people who supply the factories during the winter months. These people buy in cattle, fatten them and supply the meat processing industry for the two or three months each year when cattle on grass are not available. The people engaged in this side of the industry have been crushed out of business because of the high rate of interest they have to pay and the low profit. I admit they are not constituents of mine but I appreciate the job they do in supplying factories in the short term. If they go out of business there will be short-time working in the factories. I welcome the scheme dealing with classification of beef. We must develop in this area if we are to compete in the European markets. When I was in Europe on one occasion I inquired why our beef commanded a lower price than beef from other European countries and I was told that we do not produce the kind of beef the consumers wanted. Therefore, we had to sell at a reduced price. I am glad some effort is being made to improve the situation.

I support the schemes dealing with the eradication of bovine TB and brucellosis. All of us realise that it is vital for us to eradicate these and other diseases if we are to keep and expand our export trade. The Minister said he would see if something could be done about the 60-day test period. This affects the small seller of cattle. If he does not get what he considers to be a fair price for the cattle he has to bring them home from the mart and keep them for another 30 days before they are tested again. The Minister promised that some action would be taken in this area.

For the information of the Deputy, the waiting period is 15 days since last January.

That is some improvement. It was a serious factor for small producers. There was also some difficulty in obtaining necessary facts from various Departments.

The Minister said that we should be able to supply all the bacon and pig meat necessary. However, something has gone wrong with the pig fattening units because, despite what the Minister says, they are closing down. A pig fattening unit which took pigs from my constituency closed down because it was unprofitable. Would the Minister say why these pig fattening units are unprofitable when they were set up as co-operatives to deal with this type of business in a more economic way? The people engaged in pig fattening have been going through trying times. I know we have been trying to improve the quality of our bacon and the price available to farmers, but these units are still losing money.

We can make huge strides in relation to sheep production if we can get rid of the problem of dogs worrying sheep particularly at certain times of the year. Apparently a plan was drawn up by the Minister for the Environment to allow local authorities to provide amenities for dogs. In Kildare we had a lot of hassle about this because we had no money even to provide the services that we normally provide as a local authority much less to provide amenities for dogs. We finally agreed that if the Minister for the Environment would allow us to raise a loan we would implement this scheme because we realised the importance of it. The application is with the Minister for some time now and there has been no come back on it.

And there will not be either.

The Minister for Agriculture surely has a responsibility in this area.

Hear, hear.

Marauding dogs are costing sheep farmers thousands of pounds each year. We would all be running to provide money to deal with these dogs if rabies got into the country. The Minister in his speech mentioned the danger of rabies in relation to dogs marauding sheep, but local authorities do not have the money to deal with the problem. A scheme such as is proposed apparently works well in Northern Ireland. But here no money is available from the county councils because they are limited in what they can raise now, and no money will be allowed from the Department of the Environment from the central loans fund. The Minister for Agriculture has a responsibility to provide at least half of the money needed. If the Minister will not do that he can stop talking about the spread of rabies and about expanding sheep production. Farmers anywhere near urban areas are finding it impossible to increase sheep production and some are even deterred from going into sheep production just because of the marauding dogs.

The dairying industry is our greatest potential. Our farmers and co-operatives have shown great enterprise in their investments in this area. I fully support the Minister in opposing any super levy and the Minister deserves credit for winning that battle to some extent. The dairying industry relates not only to farmers but to industrial workers in the processing areas. We must increase production, diversify and create more employment in these processing industries which are our greatest source of employment in rural areas. The small amount of our products that went into intervention shows that Bord Bainne have done a magnificent job in selling our dairy products. The fact that so little of our produce has gone to create butter mountains and so on in Europe means that we have put very little strain on the EEC intervention scheme, so there is no reason why we should cut back on our production or why our production should be penalised by levies or anything like that. There is no justification for it. If we were putting huge amounts of butter and milk products into intervention there would be some argument for making us cut back on production, but we are not. In this respect I pay tribute to Bord Bainne for their wonderful job in selling our products. Let us hope that the new beef organisation for the sale and regulation of our beef exports will succeed in doing as good a job in that area. If they do we will have a great argument as to why there should be no reduction in any of these areas and no levies.

In regard to the sugar industry, I have noticed that a number of retail outlets are selling imported biscuits and we make the finest biscuits in the world. This is a serious loss to the Sugar Company and to the potential of sugar for home use. Confectionery, sweets and biscuits of all kinds, in which sugar is a major ingredient, are being imported, and are on the shelves of our shops throughout the country. This is one of the results of free trade and I suppose there is very little we can do about it. If that continues and other countries within the EEC continue to get a bigger share of our market it will have a serious effect on our sugar industry in particular. There is a certain amount of beef coming in as well but I do not believe that will have any real effect on our beef production. Some plan will have to be produced to promote our biscuits. The present situation was caused by the monetary compensatory amounts within the EEC regulations. These are changed now but a lot of damage has been done because the market has been opened up to those products.

Feeding barley is controlled at a reasonable price which is negotiated. The Minister said he would like to see spring wheat grown for use in making bread. If it is economic and is valuable to agriculture in general that we grow this wheat we should do so. Malting barley is a very important item used in the distillery industry which is very important to us. Large quantities of stout and beer of all types are exported every year. It is important that we develop malting barley for this industry. Any attempt to cut back on our food processing in the sugar industry or in any other area must be resisted. I believe the Minister has made that clear the same as his predecessor did. If we are to create employment and expand, our food processing industry must be given every assistance. The employment in the agricultural industry in the food processing area is substantial particularly in rural areas.

I would like to say something about AnCOT and the committees of agriculture. The controversy in relation to the AnCOT Bill has been going on for five or six years and it has not yet been implemented. We had a good Bill produced while Deputy Clinton was Minister for Agriculture. Then we had a change of programme which took two years to get through the House by the Fianna Fáil Minister who followed Deputy Clinton, While the Bill was going through the House I said I would settle for anything to get the Bill through the House rather than messing around over what the Minister's predecessor did. It is to the Government's disgrace that this Bill has dragged on for so long. Shortly after the Bill had passed through both Houses another Bill had to be brought in to annul one section dealing with people who were appointed in a statutory position as members of committees of agriculture the previous year. I would like the Minister to state when he will implement this Bill as far as committees of agriculture are concerned.

The Minister for Agriculture would have been wiser if instead of bringing in the second small Bill he said that he would implement the part of the Bill dealing with committees of agriculture when the next local elections came along. There are many people who are members of committees of agriculture throughout the country who have given their time and expertise to those committees who are now redundant. The Minister may say that some of those committees of agriculture were not good but, as far as the one in my constituency is concerned it has been agreed by the Department of Agriculture and many other people that they have been very progressive and have done everything they could under the regulations and under the legislation to promote the education and training of farmers in their area. Those people now find themselves redundant.

The Minister will name the organisation which will supply the personnel of the committees which will represent the various rural organisations as specified in the Bill. During the passage of the last Bill the Minister of State agreed with me that those people will vary from county to county. I ask him to spell out to us what kind of advice he gets in arriving at decisions about who will be represented on the various county committees of agriculture. Will it be by way of recommendation from the advisory staff or from AnCOT or will it be by way of representations made by the various organisations and the case they might make as to why they should be represented? The Kildare County Committee of Agriculture have recommended that, because of the importance of the horse-breeding industry in the county, that body should be represented. The powers of the new committees will be very different from what the situation has been up to now. They will be very restricted in that they will not have any control in respect of the people working in the various areas. It will be a function of each committee to draw up a programme of what they think should be done in their area in the year ahead.

As is the case with county councils, the county committees of agriculture are losing whatever authority they had. They will not have any power in regard to the spending of money. They will not have any say regarding the advisory staff. So far as I can ascertain from the legislation that has been passed, their only function will be to draw up programmes 12 months in advance. Those programmes will be then put to AnCOT who in turn will forward them to the Department of Agriculture from where they must then go to the Department of Finance. The position always has been that programmes have to be submitted for sanction and if they were accepted the amount of money paid was in proportion to that provided by the local authority.

Despite all the fuss that has been made about local organisations having representations on these committees, I do not think that such representation will be of very much value since the only function of the committee will be to recommend. One can visualise the kind of cutbacks that will be made in respect of any programme by the time it has gone through the various channels on its way to the Department of Finance at which stage there would be further paring down. The previous arrangement was much better because it allowed the committees to have a good deal of control as to what they did. The local authority stipulated the maximum amount that they could provide from the rates and that amount was matched by the Department.

However, there may not be much demand from the committees of agriculture as time goes on and as they come to realise how limited their functions are. They may not be too keen on the idea of being merely in a rubber stamp position. In these circumstances, I trust that this whole area will be reconsidered.

I hope the Minister will tell us what he intends to do about land structure and about the Land Commission and that associated area. Is there any intention of doing anything in this regard in the near future? For instance, is there any plan to have discussions with the Government on this matter before the end of this session?

I wish to congratulate the Minister on this occasion of the presentation of his first Estimate to the House. One can only be disappointed with the prophesies of doom that have come from the other side of the House this morning, especially from Deputy Bruton who is usually very constructive in his remarks. He referred to the Minister going back and forth to Brussels but I wonder if Deputy Bruton realises that it is in Brussels that our agricultural policy is dictated. We have a good Minister for Agriculture. As the old Fenian men might have said, we may have good men but we never had better. That can be applied to our present Minister.

The Minister has done a very good job in so far as the proposed super levy was concerned but we would like to know what are the prospects for the common agricultural policy. This is a serious question so far as Irish agriculture is concerned. Our farmers went into the EEC primarily because of this policy. Thereafter, they enjoyed some good years but 1974 was a particularly bad year for them and 1979 was bad for them also. We should be told if there is any talk in Brussels about the future subsidisation of the CAP. A curtailment of the policy at this point when production costs have increased so much would be a disaster for the Irish farmer. Is there a check even at this late stage on the question of the subsidisation of the CAP? As I stated when we were joining the EEC, although the Treaty of Rome was in existence, what was happening could be likened to a company acquiring three new directors, that any company which would take on three new directors, particularly one the size of Britain who would be looking for a cheap food policy, would make every effort to change the Treaty of Rome in regard to the CAP. While we can do a lot at home in terms of agricultural policy, we must realise that in the main this policy is dictated from Brussels.

Our Ministers do a good job in Brussels. Therefore, it is very unfair that any Deputy would comment disparagingly on their visits to that city. No doubt, the Ministers work very hard while they are there.

I agree on the question of the grading of beef but people who grade beef should be paid for that work. I was associated with the grading of pigs in the early days of the scheme in that regard and we went to a lot of trouble to ensure that there would not be taken into the station any bonham that was not likely to make grade A. I was associated also with the grading of wool but from the moment that there was a scarcity on that market the grades were forgotten about. Everything was bought up and there was no bonus paid for quality. I thoroughly agree that there should be a bonus for quality. No matter what is produced, if it is quality produce a bonus should be paid for it.

Deputy Bruton also mentioned the question of the infrastructure of the west of Ireland and of raising cattle from calves to beef. I have some experience with calves and can assure the House that there is a risk attached to it, as there is in pig fattening. Anyone in the pig fattening process knows what virus pneumonia can do. This year we had some incidence of this disease in calves which can be very expensive. I am all for raising calves to beef but there is just as much risk attached to it as with a high concentration of pigs.

I would welcome a development of our beef trade in the next few years but I was concerned about a comment by Deputy Bruton that there was a danger of a beef pile in the next two years. I am inclined to agree that that could happen. I stood on the far side of the House and said that we were in a free market and were entitled to export calves if we wanted to, if they could not be bought here. Many people fattening cattle wanted us to curtail the export of calves. Calves have fallen to a very poor price this year. We would be very glad to have an export market for them now. In this regard I could say, "I told you so". It could happen again.

There is very bad forward planning and thinking in Brussels that all these piles are allowed to occur. These people know the extent of their production but do nothing about the extent of their consumption. Anything produced must be consumed and this is where there is bad planning within the EEC. My honest opinion is that the EEC is a very inefficient body, as I have said time and again.

My next point concerns the farm modernisation scheme. The Minister mentioned that £3 million was spent on this scheme. I would like to see a breakdown of that sum, to know how much went to 20 per cent of the farmers and how much to 80 per cent who were transitional farmers. The 80 per cent got only a 30 per cent grant, and sometimes not even a 30 per cent grant, because the estimates were not in keeping with the actual costs in a lot of cases. Nothing has been done to change Directive 159. Professor Sheehy mentioned that it was a pity, with three good years, that the majority of the farmers did not get the incentive to develop which the other 20 per cent did. I understand that there are proposals before the EEC in Brussels to change this and every effort should be made to change it. When I was chairman of the General Council of Committees of Agriculture in 1974 I asked for a free development scheme. This request was taken up later by the farming organisations. This was in connection with people who would not qualify for the larger grants. Nothing happened about that under either Government. There is no use in one complaining about the other.

Deputy Bermingham mentioned 70 acres. I wish we could have 70 acres. If we had that amount for everybody we would have to put an awful lot of people off the land. I agree with him that to have a reasonable income, 70 acres is too large. We could not have that in the west. Remarks were passed by Deputy Bermingham about the Minister not paying much attention to the education of agricultural workers. We have no agricultural workers in the west, only the farmers themselves. We have no farm of a size capable of needing agricultural workers.

It is absolutely important for any man in the milk production line that he take his cattle off his small farm during the winter. He must have housing for them in order to do that and the cost of housing is very high at present. It is a great pity that these people did not get grants. The small farmer did as much as he could with the grants available through the EEC. I emphasise that it is absolutely essential for a small farmer, if he wants to take two cuts of silage—and if he is farming anyway efficiently, he has to take two cuts of silage—he must get his cattle off the land for the winter. To do that he must house them, which is costly. I hope the grants will be improved in that respect.

I would like to see the severely handicapped area scheme extended to the whole 12 western counties. It is unfair that some counties are in this. The fairest way to judge handicap would be per farm, because there are severely handicapped farms in every county. To be recognised as a severely handicapped area at present depends on the electoral district you live in. You must have 50 per cent of that land severely handicapped. If it is a place around a town—and towns are usually built on fairly good land—and if the electoral division adds up to 2,000 acres, some very bad spots can be within that electoral division but because 50 per cent of it is not severely handicapped it will not come in under the severely handicapped area classification. The area should be reduced from a district electoral division to perhaps a townland. If a townland is fairly small, something could be done about bringing equity into this.

Sheep have been mentioned, and rightly so. I have been in sheep production all my life and I can say that the profit from sheep, until we got into the French market, was not all that great. It was very poor at times. I am worried now about the cost of production of early lamb. Last winter was not too bad but the winter before was terrible in regard to the cost of producing early lamb. There might be a swing away from early spring lamb, which I would not like to see happen.

The question of stray dogs was mentioned. I could not agree more that something will have to be done about controlling these. They are a menace. We have our own way of handling them in the country, which might not be exactly legal. Any kind of breeding ewe is worth £50 and her offspring would make £40 each. If you see five or six of these animals destroyed, you will be a very angry man and could do anything. There is a future for sheep, but there must be a change in farming in the mountain areas. Mountain lambs do not provide suitable carcases; they have to be too old and too big when they come to the required weight and are not suitable for a factory at all. There will have to be some rethinking on the whole question of mountain lamb. I am a lowland farmer and we got the benefit of the French market but the mountain farmers did not. For a factory, a lamb must have almost no bones, no big heads or legs. What you want is a weanling lamb who between live and deadweight will put on about 50 per cent weight. You will not get this with a badly fed lamb.

Deputy Bermingham referred to sugar factories. I note that the sugar factories are to be modernised and I am delighted about that because certainly they need it. There are grave rumours about what might happen to the factory in Tuam and I hope the Minister will not forget to modernise that factory also.

An amount of £3 million for infrastructure in the west of Ireland has been mentioned. I am very sorry that of that £3 million there is no allocation for land structure which Deputy Bermingham mentioned. Many tears are shed over the new Land Bill and why it is not in, but the Minister is endeavouring to see that when it is brought in it will be a good Bill. This is a very serious question and I challenge anybody who claims to know more about it than I do. In the report on this question of land structure were suggestions that a panel be set up who would be entitled to buy land and they would get a subsidy from the State to do so. I will take my area which is typical of the west of Ireland. If 30 acres of land went up for sale there, practically every farmer in the area would be qualified, and who is going to say that Jack should buy and John should not buy? Terrible things were done for land in this country in the past and if that suggestion is adopted no rural organisation will take it on themselves to say that Jack should buy and John should not.

No matter what we say about the Land Commission, and we can disagree with them and criticise them, they are away from the local scene and the small farmer has no hope of getting extra land if the Land Commission are not there. I would like to see more lay commissioners. It is just too bad that only four lay commissioners have control. There should be at least seven. The right to acquire land must be left with the new structure, call them what you like. The structures are there and, even though we have complaints about them—I as much as anyone—they have not done too bad a job. If the Minister is taking a bit of time to study this and then comes out with a good job, I will be satisfied. I would not like a quick decision on this. I have asked various people how they propose to set up the panel suggested in the report. Who is to set it up? Who is to say that Jack should buy and John should not buy? They have all shied away from the question. With all their faults and failings, the structures of the Land Commission are there and I favour their being there with the power to acquire land. I emphasise to the Minister that while we are waiting for the Bill they should continue to acquire land as they have been doing up to now.

That brings me to a very important point which none of us likes to talk about. We do not like land bonds, but apparently the EEC did not think it worth while to include land structure in their infrastructural grants for the west of Ireland and there is no alternative to land bonds. I was amused when the Land Bond Bill was going through the Dáil and everybody was against land bonds. I do not like them; I hate them, but will anybody tell me what is the alternative? Where are we going to get cash to buy land? Are we going to do away with the acquiring of land? The later land bonds are not too bad, they earn a fair percentage and are redeemable in 26 years. As far as I remember, Deputy Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan) brought them in when he was Minister. If you do not have them, how are you to continue to acquire land? Will anybody stand up in this Dáil and say that we have money enough to do it? The EEC did not think it worth their while to include it in the £3 million which is supposed to be for infrastructure and I am very disappointed in that.

The Deputy has five minutes.

I started at five minutes to one and it is a quarter past one now. I have ten minutes.

Acting Chariman

There may be a minute in it. The Chair will be fair to the Deputy. He has 30 minutes from the time he started.

That is correct and I started at five minutes to one.

Acting Chairman

I beg the Deputy's pardon. He has ten minutes to go. I apologise for interrupting him.

Thank you, Sir. The western drainage scheme was mentioned and it has been a huge success but in that scheme there is £20 million for field drainage and £14 million for arterial drainage. I come from an area where, even though the matter has been taken up, I would prefer if the balance was the other way. In that area is the Dunkellin River, and field drainage cannot be carried out because the big river has not been dealt with. The Minister has very little to do with field drainage and so it might be irrelevant to talk about it, when the major river is not done so that it will take the field drainage. I ask the Minister to put the larger amount of money towards the larger job and this will enable the field drainage to be done. The scheme was a good one and I hope that the Estimates will be realistic in regard to the 70 per cent. They have not always been realistic in former land projects.

It is not fair to lacerate the Minister in regard to disease eradication. The veterinary strike was a disaster and everything went wrong after that. When I was in Opposition and a change came about in regard to the buying of cattle, I opposed it and I opposed it as chairman of the General Council of County Councils. We were buying cattle when disease eradication started. New cattle were brought in a lorry hired specially by the Department and they were collected at a particular spot. Now, anybody can bring them in today and bring four cattle to the mart the following day. That is happening all over the country and no doubt this is spreading the disease. I opposed that change of allowing people themselves to bring them in to the factories. If these cattle were collected as they were in the early stages of disease eradication by a Department-hired lorry you would not hear so much about dirty lorries. It does not take JR to tell us about it: we knew it ourselves.

I should like something to be done about a change to a 60-day test because the 30-day test is an inconvenience. The Minister did relax a little as regards the 14-day test but personally I think the 60-day test is preferable.

This is a personal opinion but I still stand over it—education and research should be together and I believe that will eventually come. Taking the Act as it is I expect we will have great achievements. I opposed the constitution of the council for the simple reason that public representatives will now have to pay the piper as county councillors but will have no say in the spending of the money. It is on a 40-60 basis and I think it is rather unbalanced but let us forget that; the Act is there and I am prepared to do everything to work it even with regard to things I disagreed with when the Bill was going through the House. If we are interested in Irish farming we should make every effort as members of county committees of agriculture and of county councils to make this measure work. It could change the face of Irish agriculture provided there is proper consultation and liaison between the AnCOT board at top and, as I understand, the regions. I hope that not only will the CAO be on the regional board but that the chairman of the county committee of agriculture will also be a member of the regional board of AnCOT.

Something will have to be done to increase the number of places for students in the colleges. Smaller farmers, particularly, are now making every effort to give some third level education to their sons but the places are not there. I should like to see that situation improved. I had dreamed, but it did not happen, that we would have a faculty of agriculture in University College, Galway. I believe it is important to have it there. There is a State farm beside it for the practical end of the faculty and even at this late hour of my life I am hoping to live to see a full faculty of agriculture in all the universities. Agriculture is sufficiently important at present to warrant that. I was on a committee in Macra which discussed the type of institute which we should have. At that time, we wanted to channel the money through the universities and have a full faculty of agriculture in all universities. These are things that I should like to see happen.

All in all, the Minister has a tough job. I should like somebody here who is in Europe—and we have members in the European Parliament—who would study the whole question and come back here, be honest with us and say what is the future in farming. This is of vital importance to us. The fact that it was good for a few years means that it would be detrimental if it collapsed because I have found that prices go up, the cost of production goes up; prices fall but the cost of production never falls. This is the position with the farmers and will be the position if you cannot keep prices in line with inflation. We can manage our own affairs but what about Europe? That is of vital importance to us. To give credit where credit is due, we have had good Ministers. Deputy Clinton was a good Minister; Deputy Gibbons was a good European; did their best in Europe. As I said earlier, we may have had good men but we never had better than at present and I wish him the best of luck.

I listened with interest to the speech of the Minister on the Estimate for his Department but I was very disappointed at the tone of his remarks when he did not give what I would describe as more conclusions on very serious issues. When he took over the Department his first words were to the effect that he would attempt to bring back confidence to the industry. He admitted at the time that there was no confidence in the industry but since he took over—it is only a short period since mid-December and he should be given a chance—what has changed? I had hoped that when he had a very good opportunity today of telling the House and the farmers what he had in mind for the industry we would have heard something of this nature but the speech was academic and it seemed to me that he had a good deal of assistance from his Departmental secretariat. He did not come along with some practical and decisive messages for our farmers. He has not produced them. I am sorry to have to say that but that is as I see it.

Never before in our history have farmers taken upon themselves such a great commitment and made such investment as over the past seven to ten years and they now find themselves in a great many cases unable to meet their commitments. The uncertainty and lack of confidence is there. It has been created since 1977. We have seen, since Fianna Fáil took over in particular, that they themselves created this uncertainty and lack of confidence. When they took over agriculture was booming because the inter-Party Government realised the benefits that could be derived from a healthy agricultural industry.

It was booming because Deputy Clinton as Minister went to Europe and never took "no" for an answer. He fought and won his battles there time and again. Not only did we win the battle on the home front but also the battle in Europe that it is absolutely essential to win today because many important decisions are made at EEC level. It is essential that any Minister for Agriculture go to Europe, make demands and see that they are met. I know it is not easy, that Britain are holding up price negotiations at present but not alone have we lost the battle in Europe but we have lost the battle at home. We have seen subsidies taken off lime, fertilisers, rates and a good deal of talk about income tax. In the 1978 budget we got an absolute undertaking from the then Minister for Finance that the notional system would be retained for a three-year period. He could not stand over his own legislation. Two years later we were told we could not opt for the notional system. With this type of administration and performance what can one expect from those engaged in agriculture?

Agriculture is different from most industries. Those engaged in agriculture in a great many cases have a seven-day week. They work perhaps against bad weather, against market drops. There are many problems in agriculture and there are sufficient hazards without the Government and the Minister taking actions that damage the confidence of the people carrying on the industry.

The Minister has stated that the suckler herds grant scheme will involve grants of approximately £13 per cow in the suckler herd. They will also get certain benefits when borrowing money but that applies only to the west. The Minister of State knows perfectly well that the day is fast approaching when the small farmers of Ireland will have to be given the same rights as those given to the small farmers in the west.

In Wexford, as in Carlow, Kilkenny and Wicklow, there are thousands of small farmers with 30 or 40 acres who are finding it very difficult to make a living off the land. They should be entitled to the same benefits as those given to the small farmers in the west. These farmers never got the dole and never got money easily from any source. The difference between the farmers in the west and farmers in the south is that the latter worked their land because they had to. In many cases these people in developing their holdings borrowed at low interest rates. Now that interest rates have almost doubled in one year, their commitments have also doubled. These are the facts.

Any Minister who believes that by giving a grant of £13 per cow he is laying a good foundation for the cattle industry is very foolish. The cost of keeping a cow over the year has reached an alarming figure. What happens when there is a glut? Practically the entire suckling herd has to be sold. When things are going well suckling herds make very small profits. The Minister would do well to look at this system of rearing calves. As long as the farmer is not sending milk to a creamery he should be entitled to these grants. Over the past ten years our suckling herds were practically wiped out because of a glut. Farmers should be encouraged to rear calves for beef and grants should not be tied to suckling herds.

The Minister said that the average price of milk for 1978 was 52p per gallon and for 1979 was 53p per gallon. This represents an increase of approximately 2 per cent. This is a clear indication that the actual profits of our milk producers were cut by about 10 per cent in 1979. This does not augur well for the future.

I would like to discuss EEC price fixing. In 1975, 1976 and 1977 prices were fixed in April at the latest. Last year the prices were fixed around the end of May. This year it appears they will be fixed in June. This is most unsatisfactory. It is not giving our farmers an opportunity to programme their production because price fixing will be at least two months too late. This situation will have to change. I am prepared to accept that Margaret Thatcher mixed up the price fixing for milk products with political problems in her own nation but, nevertheless, I strongly feel that agricultural price fixing should be done in March, not June. I am prepared to accept that to some degree we are tied to the EEC price fixing situation but we should not lose sight of the fact that of all the EEC countries, our farmers get the lowest agricultural benefits from the Exchequer. Those facts cannot be contradicted. Since Fianna Fáil came into power in 1977 they have been cutting these benefits. I do not know how much longer this situation will last. We are talking in terms of a 4 per cent price increase this year while the actual increase in production costs will be in the region of 16 per cent. This means our farmers will suffer a further loss this year.

The Minister made great play of the super levy. None of our farmers will be foolish enough to believe that the Minister did a great job. Nobody is prepared to accept the super levy. How can our farmers pay 58p per gallon super levy for any milk over-produced on the 1979 figures while only receiving 54p per gallon when selling? If the Minister thinks he is impressing anybody by stressing that point he is only fooling himself. The farmers know this was only an attempt by the EEC to frighten off milk producers.

The foundation of agriculture is the cow herds of this country. When any Minister damages this industry because of an EEC order he damages our economy. These producers provide not only the milk for the nation but they supply the beef industry too.

I was disappointed the Minister did not deal at length with disease eradication. He referred to 1977 and said that at present the incidence of TB in our herds was half what it was in 1977. That was not a good year to take as a base year. In 1977 we had just finished a dispute with the veterinary profession and no examinations had been carried out for 18 months. The Minister should be fair with the House. In the Estimate we should have got accurate figures for TB in 1978 and 1979 and for the first round in 1980. He is not fooling anybody by comparing 1980 with 1977. This is not a fair comparison. The Minister is only fooling himself by bringing this figure to the House. It should never have come here. It is just an attempt to make a case for himself which will not stand up. I will be asking him shortly what is the incidence of TB in 1978-1979 and for the first round of 1980.

I have objected to the 30 day test all along and I still do. I am prepared to accept that it has identified a certain number of herds so far as TB is concerned. But it has created great problems for cattle producers so far as selling is concerned. A 60-day test would have the same result as a 30 day test and would leave the people who are selling cattle in a very different position because, in a great many instances, it took 12 or 14 days to get the result of tests and by the time they got back on to the market most of the 30 days have passed and the cattle could neither be exported nor transported to another market if they were not sold on that particular day. I appeal to the Minister to discontinue the 30 day test and introduce instead a 60 day test.

The 30 day test only affects people selling cattle but the real source of TB is in the cow house. People who are not selling their cattle have a 15-month period before they have another test. That is where TB really originates and these people can carry on for 15 months or longer. This is a shameful situation and it is my belief that if any real impact is to be made on TB to bring it down to an acceptable level there will have to be a nine or 11 months test. No farmer should be allowed to keep any beast on his farm unless it has had a test within that period and if he buys in cattle and the period of nine or 11 months since the animal's last test has expired he should be required by law to have those animals tested. That is the way to clear TB. But at present TB is being allowed to accelerate in the cow herds for 15, 16 or 17 months. The 30-day test will not get at the real source of TB. Brucellosis is a different kettle of fish but TB is most important. I will support any measures taken in this House to eradicate both of these diseases but this 30-day test is the greatest nuisance to the majority of farmers selling cattle.

I will move on to another area. We have heard from numerous Ministers and spokesmen about the necessity for agricultural education. I agree that any farmer who would hand over his farm to a son who had not got a good basic education in agriculture would be doing a very foolish thing. The Minister is making approximately 200 extra places available for students in existing residential colleagues. This is completely inadequate. In Wexford we have reached the situation where people who need agricultural education for their sons are unable to get places in these colleges whether they pay for them or not. So far as the scholarships are concerned there are 80 applicants for 25 places. This is the situation at the moment. While the Government have given certain undertakings, particularly in the manifesto of 1977, they certainly have not carried out that one. It is important and I appeal to the Minister to do something about it.

Education and research should go hand in hand. I objected to the dividing of An Foras Talúntais from the new agricultural authority. It was a retrograde step because those people have the knowledge, the personnel, the equipment and the facilities. A sum of approximately £9 million has been allocated for running An Foras Talúntais and a considerably smaller sum has been allocated for the county committees of Agriculture. There is a tremendous amount of waste in this area. The Government are not utilising the resources they have. A huge amount of material is being pigeonholed. When Deputy Mark Clinton brought the Bill before the House it was fought tooth and nail by Fianna Fáil. They had spent approximately three years on it and they still have not got the authority set up. They dismantled what Mr. Clinton set up; he had all the interests in agriculture under the one roof and that was the proper thing to do. Education and research should run hand in hand and a fatal mistake has been made here.

In relation to the land policy there is no need for me to go into details. The Minister is continually telling the Dáil that the Land Commission are still purchasing land. He has certain figures but the important thing is how many new deals have been entered into in the past year or year and a half. All they are doing is clearing up the present pipeline and they are not attempting and have never attempted since they took office in 1977 to modernise the Land Commission to put them in a position where they can buy badly needed land for the farmers of this nation. We have been threatened with a land Bill for the past two and a half years. If we read the record we will find that the previous Minister said that he was going to have this Bill before the House before the end of 1978, during 1979 and definitely before the end of 1979 and we still have no Bill and we are not likely to have a Bill although the previous Minister claimed that the Bill was almost ready. It is a serious situation which will have to be rectified by somebody because, never before in the history of the State, have the speculators had such a fine time with nobody on the market but themselves.

There is great potential for the expansion of our sheep industry. But I cannot understand the present set up in relation to the subsidy. Sheep were inspected for subsidy last June. It is now May and some of that subsidy has still not been paid out. This is no position to be in. Why have these subsidies not been paid? I am tired writing to the Department and telephoning the Department to try to find out why the sheep subsidy is not being paid to the farmers. I was at a meeting last night in County Wicklow and I was told that the sheep subsidy is not being paid. If inspections are being carried out in June I would like to know why the subsidy has not been paid yet. It is a peculiar situation. If the money is not there the Minister should tell us so and not fool us by telling us he is giving us a subsidy next year, which, because of the falling value of money is not much use to anybody.

If the Deputy will come to me afterwards I will fix all that up.

When I got in touch with the Minister's office I was given the usual reply: "We are looking into the matter".

If the Deputy makes contact with my office I will have the matter dealt with.

The Minister should look after the office himself. It is wrong that inspections are carried out in June 1979 and the payment is not made until June 1980. That is the responsibility of the Minister's office. I have no doubt that the Department have the figures of the amount of lime, phosphate and potash applied in 1980.

The Minister stated during the budget debate that people were being selfish but the fact is that people have made a commitment in an attempt to expand agriculture and get the maximum production from their land. Those people are caught at present with huge repayment commitments. The Minister is responsible for that matter. He has failed miserably in this regard. A clear indication of his failure was the fact that the lime subsidy for the west was removed thereby effecting a saving of £2 million. That is an indication of his commitment to agriculture. He can drain the west but in order to get the land into production he must apply lime, phosphate and potash. I cannot see western farmers paying between £8 and £10 per ton for lime. The unfortunate thing is that if they are not applied farmers only throw good money after bad. There was a small amount of subsidy involved in phosphate and potash but it acted as an encouragement to farmers. It was produced at home and there was no waste as far as money was concerned. However, the Minister in his own depressed area removed that subsidy. That was a fatal mistake.

The Minister told us that he had tried to create confidence in the agricultural community but I should like to know the action he has taken since he took over in 1979 to create that confidence. Never in the history of the State has there been such a lack of confidence and a feeling of uncertainty. Farmers do not have the foggiest idea of the thinking of the Minister and there is nothing in his speech today to guide them. In the long term the problem will be serious. If lime, phosphate and potash are not applied in 1980 farmers will not get the production in 1985.

It must be remembered that farmers do not have the money to meet their present commitments without having to shoulder further commitments in a year of depression and falling incomes. The real incomes of farmers last year fell by approximately 10 per cent. If the Minister returns from Europe with a 4 per cent increase in the price of agricultural produce he will also bring home some type of levy. If that happens I can see a further reduction in the real incomes in agriculture of 10 per cent. That will not create confidence. Not alone are we losing the battle abroad but we are also losing the fight at home. The Minister is in charge of an industry with the greatest potential, an industry that produces 50 per cent of the goods of the nation and one which employs, directly or indirectly, 50 per cent of our people. I appeal to him when making his next major speech here to give some ray of hope for the future to the farming community. His contribution this morning did not tell us anything new and I speak as one who is heavily committed in farming and trying to get the best out of land in Wexford.

I should like to tell my colleague from Wexford who tried to give the impression that nothing has been done by the Department since Deputy Clinton was in charge that agriculture is not doomed. We must restore confidence to our farmers but the contributions of Deputies D'Arcy and Bruton will not encourage any of them. It is wrong of them to give an impression of total gloom. It is true to say that one would get the impression that Deputy Clinton got everything for Irish farmers but, as far as the cattle industry is concerned, I should like to remind Opposition Deputies that in 1974 calves were being given away. What did Deputy Clinton do about opening a French market for our lambs in those years? Opposition speakers should bear in mind what happened to farming during the term of office of the National Coalition.

The cattle and meat industry is one of our largest. Beef production, a traditional enterprise on our farms, is a big money spinner in terms of exports. Between our factory throughput and live exports about 1,500,000 animals were dealt with last year and the meat processing sector was worth more than £600,000,000. When one realises that 85 per cent of our meat production goes for export one can fully realise its importance to the national economy. It is, of course, a major source of employment on and off the farm. In underlining the significance of this industry one must fully appreciate that there is plenty of scope for further development and expansion. Increased exports, better quality and higher profits all round for everybody are possible. In this regard the Minister has gone some of the way. We would all like to see greater emphasis being put on our beef industry. The Minister has gone some of the way by restoring the £13, a figure which may not mean too much but which represents a start in the right direction in efforts to restore confidence in beef production.

I should like to stress the importance of quality in our beef herds. For a country of our size we are a significant producer of beef and, within the EEC, we are the highest exporting country. However, we are often criticised for not producing the right type of quality animal suitable for the markets in which we can sell our meat. If we are to maximise the benefits and marketing opportunities available to us in the EEC we will have to orientate our production towards the needs of the market. This, effectively, means producing better quality beef animals which give us the type of meat that the continentals like and want. It is also the type of meat which will fetch the highest price for our exports and, ultimately, for our farmers. There is no longer any point in saying that our beef production could continue to be based on traditional lines. That was all right when we were producing primarily for the live export trade and we allowed British fatteners to finish our beef and reap the best of the profits. Our beef factories are now well equipped to cater for all the cattle we can produce. However, there is little point in producing beef for which there is no profit outlet. One of the most important aspects of improving quality is through better breeds. Much of our beef herds come from the dairy herds and cows from southern counties are used for milk primarily but the surplus calves from dairy herds are the basis of our beef herd.

Unfortunately many of our dairymen have little interest in producing calves which would make good beef animals. Their primary concern is to get their cow in calf so that it will produce milk. They will want a certain number of replacement heifers for their dairy herd. These farmers would make a lot more money from selling their surplus calves if they were better suited for beef production. Naturally it is essential that dairy farmers use bulls and artificial insemination which would meet the requirements for producing good dairy replacements and beef animals. One must totally avoid the use of scrub bulls. These will do nothing but reduce the quality of our herd and whatever the short term gains they will make progress more and more difficult for the future.

I should like to see less use being made of Holsteirs. This breed is very fine for dairymen and produces very nice calves but if they are reared for beef they are almost useless. What we need is a good dual purpose breed that will give us the best of both worlds and lead to a satisfaction all round. In producing better quality animals artificial insemination will play a vital role. I am disappointed to note the fall-off in the use of AI. It is a pity that the farmers do not fully back up this service which provides semen from the best bulls available. Whatever the short-term gains of using other methods for getting cows in calf, the national herd is bound to deteriorate in quality if less artificial insemination is availed of.

Throughout the country there are nine main cattle AI stations and 63 substations. Co-operative creamery groups are largely involved to provide this service and I hope they will encourage their members to use it as much as possible. In 1980 the Department had provision for the payment of £84,000 to the AI stations and this is the Department's commitment and the Government's recognition of the benefits to be gained from it. This is a service which is there for the good of the farmers and those who use it will profit by it.

As regards the milk side of the industry, we have made much progress since our entry into the EEC. The dairy end can be singled out as the best performer. The number of cows has increased and the average herd size has increased. Our processing facilities have improved dramatically and, most important of all, marketing efforts by An Bord Bainne have been outstanding. Our dairy farmers have done much to contribute to the success story. They have brought the average yield per cow up to 650 gallons per annum. This is a big increase compared with the average yield a decade age but we are still far behind our EEC colleagues. I take issue with my colleague across the House when he said that by his opposition to the super levy the Minister was not codding the farmers. The Minister fought against the super levy which was very much on the cards as the Deputy will find out if he asks some of his colleagues who are in the parliament. The Minister should be commended for his fight to oppose totally the super levy. He was not codding anyone and certainly not the dairy farmers whom he has stood behind in more ways than one at EEC level. It was on at one stage that a super levy would be imposed.

What would they have paid it with?

I do not know, but it was a live issue. If the Deputy wanted to find out, he would have been told by his colleagues. It would be worth his while to ask. We have many advantages with a plentiful supply of grass and a mild winter but if EEC farmers can have 1,000 gallon cows I see no reason why we should not aspire to the same performance. In this respect I again emphasise the value of artificial insemination.

Much progress can also be made through early calving and good feeding of the cows at the appropriate time. Despite the threat of super levies and coresponsibility levies the price of a gallon of milk is good and the future of dairying is basically sound. One of the greatest areas for improvement is in milk yields. Our dairy farmers need have nothing to fear. The industry, with the full support of the Government, has shown it can cope with additional production. I should like to compliment the co-ops who are encouraging increased production through guaranteed bonus prices for milk in the off-peak months. These extra profits are a sure way of getting our farmers to respond and I am sure they will do so.

One way the Department of Agriculture are contributing to the development of the industry is through milk recording. This is basically for domestic improvement of dairy cattle and is a valuable aid in increasing milk production. Less than 4 per cent of dairy cows were subject to milk recording and a pilot scheme was introduced in 1979 in the Bandon AI station area and Cork District Milk Board area.

This pilot scheme incorporates alternative methods of recording to cater for herd owners' varying needs and it is carried out by part-time contract recorders. The scheme is continuing this year and a study group are assessing its merits. I hope all farmers will benefit from this scheme.

My friend from Kildare mentioned AnCOT and I assure him that every consideration will be given to having a representative of the horse breeding industry, in which I have a deep interest, as far as membership of AnCOT in the Kildare area is concerned. Every county will have to be assessed separately because one cannot compare one county with another as far as representation is concerned. The National Stud are doing a very fine job and I commend the manager there, Michael Osborne, who has done a great job to improve it. I also commend him on his ideas for placing national hunt horses down the country so that the small breeder can avail of the services of such animals. When one considers the value of the industry as far as agriculture is concerned and the value to the State, one is talking about a multimillion pound export industry. This is something people do not appreciate and it is something we must look after.

As far as Bord na gCapall are concerned the Department are committed to giving them approximately £1 million this year to encourage the breeding of half-bred horses. The board are doing a fine job. Greater emphasis will have to be given to training the small breeder as far as better management is concerned. The board will have to be more severe regarding the grading of horses suitable for registration. I would hope to see an improvement in the quality of stallions being bought by the board for leasing out to farmers throughout the country for the breeding of half-bred horses. I should like now to say a few words about the sugar industry, a well-established industry here, going back many years, which is not without its problems. Despite guarantees from the EEC our sugar beet farmers have not responded in the way one would have hoped, particularly bearing in mind the levels of EEC prices in recent years. Unlike most of our EEC partners we have failed to fill our EEC sugar quota most years since we joined the Community. Faced with a situation in which the EEC has a surplus of sugar most of the time it is difficult for us to defend the maintenance of our sugar quota at current levels. Nevertheless, our Minister has done a commendable job in this year's negotiations in ensuring that our sugar quota is maintained at current levels.

However, I want to sound a note of warning here. If this situation is to be maintained in the future our growers will have to display greater confidence in their industry by producing more sugar beet. It is a well known fact that the international sugar market suffers seriously from cyclical trends. At present there is a serious shortage of sugar and world prices have soared. This development will be beneficial to those with a surplus of sugar on their hands. Unfortunately, Ireland, with no spare sugar, will be unable to benefit from this windfall. Nevertheless it should be a source of confidence to our sugar beet growers and hopefully will inspire them to increase their production in future years.

I should like to mention one or two matters in regard to AnCOT now getting under way, who have a vital role to play in conveying this message to our farmers: our agricultural advisory services remain a vital link between science and research and their application at farm level. In this regard An Foras Talúntais will be playing a greater role in ensuring that the findings of their research go back to the farmer. Here I am sure the board of AnCOT will be co-operating fully in ensuring that this information is available at local level. It is often difficult for small and medium-sized farmers to apply the knowledge and information they collect at research centres without specialised assistance from their agricultural advisers. Our farmers should not be shy of requesting assistance from An Foras Talúntais whenever they may need it. I sincerely hope they will avail of the expertise of their local advisers in getting the best out of their land.

It is true to say that the past year has been a somewhat gloomy one in so far as agriculture was concerned, all sides of the House will agree, due mainly to bad weather which occasioned a bad harvest. It is true to say also that cattle prices this time last year were far too high. However, in many ways we have learned our lesson. The European bonanza is over. We must endeavour to restore confidence in our agricultural industry, about which the Minister has spoken on numerous occasions. Without a healthy agricultural industry we cannot have a healthy economy. It is not helping that the Opposition continue to talk about gloom; certainly it is not helping to restore confidence. I would appeal to them even at this late stage to co-operate in restoring that confidence, so vital to the industry and our economy generally.

Deputy O. J. Flanagan protested here a week ago about Deputies being muzzled. I support those sentiments. I have been in this House for many years. This is the first year in which a debate on our primary industry, agriculture, has been confined to five or six hours on a Friday with a handful of Deputies only being in a position to contribute. Surely there are many Deputies from the four provinces who would like to contribute to this debate. Whoever is responsible for pushing this and other important Estimates through in this way, on Fridays, when most Deputies have returned to their homes, is completely wrong. I want to join the protest made here and to say that I disagree with this kind of arrangement.

The Chair would ask Deputy Murphy to deal with the Estimate. I am sorry, again, there was a decision taken——

I will deal with the Estimate. I am merely saying that——

There was a unanimous decision taken yesterday morning on this matter.

——an arrangement whereby five or six hours is allocated for such debates on Fridays, affording Deputies a limited opportunity for participation, and even then those who do contribute being confined to 30 minutes, is not in order.

The Chair must make the position clear. A unanimous decision was taken on this matter yesterday morning, when there was no dissent or opposition. That being said, the Deputy may continue.

I disagree with that type of arrangement; it did not happen down the years. Usually this Estimate was discussed at great length and in great detail. In this day and age, when public representation is being muzzled to a great extent, when even the powers of the Government are being eroded——

The Chair would point out again that the Deputy is not in order. That should have been said on the motion yesterday morning.

I do not like this new system.

The motion yesterday morning was the time to have said all of that. Deputy, please, we are now dealing with the Estimate.

We have little time now to discuss the Estimate.

The Deputy is only wasting his own time.

I have read the Minister's statement. I should prefer to mention a few items not included in his statement rather than those that were because those included have been discussed already. I congratulate the Minister and his script writers on his speech, his first, without any mention of what I regard as of vital concern to the farming community at present, their position regarding income tax. Everybody knows that the question of taxing farmers contributed in so small way to Deputy MacSharry and Deputy Allen being over there on those benches today.

May I point out to the Deputy that income tax is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

The Chair was just about to add that.

It is closely related to farm incomes. The Minister should not try to put that over on me.

It can be debated on the Finance Bill. The Minister present has no responsibility for taxation.

The Minister is responsible for agriculture. The farming community have been dealt with harshly by the imposition of different types of taxation. There is the normal taxation, income tax, with the limit for payment reduced to £40. There was no mention of that during the election. There are a number of other taxes.

That can be debated next week on the Finance Bill. The Deputy cannot deal with taxation on the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture. The Minister has no responsibility for taxation.

The Minister has collective responsibility for the activities of the Government. I am in order in referring to their gospel and I am sure, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you have read this gospel closely. Fianna Fáil did not play fair with the farming community. On page 18 of the election manifesto, 1977, dealing with tax on agriculture it is stated that Fianna Fáil will retain the notional system——

Deputy Murphy is not in order in dealing with taxation on an agricultural estimate. That is a matter for another Minister and for a Bill which will be before the House next week.

I do not accept the Chair's ruling.

The Deputy will have to.

It states that Fianna Fáil will retain the notional system of farm taxation and allow rates on agricultural land as an instalment of a farmer's tax bill. That is a positive statement.

The Deputy will have to accept the Chair's ruling.

I have been here longer than the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and I am conversant with the rules. This is an agricultural matter.

It is not an agricultural matter. The Chair is pointing out that taxation is a matter for another Minister and cannot be raised on this Estimate. Next week there will be an opportunity to debate it on the Finance Bill. I appeal to Deputy Murphy to accept that ruling. I do not want any hassle on a Friday evening.

I know the question of taxation is a sore one.

If Deputy Murphy continues to deal with taxation I will have to ask him to sit down.

The Chair will not have to ask me to sit down. I have no intention of doing so for a little longer. Since I cannot get any information on taxation I will move to a few more topics. My time is exceptionally limited.

What has happened to the proposals to extend the disadvantaged areas, the western seaboard? We were to extend the severely handicapped areas to enable farmers living in contiguous areas to avail of the schemes and particularly the cattle headage scheme.

When Fianna Fáil were in Opposition Question Time after Question Time was taken up with this question. It was a very important one and steps were being taken to try to accede to justifiable demands arising from many areas to have such extensions carried out. Has any such extension been carried out since the change of Government and, if not, why not? Is there a likelihood of any such change? That is an important question for the western seaboard farmers and for the constituency I represent.

Deputy D'Arcy spoke about the question of the 30-day cattle test. Numerous representations have been made to me by farmers regarding this test, and the desirability of making it 60 days instead of 30 days. The former Minister, Deputy Gibbons, said he received no such representation and that there was little or no demand for it. I join with Deputy D'Arcy in asking the Minister to review this question and, if at all possible, to change it. Approximately £24 million in this Estimate is allocated for disease eradication. I have been discussing Estimates here since the TB scheme was introduced in 1957 and I was associated with the Department for a few years. We are not getting value for money. This scheme started 23 years ago. We have spent millions of pounds. I am sure the total expenditure is in the region of £130 million. Yet we still have TB in our herds.

From what I have read about what happens in other countries, something went wrong here. Taxpayers' money is going down the drain. Someone is to blame. There is lack of supervision and proper surveillance. We must ensure that these big annual sums for disease eradication are used to the best advantage. I hope we will not be as long dealing with brucellosis. Having regard to what has happened with the tuberculosis scheme, the Minister should take particular interest in the brucellosis eradication scheme. I do not understand why farmers in my area, who have been very very careful about the regulations, found in recent cases that numbers of their cattle reacted. Such farmers are thrown out of business.

The subvention from the State, plus the price of the animal, will not cover more than 60 per cent of the cost of the replacement stock. What is wrong? Is it that neighbours are not as careful as they should be and the disease is transmitted from one farm to another? All these factors should be taken into account. Everybody should be made to adhere strictly to the regulations. The regulations should be made to suit both the Department and the people, particularly in regard to the 30-day testing.

We all know that the dairy industry is the farmers' main source of income. Farmers' costs have increased in recent years. They are entitled, particularly the smaller ones, to increased incomes from commodities such as milk, particularly having regard to the fact that, relatively speaking prices for cattle were not good in recent years. I am aware of the problems of disposing of dairy products. I am shocked that we cannot find any market, except Russia, for our butter. Is there no other place in the world to which the EEC can sell butter except Russia? That huge EEC subsidy on butter sales to Russia could have been better used to give butter to the people who need it in the big town of Dublin if they could get it at the price for which we are selling it to Russia.

It is hypocritical in the extreme to say on the one hand that we will not send athletes to the Moscow Olympics because of the Russians' general attitude to democracy, particularly their invasion of Afghanistan, and on the other to send cheap butter to feed their soldiers who are invading Afghanistan. We are sending them that butter at a substantially reduced price. In recent years the net income from butter sold to Russia has been as low as 12p in the pound. The economical cost of producing a pound of butter is 71p or 72p per pound. It is being sold to Russia for 26p per pound and the cost of putting it into intervention is 14p per pound. As I have said, there is an abundance of families around this big town of Dublin and in big and small towns throughout the country who could do with this butter at the price at which it is being sold to Russia.

If we produce butter or anything else we must find a market for it, but we are supposed to be up in arms against Russia; we say they are tyrants, that they are condemning people to labour camps, that they are executing people, yet we send them our butter, subsidised, and not so long ago in the House we had some nice things to say about one of their associates. I am against that. I am sorry to be using up a lot of my time on this because there are many other important aspects of the Estimate I should like to deal with, but the Government have declared that we must not have anything to do with Russia, that we must not send our athletes to the Moscow Olympics, but they agree to sending our butter there, subsidised, because the Russian farmers are not farming as efficiently as they should be.

I want to refer to all those new boards being set up. When a Department are in trouble the way out or the way to put things on the long finger is to set up a board of some kind or another. We have a multiplicity of boards. Could not the civil service, with the Minister as head, do this work instead of farming it out to boards? We have too much farming out of our problems to boards. I have nothing against them but they have not achieved very much in return for what is spent of them. If you ask a question in the House about their activities you are told you may not do so. They are sure of their pay and their pensions, unlike those in private employment who will not get anything if their work does not prosper.

I have always thought that you must get a mandate from the people if you are to get into this House. That is the way all of us, and the Minister, got here, and if people become dissatisfied with us they can remove us because there is a frequency of elections. There is no bar on any man or woman seeking election and if elected he or she can take part in the work of the bodies to whom he or she was elected. Now we are saying: "You do not have to go for election; you do not have to worry about talking to John, Jim, or Paddy to get you elected—we will get you in the side door on a board".

I disagree with that system. If it were my last day in the Dáil I would say that. We have things like An Bord Oiliúna and all the rest of them. You have a group of people selected to boards with big back-up staffs costing the Lord knows how much. They work behind closed doors and if I ask a question about them I will be told by you, Sir, that I may not do so, because it is not relevant.

The Deputy should not anticipate.

It is my opinion that Governments have become so weak that they are bowing to pressure from all sorts of groups. If some group come to them and ask them to do this or that the Government are afraid of losing votes and they give way. There is not a strong man in Government at the present time and there was never a time when there was more need for a strong man who will not give way to pressure groups, whether they are wage earners or some other types. As a result, the powers of the Government, of the Department of Agriculture, of the committees of agriculture, are being eroded and we are moving towards anarchy. I do not believe in weak-kneed people in Government who will appoint all sorts of people to do major jobs which the Departments themselves could do. As I have said, we have a civil service with the necessary qualifications.

I am sorry my time is a little short. Before I finish I should like to refer to the Land Commission. I see they are doing a big job this year: I see from the Book of Estimates that they are to get £10 for land acquisition. I do not know where you would go to get land for £10 at the present time. The Land Commission must have their eye on some little spot. Of course they are at a complete standstill on land acquisition. Of course they will not be purchasing any land this year because I cannot see how they could buy any land for £10.

According to the Fianna Fáil manifesto—I suppose it could be called the Gospel according to St. Jack or perhaps St. Martin—there was the proposal to restructure the Land Commission but nothing was done about that. The operations of the Land Commission are at a standstill. As I prophesied at the time, the number of holdings acquired as a result of the retirement scheme for farmers is insignificant in percentage terms. I should like the Minister to try to get more concessions by way of pension for those who availed of the scheme. It was generally understood by them that if they gave land to the Land Commission the pension they received from the Commission would not be taken into account in assessing their right to an old age noncontributory pension. Possibly people got the wrong impression but, having regard to inflation and the steady decline of money, I should like the Minister to do something to help those people.

I do not think the Government should try to stop a farmer from selling any animal he wishes to sell. Farmers are told regularly not to export calves because the herds will decline. If a farmer decides to sell part of his herd and sells off some calves why should he be precluded from getting the best price available? A farmer should be allowed to sell whatever stock he wishes. If the going rate is good for calves—as it was even when we were in office—why should the farmer be precluded from selling them to the highest bidder?

I wish the Minister well in his Department. He has a difficult job and while we may criticise the activities of the Department there is an obligation on all of us to help agriculture as much as possible. I think Deputy MacSharry's personality suits the job very well; he is approachable and I am sure he will be quite understanding about all the problems that may be encountered. While I have some criticisms to make about the Department, I am hopeful that agriculture will continue to prosper. This will be to the benefit of the country generally. Agriculture deserves every help from this House because it is our major source of income.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on presenting his first Estimate for the Department of Agriculture. He has outlined progress and future prospects for the development of the industry, our major national resource. He has a hard task to do. Agriculture is going through a difficult time at home and at EEC level. The indications are that the Minister is facing up to this task and he has succeeded in many instances. I am sure he will be successful in all the negotiations he undertakes.

The Minister's speech brings home the importance of agriculture. From the figures he quoted we see that it accounts for 18 per cent of our national income, it accounts for 37 per cent of our export earnings and it employs some 20 per cent of the population. This shows the importance it plays in our economy and the potential that exists for the industry.

In his speech the Minister placed great emphasis on disease eradication and this is quite right. My county was a clearance area some years ago. Brucellosis was rampant and many herds were wiped out completely. Farmers lost complete milk herds that they had built up over the years and one can only imagine the frustration, annoyance and despair they must have experienced. It is vital for our economy that the disease eradication programme be successful. The only way to tackle it is that set out by the Minister.

There has been reference to the question of hygiene at marts. I have had complaints from herd-owners about the state of lorries travelling to meat factories. There is need for a tightening of regulations in this area. There has been much criticism regarding the time taken for 30-day tests. However, I think the Department have overcome that difficulty. Last week I had a private test undertaken and the result was back within a week. That is at a time when the postal service is not as efficient as it might be. That is a real improvement. When I contacted the Department in relation to a certain type of test I was assured that the result would be available on the following day. The Department are to be commended for their promptness.

Everybody agrees that milk production is important to agriculture and to the economy in general. During the last 12 months a grant aided scheme sponsored by the IAOS was implemented in the 12 western counties to provide milk tanks and milk trailers. This scheme was necessary to ensure that milk producers would get the benefit of the bonuses paid for quality milk. When the 12 months expired the Department of Agriculture had to apply to Brussels for an extension of the scheme because the people most in need had not availed of it. If the scheme had been operated through committees of agriculture rather than through the IAOS who are a new outlet for such a scheme, more people might have availed of it.

In relation to the pig industry, I know the Minister is concerned about the problems in relation to marketing pigmeat. The pig industry has always been beset by problems and one of the problems in my constituency in Cavan at the moment is pollution. I and other public representatives met the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry to examine the area in question and the Minister indicated that he would deal with the pollution in the best possible way. The pig industry has contributed greatly to the creation of jobs. There are jobs in pig units and in the processing factories, and barley producers in the south and in the midlands are dependent on the pig industry to dispose of their grain. Another important consideration is that sludge can be used as a form of fertiliser. This is very important when we consider the increasing cost of oil which contributes to an increasing cost in fertilisers. It would be a sad situation for the pig producers who have spent so much time, effort and money in building up their businesses if we had a weak market. I know the Minister will give attention to this aspect.

The farm modernisation scheme was of great benefit to the 90,000 farmers who participated in it. A grant aid of £1 million for this scheme from 1974 to 1979 generated £3 million. Farmers were enabled to plan a development programme in the knowledge that roadways, farm buildings, water and grazing would be grant aided.

I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Hussey, on the western drainage scheme which provided £19 million to grant-aid farmers. I understand that 27,000 applications have been made so far. This five year scheme got off to a bad start last year due to the incessant rainfall. Many farmers who had geared themselves to avail of the scheme found that at the end of the year they had got little work done. However, this is an ideal scheme except for one thing. In the scheme there is provision for a 25 per cent grant for the purchase of drainage machinery by agricultural co-operatives. I understand that 28 co-operatives have applied under the scheme. I wonder if it would be possible for well established drainage contractors to be grant-aided under this scheme. A case for this facility could be made to the EEC because the milk co-operatives who are eligible to apply under the scheme are not really into that field of business. Within the five year term it seems as if it will be very hard to get sufficient contractors and machines, especially JCBs which are in demand for other jobs.

I was very satisfied to hear the Minister say that eight of the nine European countries were agreeable to the western package which provides £150 million from the EEC plus a smaller contribution from the home Government to improve conditions in the western region. In the western region they are faced with many problems because the holdings are small and many of them are fragmented. The land is of a low quality and it requires drainage and restructuring generally. If the people in the western counties approach this in a realistic manner it could be the salvation of those counties. Some of the measures outlined in the measures for the development of agriculture in western Ireland would contribute immensely to the entire economy. There would be improved infrastructures which would aid the improvement of agriculture.

Now that group water schemes are costing so much we hope that money will be channelled to those schemes. We have agricultural roads and rural electrification, which is very important in those 12 western counties. There are also agricultural education and advisory services which are very necessary. The advisory resource development centre is very important for the training of advisory personnel. There is on-farm investment which envisages aid to all farmers in the west for on-farm improvements. This will be available in the same way as that available for development farmers. Our party's thinking all along was that farmers, irrespective of the size of their farms, who were working to a plan and keeping accounts, should be able to avail of grant aid similar to that available for development farmers.

A very important measure is the one to encourage an integrated calf to beef system in the west where subsidy will be paid to those following production plans to encourage them to hold on to and finish their animals on their own farms. If this can be introduced and worked not alone will it ensure that there will be continuity as far as the animals go but they will be in the one environment from calf to beef. It will also enable those producers to enter into agreement with the meat factories. One of the weaknesses of our agricultural system is that at the moment there is an on-off flow of beef to those factories. I believe the new system will answer that problem.

There is also a plan which envisages 70 per cent grant aid to farmers towards the cost of improving their land, including soil preparation, fertilisation, reseeding and reclamation. As well as that there is agricultural marketing and processing. When those measures are introduced there will be a big drain on the services in that region. There will be heavy demands on the officials in the farm development services in the various counties. I would like to pay tribute to the officials in the local offices because public representatives who have to contact them about individual applicants and also about many general matters know how valuable their services are. They have had a vastly increased work load recently on account of the western drainage. It will be much worse now because of the western package. I know the Department try to ensure that there is adequate staffing in all those centres to attend to the various applications.

When we compare meat factories with the co-ops and other agricultural outlets we find that the meat factories are unable to get continuity of supply. The time has come for them to regulate their input similar to sugar factories and others who want a continuity of supply and continuous processing. The position in relation to meat factories at the moment is either that it is a feast or a famine, there is a stop-go policy, there is a reduction in price, factories closing down for a few months and then coming back into production again. Those concerned were very heavily subsidised by grant and other aids. It is a pity they could not regulate their supplies better to ensure that their workers would have more regular employment.

The Minister said there will be no super levies. We were also glad to hear about his opposition to the withdrawal of intervention facilities this summer. It is very important that an effort is made this summer to ensure they are not withdrawn. Farmers over the last two years had cattle which were not finished in feeding units and had to move them out to grass. Last year, because of a slow growing season they were unable for many months to get the weight gain to finish those cattle. There was the problem this year of an unusually dry spring and it will be some time before those cattle are ready for slaughter. I hope the Minister will be successful in ensuring that the intervention facilities are maintained for the summer months.

The Minister said that the amount of grant-in-aid for An Foras Talúntais under subhead B.4 is just over £9.7 million as compared with £8.85 million last year. An Foras Talúntais are making a very significant contribution to agriculture but much more needs to be done. It is a pity, where there is this package for the 12 western counties, that an advance survey was not carried out, like the surveys which An Foras Talúntais carry out. Soil quality surveys have been carried out in various counties. A fairly detailed survey has been carried out in eight counties not alone of the soil quality but also of the resources. It is important not alone for individual planning but planning at a national level that soil quality surveys and resource surveys are carried out.

There was also reference to milk yields. The more efficient and progressive farmers have milk yields on a par with most farmers in other European countries but we still have a national average which is disgracefully low. It is hard to see how the Department can rectify that. They can do a lot with regard to getting the proper type of bulls for the AI and the provision of aids and incentives but in many cases an improvement in milk yields would require a complete change in herds. It is a real problem facing the Department. The average milk yield is 600 gallons but we must remember that there are cows with an average yield of 1,000 gallons. It is tragic to hear of average yields of 400 or 500 gallons at a time when it is costly to produce at any level.

In recent times the broiler and egg industry experienced some problems. The Minister has explained that this is a matter of free trading and there is little he can do. Just like the pig industry, the broiler and egg industry is important from an employment point of view in my constituency. Many people are involved in the production, milling and packaging sections of that industry in Cavan and Monaghan. I am aware that the Minister is keeping a close eye on this matter.

The fruit and vegetable industry has also been dealt with by several speakers. While progress in this sector has been slow at least we made progress. I should like to pay tribute to the IDA and the Department for encouraging those who are involved in the processing. I have had occasion to call on the IDA and the Department on many occasions and I always left with a feeling that the officials were concerned to ensure that the growing and processing of vegetables and fruit get every attention. There is great potential for that industry and we should do everything possible to develop it. Despite all the criticisms from the Opposition it must be accepted that the Government are doing a good job as far as agriculture is concerned. They must accept also that, basically, it is a sound structure on which we can build and progress. There is great hope for the country as far as job creation and improving the standard of living is concerned.

I should be obliged if the Chair would indicate to me when I have spoken for 20 minutes because I should like to give the remaining ten minutes of my time to Deputy Hegarty.

If I can get the agreement of Deputy Smith I am sure that will be in order. I will call the Deputy when he has been speaking for 20 minutes.

Deputy Hegarty is an extensive farmer and he is anxious to make a contribution. The whole world was never in more urgent or greater need of increased agricultural production than it is today. When we realise that in 1980 about 50 million people, including 17 million children, will die from hunger and that another 400 million will suffer from serious malnutrition, often with serious side consequences, we can appreciate the importance of the matter. While some of the millions I have referred to will starve as a result of population growth, deterioration of their soil and economic distress in the developing world, others are the direct victims of armed conflict which reduces agricultural production in affected areas. All we need is a minor redistribution of the world's food supplies to enable many of the starving millions to get at least sufficient nourishment to keep them alive. This is a serious matter.

I should like to refer to Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome which defines the fundamental objectives assigned to the Common Agricultural Policy. The first objective is to increase productivity by promoting technical progress and ensuring that agriculture is developed to its fullest. It also states that the EEC will ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, something which has not been achieved as yet. The Treaty also mentions stabilising markets but that has not been achieved. It also mentions ensuring the availability of supplies but the EEC has created mountains of supplies not knowing what to do with them. They have sold produce off cheap and, in many instances, in the wrong direction. While mountains of one agricultural product were being created, at the same time shortages of another important agricultural product were being created. The Treaty also states that the EEC would ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices. We have heard of Kerry jokes but the latter provision in the Treaty is the greatest EEC joke of all.

I should like to know what the Minister for Agriculture, a member of the Committee of Ministers, is doing about this. From my experience Irish farmers are steadily heading not towards their pre-EEC position but towards where they were in the bleakest days of the economic war. I cannot understand what has gone wrong with members of the Government when they have not adverted to that. As one who is concerned about the future of agriculture I addressed a number of questions to Mr. Gundelach in Strasbourg. I framed those questions covering all items raised in relation to Irish agriculture but Mr. Gundelach did not attend at Strasbourg to answer those questions. He also canvassed the Spanish Minister for Agriculture not to attend. The Minister should raise the question of the failure of Mr. Gundelach to answer my questions at EEC level. The Minister is an approachable, fine and attractive young man whom I wish well but, for the sake of himself and the country, I hope he will not hold that office too long.

I should like the Minister to make a detailed statement on the common agricultural policy in view of the fact that eight million workers are connected full time with agriculture and that the land is the principal source of income. The Minister should remember that under the CAP the EEC should offer farmers a vast market in which to sell their existing products and launch new markets. It must also ensure a fair standard of living for the entire agricultural community, stabilise markets for the benefit of all, ensure the availability of supplies and ensure that those supplies reach consumers at a reasonable price. I should like to know the progress that has been made to date on the CAP. The Minister should explain if the CAP means that supplies should reach consumers within the Community at a reasonable price. I want a clear and general statement from the Minister on the basis of Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome.

Is the Minister satisfied that the guidance section of EEC contributes sufficiently to the financing of policy to ensure improved agricultural marketing and production structures by giving assistance to farms in the worst off regions? Where do these regions exist within the EEC and especially in this country? What steps does he propose to bring these farms into line with what can be described as the better off regions and will he outline his proposals in that respect? Has the Minister received complaints and recommendations from farming organisations in regard to the farm modernisation scheme mentioned here today? Does he propose to review the scheme in a way which will reflect benefit on the worst off regions of the Community and will he make a statement as to the intention of the EEC Commissioner in regard to this matter?

Will the Minister explain the reasons for delay in reaching decisions on longstanding issues before the Council of Foreign Ministers in relation to a common sheep policy, a common potato policy and a review of the farm modernisation scheme? Does he agree that lack of progressive policy in relation to these items is a serious hindrance to the progress and development of agriculture? Will the Minister explain his failure and that of his colleagues in the Council of Ministers to deal with these problems? He should also make comment on the conflict within the European Parliament over the budget, which has added greatly to the troubles of Irish agriculture and that of other countries in the Community. It is in the interests of Irish farmers that they should know where they stand in this matter.

The Minister should also say in regard to the imposing of levies——

On a point of order, would the Deputy circulate his speech in the House so that I can read it?

It will be in the Official Report.

No, the Deputy should circulate it, so that I can read it.

We do not, on this side of the House, have the same facilities as the Minister.

I feel that steps should be taken to ensure that no unjust or unreasonable levies are placed on Irish farmers. In the event of the Community having surpluses of beef, butter and milk products which must be sold by them, will arrangements be made to give preference to member states of the Council of Europe—and I am saying the Council of Europe deliberately—rather than the European states which are nondemocratic? Surely some arrangement can be made in the interests of greater European co-operation between the democratic states?

The kernel of our trouble here is lack of information as to the Minister's intention, and the intention of the Council of Ministers in regard to New Zealand butter exports into member states of the Community. These exports, if continued, will lower the prices paid for milk to 70,000 Irish farmers in a member state of the Community at a stage when production costs are rising and there are much reduced profits because of taxes and so on. Does the Minister consider such action is in the interests of dairy farmers in the worst off regions? What does he propose to prevent a worsening of the situation because of New Zealand exports to member states in the years ahead in the light of our close dependence on milk prices? Will the Minister make arrangements with his colleagues in the Community to ensure that the special position of Irish farmers will be considered and that suitable steps will be taken in relation to milk production? It is about time some steps were taken to bring about a reduction in compound feed prices which are causing serious problems within the Community to pig producers whose profit margin is reduced with ever-increasing feed prices. These matters, and the policy on sugar beet, are matters on which the Minister cannot remain silent.

Finally, I ask the Minister to comment on Ireland's position in the event of the accession of Greece, Spain and Portugal into the EEC Community. Has he read an important article in The Irish Times of Tuesday, April 8, 1980, by Hugh Clayton in relation to this matter? When Portugal, Spain and Greece come in there will be less of the cake for Ireland and we shall suffer and suffer severely. These are items which should be dealt with in this debate.

Deputy Smith will now have 20 minutes and Deputy Hegarty 15 minutes.

I compliment the Minister for Agriculture on his tremendous efforts in the negotiations on the farm price package, in the climate in which he and his colleagues have to operate, and on the success which he has achieved so far in bringing forward proposals which will help Irish agriculture out of the dilemma in which the EEC Commission proposals in the latter end of last year would appear to have placed it. No doubt he, like everybody here, is aware of the manner in which the common agricultural policy has raised Irish agriculture to a new plane—a plane of development which has affected the whole country but perhaps has not been shared by all farmers in the way that we would like to see.

The environment of the past ten years, which enabled price rises for agricultural products to bring about a transformation in many of our farms, unhappily will not be continuing certainly in the near future. We are likely to be faced with a long spell of restrictive price policy which will increase the constraints on farmers. These constraints have arisen because of overproduction of certain commodities within the EEC and have unquestionably caused some depression among members of the farming community. It has reached a stage where reasonable farmers are worried about their future. In that situation it behoves us in this House to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that nothing we say dampens the spirit of Irish agriculture or dampens its prospects. If we were to do that—and, indeed, farmer leaders even in recent times have spoken in that vein—that is not in any way helpful towards getting agriculture into the eighties and into the latter end of this century, giving to the vast bulk of our farmers a continually better standard of living because of their hard work in difficult and changing conditions.

Despite these difficulties, it is recognised that there is a continuous spare capacity in agriculture. Our soils have never been at such high fertility and there has been provision of farm buildings and many radical improvements brought about by intensive effort on the part of the farmers, aided by the training, educational and advisory services which are provided. It is still true that there is substantial reward to be derived from achieving higher output through higher productivity and efficiency on the farm. It is important in the climate of the moment that we emphasise to farmers that that is still the position and in so far as it lies in our power and in the Minister's power he will make sure that every effort is made in negotiation to meet these targets and to ensure that farmers are paid fully for that extra efficiency and effort in the national interest.

What, then, is needed to make sure that that comes about? It will not be enough just to have advertisements on television telling farmers to increase their stocking rate. We want a national plan, action, strategy which starts on the farm, which understands the human resources that are there and provides a system of education and training so that these human resources are enabled to utilise to the fullest possible extent the farm potential. If we increase our stocking rates we talk then in terms of increased fodder. We must consider the implications of extra production and advance, improve, modernise and extend the local co-operative or the processing unit. We move in there to the production of a high quality product marketed aggressively at home and abroad. This is a plan which is comprehensive and takes all the components into account. At this stage within the confines and restrictions that are there, the time is ripe for the Minister, the Government and the country to talk in terms of Irish agriculture developing within that strategy and plan.

I was disappointed that so many of the contributions this morning and this afternoon from members of the Opposition tended to be so fatalistic, so incapable of facing up to the problems with which we must live in a world where we cannot isolate ourselves from the difficulties and problems all around us. We have our own special characteristics and we cannot run away from the problems that are there. We would be doing a far better job for agriculture if we were to face up to these constraints and admit that there are areas which, unfortunately, we cannot control, but that in the areas we can control we will do everything possible to help agriculture to develop, expand and to broaden.

Criticism was made earlier of the fact that the Government had not produced long-promised policies on land. I point out that this party have given long and exhaustive study to the question of a land policy structure for the future. As everybody knows, this is a problem and there is no magic formula, no easy solution. Of all land transfers 86 per cent are within families, about 12 per cent comes on the open market and is sold in the normal way and the remaining 2 per cent falls into the hands of the Land Commission. On any basis it is quite clear that the State can do only a limited amount in regard to land mobility. Obviously, State policy on land helps and it is important that State intervention, where that is open to the Government through their agencies, would help in greater land mobility in getting land into the hands of younger, progressive, go-ahead farmers and it would slacken the historical and very strong attachment that there is to land where individuals may be better suited doing something else. There are no easy solutions and there is no point in running into it. A number of propositions have been put forward over the years, varying from the abolition of the Land Commission and setting up alternative agencies down to giving responsibility to local communities. What is more important is not that this plan or policy is rushed out but that the policy is drafted and put into legislative form, and that it takes into account the problems that are there. It is forward-looking and helps towards establishing a greater number of viable holdings and families in rural Ireland with prospects of a decent standard of living. This will be the aim of the party. I understand from discussions with the Minister and members of the Government that every effort will be made to have that policy before the House later this year.

Without going into land policy I wish to refer to one or two matters in that connection. I have come across a number of situations in relation to the subdivision of land which have caused me annoyance. I am not certain whether it is due to failure at administrative level to interpret the real meaning of subdivision but I put on record my disappointment with a number of decisions taken by that section of the Land Commission where I feel people can have genuine grievances. I cannot see why it is wrong for a farmer with, say, 100 acres, to want to establish a viable holding for one son and be in a position to transfer a small parcel of land to other sons in the family. The Land Commission refuse to sanction these smallholdings on the basis that they create additional, uneconomic holdings. My view is that it would be in the national interest for the farmer to be able to transfer a small parcel of land to a son even though that son may be in other employment. The job may not be permanent but if he had access to a small piece of land it would give the prospect of a better future for himself and his family. The commission should ensure that this type of transfer is sanctioned.

There is also the case where an individual has no land but is taking land in conacre and has a number of cattle. He should also be given access to land coming on the market because if he is sufficiently interested to take conacre and carry stock on it year after year he should get access to land so that he can become a farmer if he wishes.

Finally, in that context, there is a large estate, the Noan estate, in my constituency. I urge the Minister to do everything possible through the Land Commission to ensure that this farm is acquired and allotted among the smallholders in the area. I know he has already been doing a good deal and has helped considerably in the efforts so far made but I should like to see the matter concluded satisfactorily.

I have been asked if I would conclude somewhat before my time as Deputy Hegarty is anxious to get in and I propose to do so.

I should like to thank the previous speaker for facilitating me. It is the function of this side of the House to point out the reality of the present situation. That reality is that there is a farm incomes crisis. Anybody who doubts that should read some of the documents in the agricultural journals currently published where professional people, professors and lecturers, expound their views. They have laid it on the line quite clearly that we are in a crisis situation. This—and it has not yet been spelt out—is almost an entirely Irish situation because in the case of our EEC colleagues this year's price rise, small as it is, could close the gap between farm prices and costs. In the EEC countries inflation remains in single figures. That is the big problem here; our inflation is now running around 20 per cent with an ESRI forecast of 1 per cent growth. This can only lead to bankruptcy and that is what we face.

Facing up to economic facts is not bad for farm confidence. It has been said that we are eroding farm confidence by telling the truth, by stating economic facts, but what erodes farm confidence is when a farmer's bank balance goes down and his pockets are empty. That is happening at present. Over a number of years the farmers budgeted carefully and well but certainly could not be expected to budget for 20 per cent interest rates. I appeal to the Minister and the Government to move in immediately to help those farmers before it is too late. I have said before that this battle will not be won by hibernating or, as somebody else said, by wishing it away. It must be faced now. It is the cream of our young farmers, the best of them who have been held up as examples, who are in trouble, the leaders who set the example. We must move quickly to save these people as examples for the future as people who survived a difficult period and went on and on. There is no other way: we must go on.

I ask the Minister and the Government to act immediately in support of the farm organisations in their current moves towards getting in foreign currency which is freely available at low interest rates. But—there is a "but"—the Government will have to carry the exchange rate in this borrowing. That is all they are being asked to do. By doing that they will immediately restore farm confidence in the people who need it most—not next week or later, but today. That is the urgency of the situation.

It has been said more than once that when agriculture gets a cold the country gets pneumonia. What will happen when agriculture gets pneumonia? That is what is happening now. The people of Ireland and the people of Europe must be fed and we must hold and expand our markets. To do this the first priority is that the Government's performance will have to improve. Inflation must be got down to single figures. That will not be done by squandering the bulk of the money as they did in 1977—they squandered four-fifths of it and buried the last one-fifth. They must work harder at building up the economy and not by burying the punt. Farmers alone—and a small element of the business sector—cannot be expected to maintain the status of the punt. They cannot do it. Every other sector must row in in this regard.

If everybody else demands full cover for inflation costs surely it is only right that the farming community should demand and get price rises in accordance with inflation. You cannot live on this year's costs with last year's prices. That is what farmers are being asked to do. We have 18 per cent inflation in farm costs. This year we are getting—I challenge anyone to disagree with me—last year's prices. The experts will prove I am right.

We can, and will, come out of our difficulties. Our first requirement is that we must have a favourable tax code. Our dairy industry must be expanded. Mr. Joyce of Bord Bainne clearly said that they can sell the product if the dairy industry produce it. We should produce it. To hell with those bureaucrats in Brussels who tell us not to increase dairy production. They come along with their doles and hand-outs. We do not want them. We want the right to increase production and to sell our goods. We will not put our goods into ships in Bantry Bay or anywhere else. Bord Bainne can, and will, sell more and more products. The Minister should be telling the people in Brussels that our survival depends on our dairy industry because, as has been said, when the dairy industry gets a cold the rest of agriculture gets pneumonia. Where will the tillage man sell his grain or his sugar beet crop if there is not a solid dairy industry?

I appeal to the Minister to pay all grants promptly. This is a big problem. Farmers going into the bank tell the manager that the Department owe them £7,000 or more. I made representations about this and was told that the money was tied up. I was also told that the files were here, there and other places. The Minister might consider giving stage payments to help those people get their work done.

Mention was made of the sugar industry. This is another aspect of agriculture that will contribute in no small way to our future salvation. A few years ago we were talking about a butter mountain: now we have a butter shortage. Soon we will have a dairy shortage. This shows the way the EEC is being run. We have a sugar shortage. We have the leadership in the Sugar Company to produce not merely 180,000 tons but 240,000 tons, which we almost reached in the past when I was involved in the sugar beet growing association. We are facing a new and exciting era in sugar production. I believe the autumn planting of sugar beet is not too far away. The day will come in this decade when we will be sowing and harvesting sugar beet on the same day. Look at the potential there. That could lead to a longer season in our factories and could mean a much greater yield.

In the past this industry was sadly neglected. By comparison with European factories ours are not in the same league. Money must be spent immediately to modernise our sugar factories. If we do that we will reap the reward. It is not fair to ask the sugar company to carry the can for our horticultural industry. This new and exciting industry has come through very difficult times. A great deal of money has been poured into growing crops, providing expertise, locating and solving problems and producing seeds suitable for this climate. This industry was pioneered by the sugar company and has been having difficult times but it is now over the worst. I see no reason why we should not be supplying full home requirements in this area. There is no excuse for foreign brands of processed foods being sold in our supermarkets and shops. I appeal to the owners to sell Irish. The joke is that we are packaging for some of these outsiders. I do not understand why home products are not given priority in the interests of job creation.

Erin Foods and the sugar company have paved the way for a new fresh vegetable industry. There is no excuse for importing fresh vegetables when we can grow them ourselves, given the necessary help and encouragement.

Land division was mentioned. The Land Commission should divide whatever land is in their possession before they start taking over any more land. In my area there are people farming Land Commission land which was never allocated to them, and I do not believe we could get them out now. A multi-national oil company put a farm on the market and the Department did not even know about it when I put down a question. That farm should be taken over and divided among the smallholders in the area.

I wish the Minister well. He has a very tough task in Europe. I know how these people work from my experience on the Agricultural Committee of the Council of Europe. It is only fair to say that they are a bunch of mé féiners as far as I am concerned. They talk nicely to us when they want a chairmanship or a vice-chairmanship, but they have very little sympathy for the Irish cause. The Minister will have to get tough on dairy quotas. We will have to be allowed to expand our dairy industry. If Bord Bainne tell us they can sell more we will have to be allowed to increase production. In the event of a war situation, we are one of the few European nations which is self-sufficient when it comes to dairying. The Dutch are producing 1,300-gallon cows, but they are feeding these cows on sugar beet pulp shipped from California and maize from South America.

I want to thank all the Deputies who contributed to this very important debate. Naturally I do not agree with some of the comments made. I was very disappointed at the lack of concrete suggestions from the Opposition. At the end of his speech Deputy Bruton stressed the need for improving confidence in the agricultural industry and for encouraging farmers to expand and develop. I support him—and I have been doing so for some months, all the time I have been in the Department—in these very desirable objectives, but unfortunately much of his speech and other Deputies' contributions were doing precisely the opposite.

We must tell the truth.

Instead of helping confidence they tended more to spread gloom and uncertainty. As I said in my opening address, farmers are being affected by a cost-price squeeze. Nobody is denying that. So also is everyone else at present because of the economic recession and the sharp increase in the cost of energy. But people tend to ignore those problems.

The others will get a 20 per cent increase in wages.

Instead of concentrating on the difficulties that exist, important as they are—and I am keeping a very close eye on those problems—all of us should make the most of the opportunities that are available. I am glad to see that farmers generally and farmers' organisations in particular are adopting this latter approach, unlike the Opposition speakers here today. Farmers and the farming organisations are facing up to the wider economic problems and are operating their enterprises with renewed vigour and confidence which I am confident will be reflected in a further rise in agricultural output.

Many points were covered by the speakers who contributed. One very important point that should be realised is the involvement of agriculture in the European Community. I was a little shocked to hear Deputy Bruton, who one would expect to know much more about the scene out there, criticising the heavy involvement of Ministers in EEC activities.

I criticised them for doing little else, not for being involved.

I was here listening to the Deputy; I know what he said. I was surprised that the Deputy would not have had more knowledge of the situation of the Government, and particularly the situation of a Minister for Agriculture, in EEC affairs.

When one considers what I said in my contribution at the beginning of this debate it is important to remember that the large amounts which we obtained last year and in other years from the Community are more than sufficient justification for even greater involvement, particularly by the Minister for Agriculture, in Community affairs. I did not hear much criticism from anybody in this House when the Coalition were in Government and Ministers had to carry out their duties, and rightly so, in European affairs.

Our whole agricultural industry must now operate within the EEC system and that seems to be overlooked by some Deputies. It is of the utmost importance that we should be totally committed to participation in the formulation and operation of that system which has proved so beneficial to Irish farmers over the years and, indeed, to our economy as a whole.

Deputy Hegarty talked about Irish Ministers, and the Irish Minister in particular, getting tough. One can be as tough as one likes but one has to operate within the system and one must, at the end of the day, reach agreement and this can and does mean compromise on various ideas that we have in relation to our agricultural industry. I will not go into any more detail because perhaps by this day next week the present round of negotiations will be completed and I will have much more to say regarding that whole question at that time.

Deputy Callanan asked about the future of the common agricultural policy and Deputy D'Arcy made several references to the price negotiations in Brussels. Deputy Flanagan also quoted from the Treaty and the CAP and so on and had very strong words to say about it. My attitude and the Government's attitude to the basic principles of the CAP are well known. It must be maintained and it must be strengthened. This is in Ireland's interests and in the interests of the whole Community. I will continue to take that approach in Brussels and I am confident that the majority of the other member states will do likewise. I fully agree with Deputy D'Arcy that the Community farm prices should have been fixed in March or perhaps even earlier rather than as late as they are now, running into June. I, like other Ministers, have made that point at Council meetings on several occasions. The reasons for the delay this year are well known and they are obviously quite outside any one individual Minister's control.

In relation to the proposed super levy on milk, that is to say, a levy on producers who increase their milk deliveries, there was much more than an empty threat to impose such a levy this year. Now that the threat has gone people can say that it was an empty threat but if one is to be realistic one must accept that this threat was very real and at one point in the negotiations every member state except Ireland was prepared to accept a super levy or some supplementary element, particularly in relation to those producers who contributed to the increased production. I have successfully resisted that concept and will continue to do so if it should be raised again.

Deputy Bruton also commented on the amount of money provided from the Exchequer but he cannot exclude the substantial funds which we get from FEOGA. Many spokesmen are inclined to do this and it is not realistic to exclude this vast contribution of funds. He referred to termination of certain subsidies. One does not like the termination of any subsidies. I was pleased to hear him include the beef incentive subsidy. If he were to look into this matter further he would have found that the phasing out of this subsidy was started during the term of office of the National Coalition Government of which he was a part.

It was not eliminated, though. It still remains in the west. It was the Minister's party that axed it.

The phasing out had begun and the Deputy cannot have it both ways.

A number of Deputies referred to land policy. What struck me most was the absence of any positive and realistic suggestions. I did not hear even one. Deputy Bruton was very concerned about the future position of the Land Commission under any new policy and wanted to know whether it would be in existence or not subsequently. I would suggest to the Deputy that he is putting the cart before the horse. The important thing is to settle on a new policy. That is what matters. The organisational and administrative arrangements are secondary issues that can be determined when the broad lines of policy have been laid down. On this broader policy issue I indicated this morning that the Government are giving consideration to proposals for a fresh approach to land restructure. This is a major issue and obviously needs to get the most thorough consideration. This is what is happening at present and when we have reached final decisions I am confident that they will commend themselves to the farmers and set the scene for a significant advance on the structural side.

Reference was made to the farm retirement scheme, to the question of an increase in the rates of annuity. In the past the annuities have been increased annually with effect from 1 May. The question of a further increase is being examined at present and I hope to be in a position to take a decision very shortly.

Many Deputies spoke about AnCOT and the county committees of agriculture. On the question of the reorganisation of the advisory, education and training services, the new body, AnCOT, held their first meeting just after I took office and my Department have been doing everything possible since then to speed up the coming into operation of the new system. The transfer of staff and properties to AnCOT and the county committees of agriculture from the Department will take place in the immediate future. I should say that the Bill recently before the House did not delay AnCOT in the slightest. That Bill dealt with the constitution of county committees of agriculture only and has no direct bearing on AnCOT.

The Bill is presently before the Seanad and I should like to say specifically to Deputy Bermingham, who raised the point, that as soon as it has been passed the steps to reconstitute the county committees of agriculture will be put in train. I see no reason for Deputy Bermingham's fears that the committees may be treated unfairly in the future in the matter of funds for the performance of the functions they will still have. One further point in regard to AnCOT is that they will provide training for agricultural workers. I hope that this information meets Deputy Bermingham's concern. I might add that the Department of Agriculture are no longer responsible for determining agricultural wages. However, we are concerned with the training and education of agricultural workers and this will come now within AnCOT's brief.

I was glad to hear many Deputies extending a welcome to the beef classification scheme. I am sure that this scheme will prove very beneficial in the long term in improving the quality of our cattle. Deputy Bruton considered it important that the factories should relate their prices to classification categories in order to give producers the incentive to produce quality animals. I agree fully. My Department are continuing to encourage the use of classification results for payment purposes. It is only by providing proper rewards for quality animals that we can ensure that farmers produce what the market wants.

Deputy D'Arcy referred to the suckler scheme contained in the outline EEC agreement and indicated that the scheme would apply only to the west of Ireland. That is not correct. It will apply to applicants throughout the country provided they meet the requirements laid down. The scheme being proposed is not the ideal. It is not the one we would have liked, but it is a beginning.

I appreciate fully the concern of several Deputies about the danger to sheep of marauding dogs. This problem has caused serious loss to many sheep producers in areas close to cities and towns. There is provision in the Vote for the Department of the Environment for grants to local authorities to assist them in the provision of shelters for stray dogs. My Department have been in touch with the Department of the Environment about those facilities and I intend to have this matter gone into further. I am conscious of the losses that sheep farmers have suffered and I am conscious also of the possible implications of our being so unfortunate as to have an outbreak of rabies.

In the case of milk I find it difficult to understand Deputy Bruton's suggestion that diversification would be hindered by an inadequate milk supply. Apart from the fact that I am confident of our having a further increase in milk production there is scope obviously, even at present, to effect some diversification of the output of dairy producers. As I said this morning, the Commission have promised to consider aid for diversified cheese production.

On the question of the level of milk production this year, I would point out that production in the most recent two weeks for which figures are available has been showing an increase of 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively compared with the corresponding weeks in 1979. There was some drop in the early months of the year but the increase figures I have given are very heartening and show that the trend is in the right direction.

What is the Minister's overall prediction for the year?

I do not have such prediction. As I said this morning, it is not easy to make predictions but we would expect a modest increase in production.

The question of New Zealand butter was raised. I have made my position and the position of the Government clear in this regard in many instances in the negotiations in Brussels. Our attitude is that in any new arrangement that would be made in the Community it should be for considerably reduced quantities. We will maintain that attitude.

On the question of pigs I agree with Deputy Bruton on the need to tighten up on quality. The Deputy mentioned the question of brine levels. In this regard I am about to make a new order which would bring the situation more into line with present day practice and enable more effective control to be exercised.

I am glad to hear that.

On the question of university education, there is only one faculty of agriculture and that is the one at UCD. New buildings and equipment have been provided for that faculty to enable it to cope with the estimated number of graduates needed. The facilities provided will meet all the demands likely in the immediate future and it would be an unnecessary waste of resources to set up similar facilities in two other centres.

Regarding the provision of more places in agricultural colleges, the proposal in the EEC's western aid package, which I am confident will be adopted shortly, provide for the expansion of existing colleges by 200 residential places. This will make a significant contribution to the objective mentioned. It will be a major responsibility of AnCOT to examine the whole question of the training needs of the agricultural colleges and to draw up programmes to meet these needs.

There was a request for a breakdown of the various categories of grants paid under the Farm Modernisation Scheme since its introduction in 1974. Up to the end of 1979, £100 million has been spent in grants under this scheme. On a rough basis this has comprised: development categories, £42 million; commercial £6 million; and others, £52 million.

Deputy D'Arcy and others also referred to the disease eradication programme. The Deputy suggested that in the past the rounds of testing involved far too much time. I would agree with him on that, but my Department have in operation a productivity agreement with the Irish Veterinary Union and this agreement is designed to shorten considerably the length of time for completion of a round of testing. The next round due to start in early June is scheduled to finish by the end of February.

Deputy D'Arcy commented also on the incidence of figures for TB in recent years and said it is unfair to make comparisons with 1977 figures. Following the vets' dispute the TB incidence figures in 1977 reached an all-time high but there has been a progressive fall each year since. The number of animals as disclosed on the rounds as being infected with TB has reduced as follows: in 1977, one in 180; 1978, one in 400; 1979, to April 1980, one in 500. The percentage of herds found with TB on a round of testing is now running at 3 per cent, the lowest since 1967.

On the subject of lorries, Deputy D'Arcy was referring to the time up to 1976 when reactor cattle were the subject of contracts between the Department and meat factories. The main reason why that system was stopped was because it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Department staff to get the agreement of herd owners as to the price to be paid for reactors. There was increasing haggling, often involving several visits by the Department staff before the herd was moved. Now the herd owners can send their reactors to the factory of their choice and as long as they arrive there within 30 days of punching they receive a grant from the Department as well as factory service value. Also on the subject of lorries I fully endorse the need for ensuring that all lorries used for the transport of livestock should be clean. My Department are giving greater attention to this matter and it is my intention to tighten up even further. The disease risks involved in the use of dirty lorries are being highlighted in a publicity campaign and every person concerned with agriculture should be taking note of this serious problem and the contribution it can and does make to the spreading of disease.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is adequate enforcement at marts of washing requirements?

Many marts are providing adequate facilities and I hope that those marts which do not have such facilities will have them installed. There should be adequate supervision.

Is there?

I do not have detailed information in relation to all marts and factories but I appeal for co-operation regarding this question. Those concerned with agriculture must realise the serious risks involved. All we can hope for is the co-operation of interested parties.

Deputy D'Arcy complained about the delay in the payment of sheep grants in County Wicklow. I am satisfied that there has not been any such delay. Grants have already been paid to 866 flock owners. Before the remaining 40 applicants can be dealt with further investigation is required into such matters as title, dipping certificate irregularities, off-farm income, forage acreage and so on. In most instances it is for the producers concerned to furnish the information or other evidence required.

I agree with the comments made that we need to have greater processing of our agricultural products. This has become more important according as imports of food products have increased. There is no reason why we should not compete with foreign suppliers, We have fine fresh food and it should be possible for our manufacturers to make the most of these excellent raw materials. This requires enterprise and efficiency of production, coupled with the highest standards of hygiene and quality. In the latter connection I should like to commend the activities of those interests who are striving to improve the quality of our food products.

Deputy Michael Pat Murphy referred to the extension of the disadvantaged areas. As I stated in answer to questions, the Government's proposals on this were submitted to the EEC Commission and my Department officials have since had a number of meetings with Commission officials to give the additional information sought. Some final decisions rest with the Council of Ministers and I cannot say how soon these will be made but I am hopeful it will not be too long before I know the outcome of our submissions.

Deputy Leonard referred to the problem of the continuity of supply of cattle to meat factories. The problem has beset us at our meat factories for many years and there is no simple solution to it. Our beef production is based primarily on grass and we are thus tied to the grass season. This results in heavy supplies of cattle at the end of the year and a scarcity in spring. The ratio can be as bad as three to one. Some changes in the production system—I am thinking of developments such as the calf to two-year-old beef system—may help to ease the problem but it is likely to be with us to some extent for quite a number of years yet. The factories can tailor their prices to make production of beef in this scarce season more attractive than at present and if that is done I am satisfied that farmers interested in beef production will take the necessary steps to ensure adequate winter supply for over-wintering of cattle. That is an important point which I have referred to on many occasions since I became Minister for Agriculture. At the end of the day the change from the old traditional systems of spring and summer grazing will only come about when the farmers who are seriously interested in winter feeding are paid for the additional cost and work involved.

Vote put and agreed to.