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

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

Before the adjournment of the debate I was referring to the shortsighted policies of the farming organisations in not promoting reinvestment in product diversification, particularly in the milk sector. This lack of diversification has created all sorts of problems for the dairy sector. Over-supply of milk, not just in Europe but throughout the world, has meant that the traditional products we produce are not wanted in the market place. The only way that one can sell products is to have a market for them and, certainly, there has not been a buoyant market in the past seven or eight years for butter and skimmed milk powder. I accept it is difficult to advocate that people should take less and that many farmers could not afford to take much less than they are getting for their milk. However, in the interests of long term investment and, therefore, in the interests of their future, and their childrens' future, farmers and farming organisations should have had as their first priority a campaign of reinvestment. They should not have been thinking of creaming off the maximum profit, taking the highest possible price.

I have no doubt that dairy farmers in Holland and Denmark, two countries which are comparable to ours, have done so well because they were prepared to reinvest. They did not demand the highest price for their products. In fact, they were prepared to take a little less and use the amount deducted for research and development. I should like to emphasise the point by recalling a conversation I had with the Danish Minister for Agriculture shortly after the super-levy was introduced three years ago. He told me farmers and milk processors in his country had been complaining bitterly that their milk quotas were not high enough not because they wanted to produce more butter and skimmed milk powder but because they could not fulfil their orders for soft cheeses on the American market. They did not have sufficient milk to make products which were in demand on world markets. That is the key to the success of the Dutch and the Danes. They converted their milk into something which could be sold freely. They did not have to push their milk into intervention as butter or skimmed milk powders. As a result they were not getting 75p per gallon for their milk but about £1 per gallon.

In addition, there are other contributory factors besides the fact that they were producing a product which was very saleable, such as collection costs. Our overhead costs are high compared with the same services in those countries in relation to electricity and transport charges. Our economy is expensive in relation to producing commodities. Other countries invested money in making sure that they produced something which they could sell. The people in the forefront of the agricultural industry in this country should have had, as their primary concern, the production of goods which could be sold. If anyone wants a short answer as to why we have had considerable difficulty in regard to our low milk prices, it is because we have adopted the wrong approach. We have not been business-like, taken hard decisons and invested in something which will sell. After a long time, it has been recognised that our policy has been foolish and short-sighted.

Rather than hammering the Minister for Agriculture and the Government and complaining bitterly about how bad things are, some of those people would be better advised to face up to reality and to conduct their affairs in a business-like manner. I do not mind being bashed by the farming organisations and I am sure the Minister does not mind either. Indeed, sometimes it is enjoyable and some blood-letting every now and then does no harm even if it is your own blood that is being spilt. The main thing is to tell the truth and let them like it or lump it. We should not pander to irresponsible and unreasonable people.

There is a necessity for research, which was the overriding responsibility of An Foras Talúntais, one of the bodies which is to be amalgamated into the new super organisation, Teagasc. We certainly need research and development but we must question whether the money is spent in the wisest possible manner. The fact that you might be reducing the amount of money spent does not necessarily mean that you are doing a bad day's work for the country. Money can be spent in smaller amounts if it is spent more wisely and prudently and I have no doubt that there is room for curtailing services and economising in certain sectors.

I have a fairly pungent point of view so far as research and development are concerned. I do not wish to be offensive to anyone in research organisations but, as I have scientific qualifications, I know that the zeal for research and development diminishes rapidly when you reach the age of 35 or 40. In the old days, they used to tell us we were over the top when we were 40 but a lot of us do not like to be reminded of that, especially when we are over 50 years of age.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on having reached the age of 50 the other day. The zest and zeal for research and development diminishes as one gets on in years. People got older together in An Foras Talúntais and there should be a system whereby people work on contract instead of getting pensionable jobs. When they are taken in from universities, regional technical colleges or higher institutions of technology it should be on a contract basis and strictly laid down that they work until the age of 35 or 40 at that particular assignment. However, they should be paid extraordinarily well because those are the years when people have the energy, courage and imagination to do what is necessary. Experimental physicists and scientists in any field are a diminishing force — there are exceptions — once they get on in years and there should be other avenues open to them, primarily in an administrative capacity, when they get past that age. I know I am generalising but I hope the point is taken. People are good at that type of job when they are young but their powers diminish as the years go by.

It might be worth considering a reorganisation of the whole area and the energies of young people coming out of college should be used. There should be a continuous infusion of young people and new ideas to research units so that their ambitions are not stultified as happens at present. There is not sufficient inflow and movement out. If we want creativity and new ideas, we must have new blood in large quantities. Perhaps some people will be offended by my remarks but it is a fact of life. For instance, in the area of research and development, a vast amount of money was spent about eight years ago in University College, Cork, in building a huge new research and development unit for the dairy and meat processing industries. I do not know if the Minister visited the unit but, if not, it would be worth his while to do so because it is alarming to see under-utilisation of that resource. It is not being used as it should be or to its maximum potential.

Varying reasons have been given for this and the one advanced most frequently was that the six big co-operatives and the meat processors were afraid that their secrets would become known if they were to use a freely accessible facility like that. That argument is not very convincing and the reason it is under-utilised is that a lazy attitude prevails. People wanted to continue producing butter and skimmed milk powder and to export car-case beef instead of processing. It is alarming to think that our research and development effort has been sadly lacking in this regard.

It is encouraging to see some co-operatives diversifying into the type of products which the Dutch and the Danes do so well, for instance, the manufacture of soft cheeses which sell on continental Europe and Britain. Indeed, they sell particularly well in the United States. I know the Minister attended a ceremony in my constituency a few weeks ago where such a project, a partnership between Waterford Co-operative and a Dutch concern, Wiessan, got off the ground. The soft white cheese manufactured there will be sold for export in the US. That is the type of enterprise we need in the dairy industry. It is only a drop in the ocean in comparison to what we need overall but at least it is heading in the right direction. Waterford Co-operative now will be in a position to convert something like 33 per cent of all their milk into cheese, and if we had a national average of 33 per cent milk conversion into cheese we would not be doing too badly. We would still be miles behind the Dutch and the Danes but we would make a significant impact. We should be setting goals and targets for four or five years hence such as 50 per cent of all milk into cheese and ten years hence 65 per cent. We had reached a stage where we were not dependent on storage or intervention for any of these milk products and we should be setting such targets.

We are instinctively a conservative race. We never get great change in a short time whether in methods of producing products or in voting for political parties. You will not get a massive swing. You might get it from Fine Gael to Fianna Fáil orvice versa or to the Progressive Democrats but you will not get it to the left. We do not shift so easily, but that is a handicap when it comes to product development and innovation. One thing we have been preaching for years that is taking on only very slowly is the necessity to move into areas where there is not over-production within the EC. The obvious area for the past five or six years where there should have been massive increased production was sheep. Only very slowly have people come to accept that there is a future in that area. It is very aggravating to find that you almost have to drag people along to get them to change from systems of over-production into areas where there is under-production.

An interesting comparison is to be drawn if one looks at the systems of farming not just in Holland or Denmark but with our next door neighbour, Britain, and England particularly. About 25 years ago if you drove through the southern counties of Britain you would have seen the primary system of farming was beef production. When they entered the EC and the prices for grain was guaranteed, away went the hedgerows, ditches and fences and mass production of grain came about. They milked that system to the utmost and the result is now there is to be a restriction on the production of grain because not just the British but the French have produced so much grain that we cannot get rid of it, just as we have a surplus of milk. The British also got on the milk train because of the guaranteed prices. They changed from store cattle and beef into milk and grain and caused a great number of problems, but they were using a system which was readymade for abuse, if you can call it abuse — exploitation perhaps would be a more correct expression. We did not do that. We were too slow to change and it has cost us dearly. With all the advisory services in the world and all the research and development you can bring people only so far. The bulk of the effort must come from themselves. That is why one often wonders whether the money we spend on advisory, research and development services is well spent. That is debatable.

Invariably the people the adviser goes to are the good farmers because it is a pleasure to go to them. There is not much point in going to a fellow 20 times when he seems to agree with one and then turns round and does nothing. It is very difficult to haul somebody like that into the 20th or 21st century. The advisory services, as I suppose is only natural, concentrate on the better farmers, the younger ones who are prepared to change, but that large group who are not prepared to change can make life so difficult and make our agriculture and industry drag so much.

In my period as Minister I visited most of the research centres in the country. Johnstown Castle was one I never got around to. I recommend that the Minister does not cut back on Grange, which is the beef station. I saw two very interesting projects emanating from Grange, or perhaps it was at Tully; I am not sure — my lips are sealed on that.

They are paid for sitting there for months on end and now there is a job they would do if they got a change to do it.

I think it was Grange. However, one of the projects is the fast fattening beef project where finished beef can be produced in as little as 18 months to two years. That has attractions in this country. The second project is twin calving. I was told three or four years ago that the twin calving concept was a success experimentally and that within a very short time it should be successful on the farm, but I do not know if that has happened. The name "twin calving" speaks for itself; you get two instead of one. I would like the Minister to inquire if that has ever been translated to activity on the farm. I have my doubts. Is it just not feasible? Can it be done only under experimental conditions or are some producers adopting that practice?

Oak Park and Johnstown between them deal with grass and cereal products. So many better projects or advancements I have seen have arisen not because of initiatives taken by research units but because of the ingenuity of individual farmers. Winter cereals were pioneered, as far as I remember, some years ago by some of the better tillage farmers and reclamation of mountain areas was pioneered by people who became involved in a new method of ploughing called deep ploughing which has brought land which heretofore was only fit for grazing into use as top quality grassland. Quite often these advancements have been made not because of innovation in the institutions but because of the ability of individuals.

I hope we can advance a common cause here. This morning I was strongly criticised by a member of Fine Gael for not getting this legislation through the House. I remind the House that the Bill was introduced on 3 February. It is quite clear that despite requests from all the farm organisations and all interested bodies, the Opposition intend not to allow this legislation through. They know that in the weeks ahead I will be engaged in negotiations on prices and will be unable to be here. They should at least be honest and acknowledge that the delay is due entirely to their obstructionist tactics. Let them communicate with the farm organisations, ACOT and the Agricultural Institute and tell them why.

I strongly object to this intervention and I intend to make my contribution. I have never delayed the proceedings of this House. The former Minister for Agriculture is entitled to make a speech.

The last thing I have ever done is to interrupt the Deputy now on his feet but I should like some honesty.

We have had exceptionally short speeches, except from the former Minister.

Three hours for each speech. Deputies opposite had better tell the farm organisations and the unions what they are about.

The farm organisations have asked me to make my contribution and I intend to do so.

I wish to repudiate what the Minister has said. I have been speaking for approximately 25 minutes since Question Time.

The Deputy spoke earlier.

I spoke for 15 minutes before Question Time and for another 25 minutes before the Minister's interruption. I do not think that is excessive.

It is a very good speech.

I repudiate the insinuation that there is any attempt to impede the passage of this Bill. The Minister's point is totally out of order.

On a point of order, the first speaker from Fine Gael this morning criticised me for not getting this Bill through the House. The fact is that his own party are delaying it.

We are willing to sit on Friday to get it through.

It is a matter for the Government to order business and if the business is not going through to extend the time of the sitting. I will not be lectured by the Minister during a debate for which the whole country has long been waiting.

The press are not even reporting it any more because they see that it is a facade.

If the press wish to retire early on a Thursday evening, as a lot of Deputies do, that is their business. If the Minister really wants a filibuster I can give it to him. I might last a few weeks.

Poor Deputy Nealon has very important business in his constituency.

There was reference earlier to the horticulture industry. Of all the misinformed and ill-informed comment which we hear about the agricultural industry, the balderdash which is spewed out repeatedly about the disastrous state of the horticultural industry is the worst. With a population of 3.5 million we do not have a great home market for horticultural produce. The continentals have on their doorstep within the Community, without considering the neutral countries or the eastern bloc, a market of 260 million. Britain has a population of 60 million. Obviously mass production methods will succeed in those areas but they will not necessarily succeed here because the domestic market is the primary market for any system of bulk production of that nature.

In addition to the limited home market we have a very serious problem as regards climate. About two years ago the Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture referred to the marvellous climatic advantage we have for producing various products. I have never heard a more misinformed statement. We suffer a tremendous disadvantage in regard to most products in the horticulture sector. That is a serious limiting factor. The effects of mass production on the Continent have serious implications here when dumping takes place as a result of over-supply on continental and British markets. It is very difficult for commercial growers here to produce apples, potatoes or some of the more common vegetables when refrigerated meat lorries, having brought their loads to Britain or the Continent, can return with produce obtained at give-away prices, thereby undermining the domestic market. It is a real problem but it is totally unreasonable to complain that we should not have to import this or that commodity.

We export 80 per cent of our agricultural produce. If we cannot tolerate the fact that some agricultural produce is coming into the country, we deserve to be ridiculed. Competition is a two-way process. We have a problem with horticultural produce because of the small home market and the climatic conditions which it is not easy to overcome. I wish the best of luck to the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food who has responsibility for horticulture. It is a very difficult area. We will always have the Dutch and other efficient producers to deal with.

In hindsight, I do not agree with the method of appointment of the new board of Teagasc. I learned from hard experience that it is not a good idea to give what are called representative bodies the entitlement to nominate a member to a board. It leads to poor, dreary boards, quite often made up of people who are over the top. It would be far better if all ten members of the board were nominated by the Minister.

That is precisely what I am proposing. What is being contested is that the farm organisations say they should nominate their people. I am proposing the opposite.

As I read it in the Bill five members are nominated by the Minister and five are nominated by the Minister following consultation with representatives of the industry.

That is right.

I call upon the Minister to make sure that he does not have foisted upon him people who are being rewarded for turns done over the years because that has been my experience in the past. Boards tend to be cluttered up with people who are being rewarded under the old pals act and that does not make for good management. It would be far better for the Minister to go in there and pick his ten people on a totally objective basis.

The Deputy is proposing that farm organisations should have no right to nominate anybody.

I did not use the words "farm organisations". I referred to representatives of the industry.

I presume the Deputy is talking about the farm organisations.

I said representative bodies; it could be the meat industry; it could be anybody but some of the worst boards I have seen have been boards with a high incidence of people representing specific interests. The Minister would be better to do his own job without reference to anybody.

Without reference to staff unions, farm organisations etc.?

The Minister will then take the consequences. If the board is a success nobody will thank him but if it is a failure he will take the rap anyway. I know Deputy Nealon has to make a long trek back to the west which he does now and again, so with that I wish the board the best of luck. Even with reduced financing, if the whole thing is carried out with goodwill and with the best interests of agriculture at heart, it can succeed even with reduced financing.

The Minister is seeking a quick passage to this Bill and I am certainly not going to hold it up. I never wish to speak beyond giving the absolute essentials of what I have to say. Indeed I am one of the people in favour of the American system whereby one can write one's speech into the records of the House and have it read by anyone interested afterwards.

The Minister should use his powers to repair some of the damage and the chaos he has caused by the total lack of preparation for the introduction of this Bill. There are grounds for rationalisation and there are areas where economies can be made. There is no doubt about that. But this idea of the amalgamation was produced without any preparatory work. It was done in the Rambo days of the Government when they were slashing at any institution who seemed to provide some sort of a saving, including An Foras Forbartha and some other excellent bodies as Ministers vied with each other to see who could cut the most and come back to their Taoiseach to tell him what good boys they were.

My concern is in a very specific area. All the general areas have been covered very well in a long speech with points made very cogently by our spokesman on Agriculture, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, and now in an excellent speech by the former Minister, Deputy Deasy. So I will confine myself to the question of research in the west.

It would not be Ballinamore in County Sligo? We have to get it into the local newspaper that Deputy Nealon is going to make a staunch case for the institute in County Sligo. Is he goint to do Belclare?

Is there any objection to that? Is there any objection to me going out and defending the sole centre of research work in my constituency? There will be none when the Minister is finished and that is the problem because it is the Minister's intention, and I believe the decision has already been made, to get rid of the Ballinamore station and the Creagh station, thereby wiping out the entire research facilities in the west with this Bill. That is the reason I am here now——

Deputy Nealon, please continue with the debate.

I am continuing and I am continuing very effectively, rebutting the Minister who is trying to make a petty, cheap point. There is not a man who defends his own constituency better than the Minister does in Tipperary North. We saw that when he was extending the disadvantaged areas across the Shannon for the first time — he is the man who claimed credit for that — and now he is seeking to gag me as I seek to make a point for my constituency. I will make it.

My belief is that as soon as this Bill goes through it will mark the dead end of research in the west. My concern here, and I make absolutely no apologies for it, is mainly the Ballinamore Research Centre in County Leitrim. I defend it primarily because it is in my own constituency of Sligo-Leitrim, as my constituents would expect me to do and as the farmers in the west would expect me to do. I defend it also because of the jobs — not as many as at Johnstown Castle at Oak Park or at Creagh but jobs nonetheless where jobs are very badly needed. I defend it most of all because of the impact and the contribution Ballinamore has made towards research for a particular part of the country where research was badly needed and was not being duplicated in any other part of this country or in any other country abroad. The Ballinmore Research Station was established in 1959 to investigate the agricultural use of heavy clay soil and the drumlins of north central Ireland. I first came in contact with it myself in the late sixties when I did a television programme on it. I was greatly impressed, not only with the expertise which I knew existed within An Foras Talúntais, but with the utter and total dedication of the people working there to their jobs.

I notice that the Minister seeks to interrupt me. There was no interruption when his own back benchers spoke and spoke long but very often not to the point.

To get back to my theme, the original objectives of the Ballinamore station was to investigate the role of drainage and fertiliser practice in soil improvement. This in turn was subsequently expanded to cover most aspects of farming of heavy land. Heavy land, or the type of land with which this is involved, comprises 4,000 square miles or 20 per cent of the land of Ireland and if that is not relevant to this debate I would like the Minister to tell me what is. This type of land is chiefly in Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan, Monaghan and parts of Mayo, Clare and west Galway. Also relevant are all marginal lands in this country and they comprise 49 per cent or virtually half the entire land of the country. The Ballinamore station is working for that, has been working very successfully over many years, yet the Minister objects to me talking about it and calls it a parochial issue.

The past activities of this organisation in Ballinamore were in dairying where they were particularly active, increasing the stocking rate of their own activities from a level of one livestock unit per five acres to one livestock unit per one and a half acres. All aspects of dairy husbandry were investigated with emphasis on breeding, nutrition and disease control, particularly as regards the marginal land or the less favoured land, perhaps not including the valleys and the good parts of Tipperary but including parts of north Tipperary in the Minister's own constituency. Yet the Minister objects to me talking about the research centre which is working hard and hardest for them.

Drainage in particular is the area in which Ballinamore made its name and for which it became famous not only nationally but internationally. The gravel tunnel drainage system was developed at Ballinamore. This was a breakthrough in effective drainage of unstable clay soils. There were also intensive studies carried out of conventional moor drainage to determine all the relevant factors for effective and economic use of these systems. Surface drainage studies were also carried out. Developments pioneered, developed and researched there are now being used all over the country so far as drainage is concerned, but not as much as I would like to see.

The people across the Border in Fermanagh, Tyrone and in other parts of the North in similar types of soil took up the result of the research work at Ballinamore more enthusiastically than many of our own farmers and we wish them luck. It is another example of the type of work which is being done there and is not duplicated anywhere else on the Continent or elsewhere. It is a particular type of research for that type of soil. Ballinamore were involved in grassland improvements, trials to study appropriate grass species for heavy land, together with the optimum use of lime and fertilisers for silage in pasture levels. Simple cheap systems of re-seeding were also studied.

As far as the environment is concerned, and this is becoming a major issue at present — and is the concern of the Minister for the Environment — studies were carried out on pollution in Counties Leitrim and Cavan, through the Ballinamore centre, to formulate appropriate rates and times of application of artificial fertilisers so as to avoid pollution. New emphasis is being put on pollution and rightly so. I give due credit to the Minister for the Environment for the work that is being done and has been done and which they are capable of doing in the future in Ballinamore. It is now of even greater significance and it is not a parochial issue. It is a national issue and is of national importance to our tourism.

There are potholes all over the country.

In Ballinamore they have developed a modification of conventional farm machinery so as to operate effectively on soft hilly ground with minimum surface damage. The fruits of these studies, as we all know, were most apparent during the bad years of 1985 and 1986 when Deputy Deasy was Minister for Agriculture, unlike the benevolent sunshine which so far has favoured the present Minister for Agriculture and Food. With the fine weather which we have at present he should not be so testy in the Dáil on this day when Deputies are making a routine contribution to an important Bill and which is very important as far as my area is concerned.

The Deputy can certainly say it is routine.

Ballinamore has also worked on the amenity studies and the highly successful sand carpet all-weather playing field design was developed. This system is widely used at present. That is a fact that is not widely known. As far as contract work is concerned, they are now getting contracts from many outside bodies in the sphere of drug testing, arterial drainage, dairy effluent disposal and Third World development. The latter was referred to earlier by Deputy Jim Higgins. They are also involved in studies of alternative energy and in the evaluation of wind energy. This has been conducted very successfully at the station.

What are the present activities? What is happening on the ground? What is envisaged for the future? As far as dairying is concerned, the emphasis is on quality and quantity of grass produced both for silage and pasture so as to obtain maximum output with minimum use of concentrates. Attention to breeding and disease control is also being given priority.

Various systems of drainage, from which they made their name and for which they continue to be famous are being investigated. Particular emphasis is put on shallow mooring as a routine amelioration technique for surface compaction. These studies are part of an EC-funded national project and as such are drawing money from outside and are not a burden on the State to any great extent.

Studies are being carried out on grassland to establish the optimum rates and times of application of fertilisers for grassland in drumlin areas, to determine grass species most suitable to drumlin soils and climate, to evaluate a new source of fertiliser nitrogen, to formulate climatic-soil model for use in determining rate of grass growth and to establish an economic and effective technique of grassland reseeding.

In the area of mixed stocking, they are very active to establish an economic return from a mixed stocking enterprise of sheep and cattle. With new emphasis on sheep over the entire western area, on which I am sure Deputy Kenny and, indeed, Deputy Higgins will be speaking later when they are dealing with Creagh, it is very valuable to have this study on mixed stocking performance.

Hear, hear.

The performance of both these species was very satisfactory during 1987 and can be a basis for the expansion of output and the expansion of income in these difficult times for farmers in the west. In relation to biomass, different species of trees and sedge are being studied as a possible alternative energy source. Areas such as Leitrim and Sligo are very suitable for afforestation and are becoming a great centre of afforestation with parts of Mayo. I hope that in due course our area will be rewarded for this development with the setting up there of the new headquarters of the semi-State body which will be in charge of forestry.

In relation to farm machinery, further studies on the modification of conventional farm machines and the development of new ones suitable to drumlin soils are in progress. Particular stress is being laid on cutting costs when effecting any such modification. There is also a sheep and cattle policy. Coming from a farming background and having watched farming over the years, I think that in the area of housing cattle and sheep we are far behind. This is an area in which there should be concentration and I am sure we will be helped out in the western package, whenever we find the details which are so mysterious at present — which as far as I can find out are non-existent — and are awaiting submission by the Government to Brussels. When they come we hope there will be some advantages. Much of this has to do with funding and with a saving of money as far as the joint operation of ACOT and An Foras Talúntais is concerned. I praise that particular aim because we should be saving money.

In relation to the Ballinamore station, substantial receipts are being generated from the farm enterprises. Additional funding comes from the EC and from the commercial and dairying industry. In addition — and this is very important — the dairy co-operatives in the north-west have expressed a willingness to augment the dairy levy with a special fund for dairying-related work at Ballinamore. The North Connacht farmers, and the other co-operatives in this area, are concerned about the fate of Ballinamore which, unless there is a special order by the Minister, will be a victim of this amalgamation. The dairy co-operatives are very concerned about this because to a great extent their future as well as the future of the small dairy farmers of the west, depends on the continuing work of research and the increasing output from limited resources and limited lands.

Does the Deputy want me as Minister to actually intervene and tell the new authority what they should or should not do?

I want the Ballinamore station of AFT, as a research station, maintained and I am giving the reasons for that. I do not care how the Minister or the Government——

(Interruptions.)

The Deputy in possession must be allowed to continue without interruption of any kind.

I merely asked a question.

The Minister will have his opportunity to reply.

I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. There have been a number of recommended projects for investigation, for example, the establishment of a suckler cow trial and alternative farm enterprises which would fit into an integrated rural development programme. Both of those are in line with the Minister's own ideas as expressed by him recently and at the famous press conference in Castlebar. Another project is the forestry programme which was recommended in the County Leitrim Resource Survey published by An Foras Talúntais in 1972 and the development of a farmyard system to eliminate water pollution. Down through the years Ballinamore station has become an institution in the area. It has become part of the fabric of farming throughout the entire west.

Hear, hear.

Good results have flowed from it catering for a specific kind of soil, a specific kind of farm and a specific type of small farmer which the Minister may disregard as being insignificant in his macro-plan but are of great importance to us in retaining the farming population of the west which is decreasing at such an alarming rate. It would be tantamount to cutting off the future progress of large tracts of land and adversely affecting the future of many young people in the west who would be forced to emigrate if the research station were to go. It is doing a type of work which is not done in any other part of the country. It cannot be done in any other part of the country because of the type of soil. Ballinamore is also doing a type of work which is not duplicated anywhere, as instanced by the fact that the Fermanagh farmers rely on the Ballinamore work as far as their drainage is concerned. This work is not duplicated in Britain, on the Continent or anywhere else. I would like the Minister, who has interrupted me so frequently, to give a guarantee concerning the future of Ballinamore.

Also on a different and less contentious matter I hope he will make adequate provision, if not directly, in some other source for the funding and the continuation of the agricultural folk farm at Johnstown Castle if that is in any danger of being a victim of this amalgamation.

First, I am not in the least interested in obstructing the passage of a Bill relating to agriculture, or indulging in any kind of filibustering. I am the second speaker for the Labour Party, the first having been Deputy Stagg, our agricultural spokesman. I have a particular interest in this Bill because of my meetings with the trade unions involved and with the IFA and because of a personal interest in the regionalised impact of research in agriculture in the 12 western counties. This is an interest that goes back to the published work of Dr. John Scully and many later scholars.

It would be wise to have as careful a debate as possible because of the implications of what we are deciding. My main interest is in relation to the implications of the proposed legislation for the research and advisory functions in Irish agriculture. It is important when considering such an aim that we draw a distinction between the maximum number of people whom we see in the future as living on farms — the farm family projected population, if you like — towards the end of the century and the prospects in agriculture as a sector. There is a great difference, indeed. For example, since our entry into the European Community, we have — and I would be willing to be corrected on this figure if it is inaccurate——

The Deputy will find it in the Sligo paper.

——approximately 40,000 fewer farm families living off the land than we had before our entry. At the same time, there has been growth in particular sections of the agricultural sector.

What is at stake, in terms of the legislation in the broadest sense, is the question whether the new agency first, will be adequately funded and, secondly, will have within its structure a sufficient research corps and advisory dissemination possibility as to be able to address the widest possible number of farmers who might want to make a living from the land.

There is the other element of the effect of the legislation on farm incomes. It seems, for example, that given the reaction to the proposals so far and looking at the pattern of redundancies, many people who are in possession of special skills are leaving the semi-State or State sector in which they found themselves and now preparing to set up in consultancy services to sell their services back to a section of the farm population which they previously served. There is no doubt that the purchase of these services makes economic sense for those in a position to purchase skills which have been developed over a very long period of time and often in the research setting created, purchased and developed by the State. It is equally true to speak of the manner in which such services will not be available for those who are unable to purchase them on the market.

I spoke on the Estimates of the Department of Agriculture last summer and was prepared to speak on the last occasion on which this Bill came before the Dáil and have some sympathy for the Minister who would like to see some resolution of this matter, I am sure. We are dealing with the operation of the Dáil and certainly I would agree with the Minister in thinking that we should have had this Bill discussed before now, that the delay has been inordinate. However, I am not in charge of the ordering of Dáil business, any more than the Minister or spokespersons over here are.

The other side of this Bill, a knock-on effect from the consequences on jobs, the actual manner in which research will be carried out and information disseminated and the effect on incomes, is the effect on productivity. Productivity falls into two broad sections within the agricultural community at present. I would in many ways welcome the emphasis that the present Government have put on the employment potential of the food industry. That is simply harnessing the value-added element from primary agricultural purpose in a way that will create jobs and economic activity give a valuable boost to our exports and so forth.

There are again two sides to this argument. You need to have a research base to develop new products, a research base that deals with propagation to actual marketing. Also, you must ask what section of the farming community and agricultural community will benefit in terms of income enhancement and so on. I got the impression, from looking for a very long time at the debate about the structure of farm income which goes back to Dr. Atwood's work and the work of such others, that there are two special and separate arguments going on. One is an argument on the commercial side of agriculture and the other deals with what is very often little beyond the subsistence side of Irish agriculture. Certainly, the concerns of those involved in innovative products within an expanding agricultural sector who address the questions such as adequate capital provision are very different from the concerns of others who are interested very often simply in survival.

It is not a criticism of any one Government but of several that very often people involved in that second category of survival have found themselves in great difficulty as the emphasis has swung from one agricultural product to another, almost without any policy determination. They and the people who have advised them, the agricultural advisers, have asked for longer term planning. It is difficult to predict and supply this in many ways, given the present state of the European market. It would have been, and is, possible to have some kind of indicative product targets which would have assisted such farmers and such advisers. I do not want to talk only of Galway, but I live there and have had meetings with agricultural officers, with staff of institutes involved and with farmers. The point that was borne home to me from all these meetings was that the agricultural adviser will find himself or herself more and more gathering money to justify his or her activities. I asked one person how this worked out on the ground. They more or less had one rule of thumb that you would make one call and if the charge was not forthcoming you would not go back. The fact of the matter is that the projected impact of the cuts, for example, affecting the new merged body and the changed nature of the delivery of services will be that an enormous number of people will be deprived of services that they were previously getting.

We must ask ourselves what our responsibility is as legislators in this regard. There has been a plethora of studies, particularly in relation to the 12 western counties. That is one of the reasons for my rising to speak in this debate. That consistent research has pointed to three separate sets of factors that change the nature of agricultural production in such countries and make them different from the rest of the country.

The first of these is in relation to soils. We have heard something of this from the previous speaker. The second is in relation to the structural manner in which farms are held. The farms are fragmented and parts are often remote from each other and so on. The third is in relation to economic factors — production on a scale that does not make possible economies of scale. Production is very often in low volumes, not bringing benefit as does for example large scale milk production in Munster. The fourth and perhaps most important point in relation to the 12 western counties is that Professor Scully, in his day, drew attention to such matters as the educational take-up of those registered as owners of farms. Thankfully that has changed quite dramatically in recent times, but what has not changed is the basic age structure.

In the 12 western counties there are a number of very elderly people in whom the farms are registered and there are also people who have particular difficulties in relation to handing on their farms. There have been several attempts at addressing the question of the social structure of agriculture in the west of Ireland, but the measures have not been successful. No less than three provisions implementing different European funding, addressed these problems, trying to assist transition in farm ownership from those who were elderly to those who might be more productive but those have not been successful, by and large. There is a definitive work in this regard, that of Professor Michael Cuddy on the operation of the structural directives of the Community and their impact on west of Ireland agriculture.

If we are going to talk about enhancing incomes, about a revised regional policy and about integrated rural development programmes and off-farm opportunities, it is a time for more advice rather than less, for more research and for more social research supplementing the basic physical research and so on. Let us be in no doubt about what is taking place. There have been immense cuts in what has been proposed for agriculture. The cuts are devastating in terms of their effects. What we are dealing with in many cases is a new agency which is taking over the functions of two others but which is shedding 50 per cent of its staff. It is also operating on a very considerable cut budget. How can we meet the demand for new products at the top end of the consumer of agricultural research services, be it in terms of the conditions in which the product will emerge or in terms of marketing or of the infrastructural divisions for market access and so forth in that commercial centre for which I have expressed goodwill, if we are not going to supply many tens of thousands more people from farms at the survival end of agriculture? How can we justify a massive cut in the research budget, a massive reduction in the number of research workers, a contraction in advisory services, and the removal of advisory and research services from any farmers other than those who can afford to pay them?

The Minister will appreciate that this is an argument I made before on the Estimates. The effect of conducting the dissemination of agricultural research and information on a market model has meant that it will be skewed in relation to the consumption of such services. Many people working within the service, faced with redundancies, see this already and they have decided to leave and sell their services privately to the more commercialised end of agriculture. That is little less than tragic. While it is possible in the short term to see some sectoral advantages if such displacement of resources resulted in innovations that were successfully marketed, it would mean a net employment impact on agriculture at farming level, at advisory level and at research level that would be little less than disastrous.

The most contentious statement made by a Minister for Agriculture in the history of this House was probably that of the Minister's predecessor, Mr. Paddy Hogan who said——

I thought you were going to say Deputy Austin Deasy.

No, I prefer to be very ecumenical and go right back. Mr. Paddy Hogan said he would help the man who helped himself, more or less, and that the devil could take the other fellow. He put the emphasis on the strong farmer and the potentially strong farmer. Every Minister for Agriculture since then has been paying lip service to the notion of the potentially viable small farmer.

An absolute furore was created in the country when there were various definitions as to the size of a viable farm. I remember them clearly but the fact is that the impact of this proposed legislation is effective abandonment of many thousands of small farmers. That is their fear and it is well based. It is also the fear of those who work in the services. Their remarks to me have been very clear. At a meeting in Athenry I was asked if I could imagine what would happen and how many calls advisers would make compared to what they made now if they had to collect between £5,000 and £7,000 a year in charges. The advisers were clearly of one mind. There would be many thousands of farmers, perhaps one-third of all the farmers of County Galway who would now be deprived of services. It is not correct to use research and advice funded by the public purse in a way that is entirely determined by one part of the market. It would be much better, rather than having charges, to bring farmers up to the level of productivity so that when they passed an income threshold they could be taxed fairly like everybody else who earns an income. That would be a much more equitable and acceptable way of addressing the question of taxing farm incomes for example.

In considering the reaction to the proposed legislation that has been communicated to us from farming organisations, from the staff, from their trade unions, I was impressed by one aspect of the argument which was that people wanted to retain research and saw the merit of there being an increasing allocation for research. It is said in theProgramme for National Recovery that we are hoping to gain employment from the food industry. I support that strategy. For far too long we have, in losing value-added, lost the employment potential from many of our primary products in agriculture. For example, taking the 12 western counties, only a few years ago close to 70 per cent of total production was being exported without any value-added gains whatsoever. In other words the 12 counties that were contributing most to emigration were exporting the capacity for job creation in the food industry.

I warn that there is no possibility for a food industry to which all farmers might contribute and which would not be limited to the top end of commercial farmers, if the Bill goes ahead in its present form. A way out for the Minister in relation to the merged bodies would have been to say that he was protecting the research and advisory functions in a very definite way within the new organisation. The Minister might reply that he has done this, but all I can say is that the practitioners and the consumers of the services feel that he has not done so. On looking at the case I feel it is difficult to see how the Minister can say that that function has been protected, when there will be only half the number of staff and so much less public provision made for it. It is very interesting to think of the other counties.

There are positive aspects which should also be referred to. Too often I listen to people in this House attacking public servants. I want to place on record my admiration for public servants, particularly the agricultural advisers and researchers. The advisory service in County Mayo have trained 1,066 farmers through the 100 hour EC programmes; 2,000 are receiving an intensive advisory service and 6,000 are receiving specialised advisory services while 4,700 young farmers are currently being trained in ACOT's certificate in farming programme nationally. Young people who want to look forward to a future in farming, who want to live in rural Ireland and who are interested in getting advice in relation to agriculture are the very people we will be building our integrated rural development programmes around because they have shown themselves to be open to the kind of skills, preparation and professionalism that will be required in agricultural production in a new era.

To be very specific on a general point I made, the allocation to the new advisory and research service is, on paper, 44 per cent of last year's allocation.

Debate adjourned.