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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 13 Nov 1940

Vol. 24 No. 27

Extension of Farm Improvement Scheme—Motion.

I beg to move the motion standing in my name:—

That the Seanad is of opinion that the scheme for encouraging the improvement of farms (season 1940-41) should be extended to rated occupiers of agricultural land, irrespective of poor law valuation, owned by persons who earn their living solely or mainly by farming.

As a good many of the industrial members of the Seanad may not be thoroughly conversant with the order referred to in the motion, I propose to read it:

"Scheme of grants for encouraging the improvement of farms, season 1940-41.

"The Minister for Agriculture is prepared to make grants for farm improvement works subject to the following conditions:—

"1. The scheme shall apply to all holdings having a poor law valuation on the agricultural land not exceeding £200 and owned by persons who earn their living solely or mainly by farming.

"2. Grants will be payable to rated occupiers for approved improvement works such as (a) field drainage, including improvement and cleaning of watercourses; (b) reclamation, including (i) drainage where necessary and (ii) removal of bushes, scrub, rocks and stones; (c) construction or improvement of fences; (d) improvement of farmyards (excluding buildings), and (e) improvement of farm roadways.

"3. Subject to the limitations mentioned hereafter and to the conditions of the scheme being fulfilled grants shall be equivalent to 50 per cent. of the approved estimated cost of the labour required for improvement works carried out in the season. The approved estimated shall not exceed twice the poor law valuation on the agricultural land, and if an applicant desires to proceed with work requiring a labour cost above that limit the additional labour cost must be borne wholly by himself. In the case of small holdings, however, where the poor law valuation on the agricultural land does not exceed £10, improvement works entailing an estimated labour value of not more than £20 may be approved."

This scheme, I think, has the approval of all parties. It is a constructive, common-sense proposal, and if the Minister will accept my amendment it will be a great boon to all farmers. It will help to relieve unemployment amongst agricultural labourers, and it will greatly increase the productivity of the land. I would like to ask the Minister why he limits the scheme to farms of less than £200 valuation? The prosperity of agriculture does not depend on any one section of the farming community. The farmer of high valuation in Leinster is essential to the prosperity of the small farmer in Connaught and the dairy farmer in Munster. Prosperity of the big farmer means prosperity for every section of the agricultural community, including more employment. For that reason I protest against the limitation which is proposed in this scheme, and I say it is invidious to discriminate between farmers, and that any scheme for the relief of agriculture should include all sections of farmers, and should include the agricultural labourers.

There are many schemes at present in existence for the relief of small farmers or farmers of low valuation. At the present time those farmers are practically derated. They can obtain grants for buildings. In many cases— of course, it does not come under the provisions—they can obtain employment on the roads for themselves and their families at good wages. There are county council schemes under which they can have their children paid for at secondary schools and universities. A good many of those things are paid for directly by the farmers, and the majority of them by the larger farmers who are excluded from the provisions of even those schemes. The big farmers did not complain of those schemes. In fact, they supported and approved them. I believe that a few years ago a big percentage of the farmers, whose case I am now advocating, would reject with scorn the proposals which I am now trying to get the Minister to accept. But times have changed. These big farmers, because of circumstances to which I am not going to allude, but which Senators can easily realise, are financially in a very bad way. The farmers who were the elite of our country are now, in many cases, reduced almost to the position of mendicants.

According to statistics, there are 374,000 rated occupiers of land in this country, and 269,000 are returned as farmers. I suppose that means people whose principal means of livelihood is farming. Of the 269,000, 217,000 are returned as giving no employment, and there are only 52,000 farmers returned as paying employed labour. The number of farmers which this scheme will exclude is less than 3,000. I say that those 3,000 farmers are the people who give most employment, and if the Minister includes them in the scheme it will mean work for perhaps 10,000 agricultural labourers in the slack times. I may point out that 126,400 agricultural labourers, or a good many of them, will be disemployed, particularly this winter, when there will be very little stall-feeding and very little work. To give employment to that number of persons would be of great assistance to the country and, to a certain extent, it will mean a saving of money. At any rate, it will be no loss because of the amount which would have to be given to them if they were on the dole or receiving money in some other form. For that reason I strongly urge the Minister to accept my proposals.

Members of the Government and many others make a great fuss about the bounties, subsidies and grants paid to the farmers, but if those people were honest they would include in their statements something to the effect that the farmers are themselves paying the biggest portion of the bounties, subsidies and grants. But bounties, subsidies and grants will not make agriculture prosperous. All that type of thing is only tinkering with the job. What is wanted more than anything else is working capital or credit, so as to enable farmers to increase production. There is no use in asking a farmer to improve his grass land if he has no money to buy stock to graze it. I saw in the Press recently two interesting statements from distinguished professors of economics. I would like, with the permission of the House, to quote extracts from those statements.

Truth in the news this time.

Professor George O'Brien said: "The intensification of production of all agricultural products is imperatively necessary if Irish farming is to prosper." Senator Johnston, in an article in the same paper, said: "It is a notorious fact that while thousands of farmers are creditors of the banks, thousands of others could make productive use of additional working capital if their credit was such that they could obtain it from any source whatever. The use of such additional working capital would not only increase the output per person occupied in agriculture, but increase its capacity to add to the number of persons so occupied." He went on to say: "Inability to stock the land means loss to the nation as well as to the farmers concerned." Those statements from two such important people are well worthy, I think, of the consideration of the Minister and the House.

I saw another interesting thing in the same paper. It was an advertisement from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. It certainly shows that the directors of the Agricultural Credit Corporation know the necessity for capital amongst the farmers. Here is what the advertisement says: "Good farming needs capital. The farmer who tries to live on his land without using sufficient working capital gets the worst results. Both he and his land become steadily poorer. The good farmer knows that money wisely used gives an abundant return. A long-term loan with a fixed interest rate and regular half-yearly payments is the ideal form of credit for the man who is both enterprising and thrifty. Such a farmer can plan ahead with confidence. With his land in good heart, with good stock, seeds and machinery, he will prosper in bad times as well as good. If you are interested in improving your farming, but are short of the necessary capital, write to:—The Agricultural Credit Corporation, Ltd., 11 Kildare Street, Dublin."

That statement is a perfectly correct statement of facts, but the majority of the farmers look on that advertisement more or less as a joke. They know perfectly well, and so do members of the House, that the Agricultural Credit Corporation are hedged around with restrictions and they are in such a way that they can advance only very small sums of money. If you write to the Agricultural Credit Corporation the first thing you are asked for will be the deeds of your farm. The deeds of the farm are usually held by the joint stock banks, so there is nothing doing. The Agricultural Credit Corporation know perfectly well that they cannot advance any money to farmers. The joint stock banks stick to the deeds. They will give no money themselves and they will not release the deeds to enable the farmers to get money elsewhere.

What about the goods and chattels—are they not accepted as security?

I do not know anything about chattel mortgages, but I think the Agricultural Credit Corporation would not be very anxious about them. They might give some loans for heifers and that sort of thing. The main point is that the farmers cannot, as Senator Johnston pointed out, obtain credit from any source. The farmer is left high and dry. He is becoming poorer and his land is getting steadily poorer, just as is indicated in the advertisement I read. Senator Sir John Keane will possibly tell us that the banks are dealing with floating loans to those farmers who are very short of credit, that they are dealing with them according to plan and they have their own way of doing it.

I should like to tell Senator Keane that they are doing nothing for the decent honest farmer who wants to meet his liabilities. They will certainly meet the farmer whose deeds they have, and who is a debtor to the bank, or who has a Fianna Fáil club, the Farmers' Union, or some other organisation behind him. They will deal reasonably only with the man who will tell them to go to hell if they do not take his terms. There is no question about that. People have come to me from all parts of the country and that is their complaint.

The decent farmer who is embarrassed through no fault of his own, but as a result of Government policy, and who is now in the position that he cannot work his land, find stock or capital from any source whatever, is held up. There has been quite a lot of talk in the Seanad, in the Dáil and in the Press about credit for farmers and the necessity of releasing frozen loans, but nothing has been done. Is it not time that something was done to stop all this talk? I suggest to the Minister that he might set up a commission, even a Parliamentary commission, composed of people like Senator Professor Johnston, Senator O'Dwyer, a few Deputies from the Dáil, like Deputy Dillon and Deputy Childers, and a few banking representatives, such as Senator Sir John Keane and Senator Quirke, to represent the moneyed element. The Minister could also appoint his secretary, Mr. Twomey, to take part in the conference. I am perfectly certain that, if that were done, in the course of a week or two the commission would report to the Minister and an agreed scheme would be submitted.

The Senator has forgotten the man who has no money. Should he not be represented?

The Agricultural Credit Corporation will see to that. I do not want to take up the time of the House unduly, but I would appeal to the Minister to consider my motion. The people whose claims I am advocating are small in number; they number less than 3,000. If, however, he considers that to meet the motion in full would involve too great an expenditure, I would appeal to him to put these people on the same basis as those whose farms are under the £200 valuation and give them the amount to which they would be entitled, if their valuations were under £200. I hope he will accede to that request, at all events.

Mr. McEllin rose.


Is the Senator seconding the motion?

No. I rise to suggest that the House might, with the permission of Senator Baxter, who has also a motion on the Order Paper, take the two motions together.


The motions are on different subjects. The results would be the same in any case. There will have to be different speeches on each motion, and it would not save time to take them together.

I formally second the motion proposed by Senator Counihan. It is inexplicable to me why the Minister did not embrace the whole agricultural community in this scheme. The number of farmers with valuations of £200 and over is very few, but the great majority of farmers in that category are in very straitened circumstances. They also have suffered most severely as a result of the economic war. I am perfectly sure there is not a Senator who is not aware of the fact that a number of those for whom we solicit consideration time and again by the Land Commission come under that category. These people have to meet commitments to public bodies, and they have always given much employment, though perhaps not so much in later years as formerly. I have several cases in mind, but particularly the case of a man whose valuation is well over £200. He gives employment to about 30 men. He came to my house last night and said that if he could avail of this grant he would be prepared to expend £1,000 in giving employment. It would enable him to give very considerable employment in the drainage of land which, in present circumstances, he is unable to undertake. His rates are in the region of £300, and he pays both his moieties together in order to help the local public bodies. That man is precluded from carrying out some very necessary reclamation and drainage work, because no assistance is given to him under this scheme. Yesterday morning seven farmers came to me. I had been telling them that I would get some forms and make some inquiries when in Dublin in connection with these schemes. I arranged with them to fill the forms, one of which is in the hands of Senator Counihan. These men are going to carry out a drainage scheme in a bog land area which they own in common. That scheme will release a very large quantity of water from bogs which otherwise would not be drained. The water, when released, will flow on to the lands of a man who has 250 acres of land in the immediate vicinity but in the lower reaches. The owner of that land is precluded by the terms of this scheme from taking any advantage of it whereas definite facilities are given to the seven or eight smaller farmers whose flood waters will flow in over his land.

I think it is unfair and inequitable that men who are meeting their public commitments but whose valuation happens to be over the £200 limit and who in the main give much more employment than the smaller farmers, who rely principally on the members of their own family to provide necessary labour, should be excluded from this scheme. The man who came to me last night is prepared, as I have stated, to spend £1,000 and to employ about 80 men on drainage work if he is allowed to avail of the advantages of the scheme. I would appeal to the Minister that this particular section of the agricultural community, who are giving greater employment than can be provided in the smaller farms, should be taken within the ambit of the scheme. While we welcome any of these schemes, I say with all respect that it is tinkering with the whole question to exclude any section from the advantages of them. There is no doubt that the agricultural community are in straitened circumstances, and I speak as one with a very close and intimate knowledge of the agricultural community in my county. To give you an idea of the conditions this year, the Limerick County Council made it a part of the duties of the warble fly inspectors to make an exact return of all the cattle on every farm. We know that the inspectors have to examine every beast to see that it is not affected by the warble fly. The council insisted that they should take an inventory of every four-footed beast on every farm, which meant that when the returns were compiled we had exactly the number and the kind of beasts in the county. Compared with the previous year, in my county, an agricultural and dairy county, there has been a reduction of 42,000 cattle. What is the explanation of that? You can be thinking what the explanation is while I give you some more statistics. In a certain creamery not far from where Senator O'Dwyer lives, one of the most important in one of the richest dairy counties, there was a reduction of 225,000 gallons of milk in 1939 as compared with 1938. Again, you will ask yourself the question, why? In another creamery quite close to me there have been 3,000 fewer gallons of milk per day than in the year before. Naturally, you will say that that is perhaps due to the vagaries of the weather, to the excessive heat and to the fact that there was less grass. That may have played some part in it, but in this particular creamery district the effect was not felt until September. In the same creamery in 1940, as against 1939, there were 141,000 fewer gallons of milk. What is the reason of that? You have 42,000 fewer cattle, you have a reduction in the gallons of milk supplied, a reduction of 225,000 gallons in the case of one creamery, while the overhead expenses continue the same and must be borne by the smaller quantity of milk received. All that reacts on the farmer.

I stated in this House about 12 months ago, and I reiterate it now, that if you travel from Clondalkin to Ballydehob, you will find many farmers—and this is the cause of all this—with 15 or 18 cows, five or six of which are "duds," strippers in other words. We have the disease of abortion in cattle, which I am sure the Department is seriously taking in hands. I can give half-a-dozen instances of farmers in my district who have 15 or 16 cows of which five or six would be "duds." They are ashamed to send them to the Roscrea factory because they are not able to buy other cattle, and they would have to admit to neighbours that they are completely broken. The result is that they keep the 15 or 18 cows which are not equal to ten cows. That is the explanation.

As Senator Counihan has indicated, one of the things that must be grappled with is the question of a national land loan. I have been talking to quite a number of creamery managers. They say: "The present Government have retained the land annuities, but they have forgotten all about the promises they made." I remember that at that time some of their leaders pointed out that they would retain the land annuities and give derating, and that they would accommodate the agricultural community. Now, I understand that part of the annuities which is retained in the Central Fund is devoted to central administration, a good thing in itself. But a number of farmers say that a portion of that one-and-a-half millions should be lent to the farmers at an easy interest through the creameries, with the creameries acting as intermediaries for the collection of it and as guarantors for the repayment of the money. Undoubtedly, something will have to be done. If you read the statistical returns given a week or ten days ago with regard to the payment of rates in the Twenty-Six Counties this year as compared with last year you will find that there has been no improvement. We have great difficulty this year in forcing our collectors to try to get in the first moiety of the rates. At the present moment only about five or six of our collectors have closed their collection of the first moiety. I want to try to represent the position as it appears to us, as if I were sitting in the county council down the country. Something really must be done. Last week the Minister for Agriculture, speaking in the Dáil, admitted that the farmers were badly off, but he said they had been badly off for the last 20 years.

The Minister appears to accept that condition of affairs as incurable; he seems to have no remedy for it. His policy seems to be "Let the patient suffer, and let the patient die". That is apparently the attitude of the Government to the agricultural community at the moment. What a complete change that represents when you think of the things that we heard 12 years ago. I remember a remarkable speech made by the Taoiseach about 1927, when agriculture was normally good and when taxation was nothing like it is to-day.

Prices were lower in 1927.

I think it was on the 3rd February, 1927. Speaking then, the Taoiseach said: "That agriculture is our chief industry is not questioned; that it represents two or three times as much of the national wealth as all other industries combined everyone knows. It ought not to be difficult to realise then that when agriculture is depressed the whole standard of living of the community is pulled down with it. If you succeed in finding a remedy, in rescuing the farmer, you rescue, not the farmer alone but the whole country.""The evils," he continued, "we are suffering from are the result of human action. There is nothing of the hand of God in them. The farmer's welfare"—I am giving it ex parte—“is the nation's welfare, and the nation's welfare is the farmer's.” We are told, departmentally, that of the total population of this country, returned as at work, more than half are engaged in agriculture and altogether more than two-thirds of the entire population are dependent on that industry and on its success. Now, not in my lifetime was the purchasing power of the farmer as low as it is to-day, and there is one thing that I notice, after my 30 years being associated with them and being a fairly large farmer myself: it is the first time that I have noticed, the last 12 months or two years, that they are losing heart. That is a bad thing. They are losing heart. They see no hope. Every politician and every Senator and every Deputy—we are all proclaiming from the house-tops what we will do to relieve the economic condition of the agricultural community, but very little is being done. That is a lamentable state of affairs, and if the Government had pursued a sensible, rational policy, that condition of things—and I say it with all respect— would not have transpired.

We can get millions for everything— millions to feed the white elephants of Mr. MacEntee's industries, millions to buy guns, and millions to buy everything, but the very smallest sums are provided to keep alive the basic industry of the country, upon the prosperity of which, the Taoiseach says, the whole stability and economics of this State must rely. I am safe, I think, in suggesting that not a fraction of the time and trouble and expense of ransacking Europe and America for arms, as the Taoiseach boasted——

On a point of order, Sir, what has all this got to do with the motion before the House?

It is not a point of order.


I do not think any question of order arises. The Senator is quite entitled to make the point he is making.

He is entitled to speak of arms and the national policy of the country on this motion?


It is a fair argument.

That is a stupid decision, I say with all respect.

If the Senator had waited to hear the end of the sentence, he might see that I was perfectly in order, and I suggest that he ought then to read more of procedure.

You are doing more harm than good.

That is your opinion.


The Senator may proceed.

I say that if the same care and energy and initiative that were obviously devoted to the securing of arms and these other things all over Europe and America were directed to securing for the farmers a store of superphosphates which would be beneficial and reproductive, and which would help them to meet their commitments and the commitments that are accruing as a result of the increasing taxation imposed by the Government, the country would be much more benefited.

Shove up the white flag.

If the economics of this country collapse through the ruin of agriculture, I do not see what need we have to worry about defending ourselves against foreign aggression, because the farmer will have very little left to defend. I do not want to delay the time of the House, but I make this appeal to the Minister, and I say that we welcome any assistance and help, even of an ex parte kind, that is coming to the agricultural community. I say that it is obviously unfair, inequitable and unjust that that section of the people, who are extremely few in numbers but who are a section of the people who give very considerable employment and continuing employment, should not be given whatever advantages are to be had from this legislation. They are of that section of the people, the bulk of whom, on every occasion when we appealed to them for public funds, because their commitments were heavy and the exactions of county councils on them were very large, responded and paid up cheques to meet the situation and help us to carry on public institutions. Now, when a little opportunity comes along that accommodates 99.9 per cent. of the agricultural community, the one section of that community who are using their land with the maximum results are excluded from its advantages. I say that if they have the advantage, like other farmers, of the agricultural grants they should equally have the advantage of this. I have cited a specific case, and I have written, documentary authority to speak here now, of a certain gentleman in my county, who would drain about 60 acres of land, if he got the advantage of this scheme, and would employ about 80 men, whereas, without it, he fails to see why he should do so.

While not agreeing with many of the arguments advanced by the previous speakers, I think there is a good deal to recommend this motion to the consideration of the Minister. The principal argument I see in its favour is that the grant, if it were given in the case of the larger farmers, would be wholly employed in the payment of labour, which might not be so in the case of the smaller farmers. It might not be generally known that in parts of the country there is a very large population of agricultural labourers, and that there is great unemployment amongst this class. Their employment on the land is only at certain intervals during the year, and their principal means of existence is the work they get on the roads or on relief grants or from the dole. Anything that would bring about an increase in employment for this class of people would be very desirable.

I do not think it would make any great difference if this thing were extended to cover all valuations, because, as the mover of the motion has suggested, the amount of the grant, even in the case of the larger farms, might be limited to the grant that would be given for the £200 valuation; so that would not account for much of the money, but it would undoubtedly bring about a great increase in employment. I should like, therefore, to appeal to the Minister to see if it would be possible to accept the principle of the motion.

I did not intend to enter into this discussion at all, but I could not keep on accepting bouquets from Senator Counihan without expressing my thanks. I have been accused of all kinds of things, both here and outside the House, for a good number of years, but for the first time I have been accused of being one of the people with a terrible lot of money. However, perhaps that is all to the good. I think Senator Counihan and other speakers have completely missed the point of this particular legislation. One after another they have worked themselves into a frenzy because certain things were not done—pointing out that, if they were done, it would create an enormous amount of employment. My reading of it is that the primary object of the legislation is to improve the land. After that would come the question of employment. We are all definitely interested in this question of employment and we should like to see everything being done that could be done to ensure that a greater number of people would be employed on the land. To begin with, however, I do not know what the position is with regard to applications for this particular money, but there is an end to it, and it is quite possible that the money would not go round. If there were only a limited amount of money to be distributed for this particular purpose I think it is quite natural that an attempt should be made to do the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people.

Senator Counihan speaks about the difficulties of obtaining credit. I do not want to get into a discussion on that matter at all, but I would like to say that any amount of loans are being made by the Credit Corporation, by other bodies, and by numerous banks, on chattel mortgage and that sort of security. I believe there is plenty of room for an extension of that business by the banks and by other similar concerns. Senator Counihan made a great case, from his point of view, for this particular type of grants in order to help farmers. After making that plea he got to the stage of saying that Government grants would not make farmers prosperous. I do not like to hear a speaker contradicting himself within the space of a few minutes in that way. The point is that the intention of the Department of Agriculture and of the Government was to improve land.

If that was the intention, surely the help should go where farms are poorest. Some two-thirds of the people here are living on one-third of the land, having holdings with a poor law valuation of over £100. The poor law valuation of these holdings is two and a half times greater than the valuation of holdings under £20. That shows that the land on smaller holdings is in most need of improvement. I cannot agree that any reasonable argument was put up for including holdings over £200 valuation as against the smaller holdings. If there is sufficient money to go round, I am in favour of extending the scheme, but if not, and if the small farmers refuse to accept the grants to improve their land and give employment, then I see nothing against doing so. Until that has been proved, then I say the policy laid down originally was the sanest policy from the point of view of farming conditions.

Senator Madden, I am sorry to say, became quite excited, but he was also wide of the question. He spoke about the energy that was put into the purchase of arms, and said it was a shame that the same energy was not put into the purchase of artificial manures. I am quite sure Senator Madden would not seriously object to the purchasing of arms, nor would any farmers, seeing that these arms were purchased to protect the people, and if farmers are not the principal people in this country I do not know what I am talking about. The purchase of arms was absolutely justified, and I doubt if Senator Madden, or anyone else, would have the courage to stand on a public platform and say that such a policy was not justified. It is the only hope we have at present, and we thank God that such energy and enthusiasm were put into that work. It is because that was done we are in a position which otherwise might have been different.

Coming to the question of manures, I ask Senator Madden if he could tell me the name of one farmer who could not get phosphates last year. I do not know one. I go all over the country, and come into contact with many farmers, and I do not know one farmer who failed to get phosphates. Senator Madden referred to the employment given on one big farm near where he lives. I am quite prepared to accept the Senator's statement, but surely he will not suggest that that instance is typical of the country as a whole, or that more employment is given on big farms than on small ones. If the Senator looks at the statistics—and he seems to be pretty well armed in that respect—he will find that the employment given on small farms, those under £100 poor law valuation, would be several times greater than on holdings over £200 poor law valuation. Senator Counihan gave some figures which on examination would really make my case. In my opinion it is not altogether a question of the employment given, but of the number of people being supported on a certain type of farm. I believe the smaller farms support more people, more cattle, more pigs, and more hens than the bigger holdings.

The reasonable thing to do in any legislation of this kind is to try to bring about a situation whereby the greatest number of people will benefit. I believe that many things could be done, and I am quite prepared to join in a reasonable argument or in reasonable criticism of the Minister for Agriculture. I put forward various things from time to time, but the Minister turned them down, just as he turned down Senator Counihan's proposal. It is only right to point out that in a debate of this kind the principal thing that might affect agriculture here under present circumstances is completely overlooked. What is really affecting agriculture here to-day is that it has been over mechanised and over commercialised. If we allow agriculture to become the slave of the machine there is going to be a very serious situation.

We had many references to protection. I am very much in favour of protection for industries, and for everything else, but I believe we should start at the base, if we are going to make it a success, by having protection for farmers and security for farming before anything else. What I am getting at is the tendency of allowing farming to become a question of machinery. If so, we might as well import our wheat or baked bread as to allow farmers to be dependent on outside sources of supply for tractors, parts of tractors, or for fuel for tractors. We have plenty of horses and men in the country, but if the present situation is allowed to continue we will get to the stage when ploughmen will not be available, as they will be gone like the thatcher to New York and elsewhere.

I believe that a good deal could be done along such lines, and I am surprised that Senator Counihan did not suggest a scheme to provide useful farm horses. Something could be done in that way by the Department, by the purchase of brood mares of a special type, and I suggest that they should be bought with chattel mortgages as security, so that they could not be sold afterwards. There is no danger that they could be sold at present, but a time might come when they would be sold. In that way we would have here a stock of horses produced for use within the country. You would have these horses available for transport in case of a shortage of petrol and the forage for keeping these horses going in towns and cities.

On a point of order, is this relevant to the motion?


Not if it is developed at great length.

I thought that Senator MacDermot was very interested in my speech.


It is possible for it to be interesting without being relevant.

I could see the Senator's ears cocked, but immediately I got on to the question of horses I saw his interest lessening. This question of allowing farmers to be controlled by machinery is more serious than anything else. I believe that anything that would be done along the lines of rescuing the farmers from the machine would be a step in the right direction. There were various other things which might be done, but the peculiar thing is that all the criticism was destructive criticism. We did not hear one useful suggestion.

We suggested that grants be given.

But there was no argument for the grants. All the argument was that the grants be made available to a few people who happened to have been excluded.

Precisely. That is constructive.

I should be very much surprised if the Minister showed any objection to giving out money to farmers.

Hear, hear!

We should be sensible, and realise that the important thing is to give the help where it is most needed, and that is amongst the farmers far below the £200 poor law valuation, even those around the £100 mark.

Mr. Johnston

I should like to give way to Senator Fitzgerald and speak afterwards.

I do not wish to delay the House from hearing Senator Johnston. Senator Quirke was sound in one or two points but did not realise that his premises reached the opposite conclusion to the one he wanted to draw. I cannot follow him on the question of brood mares because we are dealing here with a specific resolution which relates to and presupposes a certain order made by the Government.

Senator Counihan did not deal with it.

I am dealing with Senator Quirke at the moment, and hope to deal with the motion later. He quite rightly said that the primary object of this Government scheme is not specifically to give employment, but that employment is only a means to an end which is enriching the land from a productive point of view. There he was quite right. He then goes on to say that, therefore, the money should be spent on the poorer land— as though it were proved. Obviously, if the purpose is to increase the productive quality of the land, then the money should be spent preferably and primarily in a way that will, for the same value of money, give a greater increase in production of land. I think the Senator would have been quite right if he followed on those lines.

The resolution is perfectly clear. The Government has proposed a scheme for giving money to farmers. I always objected to the whole population being mulcted to put money into the pockets of one section of the community, but there could be good reason for that. If the object of the Government scheme is to pauperise farmers, why do they choose farmers of one valuation and exclude others? If the Government is saying we must hand money over out of the public purse to farmers, that to me is just the same as drawing the dole or getting outdoor relief; but there can be another reason, and I think that is that the Government recognise that, while that land belongs to the farmers and while the fruits of that land belong to the farmer to dispose of beneficially for himself and his family, his labour and energy on that land to make it productive are of primary importance in their application to the interests of farmers in general.

The Government proposed this scheme because it is calculated to improve the position of the people as a whole. It is a vital part of our whole national economy. Therefore, although under the scheme the Government is giving money to the private owners of land to be spent on improving that land, while the owners of that land will still own the land afterwards with the improved quality that will inhere in it after spending the money, that is justifiable and the money is not being given as a dole to poor people who cannot live without assistance drawn from the public purse. It is given because the money will be spent and the fruits of that spending will extend to the whole community and be for the national good. That is the ground of the argument. Accepting Senator Quirke on that point, why should one section of farmers be excluded? It is not, as he says, a question of labour. That is not the primary point. It is for the national good, for the whole economic position of this country, to make the whole of the land more productive.

Senator Quirke says that a very large amount of the land belongs to the larger owners. I am not going to argue that point, as I have not got the figures and, therefore, could not discuss it, but if that is so, the Government is taxing us town dwellers on the grounds that money is going to be spent to make this vital and overwhelming national industry more productive for the material enrichment of this country, and the Government is now arbitrarily selecting the smaller section and excluding the larger section. You cannot distinguish between the smaller farmers and the big farmers in this country, unless you are going to say that this is really a cover to save the faces of the smaller farmers who want a dole but do not want that to be known. I do not think that is the Government's scheme.

If there is a man who owns X acres and pays on a rateable valuation of over £100 a year, and the production of that land can be extended by draining a certain portion of it, what does the Government do? As far as I know it, the scheme is—I do not pretend to have my details too correct—that the Government will pay half the cost of the initial labour for improving the quality of the land. It will do the same in regard to the small farmer who, with his sons, may do the whole labour. In the case of the bigger land unit, presumably, labour will have to be employed. I agree with Senator Quirke that the purpose of this is not primarily to give employment, but to increase the production of our whole nation. But this scheme is not a dole to poor wretched farmers who cannot keep body and soul together without assistance. They are not beholden to the State in receiving it, as that money is given to them to be used in a certain way, in which they will benefit, but in which the whole country will benefit also. Therefore, it seems to be an arbitrary proposal of the Government to exclude certain people. If the Government is giving half the cost of the labour to the small farmer, on the ground that it is money well spent in the national interest, then they should do it in the case of the large farmer also. The money will be well spent. Not so long ago the Minister told us the way to get rich quickly was to kill calves, but I do not want to go over the seamy past.

I will have to reply to that.

It was only said in passing. It can be expunged completely.

I will insist on replying to it, as it was only said for a political motive. It was an attempt to be rather smart.

There is a theory in this country that the world was suffering from over-production. It was really suffering from over-consumption and from insufficient and ill-regulated production. The best economic proposal for this country is one which will increase real production, that is to say, increase the human value of production—deducting what I might call the cost of production from the value of the produced article. It seems to me that the Government would have been very well advised to proceed with the scheme on that basis. A lot of land here is poorly productive and, with drainage or in some other way, it could be made more productive and that would increase the capital asset of the land. Under this scheme, as far as I remember it, the owner has to pay for or provide half the labour for this capital expenditure on improving the land, and the Government pays the other half. It seems to me that, if you justify the scheme at all on the grounds that Senator Quirke quite rightly put forward—the improvement of the production quality of the whole land of the country—then what is good for the small farmer is equally good for the large farmer. I think that Senator Counihan has made a very sound proposal. I agree that the Government, for one reason or another, might be able to put up an argument against it. They may have other ends in mind than the end that Senator Quirke, I think, has in mind. I have not worked out what the cost of carrying out what is proposed by Senator Counihan would amount to, but if the money is available then, as I said earlier to-day, to spend money on a purpose which is going to increase the annual wealth of the country hereafter is, I think, worth while. What I always object to is the spending of capital money and of borrowing on the future, not to improve conditions as a whole for the future, but merely to spend the money now and possibly leave a greater burden on the people afterwards.

Senator Quirke has already made some of the statements that I had proposed to make against the motion. I want to say on my own behalf that I was amazed at some of the statements made by Senator Counihan in proposing the motion. To my mind, he did not put forward one single argument in favour of his proposal. He talked at random about doles and bonuses and of gifts to other people as well as to farmers. The amazing thing about his statement was this: that he referred to the farmers on whose behalf he said he was speaking, men with holdings of over £200 valuation, as mendicants. I wonder would they feel complimented if they heard Senator Counihan referring to them as mendicants? That was the fashion in which he did refer to them. Of those who spoke before Senator Quirke, the only Senator who put up a reasonable argument was Senator O'Dwyer. He said it was probable that a greater number would be employed on the larger farms than on the smaller holdings, but, as Senator Quirke pointed out, it is not so much the actual number of labourers brought into employment as the actual number of people maintained on the land that matters.

I did not hear one argument from Senator Counihan in favour of extending this grant. It is well to point out that it is not a free grant. It is not money for nothing. Therefore, if the people on whose behalf Senator Counihan said he was speaking are mendicants, how can they spend any of this money? According to him, they have not the money to spend, and on a holding with a £200 valuation there could be an expenditure of twice the valuation—£400. If those people are not in a position to raise money, or even if they were in a position to raise it, Senator Counihan did not tell us how it could be spent. If the Senator had any argument to put forward in support of his motion, I presume he could say that some of the farms in the County Meath that he had in mind could grow wheat, or that the land there could be tilled. But what is the actual fact? This year some of the farmers there, with high valuations, had to be prosecuted for failing to till their land. I presume a high valuation has been put on their land because it is good land. The Senator could have suggested some method of improving these £200 valuation holdings, but he did not give any reason as to how this money could be expended on these holdings. The seconder of the motion did refer to one individual and said he would spend some money. He made a rather fantastic statement about some of the smaller farmers being able to drain their few fields, and said this would result in the flooding of the fields of the large farmer further down. He said the latter could spend a lot of money on draining his farm with its large valuation. I think that was a fairly decent argument.

It was the first, at any rate, that was put up in support of the motion. Senator Counihan, as I have said, put up no argument. He spoke of inequality of treatment, but I would remind him that in other walks of life there is also inequality of treatment. There is inequality of treatment in the payment of income tax, and also in the matter of scholarships in the case of people earning money in the cities. The Senator, when speaking, objected to the fact that the children of people with low valuations are eligible for county council scholarships.

I did not object to that.

The Senator pointed out that there were discrepancies because such things were happening, but there are discrepancies in all walks of life and privileges for people with small incomes and holdings of low valuation. I think we must all take it that that is so. I suggest that should not be used as an argument in favour of people with holdings of £200 valuation whom the Senator has described as mendicants. I think those people would resent such a statement from their spokesman. The Senator mentioned that about 3,000 farmers will be excluded from the benefit of this scheme, and said that if they were not it would mean direct employment for 10,000 labourers a year: otherwise that each would employ three. I think that if they tilled their land they could do more than that. How would farmers in the County Meath, who are simply feeding and grazing bullocks, spend this grant to improve their holdings? No portion of this money can be utilised for the purchase of cattle or the top dressing of land. It is reserved for the drainage of land and the clearance of dykes. The Senator did not put forward any concrete argument in favour of the extension. His seconder spoke of Limerick "whys." With regard to our friend's "whys," I will repeat what I said to Senator O'Dwyer some time ago: that I regard the Limerick farmer as one of the laziest men in Ireland. I said to him that I was travelling up through County Limerick in October, and saw the one crop that they save there —meadow hay—still out in the fields until half the tramp cocks were rotting. If that is the kind of farming that is carried out in the County Limerick, then I think that it should not be called farming at all. The Senator and his friends should go down to West Cork and see how farming is done there. The farmers there have their hay in at the end of June practically. They do not wait until October to bring it in.

Does the Senator think anybody believes that?

I saw it myself.

The Minister for Local Government and other Ministers have complimented the people in the County Limerick on the progress that has been made there.

I am stating what I saw myself in October, that their meadow hay was still in the fields and that half of it was rotting in the tramp cocks. Suppose we had any big floods late in the year, you would have photographs published in the newspapers showing the effects of the floods and, I suppose, some of this hay that I saw in the fields in October floating about. It would be said in the newspapers that this hay, which belonged to the unfortunate farmers, was being taken down the rivers in the floods.

Senator Quirke is amazed at you.

I am speaking my own mind. I repeat that neither the Senator nor the mover of the motion put forward any reason as to why this facility should be extended to these holders of £200 valuations. This scheme does not provide a dole. It does not mean that the farmer is going to get something for nothing. The recipient will have to expend twice as much as he receives by way of grant. He may probably get half back from the Government. If the owners of these holdings of £200 valuation are mendicants, as Senator Counihan says they are, well, they cannot get any money to spend. In conclusion, I want to say that I think the case that has been made has been put forward in a very poor manner.

Unlike some of my colleagues, I desire to address a few remarks to the motion before the House: that the Government should be invited to extend, without limitation on valuations, the concession which they have made to farmers of not less than £200 valuation. Now, we are altogether in favour of the use of public funds as a means of subsidising labour which will increase the productivity of the land. The only question is whether that subsidy should be extended to the people with £200 valuations and more, or whether they should be excluded. In point of actual numbers, the people concerned are only some 3,000, but the principle that is involved is far more important than the actual numbers in question. Those people, although they are a mere minority, have presumably equal civil rights under the Constitution with the rest of us. They are taxpayers and ratepayers, and as such will contribute to the fund out of which this subsidy will be paid. Yet, simply because they happen to be the holders of farms with a £200 valuation or more, they are being excluded from the advantages to be derived from the expenditure of that money. A further object of the whole policy is to increase the employment of labour on useful work. Those people, with farms of £200 valuation and upwards, are already important employers of labour, and would be likely to extend their employment of labour for this and other useful purposes if they were allowed to profit by the subsidy which the Government are rightly extending to other sections of the agricultural community. I cannot understand on what principle of public policy the grant of this subsidy is limited to farmers of £200 valuation and less. I think that that limitation is indefensible and inexplicable unless it is part of a general policy of prejudice against large farming as such. I have myself recently become a small farmer. I am the owner of 20 acres and, to that extent, I should be advocating the cause of small farmers and should be going to the Land Commission demanding a share of my neighbour's land. Instead of that, I still find myself prepared to maintain the principle that there is room for large farms as well as small farms and that the intensively-cultivated, well-managed and adequately-capitalised farm of 500 acres is a national asset and one which deserves the encouragement of Government policy. In fact, I should go so far as to say that there are not enough 200-acre and 500-acre farms of that kind and that we could do with far fewer inefficiently-run 20-acre farms and farms of lesser size. It is, or ought to be, a well-known fact that there are only 50,000 owners of farms who employ any wage-earning labour whatever, and the number of wage-earning agricultural labourers is only about 120,000—an average of not more than two persons per farm. It is quite certain that the higher the valuation of the holding the greater the probability that that holding will be an employer of wage-earning labour because we all know that holdings of £40 valuation and under are likely to be more than adequately provided with family labour and are not likely to employ wage-earning labour. Therefore, if you want to subsidise the employment of wage-earning labour and make additions to the number of persons so employed, your policy should be to assist the large farmer rather than the small farmer because, the larger the farmer, the more disposed he is, and the more necessary he finds it, to give employment to wage-paid labour.

The kind of employment which is given on the larger farm is socially, perhaps, more advantageous as well as economically more efficient than the kind of employment given by many small farms. I have in mind a farm of 200 acres on which 20 workers are employed. When you have a farm so extensively exploited as that farm is, you have an opportunity of employing different grades and qualities of labour —female labour as well as male labour —whereas, if you have only the possibility of employing one wage-paid labourer, that wage-paid labourer must be a man and he must be, to some extent, a man of all work. It would be desirable for the welfare of rural society that employment for female as well as male labour should extend, and large farms employing six, eight, ten or more workers are much more likely to be able to find employment for female, as well as male, labour than smaller farms which employ only one or two wage-paid labourers. There is a dearth of feminine wage-paid employment in the rural areas and, as a consequence, the country is being denuded of women folk who are moving into the towns. The population of these districts is, accordingly, decreasing and there are other social disadvantages. The large farm on which a large amount of labour of different grades is employed is one which we ought to go out of our way to encourage rather than go out of our way to discourage.

I hesitate to introduce what might look like a sectarian argument into this matter. I do not believe that the Government are actuated by sectarian motives in making this discrimination. At the same time, as a representative of the religious minority, it is my duty to point out that this discrimination against farmers of £200 valuation and upwards, as such, is, in effect, though not in intention, a discrimination against non-Catholic farmers. When I use the term "non-Catholic," I am following the language of the official statistics but, at the same time, I wish to say, on behalf of the form of Christian denomination to which I myself belong, that every denomination claiming to be Christian must also claim to be Catholic in some sense or other and, consequently, Protestants will not admit a monopoly of the term "Catholic" to any section of the Christian Church. Strictly speaking, we should speak of "Roman Catholics" and "Protestant Catholics" but, if I were to speak about "Protestant Catholics," I would almost certainly be misunderstood—at all events, in the Northern part of the country.

Is the Senator sure of his figure as to the number of those people who are non-Catholics? If he says he has it from the Statistical Abstract or some such publication, I will accept it.

I had the curiosity to look up the statistics contained in the Census of 1936—column 3, Part I., page 140, where it gives "non-Catholic farmers as a percentage of the total farmers in each category" of the different sizes of holding. The categories are set out as: one to five acres, five to ten acres, ten to 15 acres, and so on up to 200 acres and over. It is interesting, from the historical point of view, to observe the steady increase in the percentage of farms owned by non-Catholics as you go from the smaller size of holding up to the higher size of holding. Taking the sizes in ascending order, on the holdings of one to five acres 1.9 per cent. of the holders are non-Catholics; five to ten acres, 2.9 per cent.; ten to 15 acres, 3.4 per cent.; 15 to 30 acres, 4.9 per cent.; 30 to 50 acres, 6.9 per cent.; 50 to 100 acres, 9.6 per cent.; 100 to 200 acres, 14.7 per cent.; over 200 acres, 26.7 per cent. In other words, whereas the proportion of non-Catholic farmers is 6.9 per cent. of the 370,000 odd holders, of the owners of 200 acres or over, 26.1 per cent. are non-Catholics.

Roughly one-fourth.

An illustration of the policy of "To hell or Connaught".

I am not concerned with the historical explanation. I am concerned only with the fact, and the fact is that in the category of farmers with which I am dealing, numbering about 3,000, probably 700 are my co-religionists. Though I do not think you were influenced by any sectarian motive in making this discrimination, other people are capable of attributing your action to causes which are not true. I draw the attention of the Government to this matter because I think that the Government, so far from having any desire for sectarian discrimination, will probably, by the mere fact of my mentioning that their action could be interpreted in that way, be induced to go out of their way to remedy it. In my experience of Government Departments, I have found that they have been fair, and more than fair, to the Protestant minority. That is all I wish to contribute to the debate, and I should be delighted to know that the Government would reconsider their attitude and extend to all categories of farmers the valuable concession they have made to farmers of under £200 valuation.

Goilleann sé orm a chluinstin ó Sheanadóirí nach féidir leis na féirmeoirí móra oileamhaint d'fháil as an talamh. Ar an uair chéanna, is iad na daoine is boichte a gheibheas an tairbhe is mó as an talamh. Más féidir le 30 acra maireachtain do thabhairt do theaghlach, cad chuige nach féidir le fear an 300 acra teacht i dtír d'fháil as an méid sin? Nach é an míniú gur ar an fhear féin atá an locht—nach bhfuil an teolas nó an tsláinte aige chun saothrú ceart do thabhairt don talamh. Deirtear go bhfuil an feirmeoir bocht, ach, do réir mar thuigim-se, níl aon easbaidh cáirde air. Nach fíor é go bhfuil na milliúin punt i dtaisce ag na feirmeoirí ins na bainnceanna? Níl siad uilig bocht agus tá aithne agam féin ar fheirmeoirí—mór agus beag—atá compórdach go leor. Ar an abhar san, cuirim an locht ar na feirmeoirí féin, ag a bhfuil 200 agus 500 acra, má tá siad bocht. Táim in aghaidh aon chabhair ón choitcheanntacht do thabhairt dóibh. Muna bhfuil cáirde le fáil aca, ní thuilleann siad é, agus muna dtuilleann siad é, ní ceart airgead puiblí do thabhairt dóibh.

Tá leigheas ar an scéal. Cur i gcás go bhfuil siopadóir annseo i mBaile Atha Cliath agus go bhfuil cáirde do dhith air. Má theipeann air é d'fháil, cadé a thárluigheas dó? Caithfidh sé eirghe as agus duine éigin eile do leigint isteach ina ionad. Sin leigheas amháin atá ag na feirmeoirí móra. Tá leigheas eile aca. Má tá 300 acra aca agus nach féidir leó cáirde d'fháil, tig leo céad acra do dhíol agus suim mhaith airgid d'fháil, i dtreo go mbeidh siad i ndon teacht i dtír d'fháil ar an 200 acra a bhéas fágtha aca. B'fhearr sin ná a thuille airgid do thabhairt dóibh ar an dóigh seo.

Maidir leis an tuarastal atá á thabhairt do lucht oibre ag na feirmoirí móra, ní dóich liom go bhfuil an scéal mar a luaidhtear annseo. Do rinne an Seanadóir Mac Eoin tagairt d'fheirme mar seo—"model farm" mar a dearfá—ar a raibh a lán daoine ag obair ar thuarastal, ach an fíor é sin maidir leis na feirmeóirí eile? Ní dóich liom gur fíor é. Tá a lán de na feirmeacha seo faoi fhéar, agus neanntógaí agus luibheannaí agus níl aon airgead ag dul do na hoibritheoirí asta. Dá dtugtai a thuille cáirde dhóibh, bhéadh an scéal mar atá faoi láthair agus ní bhéadh aon bhiseach air. Is dóich liom go bhfuil sé ar an Riaghaltas gan níos mó cabhrach do thabhairt do na feirmeoirí. Má theipeann ag na feirmeoirí an talamh do leasú agus an tairbhe is mó do bhaint as, ba cheart an talamh do thógaint uatha agus é do thabhairt do dhaoine a oibreochaidh é agus a bhainfidh tairbhe as.

My name is down to second this motion, and I should like to justify my action in appending my name to it in a few words. I have heard so much from the other side of the House that whatever light can be thrown on the subject should be welcomed. Candidly speaking as an agriculturist, I feel that the fact that the Government find it necessary to give loans now, after 20 years of native administration, is a disgrace to the elected representatives of the people of Ireland. We own a very fertile soil which has, in the past, supported more millions than it now supports, and the one outstanding reason for the need for loans now is the incompetence of the administration elected to rule Ireland. If a competent administration were elected, it would be found that the fertile soil could give a livelihood sufficient at least for any people who will be on it in the next 50 years, but the truth is that to be a successful agriculturist means that there is no place for your views in the administration of the land. Prejudice is spread by every racketeer who can, and the successful agriculturist is everywhere outvoted and outbalanced. The Government prevents, curbs, thwarts and limits the natural ambition of any Irish father of a family to see that there is left behind him greater means whereby his family may live a Christian life in the business to which he has devoted his life and the existence of a scheme limiting any farmer is bound to warrant anybody in refraining from putting more capital at the disposal of his family in the future.

It is a rather academic point whether this scheme comes down to the £100, £400, £1,000, or the £50 valuation. In its practical shape, it will not alter the situation very much. The reason I am anxious to see that limitation removed is in order that it may not be held up to me as the idea at the back of the minds of the Government that it is an immoral thing to own land over a valuation of any set figure. It is within the province of our administration to see to it that whatever land is held, owned or occupied is efficiently worked in the best interests of the nation. There should be no bar or impediment in the way of anyone who is desirous of putting his whole life's resources into whatever he believes to be best in the interests of his family. It should be within the province and power of the Government to see to it that no man stops the march of the nation, economically, politically or otherwise, but economically first.

It is for that reason that I have put my name to this motion—so that anyone will be free to own 1,000 acres if he is making the best use of it; if he is not, take it off him. The Government, by lending itself in any way to the idea of withholding financial support from me or anyone else who may desire to produce more, to give more employment or to make the farm better, is going on completely wrong lines.

I was rather struck by some of the things which have been said here. Mechanised farming is considered undesirable. In the old days our various towns bought 60,000 or 70,000 barrels of oats around the country, and Senators perhaps would have come up here riding a horse, doing away with the trains and doing away with the motor cars. If you did away with petrol to-day, that might still happen. Senator Quirke and myself have kept it up, and will keep it up, please God. As regards horses, I was surprised in regard to the scheme for the breeding of horses, farm horses in particular; it is bad enough in the case of racehorses. I was down in Kildare recently, and a friend said to me: "My horse has died." I said: "I have several; none of them has died, unfortunately." I do think that Senator Quirke is right. If the Government Party were to do away with all petrol and all imports of petrol, I would subscribe £50 to their organisation straight away, and I would do away with the mechanism which I for one find very useful. I have as extensive a farm as my means will allow, and strange to relate, I find that the more machinery I bring on to the farm, the more employment it pays me to give.

Hear, hear. That is elementary.

I would invite any Senator to come down and see that machinery, and I will give him a leg of mutton when he comes to see it. I think the Minister saw some of it already. I repeat that the more machinery that comes on to the farm, the more employment you can give. I do think there are too many theoretical racketeers getting up and telling us all kinds of stories. The aids which have been given to agriculture over a lengthy period are of no more avail than if you put a bag over a broken pane of glass in a window to keep out the draught. The big broad question has been left untouched. We have a commission which is going to work on the "Cathleen Mavourneen system"— it may be for years and it may be for ever.

It is not sitting.

Thanks be to God. In my young days Irish was not as fashionable as it is now, but I think some people have stated in Irish that the farmers are poor because they do not work hard enough, or because they do not know how to work. I say that the farmers are poor because there are too many racketeers in control everywhere. There are too many people who get up and talk Irish, in order to get jobs for their families, but if you are an extensive farmer you will not be allowed to live. There are no more "bowsies" amongst the farmers than there are amongst any other class. They have not passed as many examinations as other classes, and hence they are equipped for their work. Every day in the week we hear of some new aid to agriculture, but there is no main aid. The big issue is left untouched. The big problems are left unsolved. That should not be the position of affairs if you want agriculture to thrive and prosper. Some people may have got 200 or 300 acres from Cromwell or Tom the Devil or someone else, but a lot of them have got it through the hard work they were doing while others who have learned to get an easy job under this Government or under the late Government or under the British Government shirked living on the land, shirked devoting their resources or their energies and ideas to it. Is it not the object of the ten-acre farmer to become a 50-acre farmer, and if he has 50 acres is it not his object to go still further ahead? Is it not amongst people like those that the greatest and most successful farmers are to be found? Limerick has been mentioned here. Perhaps if the farmers of Limerick were as well paid as the inspectors in the Dublin Cattle Market on Thursday morning, their work would be just as efficiently done.

The farmers of Limerick spend half the day answering inspectors' questions.

There has been too much driving and too much whipping of agriculturists since our Irish Government came into office. There are inspectors for everything, but the main inspector is always absent. I am sorry to find it necessary to-day, 20 years after two political Parties have tried their hand, to support a motion for loans to farmers. I really think that the Minister should seek advice from different advisers now; that he should free the land of Ireland from the taxes that are on it, and see to it that the people who own the land of Ireland are devoting their resources to it.

There is just one point which I should like to make; I do not want to go into detail in regard to this motion. I understand that what is involved here is not a loan but a grant to improve farms over £200 valuation. A farm of £200 valuation in the west of Ireland is rather a big thing. When we hear of a farm of £200 valuation we begin to wonder when that holding is going to be taken over for division. It is in relation to that matter that I wish to address one question to the Minister. If the Government proposes to accede to the request contained in this Motion, and give a grant to farmers of over £200 valuation, I think that an exception should be made in the case of holdings which, but for the war, would have been taken over for division, or that some arrangement should be made that if a grant is given to a farmer and later his farm is taken over for distribution among the congests the amount of the grant should be taken into consideration. Otherwise the Government will be buying back land that it has helped to improve by the grant and would eventually be paying on the double. That is just the point.

I thought we were going to deal with a very simple proposition in this debate. I came along prepared for a very short and sharp debate, if you like, but it developed into rather a long discourse on many things. Senator Counihan started off by saying that if this help had been offered to farmers some years ago they would have rejected it with scorn. I think he starts on a bad note. I have known the farmers for at least 40 years, and I never knew them to reject anything that was offered to them, and I do not think anybody else did either. I do not care whether they were big or small farmers, if they were ever offered help —genuine help and help to which they were entitled—I do not think they rejected it with scorn. I suppose they are not going to reject it now because, as some of the speakers said here, it was not to be regarded as charity; it was given in a genuine attempt to improve the land and, therefore, the farmers were entitled to take it.

It is true what Senator Counihan says that farmers are paying the greater part of all these subsidies and grants. I am not quite sure of the figure. I do not know whether they are paying the greater part, but I do know they are paying their share and, being a large part of the community, they are paying quite a lot of all these grants, subsidies and so on. That is what, I must say, makes me very reluctant at times to go into those grants or subsidies and so on. As a matter of fact, I think I have stated both here and in the Dáil and in public on many occasions that if, for instance, derating was granted the small farmer would actually pay more than he would gain by it. I am surprised that Senator Counihan would not try to bring that fact home to his own party, because it is true that, in that particular instance anyway, the small farmer would lose rather than gain. Senator Counihan, Senator Madden and other Senators said that what the farmer really wants is capital, and I think that they all said that what they wanted was that capital by way of loan. Supposing you had a banker listening to this debate; supposing you had a banker who listened to Senator Counihan's speech and Senator Madden's speech, I think he would be mad if he gave a loan to any farmer in this country. Is it not quite obvious that what is preventing bankers from giving loans to farmers in this country is the sort of speech that Senator Counihan and Senator Madden make? How could you expect any man with money —Senator Quirke or anybody else—to give a loan to a farmer if he believed one single word of what Senator Counihan or Senator Madden said? According to them, the farmer is in such a hopeless state that he could not pay anything or never will be able to pay anything. I think that sort of talk is going to do a lot of harm. I admit that Senator Madden, Senator Counihan and Senator McGee may hope to do some harm to the Government by that sort of talk, but if, incidentally, they are going to do harm to the country as well, I think they should not do it. It is all right to hit the Government, but not if it is going to do harm to the country, too. They should be careful in making speeches like that, directed against the Government, that they are not doing the country harm at the same time. The implication of Senator Counihan's speech—and also of Senator Madden's speech—is that if they had the capital by way of loan they could make farming pay. I presume the Senators are honest enough to advocate loans being given to farmers knowing that the farmers will pay those loans back. Otherwise they would not be loans. I may take it for granted that when Senator Counihan talks like that he means that if a farmer gets a loan at the present time he will pay it back?

That means that any farmer who does not want a loan is all right. The big majority of farmers in this country, it is proved by figures, have money in the bank. Some farmers want money, I admit. Many farmers do not want a loan. They are able to carry on. Are we to infer from what Senator Counihan says that he believes that the big majority of farmers are all right, that they can carry on and live well because they have no grant to pay back? If we have got that far, we have got something, at any rate, out of Senator Counihan. Senator Counihan, I think, did not make very much point about the £200 limitation.

Senator Madden went on to speak about other matters. He said there was a reduction of 42,000 cattle in the County of Limerick, that figures were produced by the warble fly inspectors which showed this. I am not sure if the warble fly inspectors gave the figures both in 1939 and 1940. It is possible they were comparing figures returned by the warble fly inspectors— which, according to Senator Madden, are correct because they went to every farm, which is a very good way of getting figures—with figures that were returned by the Civic Guards in 1939. I have always thought about those figures—I do not know whether Senator Madden would agree with me or not—that they are not altogether accurate. I remember when I was young on many occasions being the only person at home when the policeman at that time called to get the figures and they were not very particular about details. But what is held is that they are just as accurate one year as another, and for comparison they are all right. Probably there is an error in them. They are probably largely exaggerated. People are inclined to say they have a few cattle more than they have, a few sheep more, a few pigs more and so on all round, but that exaggeration evidently runs through the figures every year. When the warble fly inspector goes in he will not get an exaggerated figure because he has to see the number of cattle to be treated and, naturally, the farmer will not say he has more than he really has because the inspector will have to see them. Therefore he gets true figures. I do not know if the number has gone down or could be proved to have gone down.

With regard to this reduction of milk in creameries, I have met representatives of the creamery industry. I know the production this year is less than last year. They have told me that in their opinion there are two causes: firstly, less cows, and secondly, less yield from each cow on account of the dry season. That is probably true. I had a deputation lately from the suppliers of milk to the City of Dublin, who wanted a better price for their milk. I asked them on what basis they were looking for a better price. They said they were getting from 25 to 33? per cent. less from the cows this year than last year. That is evidently the truth. I think they were not exaggerating, to any great extent any way. They were getting less yield this year than last year. Is it not quite likely that the suppliers to creameries were getting a lower yield also? Therefore, the greater part of this reduction at any rate is due to the dry season, over which the Government had no control.

I said in the Dáil that the farmers are badly off, but not any worse than they were for the last 40 years— because I remember farmers for that length—except perhaps during the last war when they were well off for a certain period. The statement that farmers are badly off or well off is purely comparative. We would all like to see them better off. Senator O'Dwyer supported the motion, because he said it would give more employment on the larger farms than on the smaller farms. That may be true with regard to hired employment, but supposing there is work to be done on a drain, obviously the amount of employment would be the same, with this exception, that on the small farm it is more likely to be done by the members of the farmer's family.

Senator Quirke has drawn the attention of the Seanad to this point, that it was more in the nature of a farm improvement scheme than a labour creating scheme. It was brought forward by my Department primarily as a farm improvement scheme, but probably it got the support of other Ministers because at the same time it would create a certain amount of employment. You really have the two elements in it. We must regard it in the first instance as a farm improvement scheme and, incidentally, it gives employment. Senator Quirke is also right in this, that there is a limit to the amount of money that we can spend on this scheme in this financial year. We may be able to afford more next year, but there is a certain limit this year. If there is to be a preference given, and I am afraid there must be, because the applications coming in are numerous, I cannot think at the present moment of any fairer preference than the size of the holding. I have not thought a lot about that matter yet, because it was only in the last few days that I learned of the many applications. We may have to turn some down for want of money in this financial year. I have not thought of any alternative system of preference and, for the moment, the size of the holding seems to be the fairest.

The number of people maintained on the smaller holdings is higher, per 100 acres, than on the larger holdings and, if we get a permanent improvement on the smaller holdings through this farm improvement scheme, it will confer a greater benefit than in the case of the larger holdings. I am making a distinction between the number of people maintained and the number employed on the different farms.

Senator Fitzgerald made a remark which, at the time, I felt I would like to comment upon, but on second thoughts I see there is no use in doing so. It had reference to the slaughtering of calves and the economic war. I have explained that matter over and over again. The only thing I do admire about Senator Fitzgerald is his courage and cheek to talk about the economic war at all, or any of his associates, for that matter, because I think they should be ashamed of their part at that particular time. It should be remembered that in all these schemes there is always a certain privilege for the smaller man as against the bigger man, and we are not departing from the general principle in this particular scheme. As was pointed out, in the case of university scholarships there is a limited valuation. In our scheme for an agricultural grant, which amounts to partial derating, the first £20 gets a greater benefit than the remainder of the holding, which means that the smaller holding gets a much greater benefit than the bigger holding. That applies in a great many cases, and I do not see that we are departing from the principle running through all these schemes.

Is the principle justifiable in this instance?

Senator Johnston said he approved of the scheme but not of the particular limit of £200 poor law valuation. The Senator made a plea for the larger farm. He said he thought the country would benefit by more well-managed large farms and could do without badly managed 20-acre farms. That might be true if you are looking at it from the purely economic point of view. Equally a speaker could say that the country would be better off without the large badly-managed farms and could do with more of the smaller well-managed farms. What we really want is this, that we should take the land from the bad farmers and give it to good farmers, if we could manage that. That is what the Land Commission is trying to do.

I question that.

That is what their policy is, I presume. I thought the Senator was questioning whether the Land Commission was doing that. I presume he is questioning whether it is good policy.

I question whether the Land Commission's operations have actually that effect.

They are doing their best to bring about that result. Senator Johnston also made this point, that on a big farm employing 20 men you can employ a greater variety of men; in other words, he does not want all men who can plough and look after stock, like the smaller farmer. I suppose that is true. He also said that the larger farmer would employ more female labour than the smaller farmer. That is not true, in my opinion.

I suggest it is true.

If you have ten farmers side by side, with 20-acre holdings, you will find they employ not only men but women. Suppose one man out of the ten buys up the whole lot and requires labourers, he will not take on the women and girls.

I was talking of paid labour.

As regards having them occupied in agriculture, certainly there are more women on the smaller farms than on the larger farms. In that way more women are being kept in the country.

Are they being kept in the country? They are flying from the country.

I think there is no doubt that if you make a comparison between the females on the smaller farms and the bigger farms, you will find the girls on the smaller farms are staying in the country to a greater extent than the girls on the bigger farms. I am sorry Senator Johnston mentioned the sectarian question. I must admit he paid the Government and the majority in this country every tribute for tolerance——

And fair play.

That is quite true. But I hope it will not be used unfairly by others. If it is used as Senator Johnston used it, certainly everything is all right. When that rule was made the thought did not occur to me or to any member of my Department that we were in any way making a difference between the religions. As a matter of fact, I can tell Senator Johnston—and if he likes to verify it he can, but I am sure he will not bother—that the principal official who put this recommendation to me is a non-Catholic. I am sure it did not strike him that he was in any way doing an injustice.

My point was that the interests of a number of my co-religionists are affected.

I cannot understand Senator McGee. He said I knew something about his farm. I was down there, and on that occasion Senator McGee told me that he was taking land from the farmers all around, was giving them £5 an acre for it, and was making a profit out of it. If he can take land from other farmers at £5 an acre and make a profit, how can he talk in the way he does about the farmers? How can he talk the way he does about the impossibility of any farmer making farming pay? He does not claim that he is a super farmer, or that he is better than other people, but he does claim that it was impossible for farmers to make their farms pay.

Senator McGee said that the fact that any farmer was looking for a loan at present was a disgrace to a native Government after 20 years. I do not know. I started life as a doctor and looked for a loan, and I never said it was a disgrace to any native Government that I should have to look for a loan. There are shopkeepers looking for loans; there are members of every single class in this country looking for loans, and perhaps getting them, but it has never struck any shopkeeper, professor or civil servant, I am sure, that it is a disgrace to a native Government that he should have to look for a loan. These people always thought that they were very lucky when they got these loans. Denmark is often held up to us as a model we should follow —I hope we shall not follow them now —or that we should have followed in the past. The latest figures I saw— it is some years ago I admit—showed that the Danish farmers owed almost one hundred million pounds to banks, so that in that very well-managed country the farmers thought it good business to owe much more than we do.

Might it not be good business for us, too, if we owed more money?

That is what I think myself, but that would not follow from Senator McGee's argument, in which he said it was a disgrace that they owed so much. We had the usual complaint about too many inspectors. I have, I must say, on many occasions, discussed this matter with officers in my Department. I have tried to see if we could lessen the number of inspectors by perhaps combining certain duties that are at present administered by different classes of inspectors so that one inspector might do the work of two. It is very difficult to do it, but if any Senator here thinks that he can make a good suggestion with regard to reducing the number of inspectors we have, I am quite prepared to consider it. I am afraid that people have got into the habit of merely saying that there are too many inspectors without looking at the matter from the constructive side or without making any suggestion as to what should be done.

With regard to the suggestion of Senator Hawkins that the Land Commission should take into consideration the amount of any grant given to the owner of the land when acquiring it, I do not think that could be done. If a man gets a grant under this scheme and improves his land, we shall have to admit that the value of the land has been improved.

Might I suggest that the man would probably have spent some of his own money also in that improvement?

He would. As to the scheme itself, when it came up to me for consideration, I must say that I was inclined to fix the limit somewhat lower because I knew we had only a certain amount of money to spend this year, namely, a quarter of a million. I thought that the applications would be rather numerous and that we would probably spend that quarter of a million without very much trouble if we invited applications only from those under £100 valuation. I did eventually agree to the proposition put up by the officers of the Department to fix the limit at £200 valuation. We had to make some limit because we know there are certain individuals in this country who own a great amount of land—in fact, too much land, more land than is necessary to enable one person to make a livelihood. That is the point we have to keep in mind. It is not so much that the person with a valuation of over £200 can spend £1,000 or that he would spend £1,000 if he got it. We had to look at it from the point of view of the fact that we had a certain amount of money and we had to see how far it would go. We know that there are individuals in this country, whatever the other side of the House may think, with 30 or 50 acres of land each who are working their farms well and who are fairly comfortable. They might be made somewhat more comfortable if they had the money to improve a few acres of their farm.

It is too costly at the present time for such people to reclaim an acre or two because it costs more to reclaim land than would be represented by its market value. We thought that if we could help these people who are living on these smaller holdings and working them well, to reclaim a few more acres we would make them more comfortable and more independent. There must be some limit, some optimum, if you like, to the size of a farm, and I do not say that it should be £200 poor law valuation. I think it should be something lower and that, if we give some help to the farmer who has not more land than is sufficient to make a decent living out of agriculture, we have gone far enough. If any man has more than is sufficient to make a decent living, I think he should not expect a State grant.

I am not wedded to the figure of £200 at all, but I say that for this particular year we probably will not reach it because, as far as I can see at present, we are going to have more applications than we can deal with. We shall have to give preference to some of the applicants. It might be unfair to say that we shall give a preference to those who require the smallest amount of money. It might be unfair also to say that we shall give every man £20 or £30, because that might have the effect of destroying a scheme which a farmer wanted to carry out. It may be in the end necessary to give a preference based on poor law valuation; I am not sure, but if we take the poor law valuation as the basis on which we shall deal with applications, I am afraid we are not going to reach any figure higher than £100 valuation and it may be less. I think for this year, anyway, having regard to the fact that we have only £250,000 to spend, the motion is really a matter of academic interest. I do not think it would be practical politics to extend the scheme beyond the £200 valuation. If, on the other hand, I had found before coming here that the number of applications would not probably absorb the amount of money we had in hands, I would not have had any hesitation in saying to the Seanad that I was quite prepared to reconsider the whole matter because I thought that we would have enough money to deal with every applicant. That is the position. As I say, I am not wedded to this particular figure but, in practice, for this year we probably shall not even reach the £200 poor law valuation. As far as I am concerned, I shall try to get more money next year for this scheme. If we get more money next year we should be able to set a new limit.

I am disappointed that the Minister did not concede even the request I made to include everybody in the scheme, no matter for what amount. If we could say that we would give everybody the proportion of this grant to which they would be entitled if the valuation did not exceed £200, there would not be any unfair discrimination and there could be some justification for that policy. The Minister, however, seems to be adamant on that point. I wish to deny one statement which the Minister made. He said that the statements of the mover of the motion and the supporters of it, seemed to be directed towards injuring the Government rather than helping the farmers. In my speech on the motion, I did not even refer to the economic war.

Because I did not want to raise a discussion on a controversial subject. I could have told the Minister a few facts about the position of the farmers. I could have pointed out, if I wanted, that in 1931 before the Minister took up office, the export value of our cattle was £14,000,000 and that in 1936 it was reduced to £5,000,000. I could go on and repeat a litany of these things, showing why the farmers are in their present condition. I did not want, as I say, to raise the question of the economic war or any controversial subject which might injure the Government. After taking all these precautions it is rather hard to be accused of making a statement which was meant to injure the Government.

I do not want to delay the House further by referring to statements made by several Senators, which I think were very foolish, and not at all to the point. I ask the Minister, in consultation with his officials, to consider the question of cutting out this business of discriminating between farmers. Whatever he is going to give, I ask him to consider the farmer with the big valuation. For the sake of increasing production that is as essential as giving it to the small farmer.

I would also ask the Minister to consider another point. At the present time we have a great opportunity for increasing production. Good prices are being received at present, and I think will continue to be received. I do not want to prophesy, but if we are to judge from what happened after the last war, we are going to get good prices for all the agricultural produce we can produce for some years after the war. It is up to the Minister, as the responsible head of the Department which represents the industry, to consider the whole question and see whether something cannot be done to put us in a position to take advantage of these markets and prices for a number of years to come. I do not intend to put the motion to a division. I am sure the motion would be carried, but I do not want to embarrass the Government.

Might I ask the Minister whether he will consider the suggestion of Senator Counihan, that the scheme should be open to all farmers irrespective of valuation, but limited in such a way that no farmer will get more out of it even if his valuation is £50, £75 or £100?

There is a point there, and I wonder if Senators realise it. Supposing it was something we were giving by way of grant which we could cut by 20 per cent., it would be all right. But, if a farmer puts up a scheme to cost £50, we cannot cut that, because he could not go on with the scheme at all. You cannot do half the drainage this year; you must complete the drain when you are at it. I cannot see how that could be done.

Limit the amount to be expended on any farm.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.