A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, do I have to wait for the Minister?
Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed)
The Minister of State is in the House.
Before the sos I was making the point that the loss of many of the best research workers from AFT will leave the advisory service much weaker as it depended on AFT for much of its back-up service. AFT played a very important role in the advisers' work. At every class, lecture or demonstration that I attended or that was held in the last 30 years, the research work of AFT was referred to. AFT held courses for advisers regularly. Both organisations worked hand in hand. The great changes that have taken place in Irish farming in the last quarter of a century could not have taken place if it had not been for the research done by AFT in the first instance. It is a very sad day for Ireland that in the interest of political expediency the Government have now decided to dump some of these men on the scrapheap of the unemployed.
Reorganisation or amalgamation of these two services is all right with this side of the House provided it leads to greater efficiency and to some financial savings also. If this is taken to the point where the services are emasculated, and this seems to be the Government's intention, I would have grave reservations about the Bill. The effect of these unplanned and haphazard cutbacks and the uncertainty created has taken a great toll on the morale of both ACOT and AFT staff. The shortage of funds will no doubt lead to the closure of agricultural colleges and research centres. I would like the Minister to identity the colleges and research centres which are most vulnerable to closure. Once these colleges or research centres have been closed they will never be re-opened or replaced.
I do not know if it is in order for me, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle——
Not unless it is a point of order.
On a point of order, the Deputy has now made a statement which does not arise under this legislation, that colleges are now going to be closed and will never be replaced. There is no basis for these kinds of statements. I want to draw to your attention, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the repetitious nature of speeches lasting two hours which were prepared by people outside this House. If people have nothing to convey perhaps they could spare us from texts prepared by people outside the House.
The Minister is totally disorderly as usual.
I am glad the Deputy can read.
The Minister is subject to the same rules regulations and orders as other Deputies.
I appreciate that.
I spent all this morning preparing my contribution and I intend making it.
Did the Deputy prepare it?
Yes. The Minister might not like to hear what I have to say but——
It has a great similarity to what has been said by his colleagues, and the source is well known. At least the Deputy can read.
In the event of colleges of agriculture closing, will they be given equal treatment with other third level institutions? Has the Minister considered how this will affect the cadre of Irish farmers in the future? It was emphasised by the Minister of State that there is an urgent need for Ireland to get her rightful share of the EC and US markets in particular. Both are very stable in respect of volume but dynamic in respect of quality and market appeal. We could easily lose our niche in these markets if we are unable to keep up standards and move with the times in agricultural science because of lack of resources. This has been pointed out by more than one speaker and it is only right that it should be pointed out. When we compare the amount we spend on advice and research with other European countries we rank among Third World countries. We will not hold our place unless money is put into this area. The Minister has already cut this sum by 43 per cent which is totally unacceptable. This short term saving will prove to be false economy in the not too distant future and will destroy the agricultural industry, especially in the areas of research and advice. Money spent on farmers to become self sufficient makes better sense than money spent on income support for farmers, which is the present EC policy. It has been said that Ireland ranks among Third World countries in relation to expenditure in research and development.
I wish to refer to the composition of the board of the new Authority. I would like the Minister to reply to this, if I could have his attention.
It is better if the Deputy addresses the Chair because the Minister might be tempted to interrupt.
Very well. In my view the present board is too small. The case has been made that if it were larger it would be unwieldy and would not be as effective. However, a membership of ten plus a chairman will not be representative of the wide spectrum of agricultural interests. It will probably be hard on some occasions to even get a quorum because six members will have to be present.
Compare this board to that in the Clinton Bill, which the Minister does not like to hear mentioned in this House because this Bill is modelled on the Clinton Bill but does not go as far. The Clinton Bill mentioned 23 members from various agricultural interests and a chairman. The Minister has kept vast powers to himself in nominating the Members of the board. I believe this is in danger of becoming a Fianna Fáil cumann.
Fianna Fáil cumainn are very effective and successful.
That remains to be seen.
That is why we are here and Deputy Deenihan's party are over there.
There is no provision for a debate on party politics.
The new board should include representatives of marketing, processing production and staff. The staff of AFT and ACOT are very concerned that there is no mention that they will be represented on the board. Perhaps the Minister would like to reply to that. The IFA and the ICMSA have a right to have a representative from each organisation on the board. Macra na Feirme have a justifiable argument in ensuring that they have membership on the board as they represent the young farmers who are the future of this country. I was surprised to note that the Minister for Education does not have a nominee on the board. In the original Bill the Minister for Education had a nominee on the board. Regarding the Clinton board, as set out in the 1977 Bill, one member was to be nominated by the Minister for Education, one member by the Minister for Agriculture, one member from the General Council of the Committees of Agriculture — which have been disbanded and the remaining members by various agricultural and rural organisations, the staff of the universities and any other institutions providing courses in agriculture. I would be far more comfortable, and I am sure the farming bodies would too, if we had a board like that rather than a board of ten members nominated by the Minister. I appeal to the Minister to nominate these members on their ability rather than on promises made.
This board should be appointed as soon as possible so that confidence in AFT and ACOT will not be totally undermined, and before any further staff retirements take place. The first responsibility of the director on the board should be to prepare an objective statement stating the necessary functions to be discharged by the board, because as far as I can see, the functions of this board are not clearly defined in the Bill. A statement on the staffing and facilities is also very necessary. Most important, we must be told the budget necessary to implement the programme for the Authority for a minimum of five years. It will need to be a lot more than the £20 million the Minister has allocated if it is to be effective. Staffing and facilities must be determined by the job to be done in the immediate future and over the next five years, and not by the present fiscal rectitude which is being pursued by this Government. The new Authority should have discretion. I appeal to the Minister when reemploying any personnel of ACOT or AFT who may have availed of early retirement due to uncertainty——
If Fine Gael have their way that uncertainty will prevail for another three months.
It will not. The delay was with the Minister.
It was delayed since 1977.
Two hours multiplied by 40 ——
I must put an end to this duologue.
Following his poorly thought-out statement to amalgamate both bodies, shortly afterwards he announced definite plans to implement a 43.5 per cent cut in the budget thereby emasculating and demoralising both bodies.
I was disappointed that the farm development service has not been included in the remit of the new Authority. I asked the Minister a question about the concept of the one-stop shop now so prevalent in industry. There is a need to develop the one-stop shop concept ensuring more cost-effective utilisation of the scarce support services available to farmers. For example, in north Kerry, ACOT services are provided in Listowel whereas the farm development service is provided in Tralee. This necessitates a 16 mile drive on the part of farmers perhaps to transmit a file from Listowel to Tralee whereas were they both under the same roof——
Will we close the one in Listowel?
We could have an office in Listowel and Tralee — just redeploy some of the staff from Tralee to Listowel.
What about Listowel to Tralee? I will take the Deputy up on that.
We could have a one-stop shop in both Listowel and Tralee.
Will Deputy Deenihan support me in that — close Listowel and have one in Tralee? I would be glad to do that on his recommendation.
Perhaps Deputy Deenihan would desist from looking at the Minister invitingly, tantalisingly or provocatively and address the Chair.
I have to say — stimulating me when he suggests that I should close Listowel.
If the Minister did not continue to interrupt me I could finish what I was endeavouring to say and he could then reply to me. I was explaining how a farmer in, say, north Kerry would have to go from Listowel — where there is an ACOT service provided — to Tralee. I was saying that if there was a one-stop shop in Listowel and one in Tralee, that would avoid unnecessary duplication or overlapping of the facilities and resources available.
We will have two shops, one in Listowel and one in Tralee.
There is an ACOT centre in Listowel — one of the finest in the country — and a farm development service in Tralee. I am sure the Minister will accept that there is some merit in my proposal.
Double it in both cases; that is what the Deputy wants.
A method should be devised of incorporating the work of the farm apprenticeship board within the remit of the new Authority. There has been mention also of the need to include veterinary research, research on animal diseases and hygiene. For example, brucellosis was wiped out here on the strength of work done in Moorepark. There was also mention of the testing of fertiliser and foodstuffs, the need for their inclusion in the remit of the new Authority. We can have fine objectives on paper but unless the necessary finance is provided for their implementation we will make no headway. I appeal to the Minister to put sufficient funds at the disposal of this new authority to ensure its success, thereby inspiring confidence, which is non-existent at present, among the farming community.
I should like to refer to the name of the new Authority proposed in the Bill — Teagasc — which has been generally accepted as being unsuitable. Perhaps the Minister would consider some alternatives, such as Forbairt which means development or Comhar which means co-operation or another suggested — AFDA — the Agricultural Food Development Authority which would be eminently suitable. It would be better to change the name now rather than at some future date thus causing confusion.
The amalgamation of AFT and ACOT is acceptable to this side of the House, as it was back in 1977, provided the merger leads to greater efficiency and better use of resources, leading to financial savings, but if that is taken to the point that the services of the two bodies are emasculated then I would have serious reservations. I note that the provisions of section 3 (2) give the Minister absolute power to appoint a chairman and ten ordinary members of the board. If those provisions remain as drafted then the Bill will be seen as an instrument of the Minister's party policy which would be a very sad ending to the life of two great bodies which took genuine pride in the fact that the advice they gave was independent of political interference or pressure.
Like most Deputies, I welcome the amalgamation of AFT and ACOT into one single Authority responsible for all research, advisory and training services. This is mooted at a time when agriculture is at the crossroads, when serious decisions have to be taken, when the future of the family farm is at stake on account of surpluses in traditional products and the curtailment of various areas of production. There is an urgent need to diversify activities into other areas of development. The most compelling need of the new Authority will be to identify unnecessary imports which can be produced at home. The new Authority might also examine how to reap greatest benefit from the further processing of value-added products and ascertain new areas of production.
It is a time not only to charter a course for the future but also to look back over events in recent years. It has to be said that our record in that area since our accession to the EC has been anything but good. In fact, if one examines it closely one finds it has been dismal. In spite of the massive subsidies received by way of grants and other payments, and the huge payments made on foot of product intervention, we now have fewer cattle, sheep and pigs than we had when we joined the EC. In the years leading up to our accession people had great expectations. Our accession to the EC coincided with my full-time entry into politics. There was the prediction at that time that our cattle herd would increase from approximately 6 million to 9 million by 1990 and level off at approximately 10 million in future years. We are also faced with tillage problems. One of the best ways of keeping our balance of payments deficit under control will be by way of a well organised agricultural products export programme. Because the import content of agricultural products is so low agricultural exports make an even greater contribution in that direction.
I hope the new authority will place great emphasis on job potential in the agricultural industry. There are 62,000 fewer persons employed on the land at present than there were between 1969 and 1979 which was the most important period in our agricultural history. We should look at the development of our agricultural resources and natural resources generally to provide jobs. A recent report stated that 90 per cent of our farmland was under pasture but that 80 per cent of it was badly farmed. This gives an idea of the neglect in the development of this resource.
I have a crib regarding the ACOT corporate plan which was produced in 1986.
This plan covers the period 1986-90. It has now practically run half its course. The report deals with practically every aspect of farming — dairying, cattle, sheep, tillage, horticulture, pigs, education, socio-economics, small enterprise developments and poultry. It outlines very clearly its objectives and plan of progress. Now that it has run half its course, this would be an opportune time for the Minister to ascertain from ACOT how far they have gone in achieving their targets at national level. One of the failures in this country during the past 15 years was that semi-State bodies and Government agencies could announce schemes and promise substantial jobs but at the end of the day those targets might not have been met. There should be periodic progress reports on any body commissioned to put those plans into operation and if they do not meet their targets they should have to state the reasons.
One portion of that plan deals with a horticultural development strategy. It proposes to increase onion production by 400 acres, carrot production by 300 acres, winter cauliflower production by 300 acres, apple production by 2,000 acres and tomatoes and nursery stock production by 40 acres.
The people involved in the ACOT corporate plan managed to do what no other group ever managed to do — they zoned the country into three areas, east, south and mid. They completely disregarded the west and north-east where most small farmers are located. I know that the Minister of State, Deputy Kirk, does not recognise those borders but I just wanted to give an idea of the thinking in ACOT at that time and why we can be critical of some of the work that was done by them. The Minister is looking at all regions for the implementation of his programme.
The reason I am so annoyed about this zoning is that ACOT did this despite the spectacular success of the mushroom industry in my constituency. The people in that region have a record in developing successfully both that industry and the poultry industry. At the time this zoning was carried out, mushroom enterprises in other areas were collapsing but the enterprises in my constituency were going from strength to strength. Hundreds of plastic tunnel units are being provided at present so as to increase production. At the time the mushroom industry was being developed in that region, the Minister who is sitting here today was sitting with a different hat in a different ministry and he did great work in ensuring that the ideas those people had would come to fruition by giving aid and assistance to the areas that needed it. There are other areas this new body should look at very closely.
Pollution is a problem in my constituency. It is probably the greatest threat facing farmers at present because on the one hand there is an increase in emphasis on tourism and on keeping our waterways and lakes free but on the other hand farmers are faced with convictions for pollution. There are continual lists of convictions on a weekly basis. The fines for these convictions are fairly small — £10, £20 or £50 — but expenses can cost farmers up to £600 or £800. This is a crippling blow to some small producers. We have got to remember that the buildings this effluent comes from and the buildings in which farmers keep their cattle were built on the recommendation of advisers and officials not so many years ago when planning laws were not as stringent and when most developments did not require any planning permission. Farmers are now being compelled to provide underground tanks but this will take a lot of advice, assistance and planning so as to ensure that a proper job is done and that we will not be faced in the future with the problem we are currently faced with. This has come at a time when the surplus money to carry out those works is becoming increasingly scarce. This is something which has to be tackled. The recent publication,Farm Buildings In The Countryside, which is published in Northern Ireland is a very good booklet. There has to be a serious campaign carried out so as to ensure that the problem of pollution is solved and will not recur in the future as it has done during the past number of years.
The new body will have to apply themselves very quickly to the provision of jobs through the further downstream processing of our products. We are now faced with the situation where there will probably be no increase in meat production and we will have to make do with the quantity of meat for slaughtering which we have at present. We can increase our poultry production. The 1986 report referred to the fact that there was £19 million in poultry imports into this country, £3.8 million of which was processed poultry. In my constituency there has been very good employment in this sector. Great progress is being made in new types of foods, cooked and uncooked. There appears to be an opportunity for further expansion there. There has been progress in the poultry and pigs area with regard to breeding, food conversion and buildings. However, in that constituency 12 months ago there were two pig slaughtering factories but one closed because of amalgamation and reorganisation with the western pig processors plant and the second closed because of trading difficulties. This is one of the prime tradition areas for production of pigs and there now is no slaughtering facility. Groups like ACOT, the IDA and the Department should get together to remedy the situation and ensure that such production is not be allowed to go to the wall.
The Minister mentioned that the farmers of tomorrow will not be people who survive on sheer endurance and inherited social attitudes. That is a very important statement. We hope that the combined forces of the two bodies will use research and knowledge as their yardstick. Times have changed and we must change with them, as has happened in other countries. Many speakers mentioned representation on the committee. Whether it be ten, 11 or 20 is immaterial, provided that they are men of knowledge and of courage because it will take courage to work in agriculture.
Mention also was made of committees of agriculture and I have regrets about them. The local representatives on those committees made a substantial contribution. I hope that the new body will take cognisance of the work and assistance given by them. I hope that such people will have a continued input. It is very important that this be the case. Over the past few years I was a member of a committee of agriculture and we were capable of discussing every problem that presented itself and of bringing suitable people along to discuss, for example, private afforestation, drainage programmes, TB eradication. This was a very important medium for discussions and the local newspapers covered these meetings extensively. When serious situations were developing, they could be pinpointed and brought to notice. The committees did good work and I hope that this committee will continue to use the expertise and knowledge of these people.
The Minister mentioned research and cited An Foras's achievement with regard to potatoes by the introduction of new and successful varieties. Examination of export markets in recent times has shown that there is a market for seed potatoes. Our Minister of State, Deputy Kirk, by his efforts has made a very impressive impact on the thinking behind being self-sufficient in production. These, efforts combined with improved weather conditions, have substantially reduced exports by 50 per cent. I hope that the structures which are now being set up by the Minister will have the same result in 1988. There is an opportunity here for the small farming counties to go into an alternative type of production, especially of seed potatoes. There is a very lucrative market available and we have the Irish Potato Marketing Board who are only marking time at present when they could be becoming involved in securing markets in other regions.
I hope that this new body will examine immediately every possible area of activity and ensure particularly that the small family farm, which is the life blood of this country, will have a place in the future.
I am glad of the opportunity to speak on what I consider to be a very important Bill, one of the most important to be placed before this House since I became a Member, and I am sure for many years previously. There is nothing new in the idea. In fact, it was first mooted when Fine Gael were in Government in 1976, by the then Minister for Agriculture, Mark Clinton. Unfortunately, like many good plans with changes of Government, it was shelved by the incoming Government for political and no other reasons. That is sad to have to say. For that reason, people, and farmers in particular, must be very sceptical about politicians who say one thing and do another.
The difference between the present merger and the proposals made in 1976 is that there was ample funding in 1976. The present merger is being starved of finance. I ask the Minister if he is serious about the development of agriculture over the next five, ten or 15 years. We must plan for the next decade and further on. To starve this body of cash is to make the job of research and instruction wellnigh impossible.
I will deal first with the question of instructors. Many of these of my own county and constituency I know personally and I have a high regard for them. They are people who are committed, people with a good knowledge who are anxious to help farmers to develop their farms and make the best use of them. These people now have become tax collectors. There is a levy of £7,000 per head on each agricultural instructor that he must bring in. How can you expect a man to do his job when he is looking over his shoulder to see if he has reached that goal and somebody higher up is waving the big stick? Is his job then at stake? Obviously, it is. The Minister is aware of the number of people who have availed of the redundancy scheme. Such people are the older members, generally those with most experience, who could pass it on to younger agricultural instructors. The younger men who are left are totally frustrated. I know that from talking to them. When people are in that position they cannot give of their best or do the job expected of them.
What has happened in my county of Cavan? I hope the Minister has not yet sanctioned the closing of the ACOT county office in Cavan town. It would do irreparable damage to the whole development of agriculture in that region. If you have not a head office in your county town you cannot be seen to be serious about promoting agriculture in a rural county, one that is noted for its diversification and development in agriculture. The county offices were bought in 1968 by the old county committees of agriculture for a sum of £6,000 or £7,000 which was a considerable amount at that time. The proposal now is that there will be no office in Cavan town and that will be moved out to Ballyhaise Agricultural College, four miles from Cavan town, and far removed from farmers in the vast part of the country. The location in Cavan town was suitable because it was close to the mart which is doing very big business since it opened last year. It was also close to a very prosperous bacon factory and farmers coming in there with their cattle and pigs could then go down to the agricultural office for firsthand advice. Likewise, if they came into Cavan town with their families to do business, while the wife and family had other matters to attend to, the farmers could go down to the agricultural office. Fianna Fáil said before the last election that there was a better way. Is this the better way? I can only judge by what is happening in my own area and, sad to relate, that is the story.
The Government are also closing down the county committees of agriculture. I have been a member of Cavan county committee of agriculture since 1974 and I know the role the members play. They came regularly to meetings, made their contribution and were aware of the needs of farmers at grass root level. The CAO took suggestions on board and, if necessary, resolutions went to the general council of the committees of agriculture. There was feedback from ground level right to the top but, at one stroke, these committees were abolished, which I regret. Indeed, there were modifications in more recent times when rural organisations were asked to send in nominees which was a great improvement on the old committees of agriculture. These organisations were represented and had a voice. The closing down of the county office in Cavan town and the abolition of the committee of agriculture is the death knell of agricultural advice in my county and constituency.
I should like to point out to the Minister the importance of agriculture to the economy. Facts and figures have been given by previous speakers and the simple equation is that for every £100 generated by manufacturing industry, £30 remains in this country. The other £70 is siphoned off either by imports or by the repatriation of investments from multinationals here. They are welcome but they are not the key to the success of the economy in getting rid of debt or getting our young people back into meaningful work. In agriculture, for every £100 generated, £80 remains in this country, two and a half times greater. Those figures have been teased out and people can stand over them. Other Deputies quoted them here and obviously they got them from the same source as the IDA. They are, unquestionably, facts. Agriculture is the key to our success in urban and rural areas. Unless we are prepared to make the most of it, we will not succeed.
It amazes me that people are getting carried away at present in Mayo about traces of gold. In my own county, in west Cavan, gypsum has been discovered in test drills. In other areas, a vast amount of money has been spent on drilling deep into the earth to see if there are mineral traces to be explored and exploited. Yet, the green gold is there for everyone to see and we turn a blind eye to it. We are the laughing stock of Europe. We have signed the Single European Act and there is a vast population of over 300 million waiting to be fed with the finest food produce that any country can produce. Why are we not making the most of our produce? Is the commitment not there and, if not, why?
The area of research is very important and it is an ongoing process. Things and times are changing. Moorepark is doing sterling work and is internationally recognised. The scientists there are key people whose opinions are sought worldwide. However, some of these people are disillusioned and are pulling out. They are offered jobs right across Europe and America because their ability is recognised. I visited Moorepark on a number of occasions and a farmer who does not make occasional visits there, either on his own or in a group, will not keep abreast of developments.
There is another important station in Ballinamore, County Leitrim. In this instance, a farm which had been totally neglected was taken over by a Mr. Mulqueen who showed what could be done in poor, wet, heavy soil with proper drainage, machinery and the right kind of stock. He transformed the farm and it is now a showpiece for farmers in Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Monaghan and Cavan. However, I believe there is a question mark over Ballinamore and I should like the Minister to state, clearly and categorically, that Ballinamore will not be closed.
Cash on the farms was never as scarce and it amazed me listening to the reports from the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis to hear the Minister for Agriculture and Food taking credit for the increased incomes of farmers over the last 12 months. Nothing could be further from the truth and it tends to give farmers the opinion that politicians think they are easy prey, to be fobbed off with plausible statements. The increase in incomes came about as a result of an outstandingly good year coming after two very bad years when farmers' incomes were at an all-time low. Farmers were fortunate that Fine Gael were in Government at that time, that Deputy Deasy was Minister for Agriculture and managed to supply much needed finance for schemes in relation to fodder and meal vouchers to get them over that critical period. I was not a Member of the House at that time but I was campaigning for funds for these schemes.
It leads me to wonder why we are not pushing our case in the EC for the classification from disadvantaged to more severely handicapped areas, which include the remainder of Cavan and Monaghan and the other areas included in an application by the last Government and the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Deasy. I have waited 12 months and the Minister cannot accuse me of rushing him. An announcement was made in August 1986 that the remainder of Cavan and Monaghan would be included in the severely handicapped area. At that time Fianna Fáil people in my area jumped on my back and wanted to know if that move would take place the following day. It amazes me that 18 months later with Fianna Fáil in Government, and Deputy O'Kennedy in charge of the Department of Agriculture and Food, there has not been any progress on that application.
During the election campaign we were told that as soon as Fianna Fáil were returned to power they would have the application processed and would see to it that payments would commence. We have not heard anything since they were returned to power about the application other than a statement by the Minister that the previous application was faulty. I have no way of verifying that but I doubt if it was, knowing the ability of Deputy Deasy and, in particular, of the former Taoiseach, Dr. FitzGerald. I understand that the original application has been withdrawn and a watered down version of it has been resubmitted, that dairy cows will not be included and that £375 is the maximum amount farmers can expect.
Is the Deputy saying that is a fact?
That is what is passing through the grapevine. The Minister of State is in possession of the facts and if he disagrees with me he should say so in the House. I have tried in the past 12 months to get a solid answer to this question but have not succeeded. The original application was accepted in Brussels and I accept that negotiations would have to take place following the lodging of the application. Any person who ever went to a fair with a calf is aware that one asks for more than one expects to receive. I am sure the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, a city man, will accept that that is normal practice.
I should like to tell the Deputy that I am a small farmer also. I must point out to the Deputy that on Second Stage Members are expected to deal with what is in the Bill or what they feel should be in it. Other matters can be touched upon but not developed to any great extent.
I accept the ruling of the Chair but I am sure he will agree that finance is important for farmers anxious to develop their holdings. I am indicating how finance can be obtained for development and instruction. I am indicating how it was possible to obtain maximum payments of up to £980 under the scheme lodged by the previous Government. We accepted that the old rates would not apply in the new areas. Is the Minister aware that sums of up to £2,000 have been denied to farmers in Cavan and Monaghan as a result of the delay in processing the new applications? I hope the Minister will give me a response to that question in the course of his reply to the debate.
Milk quotas are a thorny problem for many farmers but not for those living in the north east. However, a quota of 25,000 gallons is needed if a small farmer is to be able to rear his family. Those who have exceeded that quota have to cut back on milk production. Is it not reasonable to ask the Department to introduce a scheme to encourage those farmers to go into beef? Should we not give such farmers subsidies to encourage them to do that? In that way we would be increasing cattle numbers and that is vitally important if we are to get the economy moving again. It is disappointing to learn that cattle numbers are reducing rapidly. I do not agree with the decision to pay £20 million to a beef baron to modernise his factories. That money should have been given to farmers to encourage them to increase the size of their herds. If we had the stock everything else would fall into place. Paying that money represented a waste of public funds. Up to £80 million and £100 million was also mentioned and I wonder if some of that was spent in my county recently on acquisitions? Recent press releases would indicate that.
This does not have anything to do with the Bill. Surely the Deputy is not saying the Government grant-aided the purchase of a co-op in his constituency?
Deputy Boylan should confine his remarks to the terms of the Bill before us, otherwise he is out of order. This is not a wide-ranging debate on agriculture but on provisions of the Bill before us.
It relates to all aspects of farming.
I am indicating to Deputy Boylan that he must relate his contribution to the provisions of the Bill. He will have other opportunities, such as the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and Food, to deal at length with agriculture. For this debate he must confine himself to what is in the Bill or indicate what he thinks should be in it. They are the terms of debate that control him and the Chair.
A quota of 25,000 gallons is necesary for small farmers to make their holdings viable. Under a Government scheme a farmer with a quota under 10,000 receives a concession. If it is necessary for a farmer in the south to have a quota of 100,000 gallons, how can it be said that a farmer in the north east should be able to get by with a quota of 10,000 gallons. That is not feasible. The Minister should insist on a minimum of 25,000 gallons for farmers. In the event of their exceeding that quota they should be encouraged to go into beef production.
Agricultural instructors also deal with pollution. It is a major problem in my area. Dozens of farmers have been dragged before the courts to face charges of polluting lakes and so on but the judges have sympathy for their case and have imposed minimal fines of £25 on them. However, the costs incurred in defending such cases run from between £700 to more than £1,000. It is unfortunate that that is happening. Farmers are making a great effort to keep their farms tidy and prevent pollution. Many of them borrow money to carry out improvements but there is a delay of up to 12 months before the grants are paid. It must be remembered that farmers must pay for the materials, and the contractor, when the work is done. Finance is the bogey as far as agricultural development is concerned.
The Minister should substantially increase the grant for the provision of tanks in an effort to control the discharge of effluent. Pollution is also affecting tourism in my area. I ask the Minister to consider that many farmers in my area keep tourists in an effort to improve their income but it will not be possible for them to attract visitors if the lakes and rivers in the area are polluted. Fishing is a big attraction in our region.
There are also great difficulties in the area of TB eradication. We must find out why TB is breaking out on farms which have been free of the disease for five or ten years. Are we carrying out any research as to the cause of TB recurrence? We appear to have a stop-go policy. When an outbreak occurs the veterinary experts move in and a campaign of testing is carried out until all diseased animals in the area are cleared out, yet we do not seem to be able to find the root cause. Is the disease being spread by badgers? Is bad fencing a factor? I am aware of cases of cattle having been 30-day tested and subsequently contracting the disease. The research station at Moorepark should be sufficiently funded to make a break through in relation to this major problem. Due to the price of cattle and the small compensation available, it is almost impossible for a farmer who has lost his herd through TB to restock.
Advice must also be available in the area of rabbit production. A number of instructors have taken a keen interest in promoting this industry but they are not in a position to make their necessary calls on individual farmers to see how they are handling their stock. A factory in County Monaghan for the processing of rabbit meat has been grant-aided and we believe there is a future for this industry if the necessary advice is made available to young farmers who show an interest in it. Individual attention is necessary if success is to be achieved but it appears that farmers are being instructed in groups of 20. A general class on general topics may be in order but each farmer has individual problems.
Surely there will not be instruction on an individual basis. Is it not common sense to bring them together for the purpose of education?
If that is the Minister's view, he has not been given adequate information.
This is the normal method of operation by ACOT.
The good agricultural instructor wants to keep in contact with the individual farmer and see what is happening on his farm. This is impossible when dealing with a group. Agriculture was built up over the years by the farm instructor calling to the farmer and chatting to him and his wife. When the farmer responded to the advice he received, the instructor would take a keen interest in developments on that farm. Group therapy is not the way to do it. If the Minister will not take my word for it, he should talk to the agricultural instructors.
The Deputy is being unkind to the rabbit producers.
Far from it. These are young people who are starting up new projects on their fathers' farms. Not all farm buildings are suitable for rabbit production. The rabbits must not be disturbed and certain temperature levels must be maintained. It is necessary for the instructors to assess the conditions on each farm. There are great possibilities in this area, just as there are for mushroom production. Many people were sceptical when mushroom production began in Monaghan. They felt that the venture would not succeed and that if a market existed the Dutch and the French would have been supplying it. Yet there were agricultural instructors who saw a future for this industry, despite the fact that they may not have had the wholehearted support of the Department. These are the sort of men we want. They encouraged the farmers who could succeed in this line. Not every farmer is suited to mushroom or rabbit production but some people have the necessary flair and skill. This can only be judged by visiting the farm and seeing the set up. Mushroom production is now big business and people are making a very good livelihood from it. I know men who have handed over their dairy enterprises to their sons and devoted themselves solely to mushroom production.
It is amazing that we import so many potatoes and I compliment the Minister of State on his attempts to redress the situation. I do not altogether deride Fianna Fáil. I see some good points but not many. I believe Deputy Kirk is doing a good job as Minister of State but I am disappointed with his colleagues, Deputy O'Kennedy and Deputy Walsh. They came into office with a high profile as people expected to do a lot for agriculture but I am sorry to say they have failed. I do not know the reason but they seem to be vying with each other as to who is responsible for what. It is time we got away from that. Time is not on our side and if we do not supply the market available to us others will do it.
We must make the most of the opportunities by getting our agricultural instructors back on the road and giving them the necessary finance. We are prepared to put millions into other industries. Why not put it into the one real industry we have? I know agricultural instructors who are considering accepting the redundancy package and setting up as consultants or working on farm accounts. This is a very serious development. There is to be a 43 per cent cut this year in the money available to this body and a 50 per cent cut in staff. I would suggest that increases of 43 per cent and 50 per cent respectively would constitute money well spent and jobs well created. Such jobs would lead to further jobs. Agriculture can be a big employer if we give it the opportunity. It will not come about if the industry is choked for finance. I think the Minister will agree, although he might not wish to say so here. He is a man who sees a future for agriculture and knows that the policies are wrong. I would ask him to spell it out to the Cabinet that agriculture should be given the necessary finance. The farmers will certainly respond.
Dairying in Cavan is particularly difficult because of the terrain, the little hills of Breffni with their small farms and laneways. Nevertheless we have made a success of dairying in Cavan and we can pay the highest prices in the country despite all the obstacles. If that can be done in a very poor region, what is possible in the south and midlands? I take Deputy Leonard's point that the country should be divided into regions — the south, the midlands, the north-east and north-west. The problems in my area are totally different from those in the south. Instruction in counties Cavan and Monaghan should be geared to small dairy farms and store cattle, as well as the sidelines of rabbit and mushroom production. The scene in the south is totally different and instruction there should be geared to large-scale dairy farming and tillage.
These are my ideas but they certainly will not be put into effect in the light of present cutbacks. Young people are wondering whether there is a future for them in agriculture. I have no doubt that there is a good future for them and that many more jobs can be created. I suppose that the small ten or 15 acre farm will have to be amalgamated with a neighbouring farm to form a viable holding.