Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As business adjourned last Tuesday on this Bill I was drawing attention to the different trend here compared to our main northern European competitors in the relative expenditure on agricultural research on the one hand and education and advisory services on the other as expressed as a percentage of agricultural output. In 1960 northern Europe was spending more on advice than on research. I do not have to remind the House that advice in Ireland is provided by ACOT and the research is carried out by AFT. A decade later research expenditure had doubled while spending on advice had increased more slowly. By 1980 Europe was spending the equivalent of 1.6 per cent of agricultural output on research with the advice costs levelling out at 0.8 per cent.

Those figures are broadly the same today in the countries of northern Europe, our main competitors and our main market. There is a very logical explanation for this. Over those 20 years the number of farmers in most countries has halved and those remaining in the business are very aware of modern technological advances and the benefit of field research generally. There has been a general sophistication in the area of agriculture and food production and a greater demand for information from current research. That is the European story. We might ask ourselves about our experience over the same time. Our relative figures for expenditure on research and advice are quite different. We still spend more on advice through the services of ACOT than on research through the service of AFT. This is comparable to what Europe was spending in the sixties when real growth in agriculture began. Our spending in this area today compares not to northern European but to Third World countries such as Algeria, Turkey and Nigeria. I do not criticise the fact that we spend more than the rest of Europe on advice and educational services. We still have relatively more farmers. Given the primacy of agriculture acknowledged by us all, we still pay only lip service to value-added, post farm gate processing, marketing and our important natural resources. The Minister in his speech stated:

The farmer of tomorrow...must be a successful enterprise manager who can compete successfully with his best international counterparts.

Considering this statement against the paltry resources devoted to research puts our farmers at a major disadvantage compared to the vague international counterparts to whom the Minister refers.

Despite the handicaps under which farmers and the food industry generally are labouring, we must remember the relatively greater importance of agriculture to the Irish economy when compared with other countries. This compounds the sin of neglect of research over the years. There has been neglect from the point of view of the amount of resources invested in research. It is particularly true this year, given the enormous cutbacks to the tune of 43 per cent for ACOT and AFT.

The Minister also stated:

It has been a priority for me as Minister for Agriculture and Food to make our partners in the EC sharply aware of the primacy of agriculture in our economy.

This, in turn, filters through to the consumers of Europe so that quality products from a pure and natural environment must be universally associated with the name "Irish" on any level.

There is nothing any of us can find fault with in that statement, except that our aspirations bear little relationship to the facts.

In this year's Estimates the Fianna Fáil Government cut the funding of AFT and ACOT from £35 million to £20 million, putting the Irish farmer further out of line with his European counterpart. This has been highlighted recently by the research staff from Oak Park in a communication which I am sure all Oireachtas Members received. I acknowledge their interest and their contribution to the field of research by putting this statement on the record. The document, to which seven or eight signatures are appended, states:

Prior to this the State's investment in research was the second lowest in the European Community. Now it will be the lowest of all. We think that AFT has served the nation's farming industry very well over the last 25 years and it has played a key role in increasing agricultural production.

They go on to give two reasons for claiming that the proposed reduction in funding is unwise. The first is that investment in research is an investment in the future of the country for the benefit of the next generation. State borrowing is mortgaging the future of the next generation. They continue:

Must we cut back on investment to doubly deprive them? With the world economy heading into recession the proposed cutback is very badly timed. The effect of the cutbacks will undoubtedly be deflationary. AFT and ACOT are very much decentralised organisations. Must the regions carry the brunt of the coming recession?

There is much contained in those few sentences and I ask the Minister to turn his thoughts to them.

Tragically the whole prospect of a successful outcome of a merger between ACOT and AFT is clouded by the budgetary crisis which will face the new organisation in its first year of operation. Voluntary redundancies apart, there are still not sufficient funds even to pay the wages, let alone deliver the efficient service so essential in 1988. We await the Minister's response to the crisis. The scientists, technicians, field workers, farm workers and the advisers all await the resolution of the budgetary crisis before them in 1988.

My colleague, Deputy O'Keeffe, stated in his contribution that the answer to the crisis was obvious. He said what was needed was a transfer of additional funding from the £66.5 million administration budget of the Department of Agriculture and Food and additionally to integrate the functions and funding of the farm development services, Bord Glas and the research arm of the Department with the new farm authority. I agree with that view, although Deputy O'Keeffe made the point that such measures would ruffle a few feathers in the Department. They would nevertheless ensure an efficient and cost effective service to the industry. I agree that additional funding should be transferred from the £66.5 administration budget.

We must remind ourselves that the initial decision to axe the workers on the ground was taken by this Administration. They can be expected to resist pressure to transfer moneys but if the Minister does not intend to resolve the funding crisis which faces the new organisation he should say to now. He should put a stop to the charade and the aspirational speeches and be honest with those from whom we will all expect so much in the future, the staff of ACOT and AFT who will be staffing the new farm body. The Minister either intends to shaft these organisations and the services they provide and so destroy the future for Irish agriculture and the food industry or he will fund the newly merged body adequately.

The Minister continued his speech as follows:

The test of success will be the same as in any other enterprise — knowledge and the confidence that comes with it.

He went on to state:

The main objective of this Bill is to set in place, by combining the considerable resources of the existing organisations, a strong unified organisational structure for the effective delivery of support services vital to the successful development of the agriculture and food industry.

How can this be achieved? We deserve detailed answers on Second Stage. If effectively the organisation is bankrupt before it starts, all the aspirations and platitudes expressed in this Chamber are not worth a whit. Are we all wasting our time in contributing to this debate? Have we been wasting the administration's time and the parliamentary draftsman's time in requiring him to produce a Bill which broadly we support? Without funding nothing in this Bill is possible or achievable. The Minister spoke about combining the considerable resources. I ask him to indicate what resources he is referring to. Yes, we have expertise, assets and property and we could combine those resources but there would be no money there.

The Minister can be congratulated when he talks about achieving the elimination of duplication and the overlapping of services but he did not achieve it as Fine Gael intended. It appears he achieved the objective by eliminating the service altogether. Without sufficient money to pay even the wages of those left in the new farm body he cannot deliver any service in any shape or form.

The Minister went on to say that the Government intend to provide our farmers, and especially our young farmers, with at least as good an access to the knowledge and skills they will require as that available to their counterparts abroad but from my conclusions and analysis of the Yale survey I have pointed out that we are spending the least amount compared to our international counterparts on research and advice, and this despite the primacy of agriculture in our community. How then can the Minister assure our young farmers especially and our farming community that they will have at least as good an access to the knowledge and skills that they will require as that available to their counterparts abroad? There is a great economy of truth in that statement particularly when the facts are analysed and the statistics observed.

The Minister went on to say that the priority to be given to entrants into farming will not mean the exclusion of the advisory services. Coming from a Fianna Fáil Government who were hardly weeks in office when they abolished the installation aid grant for young farmers I find that very hard to take. Yes, they reinstated it in the last budget and expected to be lauded by the agricultural community and hailed as the saviours of young farmers and farming in Ireland in the future but it does not take much reminding to realise that any applause which they received for reinstating the installation aid grant must be put against the background of the real scenario. They abolished the installation aid grant a few months previously and the outcry, hassle and stick they received from Macra na Feirme, other farming organisations and young farmers in every constituency ensured that they reinstated the installation aid grant in the budget.

We read of the Government's pious aspirations of what they will do for young farmers, yet the very first thing they did was to abolish the only grant aid which would help them to get established in rural Ireland. We read about what they are going to do for them with a farm body who has not got a shilling to their name and who cannot pay the wages yet alone deliver a service. Perhaps the key to unlock the Minister's mind in relation to his views on the future funding of this organisation lies in his speech, that an important thrust in Government policy is that bodies such as Teagasc should have a strong commercial orientation and receive a good measure of funding from the industry; that Teagasc will be expected to secure funding from the agricultural and food sector to the maximum degree possible through gearing its services to the essential commercial development needs of the industry and that section 6 of the Bill enables Teagasc to charge for any of its services though charges in the case of education, training or advice will require ministerial approval because of the wider policy implications such charges might have. I should think so.

The Minister continued that charges in appropriate circumstances should establish an effective and professional relationship between producer and adviser and should ensure that the services provided are of the highest professional standards. I have no difficulty with the principle of people paying a reasonable charge for any service providing it does not stand in the way of developing agriculture and advising and helping the very farmers who are least likely to be in a position to pay for such services. I will be referring to this again later.

The Bill provides for income generating activities. There are so many references to commercial exploitation in this sector that I want to check the most relevant ones to make my point. The Minister in his speech told us that the allocation of £20 million in the Book of Estimates which, of course, was settled some months ago took account of a number of exceptional and new factors which would influence the situation after the merger of ACOT and AFT. He now tries to justify the axing of 43 per cent of the budget of ACOT and the AFT by saying that he knew this Bill was coming. He went out and charged what he liked and thereby supplemented his funding. He said that the allocation in the Book of Estimates took account of a number of exceptional and new factors which would influence the situation after the merger of ACOT and AFT. He was privy to this wisdom last September or October when drawing up the Estimates for the education sector.

I suppose one of these exceptional and new factors is the increased commercial exploitation which he already mentioned. He went on to refer to the fact that the amalgamation will also make possible the rationalisation of the countrywide physical resources of the existing organisations. I find that statement very ominous. What he is trying to say, which is hidden behind some rather pleasant rhetoric, is that he already has in mind centres which are for axing and that basically he already has decided which of the services will stay and which will go. The Minister should be frank and honest and name the centres he intends to close and he should not tell us that the new board when appointed will decide particularly if common membership will be an essential criterion for selection for the same board. One glance at the political map will then point out the vulnerable centres, vulnerable for all the wrong reasons. Obviously the Minister knows the centres which he intends to close. He said so effectively later in his speech.

He said Teagasc will concentrate on the essential services and those of lower priority will be reduced or phased out. That, taken together with the possible rationalisation of the countrywide physical resources, says a lot and the Minister is not being frank with this House in what he has in mind for the different centres throughout the country. As the Minister knows, morale is already extremely low. The research staff, technicians, field workers and advisers across the spectrum do not know what 1988 holds for them. They do not know if their particular centre will be there in the future. Notwithstanding the fact that it is only voluntary redundancy which the Minister will accept, they do not know if they are going to be shifted from one part of the country to another. It has taken a long time for the Minister to be honest and straight with what I like to call the coalface workers as far as the agricultural industry is concerned, the people who deliver the service to the farmer on the ground in the case of ACOT, and the people who deliver the service and give advice to ACOT advisers in the case of AFT. The Minister allowed himself an escape from the tangled web in which he has been caught for the past number of months, since the Estimates were announced when he said:

If there are temporary initial difficulties, it will be my purpose to ensure that the new body will not lack for the essential funds to enable them to become an efficient, cost-effective agency to service the agriculture and food industry.

It is acknowledged that there are major initial difficulties. There is not sufficient money to pay the wages. The normal way a Department work is that one-twelfth of the annual Estimate is spent each month for the 12 months of the year, and that is how control is kept over spending. Already this practice has been breached in relation to ACOT and AFT because one-twelfth of the 1988 Estimate is not sufficient to pay the salary in any one month. The Minister obviously has something in mind. Obviously he has far more planning in mind than he mentioned in his Second Stage speech in relation to what the future holds for the different centres in ACOT and AFT. The Minister has decided that any initial temporary difficulties will be resolved in relation to funding. There are major initial difficulties, so the Minister must have something in mind.

The Minister is not a fool and I hope he does not take me for one. It is not a question of "if there are initial difficulties". The Minister is facing a crisis in the wages bill alone. He is committed to no compulsory redundancies, so where do we go from here? To go through the Bill stage by stage is irrelevant. It is a waste of time if the funding is to be so inadequate that no services can be delivered. If we do not have an answer to the major critical problem facing the new farm body, the problem of how it will be funded initially, and down the line, we are fooling ourselves and the agricultural community and we are wasting the time of this House by continuing to contribute. When replying, I would ask the Minister to level with us and to tell us what he has decided to do to resolve this critical problem, the resolution of which is basic to the successful outcome of the Bill.

On this point I refer to an article published in theIrish Farmers' Journal on 20 February last. The title of the article is “Audit may not be published”. Apparently an interim audit into the staffing levels of the Department of Agriculture and Food, ACOT and the Agriculture Institute is in the process of being completed and we are advised that this audit may not be published. What is the reason for this? Is it that it will make the Minister and the Department of Agriculture and Food and all the advisers look extremely foolish? The Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and Food cut back the services from the Department, the administration in Kildare Street, by a mere 3 per cent or 4 per cent.

The Deputy should make it 1.6 per cent.

I am corrected. It is even less than 3 per cent. We will settle for 2 per cent as a round figure. Yet, the people who are drawing up the very plans for spending in this area, the Department, have the gall to cut back the budget for the coalface workers, for the most critical people in the delivery of advice and research, by 43 per cent or 44 per cent. It bears no comparison to reality. There is an audit into staffing levels between the relevant sections of the Department of Agriculture and Food, Administration in Dublin and ACOT and AFT on the ground, and now we are being told this audit may not be published, that it will be up to the Taoiseach to decide whether or not to publish the document. This article says that:

it is understood that his — the Taoiseach's — Department is already under civil service pressure not to release the document when it is finalised.

Need we say any more? I would like the Minister to confirm to this House that there is no truth in this article. If there is any question of Civil Service pressure on the Taoiseach or on anybody else not to publish the completed audit in relation to staffing levels in this most critical area, major questions need to be answered. I have no reason to doubt that the information in this article is true but I am putting the question to the Minister to give him an opportunity to reply. If this information in the article is true we could have a good and rather reasonable guess at why it is true.

The decisions in relation to the Estimates for 1988 in the different sections in the Department of Agriculture and Food are probably a major source of embarrassment to the Fianna Fáil Government. I hope they at least have the grace to admit that they are a major source of embarrassment to the Government, because if they deny that at this stage they are compounding the injury being done to the agriculture and food industry in Ireland. I wonder what this audit has turned up that we may or may not be allowed to know?

The relevant resources for the three organisations have now been established according to this information, and the audit report has been written up in the Taoiseach's Department, perhaps so as to be independent of the Department of Agriculture and Food. The indications are that there will be scope for savings within the Department of Agriculture and Food administrative budget to soften the impact of the 44 per cent spending cuts to ACOT and AFT. We await advice from the Minister as to how he will get out of the budgetary crisis in which the new farm body will be when and if this legislation comes through. Perhaps the audit will allow an escape? Perhaps it will indicate where Department of Agriculture and Food savings can be made and money transferred to ACOT and AFT. Perhaps there could be some creative accounting along the lines of putting a proportion of the staff in ACOT and AFT onto the payroll of the Department of Agriculture and Food, for example, and this would relieve the pressure on the limited resources allowed to ACOT and AFT for 1988. If there are extra resources in the Department of Agriculture and Food these staff could be paid through the Department of Agriculture and Food and they could then be seconded back onto the new farm body. By a little bit of creative accounting the Government will not be seen to be giving more money to ACOT and AFT and yet the Government will have passed the crisis. Perhaps the Minister will not use a device like that but we await being told by the Minister how the new farm body will have a future in 1988, let alone down the road.

There have been several occasions on which the whole area of the importance of agricultural research, planning, value-added and food has been pointed out over the years. The National Planning Board Report in theirProposals for Plan 1984-1987 said:

The Board believe that to enable the farmer improve productivity ... an adequately educated and trained agricultural labour force is a necessary prerequisite.

It has pointed up the essential work being done and that will have to be done by ACOT in that area in future or by the new farm body when established. The national planBuilding on Reality 1985-1987 recognised the situation where it said:

Both ACOT and AFT have important roles in helping farmers to increase productivity through the adoption of cost-effective new technology devised and researched by AFT...

the information being disseminated through ACOT to the farmers on the ground.

Let me refer to the Telesis report, the NESC report No. 64, 1982. In their review of industrial policy the Telesis consultancy group point out that our grasslands are the natural resource with the strongest competitive strength. They make the point that at present they are only partially developed. I am conscious of the excellent work done and continuing to be done in Johnstown Castle Research Centre in Wexford on this very area. There is, therefore, continued support for providing advisory and research services to farmers in Ireland from every sector of the economy.

The Bill before us would have a slightly amusing side if the situation were not so serious. I have two Bills in my hand. This is the Bill we are discussing today, the Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Bill, 1988. It is very similar to the Bill that my former colleague the then Deputy Mark Clinton, guided through Dáil Éireann in 1977. That Bill was called the National, Agricultural Advisory, Education and Research Authority Bill. It makes good reading to go back through the Official Reports of the Dáil and Seanad of the time and note what Fianna Fáil has to say on that Fine Gael Bill. Interestingly enough, the then Deputy Gibbons was Minister for Agriculture at the time and he particularly, if we are to be consistent, would have made nonsense of the Bill here before us today, a Bill now being promoted and proposed to the House by a Fianna Fáil Government. In the past they have been known as the party of U turns. I am afraid I would not be a politician if I let this occasion go by without saying the U turn of all U turns is being done this evening in relation to the support of the Fianna Fáil Government for and their promotion of the Bill before us. It makes good after dinner reading to go through the contributions of the Minister's colleagues and former colleagues, some of who are no longer with us in this House today, to see what they had to say about virtually the same issue as we are talking about now. If I may be so bold, many of the sections in this Bill are almost plagiarised from the old Bill. There are differences too, but the very points and issues that incurred the wrath of the Fianna Fáil Deputies in 1977 are being lauded by the Fianna Fáil Deputies of the eighties in this House today. Perhaps it is another area where they have come round to Fine Gael's way of thinking. We welcome that, but we will not let it go unrecognised and unnoticed by this House.

Perhaps there are other Deputies or perhaps the other Deputies have grown more wise in ten years.

They say education is never cheap. I will accept that.

There are a few of the old ones here, too.

There are quite a number still in this House, and we wish them well, who were here in 1977 and who had most interesting things to say on effectively the very Bill we are discussing here today. You will allow me, Sir, the odd political point. It is too major a U turn to go undocumented by this House. It is essential for the record that we get the facts straight. I welcome the road to Damasus conversion by the Fianna Fáil Party in relation to this new merger Bill and the new farm body they are setting up. I congratulate them for taking on board Fine Gael principles of the seventies which we consistently held right through the eighties, and I am sure we will be very constructive in our contribution consequently to the Bill and its passage in the House.

Again for the record, I would like to commend the tremendous contribution our former colleague now in Europe, Mark Clinton, made in relation to the very issue we debate here tonight. His commitment to agriculture has been well documented. It is an awful pity that through the obstruction of Fianna Fáil and their lack of willingness to support a Bill in 1977 that obviously had excellent merit the measures we are now trying to bring about today have been held up for almost 12 years. We could have been 12 years further down the road with this new farm body if Fianna Fáil had chosen to support the Bill we were proposing at the time. The Minister should recognise the goodwill and constructive support of the Fine Gael Party in relation to this Bill today. Would that it had been otherwise in 1977 and those years behind us would not have been wasted years.

Enough of that, as I can see from the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's face. Might I be forgiven if I became slightly parochial for a moment? I have referred in passing to Johnstown Castle's immense contribution——

More than once.

——and I shall refer to it several times more before my contribution is finished. For the record I would like to detail some of that immense contribution and even the rather interesting story as to how Johnstown Castle became part of the physical assets of the State to which the Minister refers.

Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis.

Thank you. Since their founding in 1958 AFT operated through a series of major research centres each of which had a number of satellite centres. Let me just describe one of these in detail because I am more familiar with this centre perhaps than with others though I am very aware of the excellent work that has been done in the others and detailed them briefly last week when I contributed to this debate.

Those same centres were very pleased with the then Fianna Fáil administration.

I take the point. The Fianna Fáil administration would not allow our Bill in 1977 to proceed through the House. We have wasted 12 years.

Deputy, this is neighbourly co-operation, it is not an interruption.

It is only neighbourly co-operation. Johnstown Castle's contribution to agriculture predates considerably the establishment of AFT and on that basis I would like to be allowed some parochial reminiscences. Johnstown Castle estate, four miles from Wexford town, was founded by the Esmonde family in early Norman times. They were dispossessed by Oliver Cromwell after 1649. Within a generation after Cromwell the estate passed in to the hands of the Grogans. History repeated itself in 1798 when once more the family were on the Irish side. The then owner, Cornelius Grogan, was hanged together with Bagenal Harvey and others on Wexford bridge for complicity in the rebellion. Grogan had been one of the main shareholders in the company which had built this first bridge over the Slaney in 1790.

Fortunately, the Grogan family managed to recover the estate after its forfeiture and by the middle of the eighteen hundreds are to be found actively involved again in the main developments in the Wexford area. These included such projects as the reclamation of the sloblands in Wexford Harbour and at Kilmore Quay as well as the building of the first harbour at Kilmore Quay. On their own estate the Grogans built schools as well as houses for their employees. The great famine of the 1840s had little impact on the area because of the enlightened and broadly based agriculture in the Johnstown area.

The last private resident at Johnstown Castle was Lady Maurice Fitzgerald who died in 1942. She gave a lifetime of service to the local community in the area of public health. Her grandson, Mr. Victor Laken, and her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Jefferies, presented the estate to the Irish nation for use as an agricultural college and research centre in 1945. The reasons they had to present it would do little to enhance the story, so we will just make the point. The Johnstown Castle Agricultural College Act, 1945 contains the details of the gift. Many of the staff who had worked for Lady Maurice were taken on to the staff of the new college. The last of these, Mr. Thomas Kelly, retired only in 1987 after 51 years at Johnstown. The pride these staff had in the history and achievements of Johnstown as a private estate was carried over in the new role as a national soils and grassland research centre. Many new research and technical staff were taken on and trained both at home and abroad and soon established Johnstown's reputation in soils research.

When the Agricultural Institute was founded in 1958 Johnstown provided their first director, Dr. Tom Walsh, as well as many of the skilled staff who established the new research facilities at Oakpark, Grange, Kinsealy and Moore-park. Another wave of young graduates was taken on in the early sixties who now form the backbone of the present research programme at Johnstown. They are ably assisted by an excellent team of technicians. Wexford and, indeed, the country can be well proud of the service the staff in Johnstown have given. Through attendance at conferences, publication of papers and participation in joint EC research programmes, they have made Johnstown known as a centre of excellence in the areas of land appraisal, soil fertility and trace elements, to name but a few.

The study of soil types, soil fertility and the lime and fertiliser requirements of grassland and the main tillage crops has been the core activity at Johnstown in the last 20 years or so. Parallel with this, methods for soil and plant analysis have been developed and tested and then put into practice on a routine basis. The popularity of the analytical services which have been developed are now such that around 100,000 soil samples and 30,000 plant samples are received each year from farmers in agri-business. Regular exchange of standard samples with other major European laboratories and continuous improvement of laboratory equipment has enabled Johnstown to compete with the best. In fact a new block of laboratories was opened in the seventies.

The staff at Johnstown are now justifiably concerned that lack of funds and staff may strangle future progress. In these fast moving times information comes only to those research centres and researchers who have something to give in return. A great deal of the exchange of scientific ideas and information takes place in contact at meetings and informal visits to research centres.

Last year when I had the honour of being Minister of State at the Department of Finance with particular responsibility for the Office of Public Works, while on a visit to the Netherlands I met a young scientist who had worked at Johnstown for some months as a student botanist, Dr. Mattias Schouten. He became interested in Irish bogs and their conservation and he raised tremendous support for this cause in Holland. It was he who had organised the function that I was attending, namely, the handing over of the ownership of a number of intact Irish bogs to the Government. The bogs had been bought with money raised mainly by Mattias's committee in Holland. We may all recall the great pride and pleasure we experienced when our colleagues in the Netherlands, scientists and ordinary people with environmental concerns and general environmental interest, actually invested their own money to preserve some intact, raised and blanket bogs in this country. The germ of that idea started through a young student scientist studying at Johnstown on an annual exchange and becoming interested in Irish bogs. It is perhaps to date an undocumented area of Johnstown's involvement in this most worthwhile venture.

Much of the research activity at Johnstown is neither glamorous nor photogenic. I will be critical of the institute of AFT for a moment. Much of the difficulty we are now experiencing, and which has been obvious for the last few months, has arisen because the public relations of An Foras Talúntais has not been what it should be. We can accept that perhaps the scientists and the inner circle of those in the know knew what was going on and appreciated the enormous range of activities at the different centres but the average politician, the man in the street, people living in villages adjacent to these centres, had no appreciation or understanding of the contribution of these centres to the Irish economy, particularly to Irish agricultural output and indeed to environmental output and tourism also. I think AFT recognise that they were perhaps a little reticent in relation to pushing their own cause and highlighting it to the public. I am afraid this awareness has come very late. It has made our job and the job of impressing on the Minister and the Government the necessity for adequate funding and the importance of the research programme more difficult.

As I have stated, the research activity at Johnstown is neither glamorous nor photogenic. The best ways of using animal manures, the study of different types of nitrogen fertiliser and the most suitable ways of correcting zinc deficiency in cereals are some of the matters currently under investigation. Each one refers to the multi-million pound problem. If we take the example of sulphur, Johnstown researchers found that as grassland productivity was increased in some areas of the country sulphur deficiencies were starting to show. This was being compounded by a lowering of the sulphur content of fertilisers. The correction of this sulphur deficiency is reckoned to be worth about £75 million to Irish farmers each year. In other words, the results of this programme in Johnstown Castle — the knowledge of how to correct sulphur deficiency — is worth £75 million per annum to Irish farmers.

Johnstown has played a major part in other areas concerning lime, fertilisers and animal manures. The amounts of money involved in this area annually are very considerable. For example, over £300 million is spent per annum by farmers on nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium fertilisers. Animal manures — in this case we can only estimate the value in terms of increased production through their use — have cost the agricultural community £80 million. In regard to lime, we are often criticised, particularly since the lime subsidy was removed, for not using sufficient lime but about £10 million a year is spent on lime by Irish farmers. Just under £400 million is spent per annum by Irish farmers in relation to corrective action through fertilisers of one kind or another. Johnstown Castle's contribution to this area has been immense and indeed has been documented on many occasions through scientific publications both here and abroad. It is necessary not just to know what minerals or fertilisers are needed to correct deficiency but you must know, depending on the different types of soils and on weather conditions, when to spread; you must know how to spread without causing further health or environmental hazards to the community and you must know how to minimise leaching into water courses and into ground water supplies generally. All of this research has been done in Johnstown Castle.

Nitrogen fertilisers make up a major portion of these costs — as I have said, £300 million is spent on nitrogen fertilisers alone — and therefore it is most important that studies on nitrogen fixation and on the fate of nitrogen in the soil be continued. I hope this most important aspect will be recognised by the new farm body for all our sakes, particularly for the sake of the agricultural community and for the sake of our exports to Europe. There are also important public health aspects attached to nitrogen which need more study. I have referred to them briefly — the threatened pollution of ground water and our water sources generally.

In the last decade the number and variety of contract research projects have increased considerably at Johnstown. Some examples are: the forage map of Europe has been produced at Johnstown Castle for the EC; work has been done for the IDA on the agricultural implications of an electrolytic smelter at Ballylongford in County Kerry; a resource survey of the south-east coast of County Wexford was carried out for the ESB; a survey of stud farms at Tully and Barretstown Castle was carried out for the national stud and a study of the feasibility of using Italian ryegrass to produce sugars suitable for fermentation to ethanol was done for the EC.

Grass dry matter is a real commodity worth at least £1,000 million annually. It is the principal food for cattle, sheep and horses. Down the years Johnstown Castle research has played a key role in improving the productivity and management of our grassland. For the future it is certain that grass will continue to be the main source of feed for our livestock. Nonetheless, research is also being broadened to include the possibility of using grass as a feedstock for ethanol production.

Some years ago farmyard manures and slurries were considered to be a nuisance and of little value to farming. Research at Johnstown has shown that this is not the case and that, if properly recycled, they can have an annual value to farming of about £100 million. Their proper use also means that pollution of rivers, lakes and ground waters is prevented. Research work on the best ways of handling and using animal manures is still in its early stages and a lot of work is still required. A new method of injecting slurry into the soil is at present under test at Johnstown and looks like a good solution to the problem of smell associated with conventional slurry spreading.

Johnstown Castle staff have worked on various agricultural projects overseas. Projects of varying duration from two months to one year have been undertaken in Lesotho, the Sudan, the Azores, Trinidad and Zimbabwe. Students from some of these countries have also received specialist training at Johnstown to enable them to undertake long term management of development projects in their home countries.

I welcome the fact that Johnstown Castle Research Centre is included for special mention in the Bill. It is surely sensible to make full use of their excellent staff and facilities. Down the years the staff, from the top to those working in the laboratories, the technicians and those on field work in the farms, have responded to the needs of farming and agri business and built up a respected role for Johnstown as a soil and grasslands research centre of excellence.

I hope we can trust the future of Johnstown Castle which will be in the hands of this new farm Bill and the Fianna Fáil Government. I honestly feel that if everybody could be privy to the information concerning the work being done, the broad scope of that work and its relevance not just to the agriculture and food industry but also to the environment, the marine world and the tourism sector, we should have no fear for the future of Johnstown Castle. Until the Minister confirms that to be so, his ominous references to the rationalisation of countrywide physical resources for one, and the promise to concentrate on the essential services and those of lower priority secondly, make us all wonder what he has in mind, not just for Johnstown but the other centres of excellence which comprise AFT and ACOT.

We cannot be sure what the future will hold for any centre until the Minister indicates exactly what he means by an essential service. Surely the list I have outlined in terms of the achievements and research work at Johnstown must be an essential service. Grassland is the basis of agricultural production in this country. One of the basic premises of the Treaty of Rome was that we should concentrate production in areas of greatest natural advantage. The work at Johnstown Castle on soils and grasslands generally must, I contend, be classed as an essential service and I urge the Minister in replying to the Second Stage debate to confirm that this is so. Will he please indicate what services being provided by either ACOT or AFT are "of lower priority" and which does he intend to reduce to phase out altogether? Will he let us know what he has in mind?

In Wexford we are lucky enough to have another research station at Clonroche, the National Soft Fruit and Beekeeping Research Station. I do not have to remind the Minister that fruit growing technology is constantly changing. If Irish growers are to remain competitive, it is essential that they have easy access to the most cost-effective growing management systems. The results of the research programme at Clonroche are made know to growers through serving ACOT fruit advisers and by groups visiting the station. Indeed, the programme at Clonroche and its liaison with ACOT shows how effectively ACOT and AFT have been disseminating to farmers information gleaned through research at AFT.

Clonroche is the only station in the country servicing the soft fruit industry. There are approximately 900 soft fruit growers in the country, of whom about 420 are in County Wexford. They employ between 10,000 and 12,000 casual employees during the picking season. In addition, there would be another 150 employed seasonally at intake depots. I do not have to remind the Minister that fruit growing fits in well with tilling activities and provides on-farm income consolidation. In many cases fruit growing is capable of generating a second family farm income. In County Wexford between 300 and 320 hectares of strawberries are grown annually yielding 2,400 tonnes per annum, of which 1,400 tonnes are exported. We are extremely proud of our annual strawberry festival which takes place in Enniscorthy in the first week of July. An additional 280 hectares are grown for the fresh and processing markets in other regions.

Research results from abroad have to be modified and tailored to suit Irish soil and climatic conditions. We cannot make a case for abandoning our own indigenous research in the soft fruit and beekeeping areas in this country, being an island with a temperate climate, because of the differences in our climate and soils. To take on board the results of research done in other countries would not suffice as the results would not be directly applicable because many of the parts of the equation would be quite different when it comes to the Irish scene.

Clonroche continues to act as a centre of excellence in soft fruit and beekeeping setting attainable production targets for the industry. For strawberries, for example, the national average is 3.7 tonnes per acre and Clonroche yields 8.3 tonnes per acre — there is room for a lot of improvement in the national average — and for honey the national average is 17 lbs. per stock and in Clonroche they get 50 lbs. per stock.

The practical benefits of research need to be highlighted. I made this point in passing when I was talking about Johnstown and it can also be made about most of AFT: they have not sold properly to the general public what they have been doing. Unfortunately, too many of us were unaware of the enormous and most important contribution they were making to our economy. Results of trials in 1986 and 1987 producing strawberries for the April to June fresh market have clearly demonstrated that there is a growing system which will produce high quality cost effective yields capable of displacing the increasing volume of imported fruit. In addition, Clonroche has set new standards in presentation and packing for the soft fruit industry. There is now renewed confidence in growers' ability to supply the Irish consumer with the type of fruit required and at prices comparable to those offered by importing agents.

The Single European Act which, after a few hiccups, was passed by this House last May or June, confers direct responsibilities on us in this area. The European Community plant health frontier directive for intra-community trade in strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant plants will come into effect in 1992. Plants moving in trade between member states must be accompanied by a plant health certificate. AFT provide certified nuclear stock and diagnostic support services to enable the Irish plant producer to comply with these regulations.

I could continue to emphasise the enormous contribution of Clonroche to the soft fruit industry in relation to fertilisers, pesticides and preservation generally. The station facilities at Clonroche are used for in-service training by ACOT advisers. Close contact is also maintained with the IDA, Córas Trachtála, co-operatives and commercial interests. I must ask the Minister to confirm his intentions for the future of Clonroche. Does he consider that they provide an essential service? I consider it to be an essential service, as do the soft fruit industry. It is the only station in the country providing research and advice for the soft fruit industry. Is it possible that the countrywide physical resources the Minister intends rationalising might conceivably include Clonroche? I would ask the Minister, please, to be honest and frank with us, as I requested earlier. The Minister knows exactly what he has in mind. I would ask him, please, not to quote the new Authority to me. Let us have the facts now so that we can get our act quite straight and be frank with the people on the ground on whom we depend to provide such important services for the future.

Many of us have received information by way of publications, circulars and letters of one description or another from different interested parties since this Bill was mooted and indeed since the 1988 Estimate was announced in the House last autumn. I might refer to some of them because there is tremendous merit in the information being disseminated to us as Deputies from the industry itself from, as it were, the top table to the people on the ground, to the different unions and so on; they have all rallied and promoted their causes. Frankly it is my opinion they have done what is right because none of us was sufficiently aware of the work being done on the ground by ACOT and AFT.

The views of the Agricultural Science Association were circulated in February of this year to all Members of the Oireachtas; I am sure I can assume that. They state that the position on the issue is very clear: to survive, farmers must now focus all of their expertise on efficiency, quality, marketing and good business management of their main enterprise and examine alternative income sources to supplement it. There are 30,000 farmers only, or one in five, here capable of competing in the present hostile market environment. That is quite a frightening statistic. There are a further 55,000 farmers, one in three, capable of competing if adequate support services were available to them; in other words, if the Minister's commercial intentions for this new Bill are not such that the services are priced out of the reach of those 55,000 farmers who could compete had they adequate support services. If, by commercialising all farm support structures, farm advice services, we will pitch the advice that will be coming through from our research teams to the top end of the farm market only, to the larger farmer, we will be doing the country an enormous disservice and will be writing the destiny and fate of the smaller, family farm which has been the backbone of farming here for the future.

The Agricultural Science Association go on to say that it is vital that advice and research are maintained and well funded to help farmers adjust and compete with their EC counterparts. No matter to whom one talks, or which body is presenting their views, we come back to that basic research done by Yale University, which is well documented in the latest publication from AFT — which says basically that we are now spending the lowest on agricultural research as a percentage of our agricultural output of any of our European competitors. The money we intend spending this year and in the future on agricultural research is the smallest amount of any of our European competitors. Yet all the bodies tell us, including the ASA, that we must have the advice and research well funded to allow farmers adjust and compete with their EC counterparts. The ASA say that these countries are less dependent on agriculture — we all agree there. Yet their support services are being maintained and even increased. Money spent to help farmers become self-sufficient makes better economic sense than money spent on income support when farms become non-viable. Frankly, that is the bottom line for the smaller family farms. Perhaps there is a higher percentage of them west of the Shannon but there is not a county or constituency that does not have the family farm as the basis of its economy. Perhaps we could exclude a few Dublin constituencies from that. But there is no one, even in the Dublin constituencies, who is more than one generation removed from a family farm somewhere in the country. Indeed they would be lucky if the distance they had to travel was to Dublin only or perhaps to Cork city. Too many of them, because of the non-viable position of family farms, have had to leave the country altogether. We must ensure that whatever steps we take here today, whatever measures we now put in place under the provisions of this merger Bill, will do nothing to increase that appalling problem of the number of family farms closing up shop, as it were, or of the numbers emigrating from the land. At present the figure is in the thousands per decade. If the provisions of this Bill drive more people from the land, particularly the smaller family farmer, we must re-examine them. If the Minister is pitching advice services generally, which will now be on a commercial basis, to those who can afford to pay, then he will be neglecting those most in need of that same advice. I repeat the views of the ASA: money spent to help farmers become more self-sufficient makes better economic sense that money spent on income support when farms become non-viable.

Does the Minister intend increasing expenditure on farmers' dole because he will be charging the 55,000 farmers capable of competing but who cannot afford to pay for the equivalent of what was an ACOT service? Is that what this Government intend for our family farms, the smaller farms, those on the border line of being able to compete?

Incidentally I began my contribution last week on the less serious note of pleading with the Minister not to proceed with the name of this Authority. That view is supported by the ASA and many others who have written to us. I might reiterate that plea. There are many alternatives being suggested. I suggested two last week — AFDA, the Agricultural Food and Development Association, or ACOTT, with a second "T", to allow for the inclusion of the Irish word for research "Taighde". Anything would be better than Teagasc. Frankly, if Members of this House have difficulty in relation to that how will it be sold as an acceptable logo to the man in the street, to the public generally? ACOT, the present body, have been very effective in selling their logo. We are all now familiar with their radio advertisements which come on at 9 o'clock in the morning, at 6.30 in the evening after "Farm Diary" and the other suitable points at which they are slotted in on the media. Their logo and so on has become acceptable in terms of the service they are endeavouring to deliver and indeed in terms of the excellence of what they have been doing. Whatever the Minister decides I would ask him: please, not the name of the Authority at present proposed in the Bill. That is all I ask.

The Agricultural Science Association state that all EC farm development schemes should be administered by the new Authority — I see they are even calling the new Authority AFDA — which would require the incorporation of the farm development service of the Department of Agriculture and Food. I have gone further, as my colleague and party spokesman, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe did. Not only should the farm development service be included with the new farm Authority but so also should An Bord Glas and the research arm of the Department.

The Agricultural Science Association continue to say that the one-stop shop concept would ensure more cost-effective utilisation of scarce support services for farmers. They also plead for the inclusion of the farm apprenticeship board in the new farm body. That is worthy of consideration and its implications should be teased out. Indeed we should have the benefit of the Minister's thinking in relation to it. The ASA, and indeed many others, decry the undue Ministerial control of the day-to-day operational decisions and insist that this be removed. I join them in that plea. Otherwise the Authority will not be dynamic and scarce resources will be used up in bureaucracy; that is self-evident. AFT and ACOT have not suffered unnecessarily from interference from undue bureaucracy. I would hate to see a layer of administration or interference now injected into these merged bodies which would mop up extremely scarce resources.

They make the point that, in addition to food research, which must be market-led and funded by the industry, research in relevant production areas must be encouraged and intensified, otherwise we will be importing out-of-date technology from our competitors. This basically comes back to what the Minister considers to be an "essential service." I take that expression from page 6 of the Minister's Second Stage speech. Without the benefit of knowledge of what the Minister or the Department consider to be an essential service we really cannot debate the issue. The Minister said that those services of lower priority will be reduced or phased out. Can he please indicate to us how he gives priority to the present services both in ACOT and AFT so that we will know what type of judgment to make in relation to his proposals?

A most interesting document has been circulated by ACOT. It was compiled by Tom Arnold, a senior economist with ACOT and many of the points he makes are worthy of consideration and a response from the Minister. Perhaps the most pertinent point comes back again to the budgetary issue of the new Bill. Mr. Arnold insists that a question which must be asked is whether those responsible for this decision — and this refers to the severe cutbacks in the budget — seriously underestimated the contribution which agriculture can make to economic growth. It appears that the Minister has, and to be fair it appears that he must have been, advised along these lines by the Department.

Mr. Arnold goes on to remind us all of the contribution which agriculture and food are currently making to economic growth in this country. We can agree with him when he says that it is by far our single most important industry in terms of the share of national income, exports and employment which it generates. The Minister in his Second Stage speech referred to the primacy of agriculture in the economy. Is that reference only aspirational? That is all it can be unless the Minister is prepared, if I may use the vernacular, to put his money where his mouth is. There is no point in talking about what you want for the Ireland of tomorrow, what is the best way to encourage eocnomic growth, what is the best way to stimulate GNP and which sector make the best contribution to GNP, if you choke the very body that the agricultural and food sectors will depend on for the future. They should be advised on the market-led approach and the new technological advances they should be using.

The Minister is proposing to establish a bankrupt body who if they were the private sector today would be insolvent and gone long ago. He is proposing to establish this body to help an industry that he and all of us agree has primacy on the Irish scene. I do not have to remind the Minister that exports play a vital role in paying for essential imports and in earning the foreign currency needed to repay our massive foreign debt. The £2.5 billion that this country earns from agricultural exports is in danger of being sacrificed by a bankrupt organisation which the Minister intends to establish.

One billion pounds is earned in tourism revenue. Tourists do not come to this country for the sun; they come for activity-based holidays or those who have gone abroad to earn a living come back to visit their families. Let us take those who come here to enjoy our environment and activity-based special interest holidays based on our natural resources which we who have been born and bred in this country all too often take for granted — our green fields, clean air, clean waters, beaches and beautiful forests. Perhaps we do not see these resources any longer. We look at them but we do not see them because they have been around us for too long but those who visit Ireland every year to appreciate these natural amenities see them all too clearly.

The research that is now needed in terms of the best way of maximising agricultural output and, at the same time, protecting our environment from the consequential waste disposal problems that result from intensive agriculture is perhaps one of the most essential services being given by AFT at present. ACOT, based on the information and research of AFT, have a most important farm environment service in existence. Will this be considered an essential service, to use the Minister's words? Will the farm environment service be a service that will survive the merger? Will there be room for it in the new Bill? Are the services which advise and help farmers in relation to pollution, the difficulties associated with the intensification of farm practices and the added pressures on the environment in relation to waste disposal considered to be essential services?

The Bill is but aspirational from beginning to end. In fact, it is probably very like the Bill that Mark Clinton might have introduced in 1977, a Bill that the Fianna Fáil Minister of the day opposed. Thank God for U-turns, at least we are all on the same lines on this occasion, if we have the money to see it through. The Bill is aspirational. There is nothing in it that anyone could possibly object to in terms of our hopes, wishes and aspirations for the future and, in particular, for the agricultural sector but there are no answers to the essential questions in relation to whether there is a future for this new body.

ACOT, in one of their documents, say we should prevent silage pollution. These are excellent documents and they provide excellent information. I accept that basically farmers are only now awakening to the difficulties of managing their units and farms and, at the same time, protecting the environment. In addition to what the food industry will demand, this will probably be one of the most essential research areas for the future. Primary products have reached saturation level in Europe but the demands in terms of the protection of our environment, waterways, rivers, lakes, air quality, grasslands, a future quality of life for the Irish people, apart altogether from our visitors, and the protection of our natural heritage, which is the most important part of our physical environment, will probably to a large extent rest in the hands of this new body. This is in addition to the advice they will give to farmers in relation to the type of practices and husbandry they should continue with over the years.

In 1973 a very interesting document was published by Dr. Tom Walsh. I mentioned earlier he was the first director of An Foras Talúntais, a Wexford man, from Piercestown in fact, the neighbouring parish to Johnstown Castle. May I again state, to have it on the record, that the second and present director of An Foras Talúntais, Dr. Pierce Ryan, is also a Wexford man, from Taghmon, and his family were very proud of the contribution of Wexford to An Foras Talúntais as well as to ACOT. It looks as if Dr. Pierce Ryan will be the last director of An Foras Talúntais. Dr. Tom Walsh is known particularly for a number of publications and indeed research generally on soil and grassland management and that area. He was also a good administrator. He was the director of AFT, a most important body as we have come to appreciate perhaps a little late but nonetheless we now do. I quote from a document entitledAdministering a Research Organisation in Changing Times by T. Walsh, Director. We have to remind ourselves that this document was written in 1973 just as we were about to go into the EC. He says that the OECD has aptly summarised the place of agricultural research today as follows:

Agricultural research needs to be seen in a wide and changing context, in relation to the structure of the agricultural industry, and to society as a whole, in relation to human needs for food, employment, and recreation in nature, and in the whole relation to the environment, as well as its relationships to science and technology.

Indeed we could well dwell on those words and hope that they will be as relevant to the new farm body, the new merged body that we are discussing here today, as they have been to both AFT and ACOT's role over the past few years. Dr. Tom Walsh went on to say:

In An Foras Talúntais we have always presented our activities in terms of well defined programmes and priorities.

What are today's priorities? The Minister says that he will concentrate on essential services and those of lower priority will be reduced or phased out. Would the Minister let us know what his priorities are and what he considers an essential service? I will continue to quote from Dr. Walsh's document:

We have asked for finance to carry these out, no more and no less.

This was in 1973.

I cannot help feeling, however, that in some instances our funding has been on the basis of some notion of what agricultural research used to be rather than what it now is.

Could I be impertinent and suggest that the 1988 Estimate of the Fianna Fáil Government for Agriculture has to be based on some notion of what agricultural research used to be rather than what it is now. If we are prepared to accept a reduction of 43 per cent in the budget of AFT and ACOT, we can only assume, as Dr. Walsh had deduced in 1973, that the funding had been on the basis of some notion of what agricultural research used to be rather than what it is now. Fifteen years later those words which relate to the Department of Agriculture's view of agricultural research and the basis of its funding are as relevant today. That is an indictment, I am afraid, of how we have treated agricultural research down through the years and indeed substantiates the findings of Yale University with which I started my contribution today.

We are still spending the lowest percentage of our agricultural output on research and advisory services in Europe, the main market for our £2.5 billion food exports. Our farmers cannot be competitive and cannot have the same advantage as their international counterparts, to use the Minister's expression when we are not allowing them that advantage and denying them research and advice. It further states in Dr. Walsh's document:

It is now fully accepted that knowledge is a production resource as well as land, labour and capital...

Planning in the modern economy is a complex matter and cannot be left to hunch.

There appears to be a lot of hunches in the Minister's Second Stage speech: "essential services"— would the Minister name them? "Those of lower priority will be reduced"— would the Minister please name them? "Rationalisation of countrywide physical resources"— where has the Minister in mind to close down, because that is basically what that translates to when we use vernacular?

Planning in the modern economy is a complex matter and cannot be left to hunch. It cannot be done in a rational way without scientifically established data and information... Intelligent national programming and the development of public policy cannot exist to-day without research-based information as an essential input.

The words ring so true even today.

It is a function of research to generate the required information. Only if we are equipped with such data can we hope to exert an influence on the rate and direction of development of the economy in the years ahead.

I ask the Minister to take note of those words issued 15 years ago but more relevant than ever today. Dr. Walsh further states:

Entry to the EC now exposes us to external influences stronger than we have experienced in the past.

Any Minister for Agriculture who has fought the Irish case into the night around the tables in Brussels will surely agree with Dr. Walsh's statement made in 1973.

If we do not equip ourselves, both our route and our destination will be determined for us by influences beyond our understanding and outside our control.

The application and utilisation of research-based information is therefore a major challenge...More effective mechanisms for information and technology transfer, that is basically disseminating the information that AFT gathered through research, through the ACOT services to the farmers, and the commercialisation of new products and processes can be accelerated.

Dr. Tom Walsh outlines that in developing our research programmes the basic principles that would have to guide our approach is that the maximum use must be made of the results of research which are available to us from outside; hence our emphasis on the international context. We must identify areas of need or potential where an indigenous research effort would be of benefit and undertake the necessary research. We must try to see that the results of research are integrated and used in commercial practice as widely and as quickly as possible. This could be the commandments for the bodies under the merger Bill 15 years later. It is unbelievable we have wasted 12 years because Fianna Fáil would not support Fine Gael's Bill in 1977 when we were trying to achieve just that.

The success of any research and advice programme, the success of any education based programme to young farmers will depend on the personnel. Good research depends on good ideas. Good ideas as Dr. Walsh says:

...are the product of an imaginative, creative people.

At present the imagination and creativity of most of the members of ACOT and AFT have been fairly well diluted, morale is on the ground. Dr. Walsh further says:

This can be achieved through a progressive personnel policy which provides an environment conducive to the development of creativity and innovation.

I doubt that is what we have at present.

It has been possible for us to attract staff of high quality both from home sources and from other countries.

With the voluntary redundancy scheme creaming off the best we have at the moment and those who are left not knowing what their future holds, I am afraid the whole area of personnel needs immediate attention.

In conclusion may I outline the points of the Bill which I and my colleagues find unsatisfactory: the name, the board, the ministerial power, the Minister's proposals for the county committees of agriculture. What will be left in their wake and what will replace them? This is perhaps one of the most important issues we have discussed for a long time in this House. We all agree on the importance of the agriculture and food industry and the contribution it has made and can make in the future to the GNP and the economy generally. I ask the Government to please make what are now all the aspirations a reality and answer the most pertinent questions with regard to funding and what their priorities are, which centres will stay and which will go and what the role of the new merged farm body essentially will be. I await the Minister's answers with interest.

Deputy Noel Dempsey who is in possession has very little time to contribute now. Perhaps he might like to move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.