This Bill is a Bill to continue in operation for the period 1st August, 1947, to 31st July, 1949, the Seeds and Fertilisers Supply Act, 1942. That Act, which is called the Principal Act in this Bill, applied to the period 1st August, 1941, to 31st July, 1942. It has been continued by short continuing Acts up to 31st July, 1947. The 1942 Act conferred powers on county councils to adopt schemes for the provision of seeds and fertilisers on credit terms. Schemes for the year ended 31st July, 1948, and 31st July, 1949, have already been put in operation by county councils and such schemes are validated by Section 3 of this Bill. It is not the purpose of the Bill to provide agricultural credit in the broad general sense of that term. It is merely designed to permit county councils to provide credit for those small cultivators who might not be able to obtain it in the ordinary way.
County councils may operate two types of scheme under the 1942 Act. The normal type of scheme is one where the county council pays the merchant the cost of seeds supplied to an applicant and recovers the cost from the applicant. The other type is a guarantee scheme under which the applicant obtains the seed from the merchant and the council guarantees the merchant the cost in the event of failure to recover from the applicant. One county council, Louth, adopted such a scheme last season and there were no applicants. All county councils, with the exception of Kerry, have adopted schemes for the two seasons in question. The total number of loans last year was 4,356 and the total cost £50,738, the average loan being £11 7/-. The number of recipients in 1944/45 was 5,036; in 1945/46, 4,804; and in 1946/47, 4,807. This is merely a continuing Bill involving no new principle whatever.