The Senator will forgive me if I reply "Holmes be blowed". He is a distinguished and honoured scientist whose report has been of inestimable value to this country and to me, but the Senator and I have forgotten more about conditions in Ireland than Mr. Holmes ever knew. Whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary of State or Chiang Kai Shek told me that in Ireland it was the function of the community to plough my neighbour's land the most polite retort I could make to him was that he was unfamiliar with rural conditions in the Republic of Ireland.
I want to warn the Seanad of this, that if a few people expect that the harrowing of the land or the rolling of a Cambridge roller over it is something that hereafter the community must do they should not put one penny piece of our people's money into the lands of Ireland or the lazy-ne'er-do wells who live on it. I do not believe that the farmers of Ireland expect that and if I did believe it I would be ashamed to say that I was Irish. If I believe that, I will believe that my father's whole life had been wasted in a most frivolous and idiotic effort. If I believe that, then Balfour was right and Cromwell was right. If that is right and that is the kind of people we are the sooner we clear the land of this country the better. But, it is not true; it never has been true and it never will be true. I think that Senators will forgive me if I feel deeply about these matters, because I do. I think that what Senator Sweetman means when he deplores the lack of gifts or grants is credit. It has been a perplexing problem for many a good farmer who has become heir to a good farm of land which has been suffering from a deterioration in fertility how to get started. It is certainly true that the provision of readily accessible credit has never been properly faced, I dare say, until now. But it was not for want of credit, but for want of some effective device that would separate the wheat from the chaff. The plain inescapable fact is that in Ireland the farmer who could do himself good by borrowing will not borrow. That is the one farmer we cannot persuade to borrow. That type of farmer has a perfect horror of getting into debt. Unlike the business man, who is never easy when out of debt, who knows that expanding business always calls for more capital, and who borrows whereever he can, the farmer has a long tradition behind him of apprehension of debt.
It is equally true to say that there is a select company in rural Ireland who would borrow anything they could, your hat, your umbrella or anything else they could get their hands on, firmly resolved that never with God's help would they be asked to pay it back. Show me the way whereby you can by any reasonable means segregate the farmers from the umbrella man and there is an end to the credit problem.
That is why I say that the co-operative societies will help. They need not hesitate. No question of credit need harrass them. They will choose their debtors, give them fertilisers or anything else they want for the proper husbandry of their holdings, and collect the money by instalments out of milk or any transactions that eventually take place. Then, if a man wants his land examined it is for the county agricultural instructor to have the soil of the farm tested. If the maximum return is to be got, and if the land wants phosphate, potash, lime or nitrogen, the farmer can go to the co-operative society and buy on credit all that he wants to put on the land. If that is too heavy a burden for the co-operative society to carry until the farmer begins to pay out of the growing crops, the Agricultural Credit Corporation is not only willing but eager to provide the money.
I gladly avail of this opportunity to say here now, that if there is a single co-operative society in Ireland which knows of the slightest embarassment of a customer who wants credit, and if approach to the Agricultural Credit Corporation is not found encouraging, let them come to me and I think we will be able to find a form in which to put the application which will enable the Agricultural Credit Corporation to do what I know they are not only willing but eager to do, to make available credit to those who ask for it.
Senator Finan referred to an actual scarcity of fertilisers. They were not there and sometimes they were at a price farmers could not pay. That is not going to be so any more, even in Senator Finan's county, as a lime-grinding plant is to be built at Boyle. The cost will be 16/- per ton at the quarry, 25/- to 30/- spread on the land. That is good value. You will not buy it cheaper anywhere in Europe and there is not a penny of public money paid by way of subsidy. It would have been very popular if I provided a subsidy from the Exchequer for ground lime. The result would have been that the ground lime would cost £1 per ton, and the money I provided out of the Exchequer would be used to bring the price down to 16/- per ton. I think the plan here is a much better one.
I cannot control the price of phosphate rock. Somebody else in this country entertained the illusion that they could. I am happy to inform the Seanad that that illusion has been shattered. Phosphate rock will be made available at any port in Ireland at the lowest price at which it is made available the whole world over from this day on. I should like to see it ground in Ireland. I have been trying to get people to grind it for some time and I am beginning to get impatient. I am going to try a while longer, but if I cannot get anyone else to grind it I will grind it myself and it will be brought to the farmers at the lowest penny it can be bought and ground at. If anybody is shocked by that appalling assault on private enterprise it is going to be the first of many if private enterprise falls down on the job. It is no crime for the people of this country to provide themselves with what they have got to have if the land of Ireland is to be used to the best advantage. If enterprising individuals in our community will provide it at the lowest price no one will be better pleased than I, but if enterprising individuals imagine that by holding out on the community they will force the community to pay, they never made a greater mistake in their lives. We will bring in superphosphate in addition to all that can be produced in the domestic factories. We will have unlimited supplies of potash although it is not so long since we were told that we would only get what was good for us. They have changed their mind about that and they have now asked us what quantity we would like to get with the assurance that it will be available. We will get, I think, all the nitrogen we want, as much as we can persuade our people to buy. I think that is a good situation. There is no farmer in Ireland this year who need be short of artificial fertilisers of any kind and it is up to the farmers themselves to determine the quantity of dung they will use. I know that the farmers of Ireland appreciate the urgent importance of that type of manure and will take appropriate measures to provide it for themselves.
I interpret the Seanad's wish, as they engaged in a protracted and interesting debate such as we have listened to, as being that I should deal with matters raised by Senators. That is what I am going to do and if Senators all speak they bring down upon their own heads a protracted reply.
Senator Meighan, being a practical farmer, has a practical approach. He says quite plainly: "I am glad to see the water going off my land but I would like to be reassured as to where it is going to go". When he spoke circumspectly of a certain problem he struck a familiar note upon a chord that binds us together as lifelong neighbours, the rock, Tinnecarra rock. Senator Meighan and I have sung many a duet together about Tinnecarra rock.
I am in this dilemma: Ministers are supposed to be extremely circumspect and to state precisely what is certain and never dare to envisage that which may be longer postponed than is to be hoped. I wish to warn the Seanad that I am neither discreet, orthodox nor circumspect in that matter. I am going to tell the Seanad what I am hoping for. Maybe it will come off and maybe it will not, but if it does not it will not be for want of trying. I am hoping to get the arterial rivers of Ireland done now. I am not in the least interested in a programme of arterial drainage to be completed in 2050. I will be dead and buried, please God, in 2050 and posterity can deal with the problems of 2050 as they may think fit. I want to get the water off the kitchen floor now and in getting it off my kitchen floor I do not want to pour it all over Senator Meighan's. The only place we can put it in order to make sure, even if Senator Meighan and myself keep our floors dry, that it will not flow in on some other person's is to put it into a river bed that leads somewhere to the sea. We are doing at present a comprehensive arterial operation on the catchment area of the Brosna River. We are about to start the Glyde and Dee. Now I am bound to say in justice that from the point of view of arterial drainage engineers the right, prudent and safe procedure is to make a hydro-graphic survey of the catchment area to begin with, to survey the arterial river and every tributary of that river in the catchment area. That means 2050 A.D. and I just cannot wait, that is all. I propose, if I get the chance, to go up the main river and root the bottom out of it and we will get rid of whatever is coming down the tributaries now. In any case, posterity can spend its time on the tributaries. Any we can get the chance to do we will do if we can, but we will at least make rivers leading somewhere to the sea into which the water will find its way released by these operations, albeit more slowly than if all the tributaries were done in the catchment in the orthodox way. But we will have the comforting knowledge if we can get the arterial rivers done that there is room for the water to get away. Frankly, this is flamboyant, I suppose. If you press me too hard asking me how I am going to get it done I might not be able to tell you, but that does not qualify my certainty that I am going to get it done.
Senator Sweetman says that a rapid increase in production is the supreme need so as to catch the export market while prices are high. Oh, no. Such a basis for an agricultural policy, in my humble judgment, would be utter madness. Were we to construct an agricultural policy designed to catch the export market while prices were high, what would happen to us when prices were high no longer? Would we all go bankrupt? We might. No; the man who plans an agricultural policy on the profit that may be snatched in an exotic market is building up an awful lot of trouble for his children, if not for his own old age. My aim for agriculture would be to build up markets which we would make utterly dependent upon us, to bind them to us now by the moderation of our demand and the exhaustiveness of our performance, so that as rivals present themselves we will have created a pattern of trade to make a breach in which will be almost an impossibility for those who try to cut us out.
I want to make the British live-stock industry depend upon our live-stock industry for its very life. I want to make bargains with the British people, or any other people, not on the basis of "while prices are high" but on the basis of "so long a term" so that, by the time they fall to be renewed, the ones who are trading on the high-price markets and are now insolvent and anxious to sell at bankrupt prices, if they can get them, will discover that there is one market they cannot get at any price, for it is bound to us, and, by the time renewal falls to be made, the bankrupts will be in the market no more. I have no interest at all in the transient high-price market. A few people will make quick profits, will get high ideas, buy motor-cars and go "bust", and those who come after them will have to start at the bottom and come up again. I think Senator Sweetman will agree with me that very few men who get their living from the land long retain the riches of high profits or high prices.