I move that the Bill be read a Second Time. The principal reason for the introduction of this Bill is to give the Minister power to suspend the provisions known as the maize meal mixture. There were at least three or four Acts passed by the Oireachtas since 1933, dealing with cereals. When the original Act was passed in 1933, provision was made for the mixing of home-grown grain with maize in order to absorb a certain amount of barley and oats on hands at the time. Before that Act came into operation there had been an arrangement with the millers under which barley and oats were mixed with maize. The necessity for that was that many farmers at that time—in 1932-33 —were doubtful of their ability to grow wheat as a cash crop, and had continued to grow oats and barley in excess of their own requirements. A tariff had been imposed in Great Britain against the importation of oats and barley, which made it very difficult to find a market for it here; and we had to get some way of absorbing the oats and barley on hands. This scheme of mixing with maize was adopted. I do not know if any other scheme was suggested at the time for the absorption of this grain.
When the Act came into operation in May, 1933, the percentage was raised from 10 per cent. to 15 per cent., and in July to 25 per cent. It was again raised in October, to 33? per cent. The percentage went on increasing for some time, and reached the peak point in December, 1935, when it stood at 50 per cent. Then, in October of the following year, it began to decline, and has been going down since. Taking the average for the past two years, the average percentage of oats and barley in the maize meal mixture has been a fraction over 14 per cent. To give some idea of the problem that we had to contend with at that time, I may say that, before these abnormal conditions arose, there were roughly about 1,000,000 cwts. of barley sold each year in this part of Ireland, and 1,600,000 cwts. of oats. As well as that, about 900,000 cwts. of oats were exported. As I have said, the export of oats was made very difficult at the end of 1932, owing to a tariff. Other ways of absorbing barley and oats remained: a certain amount of barley was taken by the maltsters, and a certain amount of oats was taken by the oat-meal millers for human food and by people who had horses—race-horses—and so on. On that basis there were about 50,000 acres of barley and 125,000 acres of oats grown for sale, taking the average of the ten years before 1932.
We may assume that the same amount of barley was absorbed through the ordinary channels, and roughly the same amount of oats—except that there was no oats exported during those six or seven years since 1932. In addition to the normal absorption of barley and oats, the maize meal mixture accounted for about 300,000 cwts.; that is, the average over the six years would be about 300,000 cwts. of oats and barley absorbed through the maize meal mixture scheme. That has gone down considerably. In 1938, for instance, that figure was reduced to something under half in both oats and barley.
The question would naturally be asked whether the scheme conferred any particular benefit on the grain growers besides absorbing their grain. It did also in the way of price. The only good comparison we can get with regard to price is to take the yearly average price of oats in, say, the North of Ireland and the Twenty-Six Counties. Taking that average, we find that our farmers got 2/9 per cwt. more for their oats than the Northern Ireland farmers in 1933. In 1934 they got 1/7 more; in 1935, 1/6 more; in 1936, 2/- more; and in 1937, 1/2 more. I have not yet succeeded in getting the Northern Ireland figure for 1938, but I believe the margin is somewhat less than for 1937. The next question is whether the legislation passed in 1933 actually had the effect of increasing tillage. In 1938, we had 160,000 acres under cereals more than we had in 1931. The acreage of wheat was up by 210,000; barley was up by 2,000; and oats down by 52,000 acres.
There is another basis with regard to the cash value of these cereal crops. As I have mentioned, a certain amount of oats and barley was disposed of for sale for the ten years, 1922 to 1932, and the average cash value of these sales to the farmers was about £1,000,000, taking the value of barley at 7/- per cwt. and oats at 5/6 per cwt. During the years 1932 and 1933, when the scheme for the increase of cereal crops came into operation, the cash receipts of our farmers amounted to almost £2,000,000 each year, and, since then, that is, for the years 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938, the cash value has been something in excess of £3,000,000 each year. In addition to these receipts, I should mention that there is very much more wheat grown by farmers for their own use. It is not easy to be exact as to the figure, but as against the average yield of wheat in the year, we know how much wheat is taken by the flour millers and we can make a very fair estimate of the amount used for seed because we know the amount imported and the amount of land sown with wheat. Making due allowance for all these things, there must be about 60,000 acres of wheat now used by farmers in their own households.
I have already, in various announcements, made it known that it was my intention to suspend the maize meal mixing scheme at the end of this present cereal year, that is, at the end of August. In order to do that a Bill is necessary because, under the legislation, some percentage must be prescribed. Although the scheme has. I believe, conferred benefits on the grain growers, I think we can now suspend the mixture without creating any great hardship, because, in the first place, over each of the last three or four years, less and less barley and oats were offered for sale to the maize millers. During the last year, it was very little over 10 per cent. In the second place, the price realised now by the grain growers who have oats and barley for sale is not very much higher than it would be on a free market, where a certain amount can be exported and a certain amount used by millers in the ordinary way, as they will use it, if they get it at a certain price. The third point is that wheat is now recognised by all as a good alternative cash crop, and I think we can take it from the statements of the various political Parties that whatever Government came into power, the wheat scheme would be continued, so that the farmers may have the assurance that it is a permanent policy.
There is, of course, opposition to this proposal which I am making in this Bill, and there is naturally a conflict of opinion between the grain growing farmers and the feeding farmers. The grain growers are anxious to have an assured market for their grain but, on the other hand, the farmers who buy feeding stuffs are anxious to have a free market in which they can buy feeding stuffs at the lowest possible price. The whole question for us is to make up our minds as to what is the fairest thing in the circumstances and whether we should still continue to give the grain growers this assured market while, at the same time, making feeding stuffs at least a little dearer. They are not, so far as we can find out from maize millers and so on, very much dearer now than they would be if there was a free market, but, at least, they are somewhat dearer than they would be if the whole maize-meal mixture scheme were withdrawn.
We do not like to contemplate, and I am sure that nobody in the Seanad would like to contemplate, a further decline in the acreage under oats, and if that decline were to continue I think we should have to consider some alternative scheme, if we were not compelled to consider bringing back again the maize-meal mixture scheme. If the Bill goes through, the necessary Order under the Bill would not be made until about the end of August, and if any alternative scheme were suggested in the meantime I should be very glad to consider it. If any Senator, or group of Senators, were keen on a reconsideration of this matter, they might even perhaps ask the Commission on Agriculture to go into the matter and hear what they think about it.
With regard to barley, the millers, I believe, will continue to buy barley so that they may turn out barley meal for feeding. In Northern Ireland, a fair amount of barley is being turned out, and I think the millers here would be inclined to do the same thing. Of course, they will require that barley at a price which they consider economic as compared with the price of maize, but I hope it may be possible to carry on business, to some extent at any rate, on those lines, because whatever objection may be raised to the maize-mixture scheme by some Senators—and I am sure there are Senators who are against it—every Senator who has gone into the matter deeply will admit that the quality of our bacon has improved as a result of the feeding of barley in the mixture to pigs, and it is feared that if we drop barley and oats completely as feeding stuffs for our pigs the quality of our bacon will deteriorate. I, therefore, hope it may be possible for the millers to continue to turn out barley meal, as such, apart altogether from the maize-meal mixture.
Having mentioned the general object of the Bill, I think it necessary that I should say something about the sections because there are quite a lot of references to the various Acts, and it is not easy for a Senator, without considerable research, to find out what exactly is meant by each section. Under Section 2, the definition of a compound feeding stuff is being changed, and the effect of it is that, in future, animal medicines which do not contain any feeding stuffs as one of their ingredients will no longer be a compound feeding stuff for the purposes of the Act. It has been found, in practice, almost impossible to control the manufacture of animal medicines, or to secure that where they are being manufactured by a registered manufacturer they are being made to the formula covered by the licence, and at the approved price. If I might digress for a moment, I might say that, under the original Act, we tried to get at what we considered the abuse of proprietary medicines being sold for animals under a description that was likely to mislead the farmers as to their value, and they were sold at prices very much higher than those at which they should be sold. We tried in the original legislation to get the manufacturers of medicines used for animal feeding to give us the formula and the price. Unless the Department approved of the formula and the price no permit was issued for the manufacture of such medicines. We have found it impossible to administer that provision and we removed it from the Act. We have therefore let these people carry on, and let the farmers take care of themselves.
Section 3 provides for the making of suspension orders. It gives powers which enable the Minister to make the necessary orders to suspend the maize-meal mixture regulations. The first sub-section gives power to suspend the scheme. The second sub-section gives power to reimpose it or to revive it. The third sub-section suspends the registration of maize millers, and the fourth sub-section gives power to revive that register. If the maize—meal mixture is suspended and is no longer necessary, it will be no longer necessary to keep a register of maize millers. Then sub-section (5) makes it clear that it will not be any longer necessary to get a licence on the part of maize millers, so that any farmer or trader will be free to mill it.
Section 4 operates generally in the same manner as Section 3 in regard to the milling of maize. In the 1933 Act, as I have already mentioned with regard to proprietary medicines, we made it compulsory on the manufacturers of compound feeding stuffs here to register and get a licence. They had to disclose to the Department, in confidence, what the composition of the compound feeding stuff was and also the price. Unless the Department was satisfied that the feeding stuff was good and suitable for the animals for which it was advertised and, also, that it was being sold at a fair price, the licence was not issued. Now we are withdrawing that regulation because we think it would be very difficult to continue having these compound feeding stuffs controlled while we are dropping the maize mixture scheme. One reason for that is that it would be necessary to maintain our inspectorial staff, and so on, if we were to continue that. Therefore, we think it is as well to drop it. It will be necessary for the manufacturer of the compound feeding stuff and the retailer who is selling it to produce an analysis giving the amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats under the Act. If there are any frauds found on analysis, the manufacturer will, of course, be subject to severe penalties.