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.