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

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

This topic has been reasonably well aired in the House on a fairly positive note and I should like to maintain that trend. I am in favour of the Bill. When Mark Clinton opted for this merger in the early seventies I supported it at that stage because I felt then, and still do, that both organisations had so much in common they should have been together long ago, but we shall not go into any recriminations — there are enough of those going around.

One of the problems of this country is that there are so many people doing the same thing. I remember a stage when the universities, the Sugar Company, ACOT, AFT and even co-operative movements were all carrying out the same type of experiment. That certainly was a waste of resources. This type of getting together is vital in a scenario where resources are very scarce, or non-existent. The Minister of State has been quite positive and understands the scene, but I must tell him that I do not see the merger succeeding without some extra money. That is a prerequisite, a minimal requirement, for success without which we shall have massive lay-offs and massive closures.

Parochialism was mentioned this morning and I am not going to become parochial but, as Minister, I knew quite well the good work that was going on at Moorepark and Kinsealy, Oak Park and, indeed, on the ACOT site at Kildalton, where we persuaded the people to become involved in convincing overseas processors that Ireland could produce potatoes suitable for chips. One would imagine that would not take proving, but they did need to be convinced. At that time we were dealing in many varieties of potato most of which, like Kerr Pinks and Golden Wonders, were not suitable. We embarked on a very long programme and it took us about three seasons before we got it right and we had a variety called Pentland Dell. That would not have been possible without all the co-operation we received, not only from Kildalton and Moorepark but with the product being taken up at Kinsealy and processed.

We produced chips for visiting processors. They sampled them and admitted that our potatoes were as good as, if not better than, those they had been using. When you are talking about processing, you are talking about offering comparatively low prices so we had to be talking about totally different tonnages. The brilliant history of Moorepark has yet to be written. In the past ACOT and AFT were working so hard, like many others, that they did not have time to talk about themselves and a great deal of their work is not recognised.

We must remember the old days of dairying and the clean milk campaign. That is now in the history books but it was a massive campaign. Subsequently, we had the dairy programme for the control of antiobiotics, ensuring that we produced good quality milk and that the product was suited to the various byproducts such as butter, cheese, yoghourt, ice cream and so forth. All that work is ongoing and side-by-side with it there has been a great deal of research into silage and silage additives and types of cows. One might think that all that work has been done and that there is no need for any more; far from it. In this whole area of co-operatives — and this is a nice change — these bodies now find themselves no longer able to expand to pay for the higher costs and wage bills. They are locked into a situation where they may have to lay-off people unless they take up the challenge of creating more downstream products, new ideas like more soft cheeses, more of what is going on at Imokilly co-operative in regard to Regatta cheese. That whole area must be explored if the co-operatives are to stay in business and maintain a reasonable level of employment.

This shows how vital Moorepark is and that is where the work done there scored in the past. They have products waiting to be marketed but they are not going to be able to continue that work without resources. I am not saying that they had all the necessary resources when we were in office — they always had to operate on a shoestring budget but at least they had that budget. That is something we must bear in mind. More than ever, we need the research and development facilities of Moorepark and the dairy industry if our major co-operatives are to continue and get more and more into the marketplace. Perhaps in the past intervention was a lazy way out. We could glibly and gladly put our butter and milk powder into intervention. In some cases we could be said to have mistaken intervention for the marketplace. The big advantage was that we did not need to have marketing people. One could put the product straight in and be paid, but that is no longer the case. Now more than ever it will be much tougher and tighter, not merely for dairying people but for people in the meat business also, to survive and expand.

The whole meat vacuum pack scene is changing so quickly. I remember a time when one could get rid of ordinary frozen carcases anywhere in the world, but now because there are some entrepreneurs who are getting into the top of the market we are regarded in Germany as the highest of high-class producers. That would not have been attained without the help of AFT and ACOT in producing the right animal, in developing it along the lines of high quality and very selective breeding. Legislation was introduced and the whole breeding programme is now controlled. An Foras Talúntais and ACOT are doing a very good job. Some despondent people say that we are at the end of the line with regard to beef production but nothing could be further from the truth. It is an area in which there is plenty of room at the top. In Germany in particular we are very highly respected in regard to quality although I am not so sure that we deserve all the praise we get. At least we have a reputation for very high class, hormone free beef, free from all sorts of additives. There is the wonderful CBF image of grass and clover which enhances that feeling. However, to maintain and develop our position, it will be necessary to take a lot of care. We must protect the market and the way to do so is to have an independent agency working side by side with the industry and doing the job it was set up to do at farm level from production to processing.

The United Kingdom went down a different road from us in regard to breeding programmes and they went completely overboard on Holstein. Now, because of the hormone problems, they find that that breed is not suitable for the purposes they originally intended. More through good luck than good judgment we are fortunate in that we stayed with the old British Friesian because that is the basic animal used here for the production of beef which has proved more than satisfactory when crossed with various beef breeds.

We all know what the Department of Agriculture, ACOT and AFT have done in regard to the sheep industry. Ten or 15 years ago you could not persuade a farmer to depart one inch from Suffolk and Oxford Down carcases which they thought were the be-all and end-all of the industry. Indeed, the local butcher thought the same but when we expanded into the French market, there was a total revolution. Much smaller sheep were involved; I heard a farmer ask if they were rabbits, but that is the sort of animal which is now required and which makes money. Thanks to ACOT and AFT we worked on that breed and quite a number of farmers are making a lot of money. Of course, some farmers went into it too quickly and are not making so much money and this is where ACOT and AFT come in. Figures in a farming newspaper or leaflets do not give enough information in regard to sheep farming. There is much more to breeding sheep and this is where day-to-day attention by ACOT and AFT is vital.

Grain is a difficult area and it is not so long since we were talking about good yields of barley at around 38 cwt. to two tonnes. We must thank the people in the institute and the Department of Agriculture who have worked so well in this area. However, there are now cutbacks, price restrictions and levies and we seem to have got the worst of both worlds. Perhaps we could have borne a levy on milk if we were allowed to produce more of it and we would be quite happy to have quotas in grain if we were allowed to maintain the price. It is not too late for the Government and the Minister to look at exemptions for malting barley because there is an unlimited market for top class Irish malting barley in the European market place and there is no justification for imposing levies or penalties.

We are an island nation and we are entitled to be self-sufficient and to be allowed to produce sufficient quantities of milling wheat for our own requirements without incurring any penalty. That applies to the six Northern counties as well. We are also taking a hammering in regard to sugar quotas and that should not be tolerated. We must point out to the people in Brussels that we should be allowed to expand our sugar acreage to cover the requirements of the six Northern counties, as much of the sugar is coming from outside the Community. ACOT and AFT have done good work in the past and have co-operated with farmers and the Department of Agriculture.

That brings me to my pet hobby of producer groups, some of whom were quite successful. However, they are the way forward. I am not casting aspersions on An Bord Glás and I am prepared to examine any programme which, if it works, should be supported. However, we should not lose sight of what has been done since 1982-83. At that time, farmers were literally throwing the Dutch potatoes into the sea and there was open war. I had to answer some very difficult questions in the House and I decided to set up producer groups. Legislation was introduced covering the registration of potato growers and packers and, thanks to that, we now have the basis of an organised potato industry. Before these groups were set up, you could not trace a culprit grower but now the legislation ensures that only good potatoes come on the market. However, we have a miserably small market for our potatoes and indeed there is a glut. Supermarkets and others do not appear to be able to differentiate between varieties of potatoes. In other words, if a housewife wants Golden Wonders she must be prepared to pay for them and the same applies to Kerr Pinks. On the other hand if she is prepared to settle for Pentland Dells she will buy them at a reduced price because it is possible to get double deals on them.

The system was working out very nicely and the national potato co-op was set up under the aegis of the IFA and supported by the Department. However, the marketing arrangement did not work out. Those involved in marketing pulled out and left potato growers high and dry. I should like to appeal to the Minister once more to look at this matter. I welcome the potato promotion that is in operation at present but something more is necessary. We must remember that the horticultural co-op, established at the same time as the potato co-op, proved very successful. That group have progressed to such an extent that they can boast of being able to get their produce into the four corners of Ireland at reasonable prices. They can claim that they are able to satisfy the demand of supermarkets and please consumers. That great achievement is due to the efforts of people like Michael Mahon of the IFA and Colm Warren chief executive of the group. Their achievement is all the more noteworthy when one considers that they were given a pittance to carry out their work.

Bad and all as the potato co-op proved to be, at least we succeeded in selling the concept of co-operation to farmers. Farmers are slow enough to get together when produce is scarce and they can have separate deals with their local supermarkets but in the long term it is important that they co-operate. This year is an ideal time for them to get together again while we have a glut on the market. I suggest that the Minister, those involved in horticulture and the farming organisations should get together to discuss potato production. The only reason potato growers got together was that they were so far down the road, but they were passed out by those involved in horticulture. It is important that potato growers and those involved in horticulture join forces and take over the entire scene.

We will not solve the problem by establishing new boards or leaving it to the Department. The only people who can sort out the mess that occurs annually are those who are involved in potato growing and the horticultural sector. People must try to work out contracts based on market requirements. We must also aim to have a processing outlet in the future but it is important that we do not concentrate on processing because the farmer supplying those factories will be growing for that market only. We cannot say that the surplus from potato production could be taken up by processors. That will not happen.

I was interested in the campaign started some years ago by ACOT and AFT. It is a pity that it did not continue because it concentrated on an area where the industry has failed. We are all aware of the campaign at present against what I call wholesome food, the campaign against dairy products and meat. Many people say that sugar is bad but if we were to accept that and other advice we would not be eating anything at all. In my view we were not aggressive enough against those campaigns. Our dairy coops produced dairy spreads and so on but did not mount an aggressive campaign. ACOT and AFT got involved in a campaign but they did not get the type of support they were entitled to. Our dairy co-ops should have spelled out the advantages of their products. The human race has survived by consuming large quantities of the products that are being condemned today and nobody will convince me, and many others, that a change in our diet will mean we will live any longer. A healthy lifestyle is what this is all about. Our forefathers lived for a long time on a diet of large quantities of salty beef, spuds and cabbage. They also consumed plenty of milk and country butter, which did them no harm.

I am in favour of the merger, of a tightly knit organisation working on the development and production side. However, I am worried about the number of personnel that will be left in the new organisation. The Minister did not tell us if 1,000 or 500 officials will lose their jobs. I am concerned that we will lose the top officials in those organisations to other countries because of all the uncertainty about the merger. Such highly qualified people are scarce and it is worth noting that the top officials in the institute have a worldwide reputation. I can recall visiting the breeding station at Beltsville in Washington and hearing of the reputation of ACOT and AFT officials. If the uncertainty is allowed to continue I do not think those officials will stay.

The Minister should state clearly the proposals he has in mind. It is irrelevant what the new organisation is called because it can survive irrespective of the name. In the past some of the names of similar organisations could not be pronounced but at least the name of the new organisation, Teagasc, is easy to pronounce and spell. It is important that the new organisation is properly funded and if the Minister considers it necessary to introduce a Supplementary Estimate to do so he will have my support. There is little point in proposing a revolutionary organisation if it is not funded properly.

We have heard a lot of glib talk in recent months about the income of farmers increasing by 17 per cent. Years ago when I was arguing about the price of green peas with the Sugar Company I was told that I was getting 7 per cent more from them than was available on the market but my response to that was that 7 per cent of nothing was nothing. Farmers are working from a very bad base after the disastrous years of 1985 and 1986. We had to rescue farmers in those years. The House had to give support to farmers who could not work their farms. I accept that the dairy farmer who has a reasonable quota is doing fairly well and that those who have set up beef units will survive but tillage farmers are having a rough time. They have not had a 17 per cent increase in their income.

However, it is important to stress that farmers can move into other areas of production and that is fortunate. We salvaged the remnants of an Irish food processing industry. I am not taking much credit for that. We all recall that Erin Foods closed down Midleton and Mallow. The plant in Carlow, an excellent one serviced by farmers owning the best horticultural land in the world, has closed. However, we salvaged the nucleus of that industry and I worked hard on that. I see no reason why we should not expand into the midlands where we have the finest farmland in Europe for this sort of development. We must find out how best to help farmers to stay in business and give young farmers some encouragement to stay here. It is hard to convince them that there is a future at home.

I am very encouraged by the company established in Midleton and Mallow who have an entrée to the British market. I should like to see that company expanding further with the help of farmers in the region. There is a market of 50 million across the water and this company probably ranks at number two or three in that market. Acreage does not really matter. It is a question of motivating them to expand.

It is very difficult to establish a new enterprise. I must be the greatest living expert on the problems encountered when starting something new. I am not blaming the Department but there is a number of people in high places who have a problem for every solution. Perhaps these people have a place but it is a pity we do not have more positive thinking. The system is partly to blame. A person who looks for some financial assistance will be told to wait until the Book of Estimates has been prepared, but at that stage all the State funds have already been allocated. What the nation needs is an investment policy. We have the National Development Corporation, the IDA and other agencies who are doing a good job but when a group of people come together with an idea which requires a lot of money they run into difficulties.

Let us take the flax industry as an example. About three years ago I was in Brussels deputising for the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Deasy. A document had been produced on the flax industry and it was decided, because of its potential, to support the industry to the tune of £250 per hectare for the foreseeable future. This was music to my ears and those of many others. We set up a programme with the help of the Department of Agriculture, ACOT and AFT and carried out some trials. The second year trials were perhaps too ambitious in that we grew 150 acres. However, we proved that we can do what was done in the 1890s when 70,000 or 80,000 acres of flax were grown. A change occurred when manmade fibres took over but demand is growing again. We spent approximately £80,000 on these experiments but last year the Germans spent £2.4 million on experiments in flax. Our budget was tiny in comparison but we achieved enough to convince everybody that we can do it. How do we get this enterprise going? Who will set up a plant? I do not believe it should be a textile factory. The initial stage is agri-related business. We are having discussions with Waterford Co-operative to see if they will take it on and I hope a small project will start this year. Certainly I will persevere. We must have a policy whereby people with the right ideas will be funded on an equity basis and allowed to start this type of business, forming a co-operative of farmers and growers. We are not talking about making linen. There are groups in the north of Ireland screaming for Irish scutch flax. There is no such thing as Irish linen. All the flax used in the linen industry here comes from Normandy. If for no other reason we should put a lot of effort into this project.

There are other possible enterprises which could be established. There is a market in Paris for 2 million rabbits per annum. We will have a small project ready in the near future but we are experiencing great difficulty in setting it up. We keep meeting the guy with the problem for every solution. Of course, such people have responsibilities but it is vital to give new enterprises the support they need.

The CAP is coming under unnecessary criticism from uninformed people. Basically it was designed to bring up living standards in Ireland and other regions of the Community to proper levels. That has been achieved and if there is one criticism which could be levelled at the CAP it is that it has been too successful. It achieved its objective too quickly and some people may have got the wrong ideas. Provision was made for intervention but it was never intended that intervention would be the market-place. On the whole, however, the CAP has been a success. FEOGA, which is an aspect of the CAP, is vital to the survival of this economy.

I am not sure that we should be so tolerant of some of the GATT agreements. The nations who negotiated these agreements contribute much to Community funding and have a lot of muscle. Because of GATT agreements we are being asked to cut back and farmers are going out of business. If we made one mistake in the sixties and seventies it was that we did not look more to the Dutch and other Europeans and adopt their methods of production. We were trying at that time to find out how much milk we could get from an acre of grass, but the Dutch were pumping sugar beet pulp from Sacramento into their cows to bring up gallonages in readiness for the time when there would be a quota system. As a grass producing nation we should have nearly double our present quota.

Earlier this morning we had a debate on funding for the Third World. I have some knowledge of the famine in Ethiopia because I worked on the FAO Committee of the Council of Europe for a number of years and I was appalled at the amount of waste in the distribution of food to Third World countries. While people are starving it is wrong for a Christian community, as the European Community professes to be, to tell us to set aside land and not use it. These are wealthy nations which spend plenty of money on armaments and yet they tell us that this is costing too much. Surely, if Third World countries in a time of famine cannot use frozen beef and butter they could use grain. Let us use the land that is to be set aside for Third World countries and let us show some real concern.

Another way of using the land to be set aside in this small country of ours is to get into forestry. There are parts of the country which are totally unsuited for anything else. There are many a husband and wife team who would love to get into forestry but they have to wait 30 years for a return. With the money they will receive for setting aside land along with help from investment companies they will have a terrific opportunity for doing so.

I have made a few positive points this morning just to prove that we are not at the end of the line as far as agriculture is concerned. I hope I have made that clear. One might think that at my time of life I should be getting a bit despondent; on the contrary, I now feel stronger than ever that this island has always benefited from adversity. We never rolled up our sleeves until our backs were to the wall. I will not listen to platitudes from any side of the House about how well we are doing. Our backs are to the wall and there is only one way we can get out of our difficulties and that is to produce competent, well educated top-class young farmers and we will not do so without ACOT and AFT.

I will not even mention that Fianna Fáil objected to the legislation I brought in to impose a charge for the services provided. Basically, I saw nothing wrong in doing so. The good fellows were already going elsewhere for services and paying for them. I do not think that is important but what is important is that top class and specialist services should be available to young farmers. Those services are now available. A few moments ago I referred to rabbit production. ACOT provide a specialised service to producers in the initial stages in order to see if it can be done. We need ACOT advisers who can assist a young farmer, if he has a programme for his bank manager, by going through that programme line by line, if necessary telling him he is being far too optimistic and does not know what he is talking about and then drawing up a programme which will succeed.

We now need An Foras Talúntais more than ever. Consumer patterns are always changing and the housewife is supreme. There is no point in telling a housewife from Berlin there are no hormones in the meat or that they will not do her any harm. That does not matter, it is her perception of things which counts. That is why it is so vitally important that we adhere to all of the things that will ensure we produce top quality food. I am a long time around and I know that we will not do it without expert advice and the devotion of people who work in the laboratories. The programme must be ongoing and I can assure the Minister I will be very co-operative. If anything occurs which affects the future of ACOT and AFT I will come into this House and scream at the Minister. I appeal to him to find sufficient funds to keep that organisation going in this most crucial of times for Irish agriculture.

It is refreshing to hear contributions from people who have some association with agriculture. Deputy Hegarty and Deputy Doyle who spoke before him have an interest in agriculture and I want to approach this debate as a farmer. Many of the contributions in this debate have been made by solicitors, barristers and schoolteachers. My fear at present is that not only will farmers become extinct in Leinster House but also if the Minister has his way they will become extinct in the country. I consider these proposals as the Government abandoning agriculture which, I might add, is untypical of Fianna Fáil who in the past always treated agriculture with the importance it deserved.

The issue here is not one of amalgamation but rather that this is a cheap way of trying to cut funds. This is very ironic because ten years ago Fianna Fáil wanted to keep research and advice separate. I can see the arguments for that. I would find it much easier to advance arguments in favour of keeping them separate rather than for amalgamating them. In Europe research is kept independent of advice and training. Even in big companies or corporations such as ICI research is kept independent of advice. Agriculture is only 40 per cent developed in this country and if it is to play its part in the economic recovery of this country how do we propose to succeed with this act of butchery?

There are only two explanations for this savage attack — either the Minister does not understand farming and agriculture or he is not in charge of his Department. As a farmer I know and appreciate the excellent work which is being carried out by AFT and ACOT. A recent AFT magazine contains an article on "Research and value for money" by Pierce Ryan. The article stated that people are now beginning to realise what would be at stake if the new organisation formed from the merger of AFT and ACOT does not have a strong vigorous research arm. Dr. Ryan pointed out that the technology based on the research of AFT has saved farmers and other users millions of pounds every year. For instance, research at Johnstown Castle on alternative sources of nitrogen saves Irish farmers about £15 million per annum. Research in sulphur has identified one million hectares of grassland which could increase production by about 15 per cent or an extra £75 million worth per annum for an extra expenditure of £5 million on fertiliser.

Dr. Ryan also mentioned the fact that research by AFT provided vital information in securing the 4 per cent derogation from the milk super levy in 1984. This was worth £400 million. Since 1975 AFT research on nutrition and feed formulation has gained a 15 per cent improvement in the efficiency of pig production, saving producers about £15 million in feed costs annually at present prices. On potato breeding Dr. Ryan claims that the AFT Oak Park bred Cara variety of seed potatoes has saved our seed industry. It provides 6 per cent of the British seed potato market and is the top variety in Israel. In 1985 Cara alone earned over £200,000 in plant breeders' royalties.

The farmer is not the only one to benefit from AFT research. The dairy industy has benefited tremendously from its work. The new cheese starter perfected and supplied by Moorepark and used to produce 70 per cent of all cheddar cheese in Ireland is now the subject of a new commercial business in Cork. This is just one of the examples from a long list of successes.

Our research into agriculture has to be maintained at a very high standard and our research has an excellent reputation. The ACOT centres such as the one in Kildalton have a reputation that we hope to maintain. AFT in Carlow recommend fertiliser programmes for cereal and beet production and for potatoes. They also have herbicide and fungicide programmes which are vital if we are to keep up with modern trends. Farmers demonstrated their commitment to ACOT last year when asked to pay for advice. There is no better way to demonstrate commitment than by paying for the service. Progressive farmers have never relied as much as they do now on these services. We should encourage more research and reward our best researchers properly. Unfortunately, because of the uncertainty a lot of our best people have chosen to leave. This is disgraceful. We should develop advice and training but it appears that the Government's approach is to decimate agriculture.

Last May or June I attended a jamboree in Agriculture House where the Goodman organisation negotiated a deal worth over £100 million. Is research, advice and training to be the sacrificial lamb to help to pay for this scandal? Where are all the jobs that were promised last May or June? If our cattle numbers and the numbers of cattle being slaughtered are dropping I would like to know where the jobs are. It would have been better to spend the money by offering to increase incentives to increase our national herd.

I will not waste time discussing the proposed name of this new agency. It has been adequately dealt with by other speakers. I have no difficulty in pronouncing Teagasc but the name is not appropriate because it does not take into account research and development. There appears to be difficulty in the pronounciation of the name in this country, so how can we expect it to be recognised in Europe?

It is regrettable that section 3 has no provision to allow farming organisations to nominate people to the board. Boards of this nature are only a way of creating jobs for the deserving party faithful.

Section 13 of this Bill seems to suggest that the role of the Minister for Finance in Agriculture may be becoming more significant than that of the Minister for Agriculture. It is disappointing that the responsibility for animal disease eradication will not be included in the responsibility of the new agency. This country has a sorry experience in tackling animal disease. With regard to TB we have spent a vast amount of taxpayers' money without much success. To deliberately exclude such a vital area from this agency is a backward step. I would urge the Minister to reconsider his position. Have we not learned anything from our experience with animal diseases in the past?

The merits or demerits of committees of agriculture could be argued extensively but surely it is wise for any Minister to ensure that such committees have a strong local input into decision making. As a member of a committee of agriculture I would like to safeguard the role of the committees which do not cost a lot of money to run.

The recent staffing audit carried out in the Department should be made public immediately. It is crazy to have a staff of over 4,000 in the Department costing in the region of £60 million per annum and they are virtually untouched although the people providing services in research, advice and training are axed. The Minister should be more responsible in his approach. If the Minister gets away with this, agricuture will suffer and history will be very unkind to the present Administration.

I was amused at the Minister, at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, taking credit for a boom in agriculture. This demonstrated how far removed is the Minister from agriculture. Perhaps he might explain why 10,000 people have chosen to leave the land on an annual basis, why farmers owe £2 billion and why related industries such as engineering and building are going broke. We are living in an age of quotas and surpluses. Our dairy herd is dropping and will continue to drop over the next couple of years. Our suckler herd is half of what it was in 1978. Our cattle numbers are dropping at an alarming rate. The last Coalition Government did nothing to try to prevent this from happening and the present Fianna Fáil Administration are not taking the issue seriously.

The dairy sector in agriculture is doing well in that the larger people are doing very well. However a sector of them, the largest sector, the people with an under-25,000 gallon quota deserve some kind of attention. There is not a livelihood for a person with a 25,000 gallon quota. I raised this in the Dáil on 24 November 1987 when I asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action if any he proposed to take to counteract the imminent crisis of small milk producers many of whom had reached their quotas and were now facing extinction as a result of the imposition of severe penalties on production. The Minister's reply, as recorded in the Official Report, column 1492, volume 375, was:

I am aware of the difficulties that the quotas system presents for some small scale milk producers. I have already sought to assist these farmers within the limited degree of flexibility available to me under the Community Regulations. I have laid down that priority in both the distribution of fleximilk and in the new restructuring scheme which I negotiated as part of this year's price fixing package, will be given to those producers whose quotas do not exceed 25,000 gallons.

I am also looking at other possibilities, within the regulations, of meeting the needs of small scale milk producers especially young farmers. I expect to make an announcement in this matter shortly.

To my knowledge nothing has been done about this and I would like to know when something can be done about it. If we are to continue on the road we are going we will have a mass exodus of small farmers from Irish agriculture. Dairying is the only real opportunity and means of livelihood for small farmers.

Sheep are profitable at the moment. I am delighted about that, but I am beginning to wonder how long it will last. Sheep numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. The margins in beef production are very tight at the moment. I have often wondered what the Minister's view on natural hormones is. This is a very controversial area. The profit margins are so tight that it is very difficult to see how the producers, the fatteners, are going to survive. While I do not agree with everything Deputy Hegarty had to say on this, if there are to be restrictions on hormones there is a definite need for us to increase our continental breeds.

The tillage sector are the forgotten people in agriculture. If we had as many tillage farmers as we have dairy farmers more would be done for the tillage sector. The price of grain is dropping every year and people are being forced out of tillage. What is to become of people who have been growing corn? What are they to do with their land? It is no longer profitable for people to grow corn. There are opportunities for bigger producers to grow malting barley and perhaps milling wheat, but growing milling wheat depends largely on the weather, as the Minister is aware. When cattle numbers are dropping alarmingly what is the point of putting land under grass? After the disastrous years 1985 and 1986 most tillage farmers could not afford to stock their land. The dilemma there has not been addressed or taken seriously by the present Administration.

A major marketing problem presents itself in the pig industry. I have heard talk about the food industry for a long time and we are not getting to grips with it. We could create a great deal of employment in this area but we are doing nothing about it. The primary producer is not being rewarded for producing high quality meat in this case. We need to develop this area quickly.

I compliment the Minister in regard to vegetables and potatoes. He is trying to promote the Irish potato, and that is a very positive step.

This Bill demonstrates the lack of planning and understanding of our biggest and most productive industry. Nothing in the Minister's speech convinces me that the action he proposes is correct. I have heard a great deal of nonsense about us coming out of the recession. I do not believe we are doing so; we have a long way to go. I do not want to be negative about it, but how can we be positive when so many people are leaving the country, unemployment is on the increase and our national debt is increasing? Let us not fool ourselves. This Government hope to save money by curtailing our research, advice and training. This is crazy and does not make sense. Only a year ago I heard the Taoiseach say how we were going to create employment from agriculture, aquaculture, tourism and other areas, but all this has been forgotten. In agriculture we will see the big farmers getting bigger and an increase in the number of part-time farmers. People will be unable to survive in agriculture without some other part-time employment. In five or six years I will probably be proven right in this.

Last July the Minister asked the two bodies for a 10 per cent reduction. Last September he looked for a 25 per cent reduction. Now we are looking for a 43 per cent reduction. Where is it all going to end? The present Administration have shattered the morale. We are abolishing AFT and ACOT, two organisations who have no record of strikes, who worked well and effectively. It is disgraceful — I cannot put it in terms strong enough. I call on all parties to try to come to some arrangement for the benefit of the country and agriculture and do something about the present state of affairs.

I am glad of the opportunity to make a contribution on this legislation. I welcome the Bill. It is timely from two points of view. First, the new single organisation will be better able to cope with needs at present. Second, because of the severe financial restrictions and the need to reduce public expenditure as much as possible in the interests of the overall financial position, it is well that the amalgamation be carried out to increase efficiency as quickly as possible.

Various references were made in the course of the debate as to what was said and done in the past. I see no advantage in going over old ground, as it were. The possibility of merging AFT and ACOT was mooted many years ago. Subsequently it was felt that that should not be done, but it has been decided at this time to bring the research and advisory bodies together under the umbrella of one organisation. Perhaps at some time in the next decade experience will show that what we are now doing is no longer suitable. When that happens I expect and hope that the Minister responsible at that time, having consulted the people best competent to give him advice, will make whatever changes are necessary having regard to all the prevailing circumstances of the time. All we can ever do in politics and in public administration generally is to provide the best means for the needs of the day and to try at the same time to identify and develop the best possibilities for the future.

I do not think there is disagreement or dispute on any side of this House about the need for agricultural research, advice and education. All of us, and people throughout the country, know well the very good work that has been carried out by An Foras Talúntais and by ACOT. An Foras Talúntais were established almost 30 years ago and have contributed enormously in that time to the development of the agricultural industry. They had the advantage of starting from a green field situation. This term is more than apt in the circumstances. It was the result of the American aid for Europe after the 1939-45 war. Their continuance in the intervening years has depended very much on the money from the Irish taxpayer but nonetheless my information is that the American authorities have, on more than one occasion, expressed satisfaction at the good results brought about by An Foras Talúntais. I understand they have been very complimentary to them as a research body.

With our entry into the Community at the beginning of the seventies, An Foras came very much into its own. For the first time they had the opportunity of advising with regard to the best methods of agricultural production in a climate in which our producers were no longer depending, for practical purposes, on a single market for their output, a market which has all the disadvantages of a policy of lower prices. Our entry into the Community at that time opened up new horizons and played a major role in the subsequent development that took place in the agricultural industry. Within European agriculture, at the various contact levels and at Community level, between the research authorities of the member states, I know that An Foras Talúntais have had a very good name and a very good reputation.

ACOT are a much younger body than An Foras Talúntais. Nevertheless in the time since they were established they have been making progress in streamlining the 27 independent advisory services which they had to take over. The merging of these more or less independent authorities was not an easy task but great credit is due to the governing body, the director and the other officers of ACOT for the work they have done over that period. The time has now come for change and I can see great advantages in the merger of these two bodies. Hard work will be needed to make the merger effective but there is no reason, given the application of common sense, that it should not be achieved without any difficulty and with subsequent great benefit to the most important of industries in this country.

Research and advice are very much complementary activities. On the question of whether they should be operated independently of one another I am sure we can learn from the experiences in other states in the Community. The main objective is that good practical research should be done in a way that takes account of such considerations as the climatic conditions and the whole question of the location of the growing of crops in different parts of the country as well as everything else that affects agricultural production, especially having regard to modern developments in livestock and in crop production. The changes now being brought about under the agricultural policy of the European Communities make it all the more necessary that research work should be to the fore and should take account of the economic conditions which are bringing about the changes within the Community.

To take an example, the policy of set aside now being adopted is a completely new one for the Community and certainly for this country. What its effects will be we will only have to wait and see. How it will affect production either directly in this country or through the changing market situations we do not know but there is undoubted need for research institutions to take account of the new set of circumstances that the set-aside policy will bring. The important thing is that there should be a research institution and that the benefits and findings of that institution on various aspects of agricultural production be brought as quickly as possible to the notice of those who are involved in primary production within the industry. This does not mean that there is not already a well-grounded body of knowledge which does not change from year to year or over longer periods. Production methods change. They have changed dramatically in the past number of years and I am sure will continue to change in the years ahead.

Furthermore, there is a need now more than even before to think in terms of what is required in the marketplace. The philosophy of starting in the marketplace and identifying the needs and the discerning attitudes of the consumers, who at the end of the day determine what should and should not be produced and, more importantly, how it should be packaged and presented is very important and will play a very important role in the overall operation of the new body. There is consensus that the attention to marketing and to detail in this area will be vitally important in the future. We have a job to do, to change the marketing of our agricultural produce. For various reasons our marketing techniques are not the best and we are setting out to change that. The quicker we can achieve our objective the better it will be for the overall well-being of the agricultural industry.

The particular method which the Government have now chosen in regard to research and advice is this merger. It is not the only method by which the service could be provided for the agricultural industry. Perhaps if we never had US assistance in the first place, research in agriculture would have continued under the control, partly of the universities and partly of the Department of Agriculture, now the Department of Agriculture and Food. There is no reason that a system of part university and part departmental control could not have been quite successful. Similarly, the Department could have the advisory services under their direct control. At the time when the county committees of agriculture were active, each county being independent, the Department had a very important input into the work of the committees but these times are past and indeed the changeover to the single national advisory service, brought about through the establishment of ACOT, was very much overdue. It is not entirely a matter of who controls research and who gives the advice that is important. The important thing is that research is thoroughly done and that, in the carrying out of it, regard is given to the practical aspects of the marketplace in which the farmer must find an outlet for his goods.

Given the conditions that existed last year on our coming into office, given the need for severe financial cutbacks in order to put the country on an even keel and to put away the very dangerous situation of financial upheaval into which we were running, there was no option but to do what is being done and to announce the bringing together of the two organisations. Naturally enough, such mergers provoke fear in the minds of the individuals who are affected by the changes but the Government have dealt fairly with the situation as they have found it. The main job now is to have the legislation passed as quickly as possible and to have the new organisation established without delay.

The Bill also takes the very practical attitude of proposing that Teagasc can make charges for their services. Such charges serve to impose a certain amount of discipline on the day to day workings of the new body. They also provide a very necessary means of additional finance. I do not think it would be good to continue indefinitely providing, entirely at State expense, for research and advice in agriculture. To cover the cost by the public purse on an on-going basis would result in a certain lack of appreciation of the importance of research and advice.

An industry as important as agriculture must, over time, become more dependent on its own resources. While research activities continue to demand large scale subvention by the State, I am persuaded that the time will come when the people advising farmers with regard to particular aspects of production or the management of their farms, will be drawn from independent advisers who will not be looking to the State for employment but who, as with people in other professions, will be available at a charge for people who need and value their services.

While settling the needs of today through legislation, developments are likely to be made over a period and we must prepare our minds for these changes while leaving over for an appropriate time the bringing in of legislation which will give them effect. Very often these changes will themselves become common and well on the way to being established. This is perhaps looking too much to the future. I will return to the Bill before the House.

A little of what I have said was foreshadowed in the arrangements made in legislation passed in 1987 in regard to charges by the advisory services for visits and consultations with farmers. In the course of the debate up to now there was a lot of harking back to the old days. There was a time when there was a far greater number of farmers than there are at present but times are changing. Whether we like it or not, social and economic change, and particularly in this country the influence of membership of the EC, are bringing about great changes in the number of whole-time farmers.

In 1987 ACOT advisers made a total of 150,000 visits to 60,000 farmers. Deputies may wonder why the number of farmers was so small. The low number suggests that a large percentage of farmers, perhaps because they are part-time farmers or maybe they are at the upper end of the scale and from experience they have very efficient operations, do not require the services. Some farmers may already have the necessary training and advice which has enabled them to operate without calling on ACOT advisers as frequently as before. Undoubtedly, the fall in the total number of farmers and the concentration of ACOT activity on farms with development potential has been a factor. These are facts we have to face today.

We should not try to judge what is needed this year or over the next decade on the way the advisory services were managed 30, 20 or even ten years ago. The advisory services are endeavouring to use the time of the specialist advisers more effectively and economically. Through the modest charging system farmers are being encouraged to come to the ACOT advisers' office when the problem does not need any examination on the farm itself. Of course, there are times when farm visits are essential and these are still being carried out.

The advisory services are also encouraging the giving of advice to groups of farmers. This is a very good idea. In the disadvantaged area if a farmer pays a modest initial sum of £20 a year he is free of other charges for that year. I do not want to spend time going into detail about amounts of charges. I am endeavouring to make the point that comparing the old with the new is not the best way of judging the position. If we take the 60,000 farms visited in 1987 and add another 20,000 we would arrive at a figure of approximately 150 farmers for each ACOT adviser. I do not think anyone could complain that this figure is ungenerous as regards availability of personnel and advice.

I now come to my own area of responsibility, horticulture. This legislation has very clear responsibilities for horticulture. Over the years very good work at research and advisory level has been done by the organisations which are being brought together under this Bill. There have been some outstanding cases where the work of the organisations has been taken up with enthusiasm and enterprise with great results. I particularly mention what has happened in the mushroom industry which has gone from strength to strength and can be held up as a very good example of the sort of development we would like to see taking place in other areas of agriculture. It started virtually from a green field and has the added advantage of having a very strong export orientation in its make-up. The fact that it is labour intensive, and is not as demanding on capital as other enterprises, clearly indicates that the concentration of attention in this area will be important. We in the Office of Horticulture are endeavouring to give it that attention. I am glad to say that such places as Monaghan Mushrooms and Carbury Mushrooms in Kildare are doing tremendous work and it is very gratifying to see that they are looking around for new growers all the time. This augurs very well for the overall development of horticulture. From time to time we in this House complain bitterly about the quality of produce but our mushroom production started from a very high base and there has been all-round satisfaction with the quality of the product.

In horticulture generally, various areas have been clearly identified where there is an import substitution potential. We are actively tackling these areas. We reckon we could import substitute to the tune of around £50 million per annum and generate new exports to the value of another £20 million. Bearing in mind that this activity is labour intensive and that we have such a difficult problem with employment, it is important that we give the emphasis that is required in this area, and it is our intention to do that. It will take time to come to terms with some of the problems facing us.

Deputy Gibbons mentioned the difficulties facing potato producers. Potato production has been the Achilles heel of the agricultural industry. We have either a feast or a famine. The 1987 crop has left us with an over supply which has resulted in very low prices. The cost of growing an acre of potatoes can be in excess of £1,000. One can clearly see the need to pay an adequate price to encourage people to make the capital investment needed in the areas of storage, grading and packing facilities. I hope in the immediate years ahead those people who are fully committed to potato growing will see the need to make that capital investment and will immediately examine the grant schemes available. We have identified that there is a need for an £8 million investment in this area. I am convinced that if we are to come to terms with the erratic supply of potatoes and get the production base on certain footing it is very important that we make that investment in this area.

Deputy Gibbons referred to the fact that we had a potato promotion fortnight which commenced last Monday. We are more than anxious to ensure that consumers are aware that there are top quality Irish potatoes available. As part of that campaign we are endeavouring to change the unsatisfactory perception of Irish potatoes that has prevailed here for too long. Indeed, on that point, there has been quite an amount of misinformation in circulation about Irish potatoes. The feeling was that they were unsatisfactorily presented and their quality not dependable. I say to those producing potatoes of sub-standard quality that they have no business in the marketplace. We are endeavouring to change the image and perception of the Irish potato. It will be by getting a quality product on to the market place, into supermarkets, that we will be able to turn around the volumes of imports here, bearing in mind particularly 1986 when they hit an historically high level. It will be only by getting the image of the Irish potato right that we will be able to turn around those imports.

I am satisfied that there are sufficient committed people in the industry to do the right thing, that there are sufficient committed people prepared to make the investment needed in storage, handling and on general harvesting equipment to get the industry on a firm footing. It will be essential that our discerning housewives have a quality product available to them from a home production base. Also when it is considered that potato production, of its very nature, is labourintensive — with considerable job creation potential — then it will be realised that it is essential that it be developed as rapidly as possible.

There are other areas in horticulture where difficulties have been encountered. I am satisfied that An Bord Glas will be effective in this area. Unfortunately An Bord Glas — primarily its membership — has been the victim of much unfair criticism both inside and outside this House. The members of the board have willingly indicated their preparedness to put their expertise to work for and on behalf of the horticulture industry. Therefore it is most unfortunate that people have seen fit to criticise them. There has been reference in the course of a number of contributions to the composition of that board. There have been insinuations that people were chosen for their political leanings. I would invite those who voice that criticism to examine the composition of the board, one by one, in order to satisfy themselves that the members are adequately and properly qualified. I might add that the members of the board were chosen from the different areas of horticulture, people who it was felt could bring the necessary expertise to bear on their deliberations so as to ensure that correct decisions were taken. I might add that probably the political affiliations of the members of the board cover a fairly wide spectrum of political life here. I make the point as an aside because there has been too much misinformed criticism.

I should like to have more time in which to elaborate on the different aspects of horticulture development. When the appropriate legislation is introduced in the House I shall have an opportunity to expound my views to a greater extent. There is general consensus in the House that what is being proposed in this Bill by the Minister for Agriculture and Food is right for the future of our agricultural industry. There has been the feeling abroad that the duplication and, in many respects, the lack of co-ordination that has obtained in the area of research and advice must be curtailed; that is not to speak of the obvious necessity to effect savings at a time when the resources needed in many areas are not available to the extent we would like. That is on account of the economic climate prevailing at present.

There is no doubt that the new authority, once established and working on the ground, will expand its activities with the passage of years and will be sufficiently flexible to react to the needs of the time. As Deputy Hegarty said in the course of his excellent contribution, alternative farm enterprises will be in need of development and the new authority will be able to cater for their needs. There has always been that flexibility in regard to research and advice in this country and we have no reason to believe that that flexibility will not continue once the new authority has been established. I am satisfied that we can get our agricultural industry on a firm footing and on the right road towards progress in the years ahead.

The provisions of this Bill seek to enact what was proposed in Deputy Mark Clinton's Bill — the National Agricultural Advisory, Education and Research Authority Act, 1977. On leaving office in 1977 Deputy Mark Clinton made a public appeal to his successor, Deputy Jim Gibbons, to give the Bill a trial period of three years and, if he found weaknesses in it, to amend it. If, at the end of three years, it was perceived to be a bad Bill then, he said, by all means it should be scrapped. Despite Deputy Mark Clinton's appeal the Act was repealed without having gone through any trial period. Indeed it took Fianna Fáil 11 years to realise its merits. In the meantime worthwhile development in agriculture has been delayed because of that short-sighted decision taken in 1977.

I welcome the proposal to amalgamate AFT and ACOT and the transfer of the existing functions of those two bodies to a new, single authority. However, if it is taken to the point at which the services of both those bodies are emasculated completely, I would be totally opposed to any such proposal. Like previous speakers, I am most concerned about the level of funding of the new authority, its composition and the method of appointment of its members.

In the course of his remarks the Minister stated that the authority will be responsible for establishing the knowledge base of the most important agricultural and food sector of any European country. He said also that the changes sought under the provisions of the Bill are designed to ensure that the research and advisory services will serve the technological requirements of the rapidly changing agriculture and food industry up to and beyond the turn of this century. Those are laudable objectives. However, surely the Minister cannot expect such progress to be made within the limited budget available to the new authority. The block grant of £20 million provided in the Estimates for agricultural research, advisory and education services is totally inadequate, representing a 43.5 per cent reduction on the 1987 provision. Such a massive cut does not make sense. If the Minister is serious in what he is proposing he should provide immediately an additional £20 million by way of a Supplementary Estimate for his Department or, at the latest, when the new board is established.

On Second Stage the Minister indicated that he expected greater financial participation on the part of the farming sector. Indeed his Minister of State made that point also. Last year a charge for advisory services was introduced, the minimal charge being £20 per farm visit. Agricultural advisers experienced considerable difficulty in collecting what might appear to be this meagre sum, especially from smaller farmers, those most in need of the service. If this charge is to be increased along with a reduction in the number of advisers, it will place the advisory services beyond the reach of many smallholders in the west, when the future for that section of the farming community will be very bleak indeed. The advisory service should be targeted towards those people who are the weakest because, as numerous speakers have said in the House, the larger farmer will survive, and has always survived, but it is the small farmer who is going out of business at present.

The Minister expects savings to be made in the wages bill through the voluntary redundancy scheme. It was expected that 1,000 employees of ACOT and AFT would opt for the early retirement scheme. However, I understand that to date only 350 people have opted for that redundancy package and that a further 120 people are expected to opt for it before the end of the year. To work within the estimate of £20 million would have required 1,000 redundancies but it now seems certain that even with the 144 to 180 redundancies within ACOT, there will be barely enough money to meet staff pay costs in 1988, that there will be no money for overheads such as heating, light, rent, telephones, transport or agricultural scholarships. I understand that the financial controllers of AFT and ACOT have to seek multi-cash injections from the Government in order to meet their overheads and to survive.

At this stage it seems likely that individual employees of AFT and ACOT may be forcibly redeployed in the Department of Agriculture and Food. This is a genuine concern held by many of the employees. I should like the Minister to clarify that. Even though the budget of the Department of Agriculture and Food was cut by 2 per cent it now seems certain that a large number of civil servants will opt for early retirement. The Government might be influenced to suggest filling these vacancies with the surplus staff from AFT and ACOT. I suggest to the Minister that if savings are made within his Department through the voluntary redundancy scheme, these savings should be transferred to the new authority in order to increase their funding rather than taking people out of ACOT and AFT and putting them, against their will, into the Department of Agriculture and Food.

As has been said previously, agriculture is still Ireland's biggest industry. It contributes 46 per cent of net exports when raw material imports are taken into account. For every £100 worth of exports generated by manufacturing industry, £54 is paid for raw material imports and £17 goes out of the country as repatriation of profit. This leaves £29 behind for the Irish economy. For every £100 of agricultural exports, raw material imports account for 18 per cent or £18. There is little or no repatriation of profit. This leaves over £80 in our economy and it emphasises the importance of agriculture to our economy. I am sure the Minister has noted the recent article by Tom Arnold, the senior economist in ACOT, on the future of agriculture. He poses the question: "Is agriculture being written off?" To remain competitive Irish farmers must continue to adapt to technological and financial change, to improve efficiency and to increase performance and product quality. An effective agriculture advisory education and research service is vital.

This decimation may save money on paper but will cost the economy dearly in the future. According to ACOT, over 30,000 farmers will lose contact with the advisory service with a loss of £800 output per farm as a result of the recent changes and cutbacks. During the past number of years, and this was during the period of the previous Government, the advisory service available to the farming community has been progressively reduced. The farm home advisory service which was set up to help farmers' wives to cope with low incomes has now been done away with. The horticultural service has been decimated and the poultry and advisory service has been reduced to 16 for the Twenty-six Counties. Originally, there were at least three to four for each county and at one stage there were over 90 people employed in this service.

The agricultural advisory service has been reduced over the past few years due to the ban on recruitment. As I already mentioned, over 144 ACOT staff, many of whom are agricultural advisers, have agreed to take redundancy. The total ban on recruitment of young graduates means that we in Ireland have an aging service. ADAS, the British advisory service, now employ many of our young agricultural graduates so the British service is receiving free the benefit of our agricultural education system whereas we should be availing of this energy in order to promote the future of our industry.

As I said previously, the 43 per cent cutback in the ACOT budget will mean that even after the redundancies there will only be sufficient money to meet wages. There will be no money to pay for overheads such as heating, lighting, rent, transport etc. A minimum charge of £20 per farm visit was introduced last year. This charge, together with the reduced number of advisers, will put the advisory service out of the reach of the majority of the smallholders in the west of Ireland, the people who are most in need of this service. This represents a further attack on rural Ireland. Present EC policy and Government policy discriminates totally against the small family unit in Ireland. Last Friday in this House the President of France advised us that we should protect the family farm unit. I hope that the Minister heeded what he said but his policy in recent times shows that he does not have the same advisers as President Mitterrand.

By the end of the century I believe that we will have witnessed the total eclipse of the small family farmer in rural Ireland. This will result in major damage to the social fabric and culture of rural Ireland. Already the smaller farmer is leaving the land in the west of Ireland but our present policies will accelerate this flight from the land. This reminds me of the total extinction of the cottier class following the famine. Now we are witnessing the total extinction of the small farming units following EC policy and the policies of the Government. Indeed, the previous Government can share some of the blame as well as a result of pursuing a certain type of policy.

The average farm size in Ireland is not large by EC standards. With quotas imposed on traditional farm enterprises new systems of farming will have to be examined. Deputy Kirk, the Minister of State, made this point clearly. Surely the people who should do this are the farm advisers but it is difficult to see this happening when the socio-economic branch of ACOT is now practically non-existent due to Government cutbacks and policy. The loss of many of their best research workers from AFT will leave the advisory service much weaker as they depended on AFT for much of their back-up service. AFT played a very important role in the advisers' work. At every class, lecture and demonstration I attended which was administered by ACOT, reference always was made to AFT.

Debate adjourned.