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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 9 May 1974

Vol. 78 No. 1

Farm Modernisation Scheme: Motion:

I move:

That Seanad Éireann notes the modernisation scheme recently announced by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries concerning commercial, development and transitional farmers.

Approximately two months ago we put this motion on the Order Paper which as stated——

Could I interrupt the Senator? I should have mentioned that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister is here. The Minister will be here. He is at an official function but he hopes to be here sometime before 11.30 a.m.

We are very happy to have the Parliamentary Secretary.

As I was saying, some two months ago we put this motion on the Order Paper of this House as we felt at the time—and still feel, in fact, that the situation in Irish agriculture was going to draw a lot of criticism and a lot of reaction from the farming community. Of course, we are right in that because as on this day there are meetings going on all over the country discussing this directive and discussing also directive 160, that is, the rearrangement of farms.

The Mansholt Plan as was originally enunciated was criticised throughout Europe because it was felt it would result in compelling vast numbers of farmers to leave their farms. This is also the impression in this country. However, Dr. Mansholt came here on a number of occasions and told us that his plan was greatly misunderstood and that it would, in fact, mean great benefits to farmers and enable the older farmers who own smallholdings to retire in dignity and with a standard of living which would enable them to live out their lives in comfort.

As time passed the Mansholt Plan was, as we are told, modified to such an extent that the EEC member countries accepted it. Indeed, they acclaimed it as being all that Dr. Mansholt originally claimed it to be as did our experts also. However, the schemes now prepared by our Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries and Lands have been accepted by the EEC authorities. We can see the reality of the Mansholt Plan as it will apply here. Anybody who has taken the trouble to study those schemes, that is, the farm modernisation scheme and the scheme concerned with the encouragement to leave farming, and who have any real interest in the country cannot but feel dismayed at what they find. As the Senators are probably aware, there are three categories of farmers involved in the modernisation scheme. They are the commercial farmer, the development farmer and the transitional farmer.

Our main concern, I think, is the development and transitional categories. I do not wish to bore the House with the details of these schemes because I am sure the Members are familiar with all the published data and all the comments. The important point to remember, however—and this is something which is not yet widely appreciated—is that very few dry-stock farmers in the country will be able to reach the development target. I suggest that in agriculture there are three ways, broadly speaking, of continuing in progress. The first is in dairy farming. The second is in dry-stock farming. The third is in tillage farming.

I will deal first with the dry-stock farmer and to continue the argument that I have just made. A reason for this situation is when arriving at a labour unit, which is the income for one man per year, interest on investment must be deducted from the farm income at the rate of 2 per cent on fixed capital—that is, land and building—and at the rate of 5 per cent on working capital. Working capital is livestock. Those two figures are very substantial. As the farm size and stock numbers increase, naturally, the interest on investments also increase, thus resulting in the ridiculous situation that even the 200-acre dry-stock farmer will be hard-set to reach the development target.

Another aspect of the scheme which, to say the least, is very difficult for me to understand is the manner in which the labour unit income is arrived at. The object of the EEC directive is to equate the incomes from agriculture with those from the non-agricultural sector. The average income from the non-agricultural sector for 1974 was reckoned to be £1,800. This average figure included the salaries of the highest-paid people in this country which included company directors. The figure represented gross income from which, of course, income tax had to be paid. It is quite obvious that the vast majority of those outside agriculture are earning an income considerably less than £1,800, especially in terms of net income after deductions are made. What has been reckoned as the average gross income for the entire non-agricultural sector becomes the minimum acceptable net income for the development farmer in 1974. How this can be interpreted as equating the incomes is difficult for me to understand.

I now wonder—and I really mean this—has the meaning of the word "equation" changed since I was at school, which is not too long ago? The net effect of the two items I have referred to, that is, the interest on investments and the high income target set, is that only a very small proportion of the farmers in this country and an even smaller proportion of those in the west of Ireland will be able to reach the development target. As I have already explained, of the three categories—the commercial, the development and the transitional farmers—you take the figures that are akin to those to make them into a set piece. The commercial farmer is a big farmer who operates a commercial enterprise as we know it today. They comprise 10 or 15 per cent of the total farmers of the country. The development farmer is classed somewhere in the category between 30 and 50 acres. He must have an income of £1,800. This is the point I am trying to make. Of course the other type of farmer is the transitional farmer. In Galway alone—the county I come from—60 per cent of the farmers have less than 30 acres. To bring a transitional farmer to a development stage, 30 per cent at least of that 60 per cent must get out of agriculture. In fact, what we are saying in all is that 25 per cent of the farmers of County Galway must leave the land, and with them will go their families.

As we can see, the picture is quite alarming, particularly because the transitional farmer would not be able to avail at any stage of some of the important benefits that are envisaged in this scheme. For instance, one such benefit would be the grant for the purchase of livestock. Another would be involved with grants for the purchase of mobile equipment, and yet another with the guidance premium. They would not get extra land. More distressing still is the fact that all forms of grants will cease for those farmers by April, 1977, less than three years from now.

The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries said in the other House some time ago that something would be introduced when the time came. This is not good enough for me. I do not think that this is good enough for the farmers of this country. If that statement is to carry any weight something more definite is required now. I would say that today the Minister has an opportunity in this House of making a public statement on this point.

Let us consider for a few moments the implementation of this scheme in conjunction with the modernisation scheme. I refer to the scheme to encourage farmers to leave the land, which comes under directive 160. On paper, it appeared to have some good features. In practice, it is very different because—and I think this is important—the farmer who sells or leases his land can avail himself of the life pension only if his land is being used by a development farmer. If very few farmers are able to reach the development farm stage, how can this scheme function? The simple answer is that it cannot and will not unless the terms of the modernisation scheme are renegotiated, changed and left open for a yearly review.

I think we have come to the stage when we must in honesty make that statement. Even in places where land could be made available to a development farmer, the scheme may not operate in an equitable manner. I will illustrate that point by giving an example. Suppose there are two potential development farmers living close to each other. One may have 50 acres and the other 100 acres. A parcel of land is being divided between them. The 100-acre farmer has just as good a right and as high a priority to this extra land as has the 50-acre farmer. This is as I read it under directive 159. It will be agreed that down the years, through successive Governments, the policy has been for the Land Commission to create viable holdings which at present are deemed to be 45 adjusted acres. That is the equivalent of 45 acres of good land. Therefore, if we are to apply this policy to the example quoted above the 40-acre farmer would get priority over the 100-acre farmer. All other things being equal, I think that is fact. This is still the common sense and indeed the just way of dealing with the situation. If the directive is to be implemented the just method of distributing that parcel of land would go by the board.

Anyone who thinks the farming community will allow the EEC directives to operate in this way knows little about the thinking of the small farmers. I have given ample illustration of the impracticability of the scheme. Let us consider the position of the farmer who acquires extra land in order to achieve the development status which we all must achieve by 1977. Such a man should not be placed at a disadvantage as compared with his neighbour who has already sufficient land. He would be placed at such a disadvantage that it would be impossible for him to reach the development target because in addition to having all the usual charges, including interest on investments to meet, he would in addition be obliged to meet the further charge of repayments or rent. A labour unit income of £1,800 in 1974 is certainly an impossible target.

The County Committee of Agriculture of which I am a member discussed those schemes at a special meeting two months ago and passed some sensible resolutions which were sent to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. One of these recommended that the target for development farmers should be lowered so that £1,800 would be the final target at the end of the six-year plan. Another resolution stated that the small farmer should have priority over the large farmer when land becomes available under directive 160. There has been no reply from the Department.

I ask the Minister again today to refer to those two resolutions and to give us a concrete reply. If they are not workable I should like the Minister to explain why this is so. The only farming enterprises which will enable a reasonable number of farmers to reach the development target are in the other two categories I have already mentioned, that is, dairy and tillage farming. I should like to illustrate why a 50-acre farmer may find it impossible to reach those targets. Anybody with a knowledge of dairy farming knows that the first essential for a worthwhile dairy enterprise is running water. In the west where there is a high proportion of small farmers and as yet an undeveloped industrial sector, only about 13 per cent of our farmers have this facility. Shortage of water is of critical importance particularly in my own county of Galway. Group water schemes are proceeding slowly and are organised in such a tedious manner that an immediate examination should be called for.

The onus of organising a group water scheme and of submitting an estimate and a design for it is placed on the shoulders of the local people. This is too much to ask of them. The Department of Local Government are orientated towards providing water supplies for towns and industries while it is just as essential to provide those services for the farming community. It is wrong to relegate the needs of the farming community to the end of this queue.

Farming is still the biggest industry in the west of Ireland and will hold this position for a long time to come. Industry and other services will not be able to provide extra employment despite their best efforts. The farmers will be obliged under this directive to leave the land. We must not allow this to happen.

I recommend as a matter of urgency that a committee be set up consisting of top officials of the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries and Local Government, county council representatives and county committees of agriculture with a view to examining speedily the question of making running water available to all farmers and rural dwellers. A solution must be found to overcome the long delays in getting group water schemes under way. I emphasise this point because in directive 159 we are asked to reach the development stage by 1974. I have emphasised with logical figures that it is impossible for the farmer to reach that category under the dry-stock situation. It is glaringly obvious that the farmer cannot reach it under a dairying scheme.

We know the situation which has prevailed in regard to tillage farmers. In this House and in the other House, and through every farming organisation we have illustrated the ups-and-downs of the tillage farmer over the past 40 years. We have an example of this now where potatoes are at rock-bottom price and are left at the walls to rot. How can we implement a directive, or either of the two directives, when as a farming nation we are not prepared to accept fully the diagnosis and the application of those directives?

To add to that situation we have lost in this year something to which the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries should have paid heed. They should have listened to the advisory service. We have arrived at a situation where the advisory service is at a full stop. There are reasons for this. It is not a new situation. We have heard a good many emphatic statements from the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries during the past few months concerning the Advisers' Association ban on the operation of the modernisation scheme. I am satisfied that the advisory service enjoys the confidence of the farmers and has always done so. They have the interests of the farmers at heart even though they are proclaiming it less loudly than others. The public press, especially the farming press, could have adopted a more constructive role in this dispute. Their only contribution seems to be to attempt to drive a wedge between the advisers and the farmers. This is deplorable. This dispute, without going into it in depth, will be solved and will have to be solved. Why not solve it now rather than later on?

Finally, I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary of a recent speech delivered by one of his colleagues, Deputy O'Leary, the Minister for Labour, when he was reported to have said that some employers are still inclined to treat employees like cattle. He was referring to employers outside the Government, no doubt, but this accusation could be levelled at the employers in Government and particularly at employers who have given trojan service, such as the advisory service. I would ask the Department and the Minister for Agriculture to put the advisory service back to work so that they will learn, by the diagnosis of those advisers, that these two schemes as they now stand are not operable. They must be changed, they must be reviewed and renegotiated because they cannot and will not be applied to the farming community of today as I know them.

I wish to deal mainly with the implications of this directive and its effectiveness at this point. I shall commence by saying that I am convinced that this press release on the entire farm modernisation plan is now obsolete because so much has happened during the past three months. It will not serve the purpose for which it was intended and it will not induce any new confidence in the agricultural community. An air of despondency has set in in that community and they need at the present time some new form of guidance. They need renewed confidence in the whole agricultural industry. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a reasonable man and who has the interests of the farming community at heart, should actively consider with his colleague in Government renegotiating the entire farm development and modernisation scheme because it is obsolete and it cannot be implemented.

For years we talked about the butter mountain in Europe. Today we talk about the beef mountain which is building up in Europe. It is extraordinary that we talk about a beef mountain at a time when so many of our people would be glad to get an opportunity to purchase some of this surplus beef if it was offered to them at a reasonable price. I believe that beef at present-day prices is value for money when one considers the prices of other commodities which are purchased freely by millions of people throughout Europe. I refer to all forms of alcohol. They are purchased, irrespective of the price, without any crib or complaint, and it is extraordinary the amount of buyer resistance which is built up, not alone in this country but in Europe and even in America, with regard to the purchasing of beef.

I call on our Government and on our permanent Minister in Europe to initiate some form of beef voucher scheme which would enable beef to be sold at a reduced price to those in need. It could be operated and implemented in the same way as the butter voucher scheme which is at present in operation here.

It is necessary that something be done because we are in a crisis situation at present. All of us will readily admit and understand that drastic remedies are now needed if we are to secure that renewed confidence which is necessary among the farming community. One way of instilling confidence into the agricultural industry is first of all to try to dispose of this beef mountain. That can be done, in my opinion, by the introduction of a beef voucher scheme in this country and throughout the EEC member countries. It should not be a difficult scheme to implement because if decisions can be taken by any member of the EEC group then this crisis situation should be met fairly and squarely and a positive and real effort should be made to dispose of the beef mountain. When the farming community were called on to increase production in the last four, five, six or seven years, they responded in no uncertain manner. The result is that they now find themselves without adequate markets for their surplus produce.

We must also remember that agriculture is our greatest industry. All the raw materials for that industry are readily and freely available to us. The industry requires the minimum amount of imports with the exception of farm machinery and the like. The farming community responded to the call to increase production and they now find themselves in a state of stagnation. They are anxious to know where they go from there.

In this farm modernisation scheme many proposals are put forward, but so much has happened during the past few months that these proposals cannot be successfully implemented now. Therefore, new thinking has to be done, new ideas have to be created if we are to succeed in achieving the goal which was set out in this farm modernisation scheme. In the scheme the farmers were classified in different categories but the class which concerns most of the farming community is the development farmer. We must ask ourselves how do the proposals for aid for the development farmer fit in with our farm retirement scheme recently announced by the Minister for Lands? The proposals in both schemes will be at cross-purposes. More thinking on those lines will have to be done. We will have to classify the farmers in the western counties as against the farmers in the midland counties, the farm incomes of the farmers in the western areas as against the farmers in the midlands, the southern or the eastern counties. All those factors will have to be taken into consideration.

To achieve the target of a minimum farm income of £1,800, I believe radical changes will have to take place. The time has come for complete harmonisation of all the activities of the groups associated with our agricultural development, the Department of Lands, the Land Project schemes and its officers, the drainage authorities, the county committees of agriculture and, of course, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The time has come when the activities of all these groups should be channelled into one Department with one Minister having complete control of the implementation and operation of all decisions and activities.

For instance, in the case of drainage there are about ten different authorities in the country at present. Drainage is carried out under the Land Project; there are arterial drainage schemes; local authorities carry out certain drainage works; the local improvements scheme is financed by the Department of Local Government and is operated by local authorities throughout the country. All these schemes sometimes work at cross purposes. A determined effort is now required to channel all these authorities into one central authority for the whole country so as to have effective land project and drainage.

We have just experienced one of the wettest winters in history and there is urgent need for a central drainage authority for the whole country. I know that if all these various schemes were channelled under the one Department, the Minister would need additional help. I do not think that any Member of this or the other House would object to giving the Minister any additional help required if he decided to implement these suggestions and determined to see that greater benefits would accrue to those for whom the schemes were meant. That is something which should be taken into consideration with our entire farm development scheme.

I should like to refer to the very vexed, urgent and important question of farm credit. There is no doubt that the section of our people most dependent on credit are the farming community because of the ups and downs that are associated with farm development and because of the variations that can occur from year to year in our climate. One year the farmer may find himself doing reasonably well, but the following year he may find himself very much in the red. Therefore, he needs credit in order to tide himself over the lean period; he needs credit if he wants to embark on a programme of expansion; he needs credit if he wants to improve his holding in any way.

With regard to marketing, a great deal more needs to be done. If we want to dispose of our surplus agricultural produce we must establish some marketing board which could achieve the same measure of success as had been achieved by Bord Bainne over the years. There are exporters who operate as individuals and there is our own Beef Export Board, but enough is not being done. Some form of co-ordination is necessary so that we can have planned marketing. That is necessary if we are to achieve our goal and to instil confidence into the future of our entire agricultural industry.

I know that the Minister has long associations with agriculture and has a farming background. He and his officials in the Department, together with their colleagues in Brussels and elsewhere, need to do a great deal of new thinking on the best possible marketing system that can be introduced so that all our agricultural products can be presented in the most attractive form.

At present there is a dispute between the Agricultural Officers' Association and the Department of Agriculture. The result is that this scheme, although announced to come into operation on 1st February last, is still stagnant and has not got off the ground. If the situation becomes worse, I believe that the whole scheme will become obsolete because of the changes that are taking place, not alone daily but hourly, in the agricultural field here and in Europe. Therefore, those who are involved in this dispute and the officials in the Department must get together before it is too late. Confidence is very necessary in the agricultural field here and in Europe. Therefore, those who are involved in this dispute and the officials in the Department must get together before it is too late. Confidence is very necessary in the agricultural industry and the only way to gain that is to ensure that everybody associated with agriculture is working towards achieving the common goal, i.e., progress for the farming community. Progress for the farming community means progress for the entire country because the bulk of agricultural produce is exported.

In dealing with exports—if I may leave the motion for a moment—we must reflect on the amount of foreign foods which are available to the Irish housewife at present. It is deplorable and nothing short of scandalous to see the amount of imported foodstuffs available in our supermarkets and shops, day in, day out. First the foods eaten at breakfast are most likely to have been manufactured in England and imported. This situation should not be allowed, particularly as we have such a huge surplus of foods at present. It applies to biscuit and meat products as well as to cereals. With the present surplus of beef, and seeing many types of imported meat products on supermarket shelves throughout the country, we ask ourselves "Why?" Surely something can be done.

If the Italians can impose a tariff on agricultural imports we in Ireland should impose some sort of tariff on the vast amount of imported foodstuffs which are being made available to the Irish housewife. When she goes to buy food for breakfast or lunch, she does not look at the label: she buys what she sees on the shelf and nine times out of ten it is the foreign product that is made available to her. Our supermarket proprietors and all our shopkeepers have something to answer for in this respect. They do not appear to make any special effort to stock Irish goods.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator is straying a little too far from the motion.

I was wandering from the motion for a moment, because what I was discussing has a very important bearing on our entire agricultural industry and it is seldom there is an opportunity to mention it.

I wish to refer to the aids which have been given to agriculture during the years. Firstly, there is the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme. It was a very costly scheme but was a successful one. The brucellosis eradication scheme was another very costly scheme, and I am sorry to say not an entirely successful one. It is one of the most difficult ones confronting the Minister and his Department, and I am afraid that we have a very long way to go before we reach the end of the road and have brucellosis-free herds in this country.

The regulations which govern the operation of this scheme are not sufficiently watertight to guarantee complete eradication. Cattle are moved from non-attested areas. No matter what the Minister or his officials do, they cannot track down a farmer who lives in County Westmeath, a clearance area, and a farmer in County Offaly which is a non-clearance area. The same can be said of any other part of the country. Such movement of cattle is bound to spread the disease. There is also the case of a veterinary surgeon going from one farm to another. He may visit a farm where there are reactors and afterwards visit a farm where this is an uninfected herd. The same case can be made for the A.I. operator, and even for the farmers. My farm could be uninfected yet I could visit my neighbour's farm where there would be reactors. I could even be a carrier of the disease. These are matters which need serious consideration on account of the large sums of money being spent on the scheme. The veterinary section of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries should give serious thought to vaccination against brucellosis as a means of stamping out the disease.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator has one minute left.

Thanks for reminding me. To get back to the brucellosis scheme, it is necessary to establish a dispensary veterinary service which would not cost as much as the present brucellosis eradication or bovine tuberculosis schemes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Would you relate this to the scheme?

All this has to do with farm income and development. I need some extra time in order to indicate what is entailed in farm development.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator must relate his remarks to the subject of the motion.

The health of our livestock has more to do with farm development and income than any other aspect. Therefore the establishment of a proper veterinary service, freely available to all farmers, would be one way of ensuring a more healthy livestock.

The farm retirement scheme, as indicated in this document, will not be a success. The farming community are proud and independent and do not want to be a burden on the economy. What is needed is good marketing, reasonable prices and farm costs related to farm incomes. The amount of taxation being contributed by the farming community to the Exchequer at the present time is not fully understood. The farmer must buy equipment for his farm. He must pay tax on all his farm equipment. This fact is not understood by the non-farming community.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator has one minute left. He is already considerably over his time.

I can assure the Minister of our support in any new schemes he may make in order to bolster the confidence of the farming community because agriculture has taken a serious knocking in the past few months.

There are some aspects of the farm modernisation scheme which worry all farmers. On the whole, I am very confident that the scheme is a good one and will be of great benefit for the farming community. I was surprised to find that Senator Keegan, who spoke very sincerely on the subject of Irish agriculture for half an hour, could not make any criticism of the farm modernisation scheme, even though he was invited——

I did not get an opportunity to elaborate.

——on at least two occasions to speak on the subject of the farm modernisation scheme. I took it that whatever Senator Keegan would say about the scheme would be in its favour since he did not take the opportunity offered to criticise it to any significant extent.

This scheme is set out on the right lines both in the European and Irish context. Some years ago the General Council of County Committees of Agriculture were asked by a former Minister to submit their proposals for the reorganisation of the advisory services. They made a fairly comprehensive survey not only of the advisory services but also the structure of subsidies, aids and grants to farmers. The document which they produced followed the same lines as those drawn up for the farm modernisation scheme. Farmers are being encouraged to become viable. They do not get grants unless it can be proved that they will be of some benefit for the development of their farms.

It can be said that the farm modernisation scheme has been initiated at a crossroads in the life of agriculture here and in Europe. We had become accustomed to Britain dominating our agricultural policy. The British Government could subsidise their farmers to the extent that they were able to sell cheap food.

Farmers are only a small percentage of the British population—agriculture is only a small industry in Britain. However, we were forced to compete with British agricultural prices. The result was that we had to subsidise 40 per cent of our population in order that they could compete with the British cheap food policy. That was the situation in which Irish farmers had to carry on their business. There is still a tendency to regard farming as a business which we must subsidise. If the Departments of Industry and Commerce or Finance help to set up an industry then that industry can obtain subsidisation, grants for building and so on, but if any group of people are told that a certain industry must be subsidised indefinitely they will say that it is unfair and not good policy. Therefore, the same must apply to the farming community.

Somebody has said that the farm modernisation scheme will drive many people from agriculture. I do not think that is a reasonable statement. The farmer will have no less freedom than formerly. There is no law which will compel a man to give up his farm. Senator Killilea mentioned the number of people who will leave agriculture in the next few years. This may be true but I contend that it will not be as a result of the farm modernisation scheme.

We have only to walk around any parish in rural Ireland, in the west of Ireland in particular, to knock on the doors and meet the people, and it will be obvious to us before we go very far, how many of these farms, how many of these homesteads are going to survive. It will be obvious that a very large percentage of the present landholders have no heirs, are beyond the age at which they can make progress and are beyond the age at which they are going to plan or avail of any grants or incentives. The result will be that we will have much bigger farms in the future. There is no question about that.

The question of the target income for admission into the development section of the modern incentive scheme is a very important one. It is suggested that a farmer must plan to make an income of £1,800 a year over the next four years. This may be said to be a very high income. But we have to ask ourselves what sort of living do we want for the man who is going to remain on the farm and earn his livelihood from it? I would suggest that to plan for a minimum income of £1,800 a year is not unreasonable.

The question of the agricultural advisers was raised a few minutes ago. The agricultural advisers are on a sort of strike at the moment. It is good to reflect that the basic starting income of an agricultural adviser is £1,700 a year at the present time, increasing by 16 annual increments to £3,417. If you consider that the young adviser earning £1,700 a year goes out into the field without any investment, without any previous experience, working the normal, or near enough to the normal, 40-, 45-, perhaps some of them 50-hour week, and compare this with the farmer who has years of experience behind him, who has a large investment in his land, buildings and stock, and suggest that £1,800 a year is too high a target is not being realistic. If a farmer cannot reach this figure over the next four years it would be preferable to see him in a situation where he could earn £1,800 a year. Having looked at the whole business of agriculture, having looked at the farming structure, having looked at the people involved, I do not think we want to see on the land a man who, over the next four, five or six years, cannot reach this income. If he wants to remain on the land he is entirely free to do so. Nevertheless, it would not be a healthy situation to subsidise farmers to remain and at the same time have a situation in which they would be earning an income much inferior to what they are getting.

There is the question of the two per cent on the value of the land. This figure should be looked at again. Most farmers could claim as an invisible income depreciation of the value of their land over the years. To deduct 2 per cent from the capital investment in the land is slightly illogical, because, on the other hand, farmers, when doing their accounts, could legitimately add in much more than 2 per cent in depreciation of their land over a number of years. This figure could be looked at and it could make it easier for some farmers to reach the development category.

In some sectors there have been many complaints against the new grants structure, in particular, the regulations governing the development section. There is not that much difference in the aids and incentives the traditional farmer and the development farmer can get. The 10 per cent on mobile equipment is not available to the transitional farmer; neither is the grant towards the purchase of livestock. But the 50 per cent on land reclamation and the 30 per cent on buildings is still there. They are the important ones. I would like anybody who is interested in the whole question of grants to compare briefly the figures. I have just taken a look at this and, speaking from my own experience, I would not say that pigs are not very relevant to the average western farmer at the present time. To provide accommodation for 200 fattening pigs or 20 sows would cost roughly £4,620. The old grant for this sort of building would come to around £800. Under the new grant structure the grant will be roughly in the region of £1,850. Every farmer will admit, and everybody in this assembly will admit, that this is a vast improvement. There is no comparison between the new rate of grants and the old one as far as the average farmer applying for a grant is concerned.

The question of a milking parlour comes to my mind. Under the old system the maximum grant for a milking parlour was £150. That is the most any farmer could get. Now the development farmer and the transitional farmer, if he instals, for instance, a 20-stall herringbone milking parlour, can get a grant of at least £1,500. That is ten times the amount of money that was available under the old system. I know my figures on this. Not only do I know the cost of these things, but I have had the actual experience of installing such equipment and collecting the old grant of £150. Under the present system, either as a transitional farmer or a development farmer, I would be getting ten times that amount of grant. Let us take the average-size haybarn, 30 × 25, the price £650. The old grant was £63. The new grant is £220 approximately. For a silage pit, roughly the same size as the one I mentioned, that cost £500, the new grant is £167. The old grant was £51. For drying and storage facilities the old grant was a maximum of £150. The new grant is 30 per cent of cost. It can come to almost any figure you care to think of. The old grant for land reclamation was a maximum of £50 per acre. The new grant is a percentage of cost. Anybody would agree that we would much prefer to get 50 per cent of the cost than to get £50 per acre, particularly with the rate of inflation and increased costs at the present time. I just quote these few figures to illustrate the facts. I believe that the average farmer making an application for grants under the development scheme, whether he be classed as transitional or in the development stage, will be much better off than he was under the old system.

Too much emphasis could be laid on this whole question of grants, even for land reclamation and for buildings. I have discussed this with farmers and have heard a great many complaints about the scheme. Some complaints were unreasonable and some were justified. It could happen that at this stage the farmers came to realise that they were at a crossroads. They are not at the crossroads because the farm modernisation scheme has been introduced. The crossroads was there anyway, but the farm modernisation scheme has created an atmosphere in which farmers have begun to think seriously about planning and programming. Naturally enough, some unpalatable facts have come to their notice.

In some of those cases I asked farmers to reflect on the amount of grants that were collected by farmers in those areas. We should consider those in the light of any particular parish in rural Ireland and ask ourselves what contribution have the farm grants made to the overall structure of that area, what contribution have they made to the income of the average farmer in that area, and we will perhaps find that it was less than would have been expected. I heard farmers complain bitterly about the new grants, about the farm modernisation scheme, about the development category, et cetera, and, in fact, in those areas an insignificant amount of money had been paid in farm building grants and land reclamation grants for the past four or five years. I have some figures here. I have taken for instance, a pilot area, a parish called Carrigallen in south Leitrim. The soil structure there, which has been analysed by the Agricultural Institute, is probably the best of its kind in County Leitrim. It is much more typical of, say, three-quarters of Cavan than it is of Leitrim, of North Roscommon, of a good part of Sligo and most of Donegal. The cow population in that parish was increased by 50 per cent over four years. Now I think you can call this almost an explosive increase in the population of dairy stock and heifers in that period. But the number of grants that were collected is very small and would surprise anybody who would have thought that grass was a very significant contribution to the increase in agricultural production in that area. For instance, there were only two piggery grants collected in 1972; there was only five new byre grants collected in that year; milking parlours, there were six; silage pits, six. In fact, the total amount of money collected in 1972 in the form of farm buildings grants in that parish —and I put it that the rate of increase in agricultural production in that parish was second to none—was £8,700. I would count that almost an insignificant amount of money, but to my mind what was a far greater factor there was the increased confidence in the farming community on the threshold of entry into the EEC and in the knowledge that milk prices would be stabilised and milk prices would be increased. That was the most important contributing factor to the increased population that we got there.

An agricultural policy that will show farmers the way ahead, that will let farmers know as best we can what the future is and provide a structure where farmers will get a fair price for their produce is much more important than direct subsidisation in the form of a grant or any other way you can think of. In addition to this I would count a good advisory service as being much more important than agricultural and farm buildings grants or subsidies of any sort. I think that this was a very large contributing factor in the parish that I have just mentioned.

There are many things that we would like to see about this, but certainly, for my part, I am much more anxious to hear the Minister's view of this because an awful lot has been said about it and there are so many facts and figures that are necessary if we start to make a proper calculation of what affect this is going to have. To my mind, what is more important to the farmers of Ireland is that we have a sound economic policy, that the right leadership be provided, that we know where our markets are and that the European Common Agricultural Policy survive and be seen to survive and be protected. This is much more important to us than the day-to-day adjustments in grants, incentives and subsidies that we have partly depended on so much in the past.

I look forward to the Minister's remarks and, particularly, I would ask him to take a look at that figure of 2 per cent on the value of the land, which is going to make it much more difficult for the development farmer to agree entirely. There is just one other figure that might be of some interest. In my own county we did some calculations on this and we found that a small farmer would need 30 dairy cows or perhaps 60 dry stock, that is taking the sort of grants that we have in the west of Ireland, in order to become a development farmer. The question of whether a man becomes a development farmer or a transitional farmer is not entirely crucial to whether he will survive or not. There are many farmers who will not reach the development standard and they will survive, because, after all, you have to look at a man's farm; you have to look at his stock; but more than anything else you have to look at the man himself. It is the quality of the man himself that will eventually determine whether he will survive or not.

I welcome this motion because I think it will give the Minister the opportunity of bringing us up to date on thinking regarding this Farm Modernisation Scheme. All of us know that agriculture in this country at present is in a very disturbed state. There is much apathy among many people and, in particular, farmers who are trying to eke out a living are very much perturbed regarding prices for their produce.

We had great hopes when we entered the EEC. It certainly was a great opportunity for this country and one that we all looked forward to with great enthusiasm. The people of Ireland responded and they made their decision. Now they expected, and rightly so, that they would get a better return. Perhaps the thinking on it was not put over in the clear, lucid way it should have been, but the fact is that for the first time for centuries we felt we had an alternative market to the market in Britain, that we would no longer have to sell at their price, they only bought what suited them when it suited them, and at their own price. We believed that the EEC would have been a great lift-up for the farmers.

The majority of the people feel that something has gone wrong, and this motion should give the Minister an opportunity of trying to put matters right or of giving us an up-to-date version of what is happening.

The EEC is not as watertight as it was supposed to be, and this reflects on the price of our products, because cattle have been allowed to enter the EEC from other areas. Other countries have been allowed to put on tariffs and prevent some of our produce from entering their countries. This seems to be a breach of all the regulations and the majority of the agricultural community think that this matter should be raised and pursued more vigorously in the Council of Ministers and in the EEC Parliament.

I know that the Minister has a good grasp of farming and is well versed in all facets of it. I certainly would not be one who would like to say or do anything that would prevent him from negotiating to the very best of his ability on behalf of Irish farmers. However, they expect that something more vigorous will be done and that something will be done to curb the type of activity that is going on over the last six months and that has caused such a depression in the cattle trade.

Ireland has the finest climate in Europe so far as growing grass is concerned. Grass, as all farmers know, is the cheapest product they can produce. There is a golden opportunity and the farmers of this country are willing to avail of it if they can be remunerated at the other end. In days gone by we were told to produce more. The farmers have done that. We have increased the standard of our herds, increased our cattle population remarkably over the last five or six years and ensured that most of our cattle were free from disease. Now that all that has been completed we feel that the guaranteed market we expected to get is not there and we are at the mercy of these people, and there are surpluses building up all over Europe. There is not much encouragement for the Irish farmer——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I took it that your remarks were an introduction to what you were to say on the motion. You are widening the debate into general remarks on the EEC. Would you please relate it to what is in the motion.

I just felt it was necessary to make a few remarks, because we are dealing with various categories of farmers as they would be classified in this Farm Modernisation Scheme, and some camparisons were made regarding farming grants some years ago and as at present. I will admit that Senator McCartin, whom I know very well and who I know to be an excellent progressive and intelligent farmer, has spoken on this and knows a great deal about it. At the same time, the cost has risen far more than any grant at present payable would compensate for the increases which have taken place in iron, cement and various products that are used for farm buildings.

There are three categories of farmers mentioned in this. The transitional farmer is probably the person with whom I would have the greatest contact because the majority of the farms in my county are very small. The farmers eke out an existence for themselves in these smaller farms. We are very much concerned in case this development plan would in any way tend to wipe these people completely off the map. I have a feeling, which, perhaps, I share with many others, that when one of these farms is placed on the market the Forestry Division step in immediately. This procedure should be examined because it is the belief of many people in rural Ireland that the Forestry Division are aiming at getting so many thousand acres per year and are not too concerned where they acquire that land. There have been cases of forestry officials visiting farmers and requesting them to dispose of their land without the knowledge of the adjoining farmer. Had the adjoining farmer been able to buy that farm at a public auction from the Land Commission, he would be able to supplement his earnings from his own farm and that of his neighbour, and, possibly, would have advanced to a development farmer. This is very important at present.

Much of the marginal land that exists in counties in the west of Ireland, Cavan and Monaghan and places like that, could be ploughed deeper and made fertile with modern techniques and modern farm methods. There are grants available for fencing mountains and commonages so that they could be used and be very profitable and suitable for sheep rearing. There is a fairly good price for lamb at present on the export market. I certainly would not like to see any rush to try to steamroll the transitional farmer into a kind of a Mansholt super-farmer so as to get rid of more people from rural Ireland. We have the houses there. We would like to see the rural water supply scheme stepped up so that running water would be available in every home and on every farm. These are things that are very necessary and that every farm needs and should be pushed ahead, especially in the dairying areas. There are many areas where people are depending on lakes or well for a water supply. This scheme which originated four or five years ago should have been pushed ahead much more vigorously and would be of tremendous benefit to the farms.

It is only fair to say that we all welcome any modernisation that would help to increase the standard of living of the people on these farms. It is a hard life. As I have said here on many occasions, they know nothing about hours and the remuneration is rather small. At the same time, it is a satisfying life. It would be bad for the country and for the nation if these people vanished. The ideal solution would be to ensure that there would be a type of industry in the area based on farm produce, such as milk powder factories and factories based on agricultural produce, so that the farmer in these areas could work in the factory for so many hours per week, work the other days on his own farm and produce what food he requires for the use of his family and himself. That would ensure that a housing shortage would not be created in built-up areas and that people would not have to emigrate to find employment. Thus the farmer and his family could be left in rural Ireland where they are anxious to stay, where they have rural electrification, schools and many amenities that were only in thriving towns in days gone by.

The Minister would do well to make some up-to-date statement on this and, in particular, to try and give the people some confidence which they badly need at present. People do not like despondency. I do not like coming in here and crying and whingeing about what is happening in rural Ireland, but at the same time it is something that affects us all and something that needs to be said. By saying it, perhaps the Minister would give these people the little encouragement that is needed at a time like this.

I would also like to see the dispute which is taking place at present between officials of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the farmers being satisfactorily resolved. I know the Minister has been making an attempt to have it resolved. I think it would be well if something could be done to get this thing off the ground and to ensure that the agricultural advisers et cetera, and particularly the local officials who know the area, would be involved in sorting out the problem. It is very important, because these officials live in the area and know the farmers and the ins and outs of the problem. There is always that bit of intimacy between the local agricultural representative and the farmers which I think should be continued. I do not like a situation where somebody else would go over the heads of the local representatives. I know it is a delicate matter to mention here. All strikes are rather delicate matters and have to be resolved one way or another in the long run. The Minister is a very able man in this respect and I expect he will be able to do something to get this problem resolved, too.

I am glad that this motion has been put before the Seanad to give Senators some chance of airing their views on it. I am also glad that we have a modernisation scheme, a scheme that in my opinion, is very necessary. Since our entry into the EEC and before that, modernisation schemes were necessary, and help to farmers to improve their incomes from those holdings was always necessary. Help must be given to those who need help, whether it is help in explaining the schemes, help from the Department or from the agricultural instructors. People who are in the lower income group, regardless of whether they are farmers or workers, should be given advice. If the agricultural officers do not intend—and I would hope they would—giving the advice that the country needs, I think it is necessary for the Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to give advice and emphasise the effects of the modernisation scheme on the majority of farmers.

Modernisation has been taking place in this country not just now but for the past 20, 30 or 40 years. There is a need for an increase in modernisation. We are now in a different ball game as members of the EEC and we should help farmers to get the maximum benefit from membership.

In 1960 our total number of farm holdings was approximately 360,000. Those consisting of under 50 acres amounted to approximately 275,000. This represented 77 per cent of the total holdings at that time. With gradual improvements, the total number of holdings amounted to 279,000 in 1970 but 193,000 of these were comprised of less than 50 acres, an improvement of 7 per cent. In Connacht in 1960 there were 81,757 holdings of 50 acres or fewer. In 1970 the number was 67,491, a decrease from 86 per cent to 80 per cent. There was a gradual improvement for farm holdings in that area.

In the three counties of Ulster the total number of holdings in 1960 was 47,756. Of these, 39,841 were of 50 acres or fewer. In 1970 the total number of holdings was 40,554 and of these 32,387 were comprised of fewer than 50 acres. This is a reduction from 84 per cent to 80 per cent, but this rate is too slow and we must help to bring the farmers to a situation where they can earn a good living. We must introduce a modernisation scheme to help them improve their holdings.

There is a new retirement scheme for farmers. This will help the situation as farmers will have an opportunity of long-leasing their farm to other farmers who may want to develop their farms and qualify for the modernisation scheme grants and so on. I attended a seminar on agriculture in Italy recently at which there were farmers and managers present from Italy and France. It was clear that the same problems exist in southern Italy as we have here. They have been members of the EEC since the mid-1950s and now they are beginning to understand that they must modernise and develop the farms in southern Italy so that the farmers in that region might derive the benefits of EEC membership. The region is poor and the only way in which they can develop their farms is by increasing the holdings. The holdings in southern Italy are approximately the same as those in the west of Ireland and in the counties of Ulster. They realise now that if they had carried out this system ten years ago they would be in the position now of being well-off farmers and able to invest from the improvements gained by the modernisation scheme and to invest further without the help of any scheme. They have been losing out for the past 20 years.

We should take this region as an example as we could be in the same position ten years from now. In 1960 the number of holdings of 30 acres or fewer in Ireland was 60 per cent of the total. In 1970 this was reduced to 50 per cent. Therefore modernisation has been taking place. In Connacht 54 per cent of the total holdings comprised of less than 30 acres. Nobody could state that a farmer with a holding of no more than 30 acres could make a living which would be comparable even to that of agricultural workers or industrial workers. In 1970 the number of holdings in Connacht of 30 acres or fewer represented 64 per cent of the total. Since 1970 this figure has been reduced to 55 per cent, a fair reduction of the small holdings.

In the three counties of Ulster the total holdings of 30 acres or fewer amounted to 66 per cent in 1970. The position has improved since but it is still not good enough. We need help to improve the capacity of the farmer in order that he may increase his earning capacity. I appeal to all concerned with farming to help the farmers to learn more about the modernisation scheme and to assist them in filling up the application forms which are to be forwarded direct to the Department. I am pleased that the Minister intends speaking on this subject and, no doubt, he will clarify the scheme further.

I am worried about the delay in implementing this scheme which we were given to understand would come into force on the 1st February, 1974. We are now in the month of May and farmers throughout the country do not know where they stand in so far as the scheme is concerned. This is a lost year for farmers. If a farmer wished to build a silo this should be done by now but he would be afraid to do so because of the uncertainty of the situation. Under the old scheme agricultural contractors who purchased slurry tanks received a grant which was recommended by the committee of agriculture. I know a number of agricultural contractors who have purchased slurry tanks since 1st February, 1974 which cost them £3,000 to £4,000 but they do not know when they will receive a grant. In the meantime, they have had to obtain loans from the bank on which they must pay high interest rates until they receive the grant. This is as a result of the dispute between the Department and the agricultural instructors in the rural areas but this is not the place to discuss that matter because it is a union affair. Nevertheless we might say something about it. I have checked up on the number of agricultural officers we have at present and have found that we have 27 chief agricultural officers, 30 deputy chief agricultural officers and 573 instructors. I remember the time when we had about 15 agricultural instructors in Tipperary and, indeed, I remember the time when we had only one.

A special tribute should be paid to agricultural instructors because a good agricultural instructor, and most of them are good, is worth his weight in gold. He meets the farmers constantly. If a farmer has a problem he gets in touch with his agricultural instructor for advice on it. Those instructors see no future as far as promotion is concerned because there are only 27 CAO appointments and 30 deputy CAO appointments. It looks as if those people will have to continue throughout their lives as agricultural instructors. I know the Minister created 70 new posts recently, but he also said that those appointments would have to be filled by the Appointments Commission. I cannot understand why there should be a difference between agricultural officers and officers of the Department who do not have to go before the Appointments Commission in order to be promoted. Their promotion is automatic, according to their years of service. This also applies to the Land Commission where there are three grades and I am told——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I have allowed remarks to be made on the present dispute, but the Senator is going into details of the intricacies of the dispute which is outside the scope of the motion.

I shall not say any more. I accept the ruling of the Chair but shall agree to differ because the implementation of the farm modernisation scheme is being held up by the dispute between the agricultural advisers and the Department.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is why I have allowed reference to it.

Without any further reference to it, I would appeal to the Minister to settle this dispute as soon as possible. I believe that the agricultural instructors are reasonable in their demands and that, therefore, their demands should be acceded to. In this new farm modernisation scheme we have three types of farmers: we have the commercial farmers with income of more than £1,800 a year and then we have the development farmers whose incomes must be at least £1,800 before qualifying. We have a great number of development farmers because the development farmer comes in between the small farmer and the big farmer. When we refer to an income of £1,800 for the development farmer we should realise that that is no proper income today. Even an income of £3,000 today is not a great income when you compare it with the incomes that tradesmen can earn. I know of plasterers and carpenters who have earned more than £3,000 last year. These people have the advantages of a five-day week and a set number of hours per day whereas the farmer works on seven days a week and for long hours every day. Much more than is suggested in this scheme will have to be done for the development farmer. At present instead of improving his position we are going in a backward direction. I know this is not the entire fault of the Government. Cattle prices have slumped and farmers who bought cattle at high prices last year are selling them this year at almost the same price. Something will have to be done and done fast for the development farmer.

The small farmer, who is not capable of earning £1,800 a year, looks as if he is out under EEC regulations. That is something to be greatly regretted. For four years he will get help in the line of grants and aids, but after that period he will receive no grants. That means that after four years we will have 100,000 farmers out of jobs, so to speak. I do not believe that that is right. When we were going around selling the Common Market to the farming community both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil assured the small farmer that he would not be wiped out. Now it looks as if we are going back on our word. It is all very well for us to say that this is an EEC regulation but it looks as if Ireland is the only country that has to comply with EEC regulations. Italy, England and other countries seem to do whatever they wish. We must retain the small farmer in this country and we must do all in our power to keep him in farming.

Senator McCartin mentioned grants and compared the present grants to the grants under the old scheme. One got the impression that under the new scheme, grants covered the entire cost of any job. He mentioned the haybarn and said that the old grant was £63 but £63 in the old days went as far as the amount stated in the new grant.

That is today.

Sixty-three pounds today?

Yes, that was the maximum on 1st February. If the new scheme had not been introduced that would have been the figure.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Ryan to continue.

The Senator's party have been in power for one-and-a-half years now and they could have increased this grant when they got in. If they had done so it would not be as low as £63. When we left office the cost of erecting a haybarn or a silo was not as dear as it was three or four months afterwards. After the present Government took office prices soared. It is a pity that the Government did not increase grants according as prices increased.

Senator Butler mentioned that the forms which were collected from farmers should be forwarded to the Department of Agriculture. I do not agree with him in this. When these forms were being filled up a guarantee was given to the farmers that they would not go past the local committee of agriculture office. If they go to Dublin it is a breach of that contract. They should be sent back to the farmers and let the farmers send them on to Dublin if they wish. In conclusion, I would appeal to the Minister to do everything in his power to get this dispute settled as soon as possible.

As a member of the non-farming sector I should like to say a few words on Directive 159 and on the general principles of the farm modernisation scheme. There are two ways of approaching this matter. Firstly, one could dismiss the whole thing out of hand as being unsuitable and unreasonable. The second approach—which to me is the more reasonable and logical one— would be to examine the scheme so as to see how it can be worked. The primary objective of the scheme is to improve the lot of the farmer, and we are all at one so far as that is concerned. Where the controversy arises in relation to the modus operandi—how the scheme is to be implemented in the circumstances in which we find ourselves and in so far as this country is concerned. The levels of incomes for the different categories have been arrived at through discussion in Brussels. The sum of £1,800 per annum for a developing farmer would appear— for my part of the country, at least— to be rather high. The attainment of that level would involve great development in the short term and many farmers in my area would find it hard to achieve. On the other hand, if the level were pegged lower, it would be interpreted as downgrading the farmer and not setting for him an income comparable with that of other sectors of the community. Therefore, no matter what one decides in relation to levels of income and targets, one will be in trouble.

I can see the reason for the fear and apprehension with which many small farmers, particularly in the West of Ireland, view the present terms of Directive 159. Any time land is spoken of in this country it becomes a very emotive subject, probably due to historical reasons, but it is a subject that must be looked at reasonably. We are now members of the European Economic Community and as such we are expected to play our part in that organisation. The scheme, as set out at the moment, is not suitable for many of the farmers along the western seaboard. However, we can rely on our Minister to ensure that the farmers who fail to reach the level laid down in the directive will not be driven off the land. There is a picture of gloom and doom painted by many people, a picture of an exodus from the land. While this term may be too strong, there has been an exodus taking place for some time. The primary objective of this scheme is to stop the flight from the land and to give people on the land a reasonable income comparable with that in other sectors of the community. The delay in implementation can hardly be laid at the door of the Minister. He has done his utmost to settle the dispute referred to and I have every confidence that he will continue to do so and that an agreeable conclusion will be reached.

As already mentioned, development has been taking place. Figures were mentioned regarding the West of Ireland, for instance, that farms whose holdings are fewer than 30 acres made up 64 per cent of the entire farm poulation a while ago but that the figure is now 55 per cent. That is development. We must not look on this scheme in isolation from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. We must look at it as an effort in co-operation between the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lands and Local Government. The development in the farming community depends to a great extent on the availability of services such as those provided by the local authorities, for example, water, drainage, roads and so on. The Department of Lands are concerned with services provided for the subdivision of land, and with the additions given to farmers.

The grants level envisaged in the scheme must be looked at in the light of the present day world and can be regarded as being reasonable. It is a question of who will qualify for such grants and this is where difficulty arises. I am confident that the Minister will do his utmost to ensure that the small farmer will not be driven off the land by any directive. The economy of this country, particularly of the population in places like the West of Ireland, is looking to the Minister to ensure that that will not happen.

Like Senator O'Toole, I am not a farmer. However, I should like to make a few practical contributions to this debate. Indeed Senator Killilea and I put down the motion in order to have a Seanad discussion on the matter in a constructive and positive manner.

This is a scheme that is necessary in the overall context and, speaking from the point of view of principle, it is necessary that farmers be encouraged into a developing situation where they can become professional farmers, fully organised, fully equipped and fully capitalised to deal with the business of farming. On that basis, this is an excellent scheme. I should like to refer to the practicality of the scheme, having regard to the particularly extreme Irish circumstances in the north-west, the west and the south-western parts of the country where 85 per cent of farmers will be outside the transitional category of farming—to use the reference in the definition. This small farmer problem is far more acute and deeper than in any other European country. I should like to hear from the Minister —and I am certain that thinking has been done in this respect by both the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries and Lands—as to what is to be done nationally by way of practical help and guidance from our own resources—that is the important point—for this particular category of farmer. From the point of view of achieving targets, the farm modernisation scheme, in principle, is welcome. However, I am concerned with the interim period—four years has been mentioned for the transitional farmer—which I consider totally inadequate having regard to our circumstances. There should be at least a ten-year period when one considers that 85 per cent of our farmers in the areas I have mentioned—the west, north-west and south-west—would be outside this scheme in any event.

What is to be done, practically, within the aegis of Government policy, for these particular people? I do not believe in a poor-mouth approach to this matter and I welcome the constructive nature of the debate up to now in that respect. There is a problem and it is one which is not envisaged by the terms of the scheme as devised by the EEC. It is one of which only we in Ireland are aware.

Apart from Southern Italy—and I would separate our position from that of Southern Italy because there you have a large proportion of the people on the land but very few of them are farmers in our understanding of the word—there are a very large proportion of the people, in the part of the country mentioned, who are farming fairly well. What we have been seeking to develop in the north-west, west and south west is part-time farming. I should like to know what has been done in this respect, because under the existing scheme not more than 20 per cent of a small farmer's income can be earned from non-agricultural activity. I should like to know from the Minister if this is correct or not. If it is true I would be very concerned that the percentage should be raised to at least 50 per cent of the income from non-farming activity.

Our prime position is rather what it is like in Bavaria, which is the nearest part of Europe with which we can be equated. I do not like the Sicilian equation. It is a different type of situation. In Bavaria there is the large city of Munich, and a number of small towns rather like those in Ireland, and medium and small-sized farmers.

What are we doing to encourage the development of part-time farming? I am totally against what appears to be the spirit of this scheme and that is segregating people unduly between full-time farmers and non-farmers. We will have, for a very substantial period in future, a large proportion of our small and medium-sized farmers becoming part-time farmers. They will be engaged in industry and they should be helped. It is this particular category with which I am concerned. It is a category which is being ignored under this scheme.

What I would suggest as a practical solution is that the Government adopt their own proposals, apart altogether from this scheme.

On a point of order there is a matter which might be of interest to the Minister. There is a deputation of pig producers at the front door of Dáil Éireann and they have a pig with them. They are asking the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to meet them. I know it is irrelevant to the debate.

I am afraid this is not a point of order.

It is pertinent to what we are discussing. The drop in pig production has relevance to our discussion. It is very pertinent to my next point and that is the question of the small and medium-sized farmer who is engaged in other occupations in order to obtain a livelihood. We have in this instance a definite point of principle. Baveria is the only part of Europe, that I am aware of, which has precisely the same problem. They have organised their society in order to encourage part-time farming. The spirit of this directive is designed to encourage professional farming, thereby eliminating 85 per cent of the people in the north west, west and south west of Ireland who are not professional farmers. I am not objecting to the spirit of this directive but there must be two channels of policy in this regard. While welcoming the farm modernisation scheme, in so far as it helps a small minority of farmers, I should like to hear from the Minister of positive proposals, to deal with the 85 per cent of people who are not eligible under this scheme. What proposals have the Minister and the Government to deal with the problem of people from all parts of the country who will be engaged in part-time farming, part-time business or part-time industry? Will they be cut off after four years? What sort of aid can we give them from our own resources?

As a person who is totally committed to Europe I feel we are too respectable in this connection. Even if it happens to be in breach of regulations or does not appear to be in conformity with what is proposed under regional and social grounds, we are fully entitled to pursue our own policy in regard to small and medium-sized farmers, especially during the transitional period which should be in the region of 10-15 years and not four years. We should develop a thriving community of small part-time farmers based on developing towns and urban centres.

Acting Chairman

There is a division in the Dáil. If you would like to continue with the Minister in absentia——

Would you take a lunch adjournment?

Acting Chairman

Does the House wish to adjourn for lunch at this stage?

I move the adjournment.

Business suspended at 12.40 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

Before the lunch-break I was seeking to get across the important point in this motion which is that while all of us who are concerned about the development of Irish agriculture recognise there must be a scheme of the kind outlined in the farm modernisation scheme which it is proposed be adopted, there are very real social and regional problems in regard to our particular situation in Ireland as regards the adoption of the scheme. I mentioned the figure of 85 per cent of the population of the north-west, the west and the south-west who at the present time do not come in under the scheme but who may progress towards it in the transitional period of four years, or some percentage of them may progress towards it.

But there is a very real social probblef of which all of us in the House are aware. There is no need to talk politics on this. It is a serious social and regional problem. It is the basic problem of adjusting people from one type of farming to another type of farming, keeping people as much as possible in a property-holding position on the land—which I think is good socially—maintaining the rural population at a time when our country towns and urban cities are expanding. From the enviornmental point of view, it is very important that we have a balanced growth in this area. To put it bluntly, it is important that we do not have an over concentration of regional or social development of Dublin city and its hinterland, but that instead we have a balanced growth throughout the whole community.

What is the key thing here? It is the type of property-owning small farmer who has a job—the mix between a job and farming, the small farming occupation and job linked with it. I see nothing in this farm modernisation scheme to help in that direction. I agree it is a very positive help and that we must adopt and develop it. I am totally for it in this respect, but I want to point out its limitations. It goes to benefit only about 15 to 20 per cent of the farming population of the country. That may be extended in the course of time, but at the present time that is all it amounts to.

What we need to do is to devise a positive social, regional farming policy directed towards the people who do not come in under this scheme. I said before the lunch break that I believe very firmly we have been sometimes over concerned about EEC regulations and directives. The EEC have fallen down in not producing a regional policy. It is not the fault of the European Parliament. it is not the fault of the EEC Commission. It is the fault of the Council of Ministers. That is a fact of life. They have been unable to come to any agreement in regard to establishing a regional fund and part of the area under which we would benefit from the point of view of the small and medium size farmers in this country from the part of the country that I have talked about is precisely under the heading of what you might call a regional social fund. This is the area and the people who are particularly excluded from this scheme for practical purposes.

I can appreciate that the Minister can come forward and, indeed legitimately, say, "You will have farmers in that area who can move from the transitional into the development classification", and so on but there are limitations having regard to the realities and situation. There are very real limitations in regard to the three Southern counties of Ulster, the whole of the province of Connacht and the whole western part of the province of Munster—the undeveloped areas, as they have been called and have been termed in various Acts of this Parliament during the years. In those 12 or 13 counties there are real problems and the problems indeed were emphasised today in another light by the production of the sow in the vicinity of the House. Here you have a basic situation where pig production, which was traditionally the mainstay of the small farmer, is dropping. The Evening Herald yesterday carried a report under the heading, “Pig Figures Staggering”. There was a report of a statement from the Cavan Chief Agricultural Officer, and I quote:

A survey carried out shows that for the first few months this year only 400 sows had been served by premium boars in Cavan as compared with 1,000 in the same period last year.

This is the drastic situation facing the sort of farmer who is not benefiting from this scheme.

I want to make my position quite clear that we are adopting a constructive attitude. Right, have the scheme, but what will the Government do? I should like to hear the Minister in a constructive way, and let us keep it in a constructive way. What I feel the Government should be addressing their minds to is adopting some form of scheme that will deal with the small and medium farmer during this transitional period who is not catered for under this EEC scheme. What can he do in that area?

I should like to advance a few practical suggestions. There is one obvious area where the small farmer and medium sized farmer are benefiting and that is in regard to milk. It is quite clear that the EEC guaranteed prices in regard to milk are a help as far as the small milk producer is concerned. There is a practical EEC advantage that is of benefit in that area. To what extent can we on our own, outside this EEC scheme, help the small milk producer in regard to basic things like running water? Should we be doing more? Should the Department of Agriculture, Lands and Local Government be coming together to have a more intensified scheme with higher grants available to provide running water for every farmer who is engaged in milk production? Do we do a crash programme in that area?

I advance that as a suggestion because it is quite obvious that this is a basic area as far as the small and medium farmer are concerned where there is a total blockage at the moment because of group water supply schemes not getting off the ground and regional schemes not getting off the ground. The Department of Local Government are bogged down in that area. This should be again a positive area where the Departments of Agriculture, Lands, and Local Government, if they are concerned about the small and the medium size farmer, should decide: "Right, we will have piped water installed. Even if the grants are inadequate, we will double the grants. We will provide the system and if we have a farm modernisation scheme initiated we will have our scheme on social and regional grounds."

There are other areas. Again I appreciate EEC regulations and directives, but as far as the basic person I am worried about is concerned, that is the small farmer who is in a job, a part-time farmer in a job, I offer another suggestion, that is, subsidised interest rates in regard to loan capital. I said earlier on that I think we have been too respectful about them. As I see it, the type of small farmer living anywhere near a town in Ireland, be it in the west or the midlands, north-west, south-west, indeed many parts of Leinster as well all over Ireland outside Dublin city and its conurbanation, you have people living on the land and in a job as well. How do you help them best? They are people in many cases enterprising and able to make a contribution. By reason of their job they are in a position to drain and fence and fertilise and restock the land properly.

This category could be helped in one very simple straightforward way, that is, reasonable loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation— reasonably priced loans—so that instead of paying the present interest rate, if the overhead was in the nature of 5 per cent or something of that kind, a 5 per cent loan to anybody in this category of farmers who draws his living from two sources, or indeed any farmer, would be most desirable. The particular farmer I am talking about is in a position to do something with the money. This sort of man, who has got a job behind him, is in a position to repay the loan and in a position to do a right good job on the basic farming of a small-holding. That particular person at the moment could be helped and I should like to find out from the Minister whether he can be helped by some form of interest subsidisation in regard to his agricultural loan.

Again it is a practical point that I want to make and I feel that the sort of person whom we want to help is the small—and I am talking from the social point of view—farmer who wants to stay put, wants to rear his family on a small farm and who has got a good job as well, is enterprising and full of trift and wants to put money back into the small or medium size farm.

This document as proposed does nothing for him. I feel we as a community, through our rightfully elected Government, should do something for that category of person. As a positive effort I feel that going along totally with the approach set out in this farm modernisation scheme is negative. We should be positive. I am totally in favour of adopting and encouraging everything that is involved in the farm modernisation scheme. I want to make that quite clear. I feel that side by side with that there must be a positive Government effort to deal with the people who are in this, as they call it, bleak EEC language, transitional category, and the transitional category amount to 85 per cent of people in the counties of the north-west, the west and the south-west—that is what they are. Some of them may progress from that into the development category and every encouragement should be given in that direction, but at the same time a very high percentage of them are people whom we want to stay on the land for social and regional reasons, to maintain the economic and social structure of the regions of our country.

If the EEC has been neglectful in regard to its regional policy, which it has been, it could happen that the Council of Ministers have not faced up to their responsibilities of devising a proper and appropriate regional policy. That is the fault of the national rivalries that arise in regard to trying to work out any policies, as the Minister is well aware, in regard to his efforts to maintain the common agricultural policy in another area.

I should like to remind the Senator that his time is nearly up.

I have about 60 seconds left. This matter should be looked at in the broader context of having a regional and social approach to the problems of Ireland. It is up to the Irish Government to adopt that attitude and if the European Community has been neglectful in regard to its regional and social policies we, out of our own national resources, surely should do something here. We did something in 1952 when the late Seán Lemass established industrial grants for the first time in regard to industries west of the Shannon. We want a continuation of that policy which has been adopted by all Governments here—there are no political points in it. I should like to hear from the Minister some positive proposals for the people who do not benefit from this scheme, excellent though it may be.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this motion. We tend to forget when criticism is offered of our agricultural policy and particularly of our Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, that the power has moved from Dublin to Brussels. Our Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has a much more important job to do now than had his predecessors. In the past, Ministers were in the fortunate position that they could make decisions at national level which could be implemented. Things have changed. The present Minister has a very much wider field to cover and needs a greater back-up staff. When he attends meetings abroad he is fighting for our principal industry in this country. He has a very important job to do. May I compliment him at this stage on having done a really good job during the past 12 months.

We can all criticise, but I should prefer to offer advice at this stage. It is a far cry from the position that obtained in this country for a long number of years when thousands of people were leaving the land year after year and nobody cared twopence one way or the other. There were no opportunities or facilities to train the farmers for other occupations or to help them towards early retirement. They had to take what was coming. Very often it was very little.

I think the farm modernisation scheme, as it is presented now, has a lot to recommend it. I agree with Senator Lenihan when he says he goes along basically with the points that are put down. We all wish that agriculture could measure up to the standards that are laid down here. It is true that many of our farmers do not measure up to that high level. I am afraid many of them will not measure up to that level for a considerable length of time. I do not know what discretion we have in setting these limits—whether we could set a lower limit to start with. I am sure the Minister will refer to this when he comes to reply.

I think it would be desirable to set the limits at a lower level if at all possible. It would embrace many people who would be in a position to attain the development level within a reasonable time. At the moment, very many farmers will not be in a position to attain the present level. Many farmers will opt to go out of agriculture for one reason or another. We have many people engaged in agriculture at the moment who have a sentimental attachment to it and will continue to have that in the future but, if they opt out of agriculture, would like to have some security towards the future.

Nonetheless, I should like if it were possible to lower the basic limits, in the initial stages at least. After all, £1,800 is not much money now. It certainly is not a very high income but we must remember that quite a considerable number of farmers have given themselves credit for the income that they will derive because of the capital they have invested. It would take a reasonably good farm, even if the farmer went in for tillage, to give an income of £1,800, having been allowed the appropriate per centages for the amount of money that is involved in capital outlay on agriculture. It will take some time before farmers get to that position. The Minister would have the backing of the farming community in general if he were to strive to have this limit lowered.

I realise that there are concessions, helps and aids to people under this level. Many of the farmers who are at the transitional stage at the moment will qualify to become development farmers in a period of years. There is no doubt whatever about this. Farmers want confidence in their industry and are prepared to avail themselves of the opportunities the EEC have been presenting, particularly in the initial stages.

It is no harm to say to farmers that it is only one short 12 months since the sky appeared to be the limit as far as agricultural development was concerned in this country. The more cattle produced the better. There seemed to be no limit for the markets. Due to circumstances outside our control, this has changed. A lot of it is due to extremes. There are no easy answers to those questions. We ought not to be led into the belief that at one stage we cannot produce enough and at another stage we have too much because we will never get it sold. It does not make sense to me at the moment to see the low prices being offered for calves when we have a guaranteed price of £18 a cwt. for beef.

Those are the facts of the case. This should instil confidence in the farming community. In the past, farmers were prepared to pay £10, £20 and £30 per head for calves when there was not a guaranteed price for beef. There is no justification for the lack of confidence in the farming industry at the moment. I should like to point out to the Department that there is a guaranteed price for all the beef we can produce.

We all realise that the cost of producing livestock is much greater than it was in the past. This is due to circumstances outside our control and outside the Minister's control. I am sure that he is well aware of the facts that obtain within the industry and that he is devoting his attention to the problem and will do all in his power to improve the situation.

The same applies to the pig industry. It has gone through a very difficult period and is continuing to do so. The time is approaching when there will be a shortage of pigs. We, as public representatives, should instil confidence into the people whom we represent. The Minister has tried to do this. In referring to the EEC we must not forget the benefits which have accrued to the dairy industry. Those who have been engaged in the dairy industry over the last 12 months are aware of these benefits. Otherwise we would be in the position which obtained up to a year ago when it was desirable to restrict the amount of milk available and penalise the man who was efficient and produced over a certain amount. The Government of the time discouraged efficient production in that line. At present, farmers are getting a good price for milk and it is important that they produce a good quality article which can be placed on the market in Europe.

Prices are good and farmers realise this and would be well advised to ensure that the articles they put on the market are of the highest possible standard. If we do this we can fight for the best prices obtainable in Europe. With those few reservations I should like to see the targets lowered a bit, as farmers who would like to continue in farming may be discouraged when they look at the picture before them. It will take them a considerable time to measure up to the standards expected from them. Many of them will do so. If it is possible to lower those standards this should be done. The Minister is well aware of our problems and many of our farmers need a bit of encouragement at the moment. Many of the scare headlines which appear in the daily Press tend to discourage farmers. The future for all engaged in farming is very good.

Agriculture is our main industry on which we must rely now and for a considerable time in the future, and we ought not to be misled by scare headings. When we were trying to gain entry into the EEC we had some reservations with regard to industry. We thought there could be a problem with some of our industries finding it difficult to continue under EEC conditions, but we all thought there would be a bonanza for agriculture. We may have let our feelings run away a bit on this. Our entry into the EEC has been good for agriculture and is particularly good for industry. We were able to face up to the challenges presented to industry and no doubt agriculture will do equally well in future. I welcome this agricultural modernisation scheme.

The best thing about this scheme is the title. Farmers looked to this with some hope. The farming community who have taken a serious interest in this have been completely disillusioned. I wish to speak about the traditional farmer, the small farmer. I am less concerned with the big farmer, as we do not have too many of those in the west, or in my own county.

The last speaker stated that the power seems to have moved from this country to Brussels. What power is he speaking about? If this scheme lacks anything it is power, and the same applies to Brussels. I am a member of a county committee of agriculture which are in serious trouble at present. There is a real dilemma as to how we will implement even the parts of the scheme we would like to accept. The impression of the farming community is that our representatives in Brussels have little strength; otherwise they would not accept this as the best scheme for an Irish farmer. Any local development association in a small town would do a better job than we have done as a national Government representing the Irish farmers. We should have walked out of Brussels; we should not have accepted this. It highlights our total weakness, our lack of knowledge on agriculture. It bears no resemblance to the needs of Irish farmers. In reading the various headings it is difficult to find the benefits.

The cattle industry is in a chaotic condition. Nobody knows what the future holds, or what is the beef stock in Europe. There is complete uncertainty across the board.

The same can be stated about the pig industry. Many people will leave the pig industry now and never get back into it. People have borrowed and are heavily committed financially, which will force them to go into bankruptcy and out of pig production. We have accepted what was termed "an intervention price" for potatoes. This ended in February. Most farmers, and certainly those in the west of Ireland who are producing seed potatoes, would not know until long after February what surplus ware potatoes they would have. It is obvious that whoever accepted this scheme for the Irish farmers did not know exactly what the needs of the Irish farmer were.

Over the last number of years most people were encouraged into the tomato industry with loans and grants. Now they are paying high prices for oil and they have no support. I should like to ask the Minister for Agriculture to get in touch with the ACC on behalf of people who have borrowed money and ask them not to press for payment until the industry improves.

I would also hope that the Minister for Agriculture would take some immediate steps to restore the confidence of committees of agriculture, whose functions have been eroded nearly to the point when it is no longer worth their while to meet as effective bodies. The dispute with the officers in the field helping farmers has now reached the stage, at the vital time when any benefits from this farm modernisation scheme could be used by the farmers, where there is stalemate.

The Minister's action in asking county committees to forward the application forms direct to his Department has done nothing to help to restore confidence either to the committees or to the officials. The Minister could say in his reply that he inherited this dispute and would be partly right but, nevertheless, the time of real need for agricultural advice to the farmers is now. There is little point in introducing a farm modernisation scheme without having the machinery and the manpower to implement it. I would have thought it only normal foresight for the Minister to clear the air with the officials of his Department advising the farmers before this scheme was introduced. Our representatives, including the Minister, have fallen down on the job. First of all, they have accepted a package that has no real resemblance to Irish farming needs, and, secondly, they have accepted this scheme at a time when there is a complete standstill in the administrative staff. The farmers are looking at a blank situation and saying: "Who is working for us? Who is making our case in Europe?" The confidence of the farmers has disappeared.

I would urge the Minister to go about settling the dispute with the agricultural officers in a businesslike manner. Most of those officers are out in the field working with the agricultural community. They cannot ask the committees to intervene because the type of agricultural officer we are talking about is the kind of fellow who has to be on friendly terms with the local farming community. Indeed, he needs to be on friendly terms with them at all times. All that has gone now.

It is not the statements that we, as members of the Opposition, will make that will harm the farming industry. We, as members of the Opposition, are actively interested in trying to promote conditions whereby those officers will be back helping the farmers, because we have as much interest and as much stake in the State as the present Government. I would strongly urge the Minister to give a settlement with the agricultural officers his number one priority. This is the least that is expected of him. We have had numerous meetings with little or no progress. There was a hardening on all sides. This is not the treatment the farmers need at this time.

The business of farming has become very difficult. Farmers were accustomed to getting credit up to now, but this has largely disappeared with inflation and with the increased prices of every product the farmer needs— oil, fertilisers, meals, feeds and farm implements. Everything that the farmer needs is getting dearer every day and the money he borrows is getting dearer. Credit has practically disappeared. The big monopolies that are supplying limestone and fertilisers to farmers are insisting on cash, and the farmers cannot in confidence look to the Minister or the present Government for any help. The smallest support that they could have got was the Minister's urgent intervention to settle the dispute with the agricultural officers, thereby giving them the first advice and help they need. The Minister has failed to do this. I would strongly urge him to go about this and bring about an early settlement so that we can start on the road back with the farmers.

I doubt if in the history of the State the farming community has reached such an all-time low as it has reached today. The Minister does not seem to be in touch with the farmers. Certainly, he is completely out of touch with the farmers in the West of Ireland and with the farmers in County Donegal. The only farmers in my county that are going to benefit from this scheme are the speculators who have accumulated vast sums of hot money in Northern Ireland and who want to speculate, buy up land and become big farming magnates. They will be able to comply with and benefit from those conditions. They will not need much advice; they can pay for their own professional advice.

I would urge that the Minister build up the confidence of the farmers and provide a scheme of assistance whereby the farmer can live on the farm. I do not believe this country can do without the farmer. We need him. There is no point in getting two factories for a county when, in fact, you have 100 small units that employ a few people who are going out of business. I hope the Minister will admit that he has been wrong, admit that he has been weak, admit that his advisers have known little about this farm modernisation scheme and have accepted a pig in a poke.

This farm modernisation scheme, which is the subject of the motion before the House, has had special emphasis laid on it as not being particularly suitable to the western counties. As a medium-sized farmer farming 50 or 60 acres of land in Longford I consider myself as a typical western farmer, as farmers in Longford, Roscommon, parts of Galway, parts of Clare, parts of West Cork, and parts of Kerry might be classified. In this document, I see that the plans submitted by the EEC and the proposals submitted by the Minister are designed to give effect to what the Land Act was designed to give effect to earlier on. They were effects which, in their application, were not always easy and not always possible to accomplish.

At present we can see a dwindling population on the farmland of this country, particularly in the 12 western counties. The evidence of this is clear in the loss of population very prominently mentioned and discussed in the recent debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas on the Electoral Act. Despite anything that may be said to the contrary, the population in the western counties has been dwindling because of the system of farming, the system of assistance that has been allocated to farming interests in these counties for the last ten or 12 years, assistance in addition to that given to other farming counties in the State. Under the system of land acquisition that existed under the Land Acts people were parting with holdings and in many cases were getting pieces of paper in land bonds from the Land Commission. It was not always easy to determine who got the land. In the areas in the extreme West of Ireland, where there was land in common and where holdings were scattered, it was not easy to make a farmer's holding an economic one.

This plan is a more acceptable means of expediting the system of the acquisition and the allocation of land, inasmuch as the people who are no longer interested in farming and who would like to get out of it, perhaps because of advancing years or for some other reasons, have an incentive here which was not offered to them before. That incentive is something that will appeal to many more people. It will enable older people to pass on to somebody who will be able to work it, people who in the development of their own farms have shown they are capable of economic progress, and that the ideal small farm of 50 to 60 acres would be something attainable. These people have not got that chance yet. This scheme will be an advantage to the people with land who want to get out and an incentive to stay on the land to people who want to acquire land, e.g. sons of farmers who had seen no future in a small holding of 20 or 30 acres. Otherwise, the land might be put up for sale and perhaps a shopkeeper or somebody in Britain would buy it in the expectation of coming home, leaving the land still vacant. We would still have a country that was not productive and the circumstances associated with the West becoming even more evident than they have been during the last eight or nine years.

The adjustment of holdings is something that has set a problem for the Land Commission down the years. Those who possessed land that was considered attractive were offering it to the Land Commission because they were enticed either to sell or rent it. They then went to Dublin or emigrated. An incentive by way of £sd is what the people wanted and is what they still want, and is the means by which the younger farmers will be able to acquire economic holdings. In the west of Ireland, in Mayo and in Donegal, certain circumstances obtain that do not perhaps obtain in Clare, Galway, Longford or Leitrim. These are circumstances peculiar to these counties, as we have circumstances peculiar to our own counties. Nevertheless, in order to support people in difficult circumstances and in very small holdings levelling up must take place. The modernisation of land in the west should have a reference to the size of holdings that are reasonably viable for the rearing of a family and in order to provide the comforts of life that are obtainable through any other occupation. Recently I heard observations made that £1,800 a year was too much for a farmer.

At a committee of agriculture meeting in my county of Longford it was stated that poverty and hardship in themselves were not bad. Such people apparently would like to see a small farmer living on a holding of nine or ten acres, having to seek home assistance in order to carry him over from one week to another. That is certainly bad, but thank God it does not exist to a great extent now. We should alter that type of situation and help people on the land, in order to make a farmer as independent as a man working on the road, or as a postman or a man in business in a town. If the farmer envisages himself thus, he should not have to apologise for it. Evidently, there is a notion in some people's minds that the small farmer should be kept in poverty and in very restricted circumstances, and those people do not wish well to the farming community.

The Minister is to be commended for this scheme. I agree that it cuts across the scheme which had been in operation for a number of years and under which supports, opportunities and facilities of an uncertain kind were available but which was no encouragement to a farmer. These circumstances obtained over the years, and it is to be welcomed that the Minister can now submit a scheme to make the farmers independent, not in the way suggested by Senator McGowan, but by producing an income from their 40-, 50- or 60-acre holdings comparable with that of people in other walks of life. There is no reason why a farmer should have to slave for seven days of the week and not be able to make a profit from his services. He should be able to receive the same income as people in less arduous or less onerous occupations. For those reasons, I welcome the Minister's scheme, and he is to be commended for it.

We, on this side of the House, have been pressing for a number of weeks to have this motion taken. Basically, the reason was that we saw a lot of troubles in this farm modernisation scheme, particularly in respect of what the Minister proposes to do for what is described as the transitional farmer.

The reason we have been pressing for a debate on this particular scheme is because we realise that the small farmer is the backbone not only of the farming community but of the country in general. A directive from the EEC has been received by the Government in order to bring such a scheme into operation. However, I doubt if the Agricultural Ministers representing the various countries realise the problems we have had in the past from the point of view of small farmers. Enough has been said about the small farmers in the West of Ireland, in particular where there are very small holdings but that is not the position as a whole. I can vouch for the case of my own county, Offaly, which is not classified to a great extent. There is a vast area of County Offaly which is similar to the position existing in the west, for example, the total portion of west Offaly. There are smallholders in that part of Offaly similar to those in the west of the country.

We, on this side of the House, are concerned about how those people will fare in regard to this scheme during the next four years. It is intended that those smallholders who are classified as transitional farmers will obtain grants for a four-year period and that their position will be reviewed. If their total income at that time did not amount to £1,800 per annum, they would find themselves in a position where they would either have to opt for a pension scheme, introduced under the EEC directive in regard to this scheme, or forfeit their right to any further grants in connection with their holdings. This is an inadequate measure. Since our entry into the EEC we realise the position of the small farmer more than ever, particularly in regard to grants for fertilisers. There are now no grants available for fertilisers and the small farmer needs incentive more than ever at this time in order to bring his holding into line with other classes involved in this scheme—the commercial farmer whose holding provides an income of more than £1,800 per labour unit and the developing farmer whose holding has the potential to provide that amount. We want to ensure that the transitional or small farmer receives more incentive through this scheme than the farmers mentioned. From my reading of the scheme this will not be the case and that is why we asked for the debate on this motion. We are anxious to ascertain what is the Government's thinking on the matter.

What worries me most is that the small farmer who is not deemed to be capable of providing more than £1,800 per labour unit will find himself in a very awkard position four years from now. It is up to the Government to ensure that this category of farmer will receive more incentives from the Department of Agriculture so that when the time comes he will be able to compete with the rest of the farming community. There is no guarantee, that I am aware of, from the Government to ensure that this will be the case. For that reason we should like to hear what are the Minister's proposals on the matter.

It has been the policy of the Department and of successive Fianna Fáil Governments—I hope the present National Coalition Government will continue that policy—to ensure that incentives are available to small farmers so as to enable them to compete on an equitable basis with other members of the farming community.

It has been pointed out by other speakers, in connection with this EEC directive, that there is a vast difference between small farmers in Ireland and those in other EEC countries. I hope the Government will make this fact known. Successive Governments have been fighting an uphill battle during the years to maintain the small farmer on an equitable basis with other sections of the community. Since joining the EEC, we find that the involvement of other countries with the EEC is not sufficient, from our point of view, to ensure that the smallholder and the type of farmer that we are now talking of will be in a position to carry on as a farmer. That, basically is our problem. It is now more than ever before up to our Government to ensure that the incentives are there for the smallholder so as to bring him into line with the middle and upper class farmers. This requires incentives. What we want to know is what incentives has the Minister or the Government in mind to bring about a situation so that the smallholder will be in a position to carry on basically as a farmer. I am sure the Minister and the Government are well aware that at present there are 100,000 farmers in such a position. They are also well aware that most of those are concentrated in the west, in particular, in the south-west and north-west. As I said earlier, there are counties which are rich in farming but which have their percentage of the type of smallholder that I am referring to.

One thing I have against the proposals in the farm modernisation scheme is that from my reading of it, the big farmer, the man who owns something in the region of 100 to 200 acres of land, plus the middle-class farmer who owns a holding of something in the region of 70-100 acres are in a position to gain the equivalent in grants under this scheme as are the smallholders of ten, 15, or 25 acres. Naturally, when the Government have to put into operation a scheme such as this there is the involvement of the countries concerned within the EEC but it has been pointed out by previous speakers, and I want to emphasise this, that something more will have to be done through the Department to ensure that the smallholder is brought into line so that he can survive. This is the basic reason why this motion has been pressed on this side of the House. We await the Minister's reply to the debate and hope that he will have something to say in regard to the incentives that will be available to the smallholder. At present the smallholder is in a very bad way. He has been given this four-year trial period to improve his holding and develop it, but has been given no incentive from the Department or from the Government. This is what he really needs now more than ever before. Until that smallholder has reached the stage that he is in line with the middle-income farmer or the large farmer I believe that he is out. This is why I consider the four-year period to be inadequate. The farmer with a small valuation and small holding would need at least a ten- to 12-year period to build his farm project up to a standard to bring him in line with the middle-class farmer or the larger farming groups. It is for the Minister and the Government to ensure that this is done. Otherwise, there is no future for the smallholder.

Perhaps the Minister has some idea as to how this can be done. I believe it can only be done by way of incentives. In regard to modernisation the smallholder finds himself today in a position whereby he cannot carry on as a farmer because of the incentives that have been taken from him. I would imagine that a system could be introduced whereby smallholders could be subsidised through the Department in regard to acquiring fertilisers. It may be a fairly expensive scheme to put into operation but it would be the only means open to the Minister and the Government to ensure that the small farmer can survive. As I have already stated the length of time given to the small farmer to reach the stage to be classified as a development farmer is inadequate.

We, on this side of the House, want to know from the Minister and the Government what they intend doing about this. Do they intend to supply the off-farm employment possibilities or do they intend to give the incentive to the smallholder to gear himself towards competing with the middle-income and larger-income group within the farming community. Those are questions that we would like to hear the Minister answer and we would like, also, to hear the Government's attitude towards them. If it is a case that they are not prepared to give smallholders those incentives, we want to know what their attitude is. Do they intend to see to it that employment is provided, particularly in the west of Ireland and, I want to emphasise, in other areas which have not been mentioned in this debate?

I represent Offaly and I should like to know if those incentives are not provided to the smallholder in west Offaly, are the Government prepared to see to it that industries are brought into west Offaly and into areas such as I am describing in various counties to ensure that the smallholder will be on an equitable basis with other income groups.

I conclude on the note that we, on this side of the House, hope that the Minister comes up with something new in replying to this motion. Looking at the farm modernisation scheme we do not see any incentive to the smallholder to ensure that he can survive within the farming community. I hope that the Minister, when replying to this debate, will give us some hope for the future of the small farmers.

First, I owe both an apology and an explanation to the mover of the motion and to the House for my inability to be present here this morning at the start of the debate. As Senators are aware, there was a change in business, I had not expected this debate to start until 2.30 p.m. and I had undertaken to speak at another meeting earlier this morning.

We have had a very wide ranging debate. Indeed, at times I thought we wandered some distance from the motion as it was tabled but that was no harm. I must say I was impressed by the general tone of the debate and by the approach of the various speakers to the problems that were being discussed. There was obvious sincerity and concern but, at the same time, I must say that there was evidence of great confusion and misunderstanding regarding the whole set-up of these schemes. I do not intend merely to reply here and there to various points that speakers made but to deal comprehensively with this question because, like all those who have spoken, I consider this to be an extremely important motion. It relates to a matter that is of very great concern to all of us.

There are a few points that I must reply to immediately. Senator McGowan said we should have walked out of Brussels before accepting this scheme. My immediate reply to that is that we could not have walked out of Brussels because we were not in Brussels when the scheme was adopted. This is a great misunderstanding. This scheme was adopted in April, 1972 and we just had to accept the scheme, otherwise we would have had to refuse to go into the EEC. I wish to emphasise that because there seems to be a good deal of confusion in relation to it. In fact, we should have brought the scheme in here on the 1st March but we delayed and held it up for a month while fighting for a deal that would allow us to give better terms to those who are now known as transitional farmers. We held it up, too, because we were trying to get the comparable income reduced from £1,800 to £1,600, not that we thought that £1,800 was an extremely high figure to hope that our farmers would reach in six years, but we appreciated that it would be difficult to qualify a sufficient number of our farmers to come within that group. However, we failed to get that accepted because it is related to the average income of industrial workers and the EEC Commission have all the data that they need to decide what should be a comparable income. They would not agree under any circumstances to a figure less than £1,800. That answers Senator McGowan's point in that regard.

Senator McGowan talked also of an intervention price that we had accepted for potatoes. We did not accept anything of the sort. There is no common organisation within the Community yet for potatoes. But we did what had never been done before in this country: we attempted to put a floor on the price of potatoes. Admittedly, it was a very low floor but many of the potato producers have come to me since and said that were it not there, they would have had to accept a very much lower price for potatoes. I only mention this in passing because much damage is being done by the fact that many people, including Senators and Deputies, throughout the country do not know what exactly is involved in all this. These people are doing harm and do not realise that it is because of their lack of knowledge of the scheme generally that this is happening.

Deputy Lenihan asked what we were doing for the transitional farmer. I say we are doing everything for him. We are getting nothing from Brussels for the transitional farmer, but we are giving him 50 per cent for land reclamation and 30 per cent for fixed status and equipment. I am saying quite emphatically here that this is the highest level of grant this type of farmer or any other farmer had in this country at any time. I am very disturbed when we give the impression generally that it is all doom and gloom and that there is no hope for this fellow now simply because the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has done all these desperate things to him. The fact that there is a category of farmers that are doing better is something that is outside our control. This is the category of farmers that the EEC Council of Ministers, in their wisdom, when they decided to bring in this scheme in April, 1972 decided it was possible to bring up to an acceptable standard of living by bringing all these grant aids to bear on them. Even in that case we are only getting from the EEC 7½ per cent of the 30 per cent. Therefore, the contribution from Brussels is a very small one but we have to accept it since we are members of the Community. We cannot opt out now. When we talk about the shocking position of farmers generally in this country at present we speak as if there was no problem for agriculture in any other country in Europe and all of us know that all over Europe there is trouble at present. We must accept this.

It is appropriate that Senator Dolan arranged this morning for a real presence for Irish farming within the precincts of Leinster House, particularly Cavan farming.

On a point of order, that is not fair.

I am not being serious but I got the impression that we were going all European because this is the type of protest that is being made all over Europe. Therefore, this morning's incident does not surprise me. I am not making light of the trouble that our pig producers are in at present but, again, it is not exceptional trouble and I want everybody to know this. I know that they are in trouble and that they have been in trouble since the middle of last December and certainly I have done everything I could to take them out of this trouble. But I do not want to start digressing as, perhaps, other speakers have done to any great extent but it was essential to deal with these few matters.

A number of people seem to have the impression that transitional farmers cannot earn a substantial part of their income outside farming. They are perfectly free to earn as much as they can get their hands on outside of farming and their grants will not be affected by this. That should be known.

That is an additional help. The farmers who come within the development category can start with approximately 50 per cent of their incomes coming from outside their farms. At the end they must not be getting more than 20 per cent of their incomes from outside interests. Of course, we are all in favour of part-time farming. It has solved a pretty substantial problem in places like Bavaria, where the farms are very small and where they have this opportunity of part-time employment in industry. They come back and plough some of the money earned outside farming, into the farm.

We all realise the attachment of Irish farmers to their smallholdings, regardless of how small they are. Nobody would be more anxious than I to try to ensure that they can hold on to these farms. The last thing I want is to see them in permanent poverty in farms that are too small and too infertile to give them a living. We are just fooling ourselves if we think it is right to keep people on holdings that are obviously uneconomic and will never be able to provide an acceptable income for a family.

What about the mixed farm category?

I have just dealt with that. I think Senator Lenihan was not listening.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister should be allowed reply.

Can I just ask the Minister whether the farmers are to pay income tax on their personal allowances in the mixed farming category? What are we going to do about that?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator will be allowed to make his contribution when the motion is before the House.

We are discussing the farm modernisation scheme. Senator Lenihan rightly inquired about the position of a man who did part-time work outside farming. I have just said that the transitional farmer-that is, the farmer about whom Senator Lenihan said he was concerned—is free to do as much work outside his farm as he can possibly find and to bring in as much income as he can get his hands on. It will not affect his grants.

That man is worth preserving.

I agree entirely. I hope that it will be possible in the future by persuading industrialists to go down the country. The present Government are trying very hard to get industry into areas where there are a lot of small farmers so that this can happen.

I welcome this discussion on the farm modernisation scheme for a number of reasons. In the first place it gives me the opportunity to look at the scheme against the background of the European Community Farm Structure Policy and its place in the general Common Agricultural Policy. Secondly, it gives me the chance to dispel some of the mystery and the apparent confusion that has grown up around the scheme. Thirdly—this is especially important—I want to correct a great deal of misrepresentation—much of which, I regret to say, was deliberate—which has been fostered about the scheme. I get the impression—and I can get no other impression—that there is a campaign to convince the smaller farmer in this country that he is doomed and that something special is being done on him at the present time, when, in fact, there was never a better level of grant aid available to him. I want to emphasise this. There is no farmer in this country who is not entitled to grant aid.

Members of the House will be aware that the Common Agricultural Policy of the EEC for many years consisted almost exclusively of the prices and marketing arrangements for the various products. The Community relied initially on these arrangements to achieve the aim of giving farmers a fair standard of living. However, even the Treaty of Rome acknowledged that there were wide structural and regional variations in agriculture throughout the Community. It was recognised earlier on that these structural problems meant that price adjustments alone would never make it possible for a great many farmers to get a fair income. At least this would never have been even remotely possible without seriously affecting consumer interests and creating unwanted and embarrassing surpluses, or giving rise to a variety of other problems.

Consequently, the need for a farm structure policy as a second arm of the Common Agricultural Policy arose at an early stage of the Community's existence. Nevertheless, the evolution of this policy took quite a long time. It went through many changes and gave rise sometimes to controversial debate in the process. Members will, no doubt, recall the controversy about the proposal that a 60 to 70 cow-unit should be the minimum for a viable farm. We heard a lot about this at one stage. Eventually, however, in April, 1972, as I have said, the Community agreed on their programme for the reform of agricultural structures. This programme was enshrined in three separate directives. Directive 159, on the modernisation of farms fundamentally aims at providing a fair income under decent working conditions for those who want to stay in farming. I think nobody would disagree with this. We all want a reasonable income and we want it under reasonable conditions. Directive 160, provides for retirement benefits for farmers and aims to ensure reasonable security for those who may wish to retire from farming. They will make this decision entirely on their own volition.

Directive 161 has the objective of helping to improve the technical competence of those who want to remain in farming and at the same time of providing advice to those who may be contemplating their future in agriculture, or trying to decide whether they should stay in or get out. It also aims at smoothing out difficulties for those who may want to retire or at helping in the transition to another occupation those who wish to change.

They are the three directives. They were, as I say, accepted by the EEC and adopted by them in April, 1972. That is one of the misconceptions that I want to get rid of. These three measures must be looked at as a package programme for structural change in farming. They are intended to operate together and to complement one another. In passing, I would like to draw attention to the date on which these three directives were adopted, namely, April, 1972. That was, of course, some time prior to our accession to the Community. The Directives were simply there for us to accept when we joined. Furthermore, because these are Community directives we have no option but to put them into effect here.

I might say, also, that in no country in Europe that I know of are transitional farmers as well-treated by grant-aid as we are treating our farmers here. This was a long fight to get the level of grant-aid that we have for them at present. No Member of this House will be able to quote for me a case where similar types of farmers in any other EEC country are doing better, or getting better grant-aid.

It may be that they are not absolutley ideal measures for dealing with the structural situation of our farming industry. This is open to debate. However, if this were so it would be naive to take the line that we should simply accept all those aspects of Community policy that offer us advantages and reject those that do not suit us. I just want to emphasise again that we have no option if we want to remain in the EEC but to comply with the rules of the EEC.

More than one speaker here today emphasised that we were keeping too closely to the rules. The tone of Senator Lenihan's speech was that other member states were not adhering so closely to the rules. I state emphatically that anything that has been done so far has been strictly within the rules.

There was a change of government recently in the UK which created a problem. They attended the price-fixing meeting in Luxembourg. All the members were anxious to accommodate them rather than see them being forced to leave the Community. They were most anxious to start national subsidies and get permission for the granting of whatever national subsidies they thought fit. They were granted permission to give certain national subsidies for a limited period, but this was within the rules. Under section 63 member states have the right in the first two years of accession in exceptional circumstances to adopt exceptional measures. This was agreed. If they did get permission to introduce subsidies on a national basis, we insisted before agreeing that we would get a similar level of subsidy for our farmers and that we would get it from FEOGA funds, not from our Exchequer. We succeeded in this.

Those who think we are asleep on our trips to Brussels should think again. Before dealing in some detail with the farm modernisation scheme, which is based on directive 159, I should like to speak on structural improvement here at home in our farming industry. The problems of small farmers and small farm areas have been given great attention by all Governments for a long time past. We have had a variety of schemes, incentive grants and land distribution measures to help to overcome some of the problems. This area of agriculture generates a great deal of emotion in public discussion. This is mainly because of our attachment to the land. Sentiment is liable to distort views and to evoke extreme, almost violent, attitudes. One body of opinion will assert that every small farmer today can become a big and a viable farmer. We all know that that is not possible. There are limits to what we can do in this regard.

Other opinions will assert that our traditional way of life must be preserved and that our present structure of predominantly small farms must be frozen as it is and that somehow all these farmers can or must be given a full income by the Government. We will all agree that this is expecting too much. However, this is the tone of the debate at the present time.

Come to our central point which is the small farmer with a job.

He is entitled to have that job.

What is being done about him?

He is getting 50 per cent grant for his land reclamation and 30 per cent——

On a point of order, I wish to clarify the position with the Minister as he may not be aware of it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Killilea will have an opportunity to reply to the debate.

They never got 80 per cent.

I got it myself.

You must have a back door into my Department.

I could get it tomorrow morning again. I got £50 per acre for reclamation of farmland.

I do not know of any farmer who could get it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Killilea should allow the Minister to reply.

That is not relevant, Minister. Who made this statement? We are in a democratic country.

I am trying to be democratic. There is now no upper limit to the cost. Previously there was. I hope Senator Killilea will make his case subsequently. However, he may not be able to do so. The general feeling is that this farmer is no longer getting anything. We hold he is getting a higher level of grant aid than ever before as he is getting 50 per cent for land reclamation and 30 per cent for farm buildings and equipment. Heretofore, equipment was not included in any scheme of grants. Reasonable commentators and those who are familiar with the problems of the smaller farmers and small-farm areas have realised that structural change is not only necessary in farming, but that it will take place anyway even without the intervention either of the Government or the EEC.

Already today speakers have commented on the rapid reduction in the number of farm holdings during the past ten years. This movement was taking place at a great pace prior to any EEC scheme. It is only through a process of structural reform that we can hope to retain the maximum number of people with an acceptable income on the land. I have, therefore, been very disappointed in recent weeks to find some people irresponsibly claiming that the new scheme spelled the death-knell of small farmers. How can anybody make such a case? A figure of 100,000 farmers who are no longer farming simply and solely because of these schemes has been mentioned by many speakers. They are getting a higher level of grants than ever before. It beats me how anyone can give a figure of 100,000. Nobody could make such a calculation. The scheme has not got off the ground yet. Until it has and until we have the co-operation of those whose co-operation we need it cannot get going in the way it should. We all regret this.

We are in a democratic assembly and we sought to introduce a constructive approach. This is why the motion went down. The Minister is replying to something which was stated elsewhere.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

You can make your comments later. The Minister is making a contribution to the debate. He does not necessarily have to reply to points raised by speakers.

Any Minister of any Government in making his speech here to a deliberative assembly of Oireachtas Éireann is entitled to and should reply to points made here by Members of this House rather than make propaganda speeches in relation to statements made outside this House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister is speaking.


I am concerned about this scheme and about the propaganda which has been circulated.

By whom? Not from this House.

By Members of this House and by the Press.

Name one of them. Senator Killilea and I have made two constructive contributions here. I should like the Minister to deal with them in that vein.

I complimented the Senators on their contributions. There was obvious sincerity and also a great deal of misunderstanding which I want to clear up.

Give us factual data.

I thought we had left this emotive language aside and that we could look to the future structure of agriculture with a degree of maturity and ask what sort of living do we need for our farmers and what sort of life do the rest of our community expect our farmers to tolerate? I have already asked publicly, and I now do so again: does anybody quarrel with the underlying aim and philosophy of the farm modernisation directive, namely, to ensure that all those who want to stay in farming will have a chance to get a fair income, to be able to earn that income under decent working conditions and to enjoy a standard of living as good as that of other workers? That is what we want to talk about. If this is an acceptable objective there should be no serious objection to the principle of concentrating our financial and planning resources towards achieving this.

It was envisaged by the EEC bringing in these schemes, that they would provide an acceptable standard of living for the maximum number of farmers in every country where that was possible. That is what we are trying to do here. We are trying to implement these schemes. We cannot depart very far from them. In fact, we cannot depart from them at all without permission. This is a long fight and we have done our share of fighting up to the present to get the position as good as it is.

I should say that structural changes in farming are not influenced solely by whatever measures are applied within the agricultural industry itself. It is accepted—and this has been referred to—that these changes will proceed much more smoothly and rationally if they are part of a balanced development of the whole economy. This is why the Government attach so much importance to having an effective Community regional policy and one which will supplement in a positive way the notable progress which has already been made here in developing industries tourism, sea-fishing and forestry and in improving our infrastructure, our communications network, and so on.

The job opportunities created through these developments are, in my view, at least as important—or more so—in inducing mobility within farming than the EEC directives we are now talking about. Senator Lenihan made this point quite strongly and I agree with him completely. I mention this merely because it is an aspect of structural reform in agriculture that is often overlooked and to stress the vital role that overall regional policy can play in this area. Any prolonged postponement of agreement on the Community regional policy would, therefore, be a setback to agriculture as well as to the rest of the community. This is something that our Foreign Minister has been fighting very hard for. We can only hope that decisions will be reached fairly soon. At the moment prospects do not look too good, but we can only keep hoping.

When I was formulating the Fine Gael policy on agriculture some time prior to the 1969 election, I built this policy around the setting-up of a rural development authority, an authority that would have regard to all the developments I have referred to, an authority that would look at the total potential and not at agriculture in isolation. This is what is being done generally. This is what is accepted as the right way to deal with this problem. When trying to solve the problems of rural Ireland and provide acceptable incomes for the maximum number of families all these things must be taken into the picture. All these potentials must be used and we must not confine ourselves to farming alone.

Let me now deal in some detail with the farm modernisation scheme itself. The scheme, of necessity, follows closely the terms of the basic directive. Member states are permitted very little discretion in this regard. We can isolate the two broad elements of the directive. First, it provides for a selective system of aids to development farmers. These will be farms capable of development through planning so as to yield within six years a labour income as good as that earned by non-farm workers. As I said already, it obliges member countries to concentrate aids in favour of this category of farmers. Secondly, the directive sets out to regulate the type and level of investment aid which may be given to farmers outside the development category. Not only does it seek to assist selectively the creation of viable units in the shape of development farms, but it seeks also to harmonise aids to farmers throughout the Community so as to rule out the distortion of competition that can clearly arise where some countries, which can afford it, may give very high levels of aid to the disadvantage of others.

I regard this latter feature of the directive as a very important one indeed, which must operate to our advantage. It is, I think, a feature which has been largely overlooked in all the debates and one that needs emphasising. Several people say "why do not we give grants of our own so to speak, why do we not go it alone?" This is the very last thing we want to see happen. I think we have a vested interest in resisting this sort of thing because as soon as we look for permission—take French leave if you like—to introduce aid at national level, what will the British do and what will the Germans do?

In those countries agriculture is a very, very small part of their total economy. They will certainly have no difficulty in providing higher grants. It would be to their advantage to do so in order to keep down the price of food to the consumer but we would not be able to keep pace with that and where would we be from the point of view of being reasonably competitive? That is what has kept us down over the years. We were not able to compete against British subsidies. We should not lose sight of this. As soon as we start to go off the rails then we might as well get out.

The income figure to be used as the basis for comparison with non-farm workers in the present year is £1,800. This is based on the national average earnings of all non-agricultural workers. It has been suggested that this is a rather high figure. This is one of the aspects on which we were given no discretion. It is one of the things that held up the introduction of the scheme here for a month longer than it should have been held up. We were trying to get that income down. Incidentally, if it was possible to separate figures it might be possible for the western area to get an income that would be a bit lower than this figure. However, we might have trouble about that too because we would probably have people in the west saying that they were being treated as second-rate people.

The EEC Commission have available to them all the relevant data on our national accounts. Using these as the basis of calculation, the £1,800 figure is the one that emerges. On reflection, however, it will probably be accepted that £36 a week is not an unrealistic average earning figure for 1974. It is, however, fair to say that there may be regional variations in the average level of non-farming earnings. The western areas, if we could get the regional data to provide it, would possibly have a lower average than the rest of the country. Here, however, it must be remembered that there is another measure in the pipeline. It is the directive on mountain areas and other less-favoured areas. This will give farmers in disadvantaged areas a supplementary income by way of headage payments on stock. This income will count as farm income for modernisation purposes. This measure is likely to extend to most areas of the west. It will thus offset to a great degree any special difficulties farmers there may have in reaching the target income. It certainly will be a help when it comes. Personally, I think it comes about the end of the year.

I shall keep this matter of the income figure under review. It is almost impossible to make a case until the schemes are working and until we can prove certain things to the Commission. The sooner that day arrives the better for us all. It is difficult to find a statistical basis for a regional differentiation in the figure, but I find the situation warrants it. I will approach the Commission again for their permission to operate such a system, if I can get convincing figures and can isolate the problem with which we are concerned.

The developing farmer is entitled to aim for two separate kinds of investment: fixed capital, such as buildings, land improvement, fixed equipment, and so on; then for short-term investment in, for example, machinery or extra breeding stock, always provided, of course, that these investments are part of his planned development programme. In the case of buildings, the rate of grant is 30 per cent. I believe it is fair to say that this is more generous than the general run of building grants have been. Moreover, this 30 per cent will extend also to fixed plants, for example, milking machines, storage tanks and so on. It has, therefore, much more application than the previous system of grants.

The rate of grant for land improvement work, such as drainage, is 50 per cent. This is slightly less than the normal rate which has operated under the Land Project. Against that, the former limit on the grant per acre has disappeared. In addition, the farmer will now also have the right to a 10 per cent grant for the purchase of mobile machinery and breeding stock. These are again areas that have not been grant-aided.

Another attraction in the new system is that the grant is a flat percentage of the cost in every case. Increase in cost will thus be automatically reflected in the grant and this gets us away from the defect inherent in the old system of flat rate grants, where the value tended to become eroded as costs increased. This package of investment aids for development farmers is clearly very attractive indeed. There is also provision for payments called "guidance premiums", to development farmers who are planning to concentrate on the production of beef or sheep. Of course, potential development farmers will also have priority access to land freed by retiring farmers. I shall return to this later.

The principle of selectivity in favour of development farmers, which is so fundamental in directive 159, is carried through in the modernisation scheme. Two other categories of farmers are designated: commercial farmers and all those other farmers who at present are not capable of reaching the development category. Commercial farmers are those who are already enjoying a labour income above the comparable income. The other farmers are now generally referred to——

The lads you taxed.

——as those with labour incomes below the comparable income and who, for the time being, are not capable of being planned to reach the comparable income within the normal six-year period. This is not to say that these farmers are ruled out forever from becoming development farmers. They may well be capable of qualifying for development status at a later stage. Their farm resources may be built up to a level where they can be planned to achieve the target income by further development and with, of course, the help of the wider range of aids available to development farmers. As I shall explain, some of them will also be candidates for extra land.

The commercial farmer will receive investment aids at rates of 20 per cent grant for fixed assets, such as buildings and fixed equipment, and 40 per cent for land drainage and similar type of work. These rates are quite generous, bearing in mind that the farmers concerned are those who are already getting a fair income from their holdings. Taken as a whole, the levels of grant for these farmers are, as a whole, probably as good as they ever had.

I now come to the third category, the transitional farmers. It is in relation to these farmers that most of the distortion and misrepresentation has been put out. This varies from the assertion that the scheme is for big farmers only, that 100,000 or more small farmers are being written off, that a major percentage of farmers are excluded from the scheme, and so on. These assertions are totally untrue. This type of deliberate misrepresentation is nothing short of irresponsible. Those who persist in it are doing a grave disservice to the agricultural industry by fostering a climate of uncertainty among farmers at a time when they should be settling down with confidence to reap the advantages of our membership of the EEC.

Therefore, let me put the record straight once and for all about the transitional farmers. There is full provision in the farm modernisation scheme for these farmers. We have availed to the full of a clause in the directive which allows member countries to give these farmers special rates of aid up to 1977. I should say that we are one of the few, if not the only country, to avail ourselves of this clause. It is a fact that we are being more generous than others to our smaller farmers. The rates of 30 per cent grant for fixed assets, including fixed plant or equipment, and 50 per cent for land drainage without a ceiling per acre are, taken together, better than these farmers had under the old schemes.

Let it be clear that no genuine farmer is excluded from aid. As I explained in the Dáil recently, for example, even the part-time farmer with an industrial job who continues to rely on his farm for an important part of his income is fully eligible for the appropriate grants.

Much has been made of the fact that the position after 1977 is somewhat uncertain. No one has yet adverted to the fact that this is the first time farmers could be certain of the continuity of grants for three or four years ahead, instead of on a year-to-year basis.

Nobody ever doubted that.

That is a fact. Nobody ever put a time limit to grants, and Senator Lenihan knows they were changed from year to year. However, I want to make it clear that there is absolutely no question of aids to transitional farmers ceasing in 1977.

We have lost half of this year already.

The Senator will get his chance to reply. The directives as a whole runs for ten years up to 1982. Even if no continuing provision were made for the transitional farmers after 1977, the worst that could happen is that they would receive the lower levels of aid, i.e., the rates now going to bigger farmers. In fact, what will happen is that the Council must re-examine the whole working of the directive at the end of the first five years. In that review, the continuing provision to be made for smaller farmers will be one of the questions of major concern to us and, indeed, to other countries, such as Italy, with similar problems. I see no reason why these smaller farmers should be concerned about the post-1977 situation.

I wish to refer briefly to two other rather important aspects of the scheme: i.e. the allocation of land and the keeping of farm accounts. As I mentioned at the outset, it is necessary to keep in mind the link between all three of the EEC directives. The connection between directives 159 and 160 is particularly close in so far as developing farmers will have access to land freed through the retirement of farmers. There may be some confusion about the type who will have this priority right. Obviously, a development farmer, who already has enough land to produce the comparable income, does not need more land. He is not the type of farmer who will be considered. It is time to clarify the matter. There is genuine confusion. It will be the smaller or transitional farmer who cannot get the income on his present holding but who draws up a plan to show that he could do so with the extra land.

I see the link between the basic physical structural improvement of our farming and the management and business capacity of the developing farmer as an important feature of the scheme. The operation of this aspect of the scheme will require extremely close liaison between the officers of my Department, the Department of Lands and those of the advisory services. I am glad to see that arrangements have been made to ensure that this liaison will prevail at all levels of operation.

The scheme provides for a substantial grant for keeping farm accounts. I hope that it will encourage many more of our farmers to keep accounts. These accounts are essentially a tool of farm management. They can be of vital value to the farmer and his adviser in achieving better management and higher profits. The accounts kept under this scheme will therefore be kept solely for the guidance of the farmer and not for any other purpose. There is quite an amount of concern and suspicion about this matter. They will remain a matter between him and his adviser. I will not require them to be submitted to my Department.

What about the Revenue Commissioners?

I am talking about the accounts.

Ever, and we hope to be here a long time.

At the rate you are going now you will not.

If it should happen that farmers are asked to keep accounts for some other purpose, for example, the EEC farm accounts data network, they will be so used on a basis of anonymity only. I hope this will dispel any reluctance farmers might have about keeping accounts.

What if the Revenue Commissioners asked for them?

I cannot answer for every Department. I am speaking about my own Department. There is some confusion too about the extent to which the EEC funds will contribute to the cost of this scheme. The FEOGA contribution of 25 per cent applies only to expenditure by the national Exchequer on the basic investment aids to development farmers, on the grants for keeping farm accounts and limited grants for farm groups. Thus, 75 per cent of the cost of these aids and all expenditure in relation to investment grants for all other farmers fall on the Exchequer.

I want to emphasise that the 25 per cent does not apply to the overall cost of farmer investment. It relates only to the expenditure by the development farmers and then only to the basic 30 per cent grant on interest subsidy. It is, therefore, even where it applies, a mere 7½ per cent of the global cost. That is what we get from Brussels. That is only for development farmers. In the context of the overall expenditure involved, therefore, the FEOGA contribution is very limited indeed.

It has been said that since we bear most of the cost ourselves we are free to give more and bigger grants to this or that category of farmers. This is not the case. The directive sets absolute limits to the levels of aid a member state can operate. Within those limits the principle of selectivity in favour of development farmers must be observed. We simply are not free to give whatever aids we would like. We must work within the limits laid down. The fact that all members are subject to the same limitations is probably an advantage from our point of view.

I hope what I have said will help to clear the air about many aspects of the scheme. I can understand a certain amount of confusion arising from the scheme. This is inevitable when we are changing from one system to another. Fundamentally, this is all that is involved. Instead of paying grants piecemeal and in isolation, the emphasis now is on an integrated approach to farm development, with the emphasis on planned investment designed to bring a positive return to the farmer. This comprehensive approach is not a new idea. It was advocated some years ago in the Yellow Book on State expenditure in agriculture. It was well received at the time.

I am glad to note that whatever criticism they may have had about some detailed points of the scheme, the farming organisations generally have welcomed this integrated and planned approach. At the same time, we are endeavouring to bring about real integration in the operation of the various services and personnel involved. Some Senators today expressed the desirability of doing just this. This is merely aimed at providing the farmer with a better service in the long run and of making the best use of the resources that are available.

I want to stress especially that no one is forced to do anything under the EEC directive. The farmers' choice is a voluntary one. The great thing is that he now has a wider range of choices open to him than he ever had before. No farmer is made worse off as a result of the introduction of the farm modernisation scheme. Many will have the opportunity to be better off. Above all, I see, as being fundamentally sound and beyond argument the basic philosophy behind directive 159 and behind the scheme, the objective of ensuring that all full-time farmers remaining in farming shall have a decent income, one at least as good as their neighbours who work in industry; and that they shall be able to secure this income under tolerable living conditions, enjoying the degree of social and economic freedom which no reasonable person would want to deny them. I know we have a conflict here between the level of income for qualification and the number of people excluded because the income is at that sort of level.

Before I close it is necessary for me to deal in some detail with the ban which the Irish Agricultural Advisers Organisation have imposed on the farm modernisation scheme. This was talked about at some length and I can appreciate the concern. I introduced this scheme on 1st February. I wrote to the chairmen of the county committees of agriculture on 30th January, drawing attention to the scheme and asking for their co-operation in its operation. The Irish Agricultural Advisers Organisation also wrote to the committees on 30th January pointing out that they had requested their members not to co-operate in the operation of schemes arising under the EEC directive. One of these schemes is the farm modernisation scheme. The reasons given were:

(1) Lack of a proper career structure;

(2) Absence of specialisation;

(3) Delay in re-organising the service;

(4) The procedures for implementing the farm moderisation scheme which require my approval of all applications received.

The IAAO, in sending me a copy of their letter to the committees, told me they took this action because of my failure to deal with the matters discussed at their meeting with me on 17th January, a meeting, I should point out, which took place only 13 days earlier. I had met them on 17th January at their request to discuss their grievances regarding salary, promotion outlets, specialisation, the future of the services and the implementation of the EEC directive. At that meeting I told them that I considered they had made a fair case regarding promotion outlets and that I would personally see what I could do to improve the position. I told them also that specialisation would have to await the re-organisation of the service which was actively in hands. I had also to explain that since they had sought the conciliation and arbitration procedure my hands are tied in regard to salary matters. That was their choice so they cannot blame me now on this question.

When I received the letter notifying me of their ban of the farm modernisation scheme I replied immediately expressing surprise and disappointment at what I considered to be precipitated action by the IAAO, after I had undertaken personally to look into the possibility of introducing one or two extra promotion posts in the service. In spite of their action, I said that I would meet them when I had positive proposals to put to them.

Incidentally, somebody this morning in here talking about the lack of promotional opportunities said that the only opportunities they had at the moment was 27 CAOs and 30 deputy CAOs. This, of course, is not correct because in the past year I also sanctioned and asked them to appoint 30 additional deputy CAOs. I met the IAAO on 15th March and offered more than 70 senior instructor posts pending re-organisation of the services which I hoped to announce in a matter of months. It was a condition of this offer that the ban be removed. Incidentally, I could not put a higher salary on those positions because if I did they would have the same salaries as deputy CAOs.

I received a letter from the IAAO on 25th March rejecting the number of posts, the salary and method of appointment of senior instructor and indicating that the ban on the scheme must continue. I replied by return withdrawing my offer on these new posts. I received a further letter which again listed their grievances. I replied saying that I was not prepared to bargain and I asked the organisation to accept what I had offered in good faith. There was no reply to that letter.

I wrote to the chairman of each committee of agriculture on 10th April explaining the position which was depriving farmers of benefits to which they are entitled under the scheme. I asked them to have the applications on hands forwarded to me so that I could arrange to give approval for farmers who had urgent work to do. The response to my request has been disappointing. Most committees have shirked their responsibilities in referring the matter to the General Council of Committees of Agriculture, claiming that it would be a breach of confidence if they forwarded the applications to me. This is not a very valid excuse because in that case the obvious thing to do is to return the forms to the farmers and let them decide for themselves whether they wish to forward their applications to my Department. A few committees have taken this obvious step while others have taken the not so obvious step of not returning forms until farmers ask for them.

As long as this ban lasts I wish it to be known to farmers that they may send their completed application forms directly to the Department where they will be dealt with. There is no change in this. All the grant aid previously given to farmers was given in this way without the committees of agriculture, but I was anxious to bring the committees of agriculture into this and to make them really a national organisation. Up to the present we have received more than 400 applications and each day's post recently brings more. These refer mainly to works which farmers wish to carry out urgently in time for this year's farming programme.

More recently, the Chairman of the General Council of Committees of Agriculture has sought to resolve the dispute. At the end of a day-long meeting last week between the general council, the Department and the IAAO, I understand that the IAAO representatives agreed to put certain proposals to a meeting of their members. All I can do is to reiterate my request to the organisation to accept what I offered in good faith and to get on with the job of providing farmers with the service to which they are entitled under the farm modernisation scheme. That is all I want to say about the dispute. It is all I want to say about the EEC schemes.

I think it is only right that I should put this dispute in its proper perspective. Directive 159, on which the farm modernisation scheme is based, states that farmers who wish to benefit from grant aid should apply to the authority in the member state which have responsibility for examining applications and approving development plans. I, as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, have this responsibility in this country. The directive requires also that each application should be accompanied by a farm development plan. I wished to involve the county committees' staffs in the scheme by having them assist farmers in determining their eligibility and the category to which they belonged and in helping them to prepare their farm development plans. Somebody said that the people on the spot are the right people to do this sort of job and I agree with them fully. They are the people and they are the people I want to hold responsible. They are the people that I want to be able to go back to and say: "This was your plan, this was your programme". This puts advisers on their mettle. That is what I want to do.

Do not abuse them, then.

I am not abusing them. My goodness, the last thing I ever wanted to do with advisers was abuse them and I have always been on the best possible terms with them during the years. As Minister I have to assume responsibility both to the Government and to the EEC for all grant aid paid out under this scheme. Therefore, the documents which show the commitments being entered into must be forwarded to me so that applications can be approved and accepted into the scheme. When an application is accepted I, as Minister, take on a commitment to the applicant and I will be expected to honour that commitment in due course.

Much has been made of the argument that these forms contain confidential information which farmers would not wish to disclose. If that is so, the obvious action to take is for advisers to assist farmers in preparing the necessary documents and to let the farmers make their own decisions about sending them on to the Department with their applications. I understand that the IAAO object to having these documents forwarded to the Department not because of the information they contain but because this action would in some way reduce the status of their members and so have a bearing on future salary claims.

The situation, then, as I see it, is that the farm modernisation scheme is being used by the IAAO as a bargaining weapon in seeking improved salary conditions. As I mentioned already, the organisation have a salary claim before arbitration at the present time and the matter is out of my hands. In this situation, where both the farmers and myself are innocent victims, I am left with no alternative while this ban lasts except to advise those farmers who wish to avail themselves of grant aid to send their applications direct to my Department and I promise to have them dealt with.

Somebody said earlier that farmers could not be seen to be in some way fighting with their local advisers or going against their wishes. All I can say is that if a farmer allows that to stand in the way of the development of his holding and in the way of getting grants, he is more foolish than the average run of farmers that I know in the country. I am sorry to have spoken at such length and taken up so much of the time of the House but quite frankly I think this is an extremely important matter. I am glad that it has come up for discussion and I hope that arising out of this discussion there will be less confusion and less misunderstanding in future.

Is the Minister unaware of the glaring fact that this House has right through this debate maintained that those schemes are of importance to this country? However there are certain aspects of this matter which are not quite clear, and indeed the Minister in his reply has not solved any of the problems or answered the major questions that have been asked here today.

I lost my cool at one stage when the Minister referred to this 50 per cent grant towards the Land Project. I will give the Minister a fact now and if it is contradictable let him contradict me here. A person could get £50 per acre—not now because the scheme is unworkable since 1st February—if he had his application in, say, last December under the Land Project scheme for reclamation of his land. It is commonly known that the total cost of reclamation is on average £66 per acre. According to the Minister's explanation of the scheme, what we are going to get is 50 per cent of £66, which is £33. Therefore the amount received is not as favourable, comparatively speaking, as the Minister claims. It should not be claimed in this House or in any other part of this country that the new grant of 50 per cent for the development farmer under the Land Project scheme is better than the old one because it is not.

You can always isolate a particular scheme and get exactly the effect that the Senator has described. In many other schemes 50 per cent of total actual cost is far greater than 66? per cent of the costs previously, where actual costs did not come into it, where there was an upper limit fixed.

I could cite a number of schemes in my home area which would bear out my contention because I was involved in one of them myself.

Eight years ago when this scheme was first introduced the costs were double what they are today, so it makes an absolute farce of the figures the Senator has calculated, by whatever means we do not know.

Suppose I applied for a Land Project scheme last December. The Land Project officer comes out to my house and looks at my scheme. He says: "All right. You are going to get £400 for eight acres." When I go to my operator to ask him what would the cost of the operation of that scheme be, he says: "£500". Where is the 50 per cent that all the talk is about? At that stage a cheque comes from the Department for £400 and I add £100 on to it and give it to the operator.

In regard to the development target, there are three different types of operation, that is, dry stock, milk and tillage. You must be engaged in one of the three to have any chance at all of reaching the target. A farmer could have great difficulty in qualifying because interest on investments must be deducted from the farm income at the rate of 2 per cent fixed capital land and buildings, and at the rate of 5 per cent on working capital and livestock. Those two figures are very substantial and, of course, as the farm size and the stock numbers increase, the interest on investments also increases, thus resulting in the ridiculous situation that even a 200-acre dry stock farmer will be hard put to reach the development stage.

Is that not a fact? That has not been answered by the Minister to me. The next category of farmer who must in the west of Ireland try to make the development stage is the dairy farmer. As I have said, the first essential for a dairy man is his running water. It has been agreed on both sides of the House here today that the quality of your product is what counts. In dairying you must have quality, and to achieve quality you must have running water. Group water schemes among the farming community in my county, for in stance, are beginning to fall flat.

It is the Minister for Agriculture who must decide the rate at which transitional farmers will become development farmers. I am giving him a logical reason why 40 per cent of the transitional farmers in our part of the country, the west, the north-west and in the western side of the south, will never become development farmers, because equal opportunity is not available to them. While we must play the rules of the EEC they must be applied equally to everybody. It is vital that everybody should know what the rules are and will play by the rules.

I am not critical of the scheme myself. The scheme is good but we will not be able to apply it. We are not ready yet to apply the high standards in it. That is why I think the matter should have been renegotiated or the date postponed from 1977 to 1984 to give the nation a chance. Surely the Minister can negotiate it. The EEC is a market place and we are all in that market buying and selling. If you are a good seller or a good buyer you should be able to do your job in the market. We are pointing out here an unfavourable situation and we are leaving it in the Minister's lap because we cannot leave it in anybody else's lap.

Tillage is the third way in which farmers can get into the development stage. I do not talk about the commercial farmers. We know that the commercial side is a viable unit already. I am talking in terms of transitional to development, and we know and this House knows that after 1977, under the terms of this scheme, there will be only two types of farmers: commercial and development. There will be no transitional.


You actually said here now that the transitional farmer in 1978 will stand on the same ground as the transitional farmer in 1977.

No country can run away from a section of its people.

No country will run away from a section of its people. Could the Minister give me a yes or no answer to this question: in 1977 will a transitional farmer have the same opportunity as a 1978 transitional farmer? He will not, and the Minister knows he will not.

The Minister is not doing his job in the market place. I gave him facts about three different types of farmers who, in my opinion, cannot qualify for the development stage, and since the Minister did not reply to that I must assume that it is the opinion of the Government and the Minister that such farmers will not qualify.

The Senator is concerned about a 200-acre farmer.

I am not. I am talking about a ridiculous situation in regard to dry stock farmers, and I gave the facts where a 200-acre farmer could not become a development farmer if he had not been a good one to date.

I think I have tried to deal in a constructive way with this matter. The Minister insinuated here that people were saying—and I took the inference that we were saying—that there were over 100,000 farmers who would go to the wall. Nobody on this side said so. I have never read in any document or I have never listened in this House to any such statement except the one that the Minister made to us, and I do not know where he got such an idea. He then went on to say that the transitional farmer after 1977 would still have a small leeway to make up on a further directive to come regarding the mountain farmer.

Is it not a very odd thing that practically half the people out of the total number of those who received this mountain lamb subsidy scheme the previous year were refused payment last year? The Department have now arrived at the stage where they are filing down the type of man who will be classed as a mountain man.

The highest amount of money ever paid was paid last year.

To the least number of people. That is a fact in my area, and I know it quite well. I made representations to the Minister's Department on numerous occasions regarding the non-payment of mountain sheep subsidies. The Minister may claim that he has paid the largest amount of money; maybe he has, but he has paid it to the least number of people since the scheme has been in operation.

Sheep people never had it better.

Some of them, but not all, not the numbers that were dealt with in the year previous to that. The Minister suggested that the advisory service was a great service, on the one hand, but they were pushing him a little bit too far. They are a union of men who are trying to achieve something. I reiterate what I said here this morning: in the near future, come high or come low, that dispute will have to be settled. I say to the Minister; why not settle it now rather than later? Why not give a chance to the farming community to get down to work to see if they can put this scheme into operation?

I thought you did not want the scheme?

I am sorry, Senator McCartin. You tried to do a good job, but I am afraid you are a biased man in this situation because you are thinking from a Fine Gael point of view on this. I was not. I have tried to criticise certain aspects of this scheme. I am not entirely against the scheme. A great number of people would get in. I gave you the figures for Galway, the county that I know well, and they are uncontradicted. I have tried to give a figure to the Minister here regarding the other aspects of the scheme, and I have tried to be constructive. So do not be sly and sharp. It shows pure ignorance. I think when the people of Leitrim read your contribution here today, they will not see in you a public representative for Leitrim; they will see in you a Fine Gael man. I am afraid, Sir, that you should be a little bit broader. You made a good contribution but from a Fine Gael point of view.

Perhaps the Senator would now address the Chair.

I shall try to conclude. There were some interruptions. I think it was terrible for Senator Butler to say: "Jump the queue" when making those applications. I think this strike should be brought to an end in a good fashion. The advisers have always had the confidence of the farming community. Let us hope this will continue. They have been of tremendous service to the farmers of the country, particularly during the past ten or 12 years. I quote the Minister's own document issued by his Department in December, 1972, that is Farm Bulletin. There is an article in it “The Farmer and the Farm Home Advisers”, from which I wish to quote the last paragraph on page 24:

This is where a farmer scores. Far from provoking discontent farm home management restores effective co-operation with the family. Farmer, wife and children develop a great awareness of each other, become more discriminating in a complex outside world and more appreciative of what home and farm life has to offer. The better capacity to cope with competition and change gives a confidence and a pride which is very important to farming today.

I think the exact same applies to the farm advisers, and I would plead with the Minister, rather than come in here and say what happened and what did not happen, who wrote letters to whom, to meet them as soon as possible to bring this terrible strike to an end, not do what Senator Butler tried to do here today, suggest that the farmers should stab the backs of the farm advisers by submitting their schemes to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. I would go as far as saying that the farmers could not supply those schemes because they would be unable to do so without the help of the farm advisers. Let us be a little sensible in May, 1974. For the next few years the Minister, Deputy Clinton, if he is in office—and I am sure he will not be—will be deciding whether you can become a development farmer from a transitional farmer. We have lost six months of this year in the applications for this scheme, and before we have the whole year lost, would the Minister try and settle this strike and have a bit of common sense.

My trouble arises from the fact that Fianna Fáil never gave them anything.

My name was mentioned. I should like to make it quite clear that I never asked anybody to stab the agricultural advisers in the back. I am worried about the farmer who has made an application which is now being held up. My request was that the application come direct to the Department so that the scheme could go ahead. If the request is made by the farmer he is entitled to the service.

Question put and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 4.50 p.m., until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 10th May, 1974.