Agricultural Credit Bill, 1975: Second Stage (Resumed) and Subsequent Stages.

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Last night I was trying to emphasise that we on this side of the House welcome this Bill for what it was worth, for the reasons that the Minister said, but on the other hand I was trying to emphasise the unwritten points that are attached to this Bill and the reason for such a Bill—the hardships that applied to the farming community last year, the degradation of the farming industry since this Government came to power, the humiliating state the farmers have found themselves in over the last two years and the vain efforts, indeed no effort at all that one can see, by the Government to try to alleviate the problems in the agricultural sector.

Agriculture is the primary industry, the number one industry in this land, or at least it used to be. While it was viable and while there was confidence in that industry this nation's wheels turned very smoothly. Since the agricultural sector got into trouble, and they are in trouble now, the wheels of the economy do not seem to turn as freely as they used to.

I ask the Minister in what way through this Bill does he or the Government make a positive effort to help those in the store cattle trade next autumn. This day last year there were forecasts that the store cattle trade would be back to normal. The difference this year is that the store cattle trade is far from back. There is a very gloomy outlook. Farmers who have borrowed money and who were enticed to borrow money to invest in the cattle industry have not been able to meet repayment commitments. I can see no effort at all being made by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to try to alleviate this terrible problem.

I note in the Bill that the Minister specifically points out that a lot of money is being given to meat factories, £16 million divided between the merchants, the meat factories and the creameries. I should think that after all the profits that were announced by the meat factories last year there is hardly any need now for the Agricultural Credit Corporation to be used to facilitate this section of the industry. More than that, I would say the Minister for Finance and the Government should keep their eyes open and be alert to the people in the meat factories to ensure that the distribution of the EEC's money in intervention will be distributed directly to the producers in the meat industry this autumn.

Has the Minister any proposals to help those farmers who find themselves unable to pay back money borrowed in 1971, 1972 and 1973, particularly in the heifer scheme? The Agricultural Credit Corporation made a specific offer, which was accepted, over a five-year period to increase the stock numbers. Previous Governments and this Government allowed and asked both the Agricultural Credit Corporation and the banks to help productivity in the store trade. The end result was that people made investment in that trade then and even though the Government paid a certain amount of the interest on those loans, the loans have yet to be repaid in many instances because the profit margin expected from that investment did not come forth in the cattle trade.

To go to beet and cereals, I would ask the Minister to ensure that for people who are investing in the Agricultural Credit Corporation, and indeed the banks, there is a guaranteed margin of profit at the end of the day after they repay their loans and investments. It is always being said, particularly in regard to the beet industry, that the guaranteed market and price is there. Everything is guaranteed except one thing—the profit margin at the end was never guaranteed. We have seen the beetgrowers taking a beating year after year, consistently, during the last few years and occasionally prior to that, yet nothing had been done to improve their position. On the one hand you had growers and farmers who invested heavy money, labour and time in the beet industry. They sowed their crop and when they went to pay their bills found that not alone had the bank interest rate risen but their fertilisers and the other things that go into the growing of those crops had risen astronomically in price. This was very evident last year and this year in the fertiliser section where I have seen merchants and producers of the fertiliser being allowed ad lib to make any margin of profit they wished without any check by the Government.

Coming to potatoes, the situation we find ourselves in makes us bow our heads in shame that Ireland in 1975—with all the talk about agriculture and the Common Market, of guarantees by the Government to this little nation famous for its potato production—is in the situation of having to import potatoes. Could the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries not have foreseen this? He cannot say that he was not asked to do something. He was asked on numerous occasions. I for one asked the Government, and indeed asked the Government prior to this Government——

Again, I must ask the Senator to confine his remarks to the question of agricultural credit. He is now tending to go into details in regard to the question of one particular sector of the agricultural industry. As long as he talks about agricultural credit he is quite entitled to talk about the fact that the condition of the industry calls for credit or affects credit already given, but detailed discussion of the situation, which would be more appropriate on a motion or in another place on an Estimate, is not relevant to the Bill before the Seanad.

As is normal with me, I will abide by your ruling, but I would point out that in this Bill there is specific mention, and I will quote from the Minister's speech. The Minister said:

A high demand for credit is likely to continue as farmers and food processing firms wish to increase their capital investment.

It is on that point.

The Senator is now in order when quoting the Minister who was also in order in that regard. But the Senator was out of order.

I am not arguing the point. I am just saying that the reference was made and the intention is in this Bill that we will now invest more money in food processing. In so doing, we are giving away money that could be invested in this country to import goods, such as potatoes. This affects County Galway, where there is a potato processing factory. Before the Agricultural Credit Corporation invest money in the potato industry and food processing plants a positive policy regarding the growing of crops and profit margins should be adopted. Farmers should be guaranteed a profit margin on those crops in the same way as the repayment of loans is guaranteed by the Minister for Finance. Now is the time to have a critical appraisal of the potato industry. It is time the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Government defined policy. The approach, under the last regime and under the present regime has been incorrect.

The Chair must intervene again. The House is not concerned here with discussing the general policy of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. The debate is concerned with agricultural credit.

Obviously.

The Senator should listen to what the Chair has to say. The Senator is entitled to place this Bill within the context of the situation in the agricultural industry. He is, therefore, entitled to make passing reference to agricultural policy, to conditions in different sectors of the agricultural industry but any attempt to discuss in detail conditions in agriculture or any attempt to discuss policy measures which are not policy measures within the control of the Minister for Finance are not appropriate on this occasion.

I was never one to take up the time of the House nor do I propose to do so now. I submit that if the Minister for Finance and this Government do not produce a policy, the time of this House will be taken up next winter, in the next eight or ten months, with a motion by me and other Senators on this side of the House asking the Government to come to the aid of the people who invest with the Agricultural Credit Corporation in the food processing industry as indicated in this Bill.

This would absorb a lot of money from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. The end result will be that we will not have the raw material or if we do have it it will be at an abnormal price which will not be profitable to the producer. I, therefore, will have motions before this House and will be delaying the business of the House. That situation will be brought about by the situation being created today, that we are not allowed to give our opinion on this subject. The potato growers are in a desperate state. Consistently, over a number of years they have not been able to meet the demands of the public because they have not had a margin of profit on potato-growing. It is shameful that we should have to import potatoes from EEC countries. It is time the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries brought out a realistic policy to help the potato growers.

The Senator is taking a long time to submit to the Chair's ruling.

I made a valid point. I submit to your ruling. I do not want to delay the House. It might be suggested in the national Press that I tried to delay the House on a matter of such grave importance. The time of neither this House nor of the Dáil has been taken up discussing agricultural matters in the last two years. Can we say we had a positive debate on agriculture, on an industry vital to the national economy? The Government have dodged the issues. Take, for example, today's Order Paper. There are various motions on it from this side of the House in an effort to stop this decline that is being created by mismanagement on the part of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Government.

I welcome the Bill. I hope the Agricultural Credit Corporation in their wisdom will learn by the petty mistakes of the past, that when they are making investments in the food processing industry they will ensure that the man who produces the raw material will be looked after first, that he will be guaranteed a margin of profit. If there is not a margin of profit for him he will return to the dole office. The small farmer feels a sense of shame in having to join the queue at the labour exchange. Alternative arrangements should be made so that he can be where he wants to be, out working his land for an acceptable margin of profit that will provide a living for him and his family.

If the producer has not a profit margin he cannot repay loans. You cannot get blood out of a turnip. If the Government have not a positive policy which will enable farmers who borrow from the ACC to earn a profit how can they expect them to repay the loans?

I have mentioned what happened to the store cattle, what happened to the lamb trade. Sheep farmers will be giving ewes away if action is not taken. They will be sold out of County Galway for 2p and 3p a lb and 50p. Is that a situation we should tolerate? Is that something that this House and this Minister should tolerate in the case of farmers who are the finest and most noble people in this land?

May I make a suggestion? The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries should give to the potato producer a production bonus of £1.50 or £2 per ton. Consider what it would mean to the country. Instead of spending money on imports we would be giving it to the people who are most in need of it.

In welcoming the Bill with those few reservations, I would like to point to something else in the Minister's statement. The repayment periods vary. The loans to grain millers for grain purchase may be repaid within six months. That is a very good point. Other short-term loans such as budgeted loans for seasonal farm operations are payable within 12 to 15 months. Here I would ask the Minister to specify clearly what are classified as budgeted loans. Loans for livestock run for five years, for land drainage for 15 years, for land purchase and buildings for 20 years. Loans for livestock, as I have said, run for five years. Those who invested in 1972 are yet awaiting the day when they will be able to repay the money, even taking into account that this and the previous Government assured them that the interest on those loans or at least a portion of the interest on those loans, would be repayable by the Government. Yet they still find it impossible to repay those loans. I ask that until such time as the store trade in cattle improves, this be carried by the Minister for Finance and that the time for repayment be extended in cases where farmers still find it impossible to repay. There are many farmers in that position, particularly in County Galway and counties on the west coast. They thought this was a good investment at a time when the cattle trade was very good. I suggest that this aspect be considered by the Minister in consultation with the Agricultural Credit Corporation.

I would again ask the Minister to ask the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to delight this House with a new Bill that will guarantee a living on a small farm, so that farmers will not be driven to the dole offices. If this Government of geniuses, as they are called, would spend a short time talking about agriculture they could come up with ideas which would be beneficial to the farming community and remove the shame that is coming on them. We find ourselves importing potatoes while the farmers are in dole queues, unwillingly.

The sort of speech we have just heard on the subject of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, if it were made at a local chapel gate or at a local IFA meeting I would not feel obliged to make the slightest reference to it. Because he led for the Fianna Fáil Party I suppose we ought, according to Parliamentary procedure, make some comment on the things Senator Killilea said. First of all, the Senator went through the various activities in the agricultural world, beef, dairying, beet growing, potatoes, grass and tillage. It is remarkable that somebody who I am convinced knows something about agriculture, coming from a rural background and an agricultural area should have succeeded in convincing the House that he had not a single fact or a single figure or the slightest encouragement or optimism. Anybody who at this time makes the sort of speech that has been made by Senator Killilea is a disgrace to the agricultural world. It is the very sort of talk that creates the wrong impression, discourages the people who need encouragement and misleads people who do not know the facts.

I would like to say in connection with agricultural credit that there is nobody in this country that has done more to further the objectives of our national economy and for farmers individually, for co-ops and processing firms than has the ACC. Time and again I have said that were it not for the facilities provided by the ACC there would be no opportunity for a developing farmer, a farmer with ambition and initiative, to make progress. The ACC have given a first-class service. It is an organisation in which there are a dedicated group of people. It is accessible to the ordinary farmer who knows and understands his business, who has a plan, who knows where he is going and what he wants to do. Advice is available to him from experienced people from every part of Ireland in ACC House, people who know their business and who understand the particular sphere of activity in which a farmer engages, can give him advice and have a fair idea whether he is credit worthy or not.

The organisation has become very big. The service they give is growing daily. There should be further decentralisation of the activities of the ACC. Moves are being made somewhat slowly in this direction. I would like to see in all major towns ACC offices in which most or many decisions could be made. Through such offices the ACC could get in a large amount of much needed finance. A farmer who is in trouble and who needs money has to go to the ACC. The ACC are the only group who can provide him with an answer and who understands his problems. Yet if a farmer has money to deposit, even for a short period, I do not think that money ever finds its way into the ACC. Decentralisation of live offices, not offices with just one person to give out information, offices with the power to make decisions could also serve the other purpose of getting finance from the people whom the ACC serves so well.

I should like to comment on some of the things that Senator Killilea said in regard to the beef industry. The store cattle producer in the West of Ireland and the relationship of this subject to agricultural credit. Unfortunately there is no relationship there to agricultural credit. The term "small store cattle producers" is contradictory because there should not be such a thing as a small farmer producing store cattle.

The Minister made reference to it.

I know the Minister made reference to it. What I am saying is that the small store cattle producer in the west is not an ACC customer.

I deny that categorically. Ninety per cent of them are.

I allowed Senator Killilea to make his points without interruption. Senator Killilea made the sort of speech that might be made at the chapel gate after first Mass when the people would not be fully awake.

(Interruptions.)

Special interest rates were offered to small farmers in the west and everybody knows that they did not take them up. If they were businessmen concerned about their future, they would not engage in the production of store cattle on small farms in the west because there is no future in it.

On a point of information, I would inform Senator McCartin that the second biggest office of the ACC is in Tuam and if they are not doing business, why have they such a big office there?

The Senator still has not given us any figures. He is still talking in general terms.

Senator Killilea should cease interrupting. If he wishes to interrupt, it should be done on a point of order only. He is not entitled to question the speaker on a point of information.

I was only telling him the position.

Last winter people sold cattle because they were short of cash. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister for Finance provided facilities whereby those people could get loans at an interest rate of 9 per cent. Farmers said that the rate was too high, that the loan should be interest free. They forgot that they could make a guaranteed profit of 100 per cent and in many cases 200 per cent by keeping their cattle. They did not avail of the 9 per cent interest loans.

The point I am making is that agricultural credit does not enter into the life of these people because they are not prepared to think seriously on the subject. These are the sort of people that Senator Killilea insists on representing here. He would do well to speak for the farmers who use agricultural credit, who think about agriculture as a business and are in that business to succeed. They are the kind of people we must consider if there is to be any future for agriculture and, indeed, for the whole economy.

Senator Killilea blamed the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries for the plight of the pig producers. There has been a very severe decrease in their production. This happened in Northern Ireland and in Britain also. While we had a reduction in the region of 33? per cent, there was a much bigger reduction in pig breeding herds in the Six Counties. This matter does not relate to the subject under discussion. Are those who try so to relate it telling pig producers not to borrow, not to avail of capital because there is no certainly for the future? That is the message the Opposition are putting forward. That is not the message I would give. The difficulty in the pig industry over the past three or four years is related to what the Americans call the "hog-corn" ratio, that is, the ratio of the price of meal to the price of pork. That is what decides whether we have a reduction or an increase in pig herds. I can understand Senator Killilea laughing at certain agricultural terms, because he knows nothing about the subject.

Acting Chairman

The Chairman pointed out to Senator Killilea that it was improper to go into a broad debate on agricultural policy, for or against existing policy, that speakers should relate to the Bill, which is on agricultural credit.

Yes, but the previous speaker was making the point that farmers should not borrow and invest in the industry because the industry is unsound. Having made my point about the pig industry, I should also like to point out that the people in the cattle industry who are borrowing at the moment for the production of beef are doing exceptionally well. If a section of cattle producers have been hard hit it is the small store cattle producers in the west. They do not have a problem of credit at the present time but I recommend to them that they should seriously consider credit. To any farmer in the west who is producing store cattle at the moment the condition of the pig industry is an indication of what will happen to cattle. It happened first in poultry; it is happening now in pigs and it certainly will happen in beef, that only the efficient producers will survive. It is the people who are determined to survive when everybody else has gone, that we should recommend to avail of credit. They are the only kind of people who have a future in any industry.

The small store cattle producers in the west should be borrowing money. The day of the three-, four- and five-year old bullock has gone. He should take his cattle to the end where he can sell them to the factory and get whatever profit is available. Otherwise he will always be subject to fluctuations in price. There can be a good price for beef and stores being given away. There can be a good price for pork and bonhams being given away. This will always be the situation where one section, without any commitment from the other, puts itself in the hands of another section. This is what has happened in regard to pigs and what is happening now in regard to cattle.

Tell the truth.

I am not saying that everything in the garden is rosy with regard to agriculture. There is a lot of concern at the present time. It is all related to the question of finance and planning.

It is significant to recall that in the 'sixties there was an annual increase of 1.2 per cent in our agricultural output. This was the second lowest figure for any country in the EEC. The Netherlands and Britain had something like an increase of 3 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. Deputy Mark Clinton was not Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries during that period. Another party was in power. Only half-way through the 'seventies the situation, in spite of all our difficulties, is no worse than it was during the 'sixties. I am confident that given the same team in control, the same Minister for Finance and the same Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, there will be a completely different story at the end of the decade than existed in the agricultural world at the end of the 'sixties.

I know that certain things give rise to concern. The 5 per cent reduction in the national breeding herd over the past 12 months gives rise to concern. Here is a drastic reduction in the application of fertilisers. This also causes concern. As Professor Séamus Sheedy said in an article written last week—nobody knows more about the subject—the causes are very difficult to pinpoint. I agree. The subject certainly requires much more careful consideration and a much more responsible approach than that which is being proposed by the Opposition here today. The people who give credit, the people who give advice, should prepare a realistic policy for agriculture, not only at national level but at the level of the individual farmer. There has been a serious lack of planning in agriculture and a lack of effort to restructure holdings. There has been a lack of long-term planning by individual farmers with the advisory service.

The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has gone a long way towards remedying the situation by his new proposals in the white paper and the Minister for Finance is going a long way to remedy some of our problems in his attitude towards the whole business of agricultural credit.

The Agricultural Credit Corporation are doing a magnificent job. I want to see them doing an even bigger job in the future. I want to see them facilitated in every way and I do not want to hear the same pessimistic lampoon that we hear from the Opposition every time the subject of agriculture is mentioned. I do not want people scared away from availing of agricultural credit. I want to see responsible farmers availing of credit. If they do this, there will be a future for agriculture.

A ridiculous situation exists in regard to the potato industry. To hear somebody in this House saying that potatoes rotted on the headlands last year——

This may be related to the subject of agriculture. A bale of hay was worth 30/- in the west of Ireland. If you convert that into fodder units you must conclude the cwt of potatoes was at least worth £2.

What price were potatoes last year?

Acting Chairman

Very fine contributions indeed, but they are not related to the Bill before the House. Please, Senator McCartin, do not be drawing Senator Killilea on you. You are following exactly into the same area that he went into.

Yes. I believe that the lack of agricultural credit was not in any way responsible. We all know the period of drought was responsible for the situation in the potato industry. I would like to know where the pototoes rotted. The farmer who allowed potatoes to rot in his headlands deserves only hunger because they were worth a lot of money.

The Senator does not know what he is talking about. What price were potatoes this time last year?

Finally, I would like to say——

The Senator contradicts me in certain terms. I want to find out, on a point of information from you, a fact from the Senator. He contradicts what I am saying by dancing off into a tantrum. The Senator will not give facts. Can Senator McCartin tell me what price a crop of potatoes sold at last year?

Acting Chairman

That is not a point of order.

I heard it said that a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I am not talking about the price of potatoes last year, but the value of them. I commend the Minister on the measure to increase the borrowing power of the ACC and I believe his policies are making a very significant contribution to the agricultural community and industry.

I start off by congratulating the Minister on bringing this measure before us. All of us should have a deep interest in agriculture and in agricultural producers, those people who work so hard, in particular the small farmers. We all admit that it is one of the most difficult occupations for any person to engage in. Since we have not got five-day cows and defined working hours, there are enormous difficulties involved that do not pertain to any other type of industry or profession.

Agriculture accounts for a significant percentage of our economy. Everything we can do to further the agricultural interest will in the long run pay handsome dividends. Therefore, we should all be deeply concerned with this measure. It is only fair to say that down the years the Agricultural Credit Corporation have done a great job. They have agents in most counties. They give out money when a plan is submitted to them, when it is approved and examined by experts.

At the same time, I feel that in the past—I do not know what the position is at present—they gave very large sums of money to well-off farmers, but it was very difficult for the small farmer with five or six cows to get a loan. I agree with Senator Killilea that if we continue with a policy such as that, it would mean in the end that the transitional farmer would be wiped out. That would be a very sad day for agriculture. We have the development farmer and the commercial farmer, but at the bottom we have this small man, who has been the backbone of national production over the years. Indeed, comparing his acreage and so forth with the bigger and better-off farmers, he, in the past, produced much more tillage and more cattle. Consequently, we should be very concerned about the amount of money the Minister for Finance will make available here, particularly having regard to inflation in the last 12 months which was in the region of 26 per cent. The sum sought might look a big figure now, but when you compare it with previous increases and with the purchasing power involved, it might not be half as significant as people might be led to believe at a casual glance.

I notice somewhere in the Minister's speech that roughly £16 million of this went to merchants, meat factories and granaries. I suppose these are more or less directly concerned with farming. They would probably not be in existence at all but for the farming community. Some of them are owned by farmers. Not all farmers or producers are in co-ops. Neither are all the farmers in the IFA. There are certain farmers who have remained on their own, who work as family farms.

I cannot see how any Minister in 1975 could include meat factories in the amount. We had the sad experience last year of the IMP and even the co-operative owned meat factories who fleeced the farmers, their suppliers. Let there be no doubt about it. The private meat factories did it. The factory owned meat processing plants made up to £60 per animal. Very recently I heard the Chairman of Clover Meats adverting to the amount of profit they made last year. They did not even blush when asked how they made so much money, nor did they seem to have any conscience regarding the poor producer, the man down on the farm in the backward part of Ireland who was forced last winter to take out his cattle and sell them at a loss of £60 and indeed give them away.

In one sense I do not blame business people for trying to make as much money as possible. That is what they are in it for. I am sincere when I say that, while the co-operative meat factories have to exist, they took over some of the plants to show the private individuals how to run them. Some of them came along to the fairs and markets of Ireland and bought cattle at £10 a cwt, brought them to the meat processing factories and got intervention prices of up to £19 per cwt. They are crying and whinging today in many places about the decline in store cattle, saying the small farmer in the west of Ireland, in Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan, Galway and Mayo, should still keep producing store cattle, so that these people can come and buy them for nothing, or take them away, bring them up on the rich lands and make a profit again.

The sum of £16 million has tremendous significance. Does the Minister feel that it is a fair allocation to these people in view of the millions they took off the producers last year? I see no justification whatever for it. It would be better if that £16 million was readjusted and given out to those small producers, which is their just due, even given out in loans, to encourage them to increase their livelihood and to expand. We are now in the EEC and while the commercial farmer and development farmer may get all the big grants, these traditional producers at the bottom will be left out in the cold. The day that happens will not be good for agriculture, for the economy, and for the nation as a whole. These people will have to move out of these areas and houses will have to be provided for them in other areas. This will cause congestion and problems so far as schools and houses of worship are concerned. I ask the Minister and the ACC to consider that very carefully. Creameries get grants out of this, too. Many of them help in administering this scheme.

The time has now come for us to have another look at some of the stuff we are producing. It seems that in the EEC countries, in particular, there is a mountain of milk powder. There is no use saying in 12 months or two years that we were not warned of this. After all, the signs are there, and an efficient Minister of Agriculture should be advising the Minister for Finance and the ACC the best way to allot the funds available here to ensure that we will not find ourselves with a glut at the end of two or three years and unable to dispose of the finished product. If we cannot sell the finished product, there is no use in our producing the article.

Loans can be given for buying livestock. It is a very good thing to do. I do not want to say anything here that would injure the confidence that people engaged in agriculture should have in the industry. However I have no hesitation in saying that there will be no confidence whatever in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and in the present Minister for Agriculture because of the way agricultural fortunes have fared in the last 12 months. In 1973, when this Government came into office, a dropped calf was selling at £70 and now you can buy them for 70p.

These are the facts to face any farmer, in particular the small producer. How in the world can anybody ask those people to go back into livestock and produce calves at that ridiculous price? It would not pay for the AI fee. In fact, the AI fee is about three or four times that at present. As can be seen from the returns last year, there is a downward trend all the way. The cattle population is falling. The pig population is falling. The sheep population is falling. This is happening in a country such as ours and at a time when every one of these should be expanding. That is what the ACC money should be used for. But we will not get the people to borrow this money if they find out that, having done so, they find themselves in the sorry position that they are not able to repay the loans on that, when they have done that, they will have no profit whatever at the end of it.

It seems, too, that money could be borrowed here for expanding pig production. My county was a traditional county for producing pigs as well as, Longford and Leitrim. Pig production has finished completely in Monaghan and Cavan, except for a few big units. The ordinary people, who had five, six and ten sows are gone out of existence, because of the price charged for feeding stuffs, because the right markets were not available abroad and the right drive was not behind it. I blame completely our Minister for Agriculture for that, because, having obtained through the EEC the right to sell, we cannot fulfil even our quota in the British market. That is a scandalous situation, especially for counties that were traditionally pig producers, producing the best pork and bacon, not alone in Ireland but I am sure in Europe. Our factory in Cavan then and even yet produces the best sausages, beef and pork in Ireland. Farmers in those counties, who have the piggeries built with the aid of grants, have no pigs housed in them. They know of the disastrous situation in the past. It is very hard to get these people back into pig production.

The Minister for Agriculture should be able to infuse confidence into any community. He and his officials should see that the markets are available. It is hard to have confidence in the Minister when we see the position in the sheep industry at present, with pickets outside the French Embassy in this city protesting about the French attitude towards Irish lamb. They did not tell us that the Minister for Agriculture went across to the EEC and was a party to allowing Australian lamb into the British market and that it is being reshipped over here. If they want to put on a picket the right place to put it is outside the British Embassy or some of these other places but certainly not outside the French Embassy. The French were buying our sheep and were paying for them. This is the type of bungled thinking that is going on in regard to agricultural outlets. It will confuse the people who really should benefit from these loans.

So far as the pig producers are concerned, except for a few units, their livelihood has been snatched away inside of the last three years. The bottom has fallen out of the cattle industry and there is no use anybody saying otherwise. We are well into the month of July now, when farmers will be selling off their cattle. What are the prospects? Will there be an intervention price this year? How will the consumer be protected? Will those meat factories take the traditional £60 profit on every animal? What is the Minister doing about it? Has he appointed any inspectors to go in and see that these people, who borrowed money under the EEC or otherwise, will be protected inside the closed confines of these meat factories where all this fleecing is done?

It is high time the Minister for Finance, who is handing out this money, had a chat with his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. He should ask him where this money is going and what benefit it is conferring on those people. It is not mismanagement on the part of the farmers. The whole rot is at the top, let there be no doubt whatever about it.

Money can also be borrowed for farm equipment and for seeds, grain and fertilisers. This racket of fertilisers is tremendously important. It has bedevilled the whole situation, particularly last year. We had a dry season this year and most of the farmers were unable to buy fertilisers. They could not buy them because they had gone through a disastrous winter and losing all they had in the flop of the cattle sales. But it has been stacked up in many of the co-operatives and trading houses around the country. The price was chaotic. It would not pay any farmer to buy fertiliser at that price unless he was a millionaire and could survive for two or three years without making any money whatever. So far as the small farmer was concerned, he could not avail of it. It is very important to provide money to buy fertilisers or subsidise them in one way or another. At present they are left lying with the merchants. Whoever is concerned will have to rethink because they will not be sold.

There are some loans available for farm equipment. There are parts of the country where farm machinery is needed for spreading farm manure. It is very costly. The ACC should concern themselves with that, or some of these designers might be able to design some type of smaller machine with which the farmer would be able to spread any farm manure around the place rather than having to go to the co-operatives and other merchants to buy expensive fertilisers.

The Revenue Commissioners will need to keep away from him too.

I should have mentioned something regarding the Revenue Commissioners so far as this is concerned. Inside the last two years the farmer has been fleeced. He now finds that four new taxes have been placed on him. It is no wonder the farmers have not much confidence in this Government and in particular in this Minister for——

The last test did not reveal that.

(Interruptions.)

I will not follow Senator O'Brien down that boreen I am not talking about gaining votes.

There is no boreen down where Senator O'Brien was.

(Interruptions.)

Maybe that is what is wrong. I am not really concerned about who won elections or who did not. I am mainly concerned about the welfare of the farming community, irrespective of what way they vote. That is the important thing. They, I am quite sure, as a very intelligent people, having experienced over the last two years the chaos that has existed in the whole agricultural sector, must now be firmly convinced that there is a great difference in having Fianna Fáil in office when they could get £70 for their calf and having Fine Gael when they will sell a calf for 70p. It is not nice for anybody to have to say things like that on an agricultural instrument.

(Interruptions.)

Senator O'Brien will get his chance when I am finished, if he wishes. I will try to listen with interest to what he will have to say. Perhaps he might tell me why the Minister of Agriculture allowed New Zealand lamb into the British market, why they put on a picket on the French Embassy and these various things instead of paying attention to the things that matter.

The Minister for Finance has wide experience of travelling around capitals in search of money. I hope that he will get this £9 million extra that is to be got here to borrow to make up the £55 million because, apart from any other sector, I would like to see him coming home with the £9 million in his satchel, let him get it from the Arabs, from a leprechaun or whereever he gets it, as long as he brings it home here and as long as it is used for the benefit of the farming community. So far as his colleague, who will be using this money, is concerned it is a great mistake when he is out in Europe, that he has to pal along with the British Minister for Agriculture. In doing that he is hobnobbing along with probably a very decent man, but a man whose aim is completely and diametrically opposed to what our Minister should be looking for. He is looking for cheap food for the British people. We should be looking for a decent price for our food. That is the difference. Therefore, in providing this money it would be no harm if he had a little word in his ear sometime and tell him to keep away from the British Minister for Agriculture and when he is abroad to speak for the Irish farmers, for the small farmers in particular and for these people who are working hard in these backward places under very difficult conditions, and see to it that any money that comes back from the EEC for the benefit of the farmers will not go into the rich, deep, long pockets of these meat factory owners and these other people who are benefiting from agriculture at the expense of the producers.

I mentioned something regarding the sheep industry because it is of vital importance in many areas. There are many areas here where there is a fair concentration of people, where the terrain, soil and climate are suitable for sheep rearing. Here is an area where a great deal of expansion could take place if it was handled in the right way. There are many areas in this country where the forestry people are keenly interested in acquiring land. The Minister for Finance should also have a chat with them and tell them that in many instances much of that land could be used for sheep farming. I know that in Norway and other countries they have planted long thin strips up the side of the mountains and left hundreds of acres in between. These shelter belts help to improve the quality of the grass and indeed raise the sheep population that can be maintained on mountainy land in those places. These are out own people. They work hard and produce nice lambs for these people who like two dinners during the day and often the producer maybe has none. They like to get paid a reasonable price for doing this. They like to see that their sheep population are treated well, that there are proper facilities for having them dipped. All these things could be provided. They are things that the small farmers are keenly interested in in this area. How many small farmers in some of these sheep producing countries would be interested to know how a man would be treated if he came into the Agricultural Credit Corporation and said he wanted to buy a hundred or two hundred ewes? Perhaps if he was not speaking in thousands he might not get any grant at all. If that is the situation it would be very wrong. Sheep farming is important to our economy and, of course, we have the wool and the byproducts that flow from it.

And the lambs left over.

Yes. On the whole this is a very interesting Bill because, as I said, what is in mind is very creditable and certainly very necessary. I sincerely hope that it will have the desired result of improving the standard of living of the farmers in general, and that the ACC will ensure that people will avail of these loans. Many people here were not inclined to take up loans. The small farmer, in particular, had a kind of built-in idea in his head that loans were bad things. Indeed, many people still believe that. I cannot say that the Government have that belief, because since they went into office they have borrowed more than any Government since the State was founded. Perhaps their thinking might percolate a little bit down through this. There are certain types of farmers who if they could be induced to accept these loans, and if the interest could be made attractive, it would benefit the nation in the long run. If we have not these people there then we will not have any agricultural industry and there will not be any need for the ACC.

I listened to Senator McCartin. While I have the height of respect for what he says he made some references to some statements that were made by my colleague, Senator Killilea. I expected that he would contradict him but he did not. Perhaps he may have forgotten.

The Government can point out a lot of these anomalies and can tell us what should be done but they end up by doing nothing. Let me say, in conclusion, that I am glad that this Bill has come before us. I sincerely hope that it will do something for the farmers in general. We have a motion down here on the Order Paper regarding the plight of the farmers. Many motions pertaining to agriculture during the year have been deliberately by-passed because the climate was not favourable to the Government. They did not like us to mention anything so far as agriculture is concerned.

Many of them have gone a little haywire today because this appeared on the Order Paper and some of us made reference to the chaos, uncertainty and lack of confidence that pertains in the agricultural industry as a whole.

It is not easy or nice for any of us to have to say these things. We would like to be able to ensure that people would have confidence, and I believe myself that there is a great future for the whole agricultural industry and the whole agricultural outlook if it was handled in the right way. We have the personnel there. We have a good Department of Agriculture. We have excellent agricultural officers and COs down through the country and we have agricultural instructors who visit the farmers and instruct them as best they can and so on, but the important thing as far as the whole exercise is concerned—and this Bill illustrates it—is that we would have somebody at the top who would have confidence in himself and a little ability not alone at home but abroad.

I know that the present Minister for Agriculture had been in charge of his own farm, but that is a different thing. I do not say that he does not know something about agriculture, but from experience and from the experience of the Irish farming community in general we can say he has been the greatest disaster that hit this country for the past 50 years. There is not a farmer in this country but will remember his name, I am sure, as long as they remember the name of Cromwell. They have been wiped off the face of the earth in many places because of his bungling and his mishandling of what should have been a reasonably easy job. We had excellent Ministers for Agriculture in this country in the past both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. But I am not saying that in a personal way so far as he is concerned, but criticising him as a Minister. If he were moved to some other Department he might be a success, and I believe that if he did move to some other Department, whatever welcome might be afforded him in the other Department, I do not think there would be any tears shed for him in leaving the agricultural sector so far as his ability is concerned.

I shall try and confine myself to the Bill itself. The Minister for Agriculture is well able to look after himself and has looked after himself and his country since——

That is true. He has looked after himself.

Is has been said here that there was no agricultural motion discussed here in the Seanad. I can tell Senators that it is an untruth. A little over two months ago we discussed a motion put down by Senator Killilea and it was defeated by the Seanad.

That was the point. It was our motion. The Government have never brought in a motion either in this House or in the other House in the last two years——

Senator Butler on the Bill.

It is tough on Oppositions who have to try to do the work and undo the mishandling and the mismanagement of the Minister for Agriculture.

As was said here we have had two by-elections since the Minister for Agriculture took office and we have gained substantially from those.

And you lost——

We know who lost. The people know who lost.

This Bill is concerned with agricultural credit, not political credit.

I will confine myself now to the Bill itself. I as a person involved deeply in agriculture want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Agricultural Credit Corporation for the wonderful work they have been doing all down the years, and the members of that corporation for the efforts that they have put into the agricultural industry, and I would also like to congratulate and to thank those area officers that they have placed throughout the country. They are a credit to the corporation, and any time I made representations to them I was received courteously. If the case I had put to them was a good case then they helped me in every way they could, and if there was no credit to be given they pointed out the reasons why help could not be given and I was satisfied.

I would like to say something about the investment in the Agricultural Credit Corporation which I do not think was mentioned. To give credit we must also have money invested, and my information is that the investment in the corporation by other than the banks has been very poor. I do not know what the reason is for that. Is it that it is not properly advertised or is it that we have not enough centres, as was stated, throughout the country. I just could not tell you, but we as an organisation of creamery managers do our very best to try and get across to the people, to the farmers especially, that by investing in the corporation they would have many little benefits out of that corporation. I believe in this and we must get it across to the people concerned that they must invest in the Agricultural Credit Corporation. More investment is needed, and by having more investment more money will be spread throughout the agricultural industry.

I would like to know, if at all possible, what percentage of the investment has been supplied by farmers themselves and what percentage of that investment has been made by the industry. I am talking about the dairy industry, the meat industry and the provender industry. All of them have gained by low-interest loans on terms agreed by the ACC and the industry itself. There are times when the section of the industry I have been talking about could themselves invest in the ACC, and when they see their final annual accounts it should be put to them that there should be an investment by the industry itself in the corporation.

As a member of the dairying industry I want to say thanks again to the ACC for the help they have given the industry I am involved in, because the dairy industry is one of our most important industries. It is an industry that by development in cattle, in cows and the production of milk and the development in the industry itself can gain substantial finance for this country. Most of the extra produce that will be produced and processed will be exported, and if we can gain that type of extra produce, have more to export and get more money back into the country by those exports, then the country will benefit and all concerned will be gaining, whether it is the worker in that industry, the producer or the farmer himself.

We would like to know what more we could do to help the ACC. In the dairy industry here in Ireland we reach a production peak in June and we are very slack four or five months in the year. Farmers need to obtain fertilisers and feedingstuffs, and thanks are due to the co-operative movement, who all down the years supplied interest free credit to the farmers. They supplied credit from October, when there was very little milk, up to April when the milk began to flow into the creameries again. The dairy industry have that type of system because the farmer demands every penny he can get for his milk. Some farmers try to get the last fraction of a penny out of the industry. This is bad. We must allow for some investment by the farmers in their own industry. We must allow for the interest we pay back on loans obtained from the ACC or from other bodies.

Some system should be arranged whereby both the ACC and the co-operative movement would work together so that the farmer would obtain credit from the ACC from October until April to purchase fertilisers and winter feeds, which could be paid back to the ACC from deductions in the monthly farmer's cheques. If a low-interest rate could be given, such a system would be beneficial to the dairy industry and to the farmers.

Although there is legislation to prevent them from doing so, I think the ACC should be allowed to purchase from abroad. Money is available from other countries at much lower interest rates than would be available here. If the ACC were allowed to purchase this money at this low rate they would be able to give credit to the farming industry at a cheaper rate. Everybody concerned would benefit. This Government should examine this and see if anything could be done in this regard.

There should be some person at management level in the dairying industry on the board of the ACC. It would be difficult to put a total value on the industry, but the turnover is in the region of £600 million. With that kind of turnover it has a large stake in the agricultural industry. By having a member from that section of agriculture on the ACC board, a lot of information which is not available to the board could be made available to them. If that were not possible, perhaps the president of the IAOS, who is very familiar with the industry and with terms of credit and so on, should represent the industry on the board. It would be a good day for the industry if that occurred.

The dairy industry has developed over the past five or six years very rapidly. The investment by that industry has been substantial. We should not stop there. We should develop it further. It is the one industry where the farmer knows what he will get in return for his produce. He will get a monthly payment. It may be necessary for that industry to approach the ACC for further loans for its development. The ACC, I am sure, would look at it in the light in which I have described it, as an industry which needs further development.

The Minister for Agriculture has urged the farmers in the west of Ireland to get involved more deeply in the dairy industry and produce more milk. If it is necessary to obtain credit to purchase the stock that produces that milk I am sure that ACC will not turn a blind eye. The ACC know that the agricultural industry can be developed further. If an application is made to them they will examine it in the proper context. There should be more communication between the industry and the officers of the ACC.

There has been no reference to the obtaining of loans for the purchase of land. All that is allowed is 10 per cent of a maximum of £10,000 for the purchase of land. There are cases where a farmer might need to consolidate his holding by buying a small farm which adjoined his farm. I have approached the ACC on behalf of this type of farmer and I did not get a very favourable hearing. The ACC are bound by a certain clause which does not allow this to happen. If we wish to increase agricultural production we must have the proper type of holding. We must have a holding capable of producing milch cows and also the fodder to feed them. This cannot be done with a small holding. If the ACC would change their rules and allow this type of farm to be purchased to consolidate the small farmer, they would be doing a good job.

It may be difficult because the danger is that if the ACC give money in large amounts to farmers to purchase land, then the price of land will escalate. When the ACC are looking at the purchase of land they should be advised by the local agricultural officers in the light that it would be of benefit to the farmer who would purchase this land with the help of the ACC. It should not create a national situation where the price of land would escalate.

I would like to ask the farmers themselves to have confidence in the future. I see the future as very bright. My advice is to ask farmers now to purchase the store cattle that are available. We will be very sorry in the early months of next year if our population of cattle is reduced substantially. If we allow this to develop then it is a bad case. What is making this develop, I think, is the scare-mongers that are there, and we have them here in the Seanad. We must bring back confidence and the only way we can bring that back is for people who are involved in industry to convey the message that the future is good. I can hear people standing up here in six months' time and saying the farmer cannot purchase stock because they were too dear. They were too dear a few years ago, and that had an effect afterwards. If the scarcity I see coming comes then the stock, especially small stock, will be very dear. Again it is the small farmer that will lose out, because the small farmer will not be able to buy them.

The small farmer should now be looking at the future and purchasing whatever he can. With loans from the ACC and the help of the co-ops, they might be able to draw up some agreement that would allow the small farmer hold over his stock until the spring or before the spring comes, because cattle and all other animal stock will be very costly. I pity those people who cannot afford and will be trying to buy them.

Again on the dairying industry, I would ask those people in different areas of Ireland not to get worked up because the price paid by one creamery is not the same as that paid by the others. One of the reasons for that is that the development of this industry did not take place all at once. Some areas developed very quickly and other areas, because of amalgamation and so on, developed much slower and then developed all of a sudden. Finance was needed and credit was given by the ACC and by the banks, but the interest on that credit had to be paid back. If those farmers who are crying out for the last pound of flesh or the last fraction of a penny insist on getting that, it will be the downfall of their industry. Even though in the society where I work, the top price in the country is being obtained there is still demand on the management for another penny or another halfpenny. Why, I do not know, but that is the way it goes. A farmer likes to take it all and probably does not understand the financial investment, but these are farmers who, you would imagine, should know about it and often speak on television about the industry and ask why they do not get this, that and the other.

I would congratulate the Minister for introducing this Bill increasing the borrowing power of the ACC from £120 million to £220 million. It will give everybody that extra confidence in the ACC. I would imagine it will also allow the ACC, if a proper case is made, to be freer with the loans, and maybe an arrangement could be made with the dairying industry to introduce the system I have spoken of.

I welcome this Bill also, as I believe that the ACC at present are in need of an adequate amount of money to make available to the farming community. At present the farming community are going through a very hard time. The small farmers in the west are practically up to their necks in debt, both to the banks and the ACC, owing to the advice they got some time ago to borrow money from the ACC and increase their stocks. It is right for us to look at this in two ways.

If the ACC have plenty of money to give out in loans to farmers, will the farmers have to borrow in order to exist and keep their heads above water? They cannot see at present, unless some miracle happens in the agricultural industry, how they are going to pay back those loans. Are they going to be afraid to borrow? Any more money the farmers in the west borrow is going to be an extra milestone around their necks. As the agricultural industry is, they have no hope at all in the foreseeable future of repaying the loans they have already got either from the banks or the ACC.

We see that in 1972-73 £28 million was provided and in 1974-75 it had risen to £56 million. That is an obvious thing to happen after the golden years of 1971, 1972 and 1973 when you could sell one calf at £75 or £80 a head and go out and buy 4½ tons of fertiliser. At present or up to a few weeks ago we had heard of calves being given away for £1 at the calf market. A neighbour of mine —this might seem funny to some people but is a true story—went into the Ballina mart with a calf. He sold the calf for £1 and he went to the Royal Café for his dinner and paid £1.25 for the leg of a chicken and two potatoes. It is very easy to laugh at those things but that is a reality. He went home and his wife met him in the farmyard and she said: "Well, what did you get for the calf?" He said: "It was a good job you gave me the pound going to the market because it cost me an extra 25p to buy my dinner as well as the price of the calf." The result of that was that he could not even have a drink with the man who bought the calf from him because he was afraid he would not have the money. About a week after that he had reason to send for the AI service and the man came into his yard and asked him what type of calf he wanted. He said he wanted a Friesian calf but he also wanted to know how much the service was going to cost him. The man told him it would cost £3. "But my advice to you, my good man," he said, "Is not to bother. You will pay £3 for the service and you will have to give the calf away for £1."

That is the sort of thing that happened in the west as a result of the collapse in the price of cattle and the debts which the farmers incurred. Not only had they a loss on cattle but when they tried to manure their lands last year they found it was impossible because the price of 10.10.20 and other fertilisers had risen to about £100 a ton. There will be no significant increase in our cattle stocks in the future because the farmers engaged in the store cattle trade are unable to pay that fabulous price for fertilisers, and expect to make a profit on a few store cattle. There will be few store cattle produced because the farmer will not have enough grass to feed them. The possible will be impossible for him unless he borrows money from the ACC thus putting a noose around his neck.

It has been pointed out in the Minister's brief that the deposit scheme has been very successful and is highly recommended to investors: deposits at present attract a 10 per cent interest and carry the guarantee of the Minister for Finance. I do not care if they carry the guarantees of two Ministers for Finance, there is no farmer in the west of Ireland today in a position to go into the office of the ACC and to lodge money because they have not got it. Some years ago when my office was beside the ACC office there was a stream of people going into that office to invest money. Now the only people going in there are those seeking to borrow a few pounds, and if they fail to get it they get in touch with me to see if I can help them. The ACC will give loans for advance purchasers and for the improvement of buildings and equipment. These account for 45 per cent of the ACC advances in 1974-75. They also give loans for family settlements.

I had a case a fortnight ago where a young man who owned a farm married a young lady with a much larger farm and went to live in her place. He wanted to hand over or to sell his own land to his brother, who was living in the house. He was willing to sell that land and the house, with all amenities, to his brother for half its market value. He wanted to borrow only £5,000 as a family settlement on his brother and the ACC refused to lend him that money.

The Minister, in his speech, said that the ACC provide loans for family settlements. That man I am speaking about would have about 20 or 15 years to repay that £5,000 and as he is a young able-bodied man, willing to work hard and improve his holding, he would have no difficulty in repaying the sum in the time. The Minister should not include statements of this kind in his speech when I can prove that such transactions do not take place. I refer him specifically to the case I have mentioned. If the Minister wants any further details of it, I will be glad to supply them. He should use all his influence to ensure that this man will get the money he requires for the settlement of the land and property.

The Minister went on to say that money had been provided for the purchase of breeding stock at a low interest rate from June, 1972 to June, 1973. That was the time all the agricultural advisers were telling farmers to borrow money to increase their stocks. The farmers did this in all good faith because they trusted the Government in office. But by the end of 1974 they were not able to sell their cattle—they were not able even to give them away. Far too many store cattle had to be retained on the land. Cattle were being brought to the market day after day but were being brought back again because there were no buyers for them.

It is no use to say that they were allowed to buy feed on vouchers. There were only some select farmers who were allowed to buy feed that way. Unless a man was totally dependent on his agricultural output he did not get vouchers for animal feed. Everybody knows that the majority of the small farmers in the west of Ireland are unable to exist solely on the output from their farms. They must obtain part-time work from the ESB, the county council, or Bord na Móna in order to eke out an existence. These men did not qualify for vouchers in order to feed their cattle because they are not full-time farmers. Many of their cattle died. I know of one man who lost 23 cattle during the winter. He was unable to feed them, and a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals came and took 23 cattle off his land. He was fined £25 in the courts for allowing cattle to wander out on the road. But he had no grass to feed them and he had to do this.

Some of the members of the Mayo County Committee of Agriculture were reprimanded by the Press because they suggested that the Garda should turn a blind eye towards cattle grazing on the long acre, alongside the roads. These farmers were unable to repay their debts to the ACC and they were in a bad way. Those debts are still outstanding. I ask that there should be an easing of the terms of repayment for the small farmers.

I should like to pay a compliment to the ACC for the way they are dealing with these people. The small farmers in the west of Ireland are badly in need of help. They are unable to meet their commitments to the ACC, but the ACC, as far as I know, do not contemplate taking any legal action against them. They have given the farmers opportunities of repaying their debts to help them to keep going until such time as they are able to clear their debts. But at the rate things are going, it will be a long time before they are able to do this.

If the Government had some long-term plan put forward by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries such as has been done by other governments, and if the farmers could be given a guaranteed price for their produce, regardless of the state of the market, it would be of considerable help. Farmers should have guaranteed prices for their products for three or four or five years ahead. They should be in a position to know what it will cost them to produce their foodstuffs and cattle. They should be guaranteed a certain percentage of profit. The farmers would then know where they stood. They would know what they could borrow from the ACC, they would know what they could pay back and what period these repayments would cover.

We are just waiting for some miracle to happen that will save this country from disastrous bankruptcy. Unless that miracle happens in the near future, we will become known abroad to be in a very bad financial state and we will find it extremely difficult to borrow any foreign capital. I do not expect a miracle to happen in the next few months, and it is going to be God help the farmers during the coming winter.

There is no doubt the hay that has been got this year is of fine quality, but there is very little of it. There has not been enough hay, silage or other feeding stuffs produced this year to carry the stock of cattle that are on the land, even through stock did drop by something from 5 per cent to 6 per cent in the last ten months. The farmers will be forced to kill. They will not have the banks nor the EEC to try to borrow money from to buy feeding stuffs.

As I said before, it will be another millstone around their necks unless the Government in the very near future, preferably before the recess, put a long-term agricultural policy before the farmers—the ranchers in the midlands and the small farmers who produce the store cattle in the west. If that plan is put forward, it would give confidence to the farmers to make some effort to carry on the No. 1 industry.

I welcome the Bill and hope that the farmers will be able to make more use of it than they did last year. I do not see any reason why the ACC should give money to the meat processing plants. That is absolutely ridiculous. Something like £16 million is to be given to merchants and meat factories and creameries. I do not know what percentage of that £16 million is to go to meat factories, but at the rate people got paid for intervention beef, they made no money —it was the meat factories that made it. It was very lax of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the so-called Government of geniuses not to have made some effort, with all the Bills, to produce one scheme that would give the EEC money for intervention beef back to the small farmers or those who produced it, rather than given it to the meat combines and the co-ops. The result is the small farmers have lost confidence in the Government or in the Department for Agriculture and Fisheries who should give them a decent life and help to educate them for the future. In present circumstances farmers in the west are more interested in finding out where the next job is to come from. After they do 26 weeks in that job, they then can go on the stamp money, and from that to the dole.

This is a Government for handouts, and unemployment. They are afraid to face up to their responsibility. They should govern for employment, for agriculture, for the welfare of the State rather than for handouts in social welfare services. To try to find votes in such a way is despicable.

The one word that seems to be running through the debate from all sides of the House is "confidence". It is either a lack of it, as initiated by the Fianna Fáil side, or an ample supply of it from this side of the House. Senator Garrett referred to the policy on agriculture, and I will later, in my short contribution, quote from the Common Agricultural Policy of the EEC passages which are relevant to the Bill.

I asked the Minister for the agricultural policy.

The criteria for confidence is usually manifest in the amount of money on loan at any given time. As this figure has now reached the extraordinarily high figure of £56 million, a sum which represents a doubling of the previous amount in 1972-73, there is confidence——

With a depreciation in stock.

It is a confidence by a section of the community which through the agencies set up by this Government availed of credit facilities which are financed by investors, who themselves have confidence in the industry: otherwise they would not invest in it. They also have confidence in the ACC which have under section 3 of the Bill, ministerial guarantees for repayments by borrowers. Investors, who this year invested more than £25 million in the ACC, also show this confidence in this industry, unlike the gloomy picture that has been painted by the other side of the House, particularly by Senator Killilea, who led for Fianna Fáil. All speakers from the other side usually like to use Deputy Mark Clinton as a whipping boy. The Minister is well able to defend himself in relevant debates on his Department in this House as he did quite recently, as Senator Butler said, on a debate on a motion of confidence in the agricultural industry.

Senator Killilea, like everyone else involved in agriculture, knows that the EEC has not been a bed of roses. Any benefit which the farming community have had as a result of Ireland's entry into the EEC has had to be fought for inch by inch by the Minister, and often with very little support from his colleagues in Europe, who have aligned themselves with the Gaullists, who have been referred to as French stoppers of our exports of lamb. The Minister has had a lack of support from other members and other countries who have been particularly quick to break the rules to suit themselves. The French, as I mentioned, have closed their doors on several occasions to imports of Irish lamb. Considering that Irish exports of lamb make up only 4 per cent of the total imports of lamb in France, which imports a total of 75 per cent, it is not extraordinary that a small agricultural exporting country has the tremendous problem of trying to compete with very big industrialised nations in what is known as a Common Market but perhaps does not function as one.

This is the reason why at times Irish meat exporters depend largely on intervention systems as a market, and not as a market saver as intended by the Community. Other factors, such as the monetary compensation allowance, the difficulties of adopting farm modernisation schemes to farmers in Ireland, and the insufficiency of capital from Brussels to initiate an effective disadvantaged areas scheme —all these have brought about new challenges to Irish farming, side by side with the disadvantages which our farmers did not foresee when they voted so overwhelmingly for EEC entry. I am not saying there would not be greater disadvantages had we remained out of Europe.

However, our farmers have to face challenges in the changing of techniques and of skills, changes in farmers' planning as initiated in the farm modernisation scheme. Long term planning is now necessary.

Unfortunately, Irish agriculture in the past had not been tuned to long-term planning, and because of this all these new demands and challenges have brought a tremendous need for an adequate supply of funds. That is why I welcome this Bill. It ensures that adequate funds will be available to farmers with confidence. If the Opposition were responsible in their contributions to the Bill, which they welcome, they would endeavour to instil confidence, not just quote complete balderdash. If you say something often enough, no matter how untrue it is, some of it sticks. If farmers are not given confidence by their legislators from any side of the House, the ACC in their efforts to put up this money will have had a wasted effort. Confidence must be instilled if the farming community are to avail of the additional money available for livestock, fertilisation of land, improving farm buildings and equipment, for the purchase of seeds and fertilisers and all that.

This Bill ensures the giving of permission to the ACC to increase their borrowing powers by £100 million over the 1973 figure. I have no doubt they will be able to acquire this extra money from their investors and that any pessimism generated by the Opposition will be proved to be unfounded when further improvements can be gained in Brussels by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, who, as has been proved on several votes, commends the utmost confidence.

There is possibly some sense in what Senator Killilea said about giving some form of stimulation or assistance to the producers of vegetables particularly in our coastal areas, not alone potatoes which are traditionally grown in those areas. As I mentioned in a previous debate in this House, the possibility of assisting people by way of incentives in those areas would ensure that ample supplies of vegetables, including potatoes, would be made available by people who have the facilities and the land available to grow them, thereby ensuring an adequate supply of vegetables, not alone for home consumption but also to assist our food processing plants and bringing down to a more sensible level the price of these foods to urban dwellers who cannot produce them.

The only reason potatoes were allowed to be imported into this country was to assist the processing factories, the fish-and-chip industry which provides a very substantial amount of employment, and to bring down prices to a realistic level to urban dwellers.

It is relevant at that point to refer to the Common Agricultural Policy. It is relevant to what has gone on the record here today in connection with out attitude towards that particular product. Although 96 per cent of the Community farm production is covered by regulations under the Common Agricultural Policy, there are important sections which are not yet included. These include potatoes, mutton, lamb and wool. As regards agricultural products outside the farm policy, national Governments may apply their own policies for managing the market. Wool and lamb have been dealt with, as I have said, by the attitude of the French.

Senator Dolan talked about imports of lamb from New Zealand, and I would refer him to 1st February, 1973 —make note of the date please, Fianna Fáil—when Britain, Denmark and Ireland introduced the Common Agricultural Policy subject to transitional arrangements until the end of 1977. Special terms for New Zealand dairy products and Commonwealth sugar imports were incorporated in that accession.

The production of potatoes in this country in 1972, which was the last year in which Senator Killilea and his colleagues had control, was for Ireland 1,250,000 tons, in the UK, 6,544,000 tons and in Germany 15,038,000 tons. The reason I mention these production figures is that the home consumption per head of the population in these countries are, for Ireland 123.1 kilograms per head, in the UK 101.6 and in Germany 101.8. So Germany, with a production 15 times as much potatoes as Ireland, uses less of them. We are the highest consumers of potatoes in the Common Market. We are one of the lowest producers and we are second only to Russia in the consumption of potatoes.

So for the economics of this country, the growing of vegetables is very important, and the stimulation of growing them by facilities to growers I hope will be available through the ACC in this Bill. An incentive of this kind from the ACC for the purchase of seeds by lower rate loans would have the desired effect and would help to balance the lack of potatoes at this time of the year. This lack of potatoes just now is because of the drought, and I do not think it is entirely fair to blame the Minister for the drought. If we were facetious we could claim credit for the fact that it rained this afternoon and that it rained a month ago when it was almost too late.

I also heard the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries last year being blamed for the shortage of animal feedstuffs owing to the bad weather, but this is the first time I have heard him being blamed for lack of potatoes because of fine weather. However, I commend the Minister who is in the House now for the policies he has initiated. I was surprised when reference was made to these financial changes, which were more than overdue for some 16 years. I heard somebody who usually speaks for the small farmers suddenly weeping for the large farmer, the £100 valuation boys.

I thank the Minister for initiating this enabling Bill and I am sure it will get the approval it deserves in this House. I have great pleasure in giving it my approval. I hope the community which it is intended for will be treated, as in the past, with fairness and sympathy by the ACC in their applications to them for credit and finance in what is agreed by every one of us as a most important section of our economy.

Business suspended at 5.30 p.m. and resumed at 6.45 p.m.

During the break I thought over what I could possibly say and have come to the conclusion that it would be like a pedlar's bag, little of anything and some of everything. You will be patient with me, I hope. The most that is worth while has already been said. I come from an agricultural area and would be lacking in my duty if I did not say something.

I hasten to agree with Senator Butler in his tribute to the Agricultural Credit Corporation and their staff. I have been to ACC House on many occasions and I was treated with the height of civility and respect and, in fact, was successful. I have not met a defaulter in my area. I had one application that was not successful but if it was left to myself I would have had to turn down the applicant.

I do not know why there was so much heat generated here between the different sides of the House. It was amusing to watch it. When you are voting a substantial amount of money, as we are doing today, whether one is on the Government side of the House or the Opposition side it is not only a privilege to criticise but it is one's duty. I would not be doing my duty if I did not say how I felt about the agricultural industry in my part of the country. There are a few in this House who would remember the flax industry. About 80 to 100 years ago in the town of Monaghan alone there was £5,000 per week and half that amount in Castleblayney town paid out in gold and silver for flax. It was a substantial amount of money in those days. That industry went and it had to be replaced by the pig-and-poultry industry. The pig industry is just not existing at the moment. About one-third of the poultry production of the State is carried out in County Monaghan which is the reason the producers there call themselves chicken growers.

Potatoes were a very good cash crop. On the farm where I was born we could always sell these potatoes at the proper time of the year, from Christmas on. That industry is gone. There was another cash crop, ryegrass, as Senator Dolan would know. The small farmers could look forward to getting the £5 per cwt for it. It was sold back to them after it had been processed. The farmer thought he had a contract but he had nothing of the kind; he had only an understanding which went by the board very quickly.

The Senator seems to be making a very long introduction.

You are very patient. I never spoke before anyone yet who did not have to be patient with me.

The Senator seems to be talking about things in the past the loans in respect of which have long ago been repaid.

I only wish I shared your view. I do not think I will go back to my humble habitation and ask the people there to accept what you have just said. If all our problems were as easily solved they would be solved long ago and there would be no trouble. One thing I do like is that you can invest money now with the Agricultural Credit Corporation tax free at 10 per cent. That is to be welcomed. I have grave doubts that people invest sufficiently in this fund. There are offices in various areas and I would hope to influence my friends to invest, as I did personally, in the Agricultural Credit Corporation. The agricultural community should do so. It would be much better invested in the ACC than elsewhere where the small investor is paid about 2 and 2½ per cent less than the large investor. The bank interest rate is so much on deposits up to £5,000, so much interest on deposits over £5,000, so much on deposits over £20,000. The ACC and the Minister and the Department are very fair in that they give a reasonable return on money invested.

Every Senator knows from the news media that the intervention money did not reach the farmer. Did it? I have yet to meet one whom it reached. It went to the factories all right but it did not reach the people for whom it was intended, that is, the producer. There are a terrible lot of liars in the country if it did.

The greatest offender, I regret to say, were the co-ops that were supposed to be the saviours of the race. Somebody may deny this. I hope they will be able to do so. They would be better orators than I am. I do not claim to be an orator. I am just a mob orator. That charge was made and it has never been denied. I cannot expect the Minister to be responsible for all these things but I do claim the right to make it known, at least, to bring it to the notice of the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the general public who are entitled to know these things. I cannot understand why, when money is made available from the EEC a system cannot be found by which it would be distributed. The income tax collectors go out with horse, foot and artillery. They bring home the money. They would drive you to an early grave. But when it comes to distributing money a way cannot be found. A child in third standard would be able to do it. I welcome the Bill. It is a pity that the money involved is not substantial.

I welcome this opportunity to record my support for the Bill. I am glad to note that the Bill has the support of both sides of the House. This is only right and just because the ACC has been doing a good job both during the term of office of this Government and indeed for many years before, during the previous Government's terms of office. It has been doing a very useful job and it has been the main source of credit for farmers.

Some of the criticism that has been offered from the other side of the House has been fair criticism. It is the job of the Opposition to offer criticism—constructive criticism, if possible—and most of the criticism made has been constructive. I doubt if Senator Killilea was serious when he seemed to suggest that the ACC ought to have invested some money in rainmaking machinery. Unfortunately that is not possible. It is not fair to criticise the Government for the weather we have been having which had such a serious effect on the production of potatoes and vegetables.

It is very encouraging that the limits have been raised from £120 million which was appropriate in the past to £220 million. This shows that the Government and the ACC have the necessary confidence in agriculture and are aware of the need for large-scale investment in agriculture. Never in our history have there been such big changes in agriculture as there have been over the last 15 or 20 years. Ten or 15 years ago the same farm equipment was being used as was in use 100 years ago. Nowadays farming equipment is replaced very often. If we are to keep abreast of modern developments we must have the finance to ensure that agriculture will be as progressive as it is in any other country. This costs money. Farmers who were not in a position to go to banks had to depend on the ACC. The ACC have done a good job. My experience has been that the farmers who availed of credit from the ACC, if they were not good farmers, became good farmers as a result.

The ACC's policy has been to ensure that money lent in this way was used productively and sensibly on proper projects. It was not necessary in many cases to suggest a particular type of farming but there are cases where, if money is readily available people will take it and perhaps not make the best use of it. It was the ACC's job to ensure that the money they lent was properly used. The only way they could do that was to take the advice of the advisory service and to ensure that a proper plan was drawn up for the farmer.

Farmers often used the wrong type of credit. Many farmers used credit from the merchants from the time they sowed their grain until the harvest. While it was a useful type of credit and was availed of in a big way it was not the cheapest type of credit. Very often those farmers could just as readily, if they had a proper plan drawn, have had the facilities of the ACC to carry them over lean periods. From now on credit facilities will be more and more necessary. The farmers who have availed of the ACC, to equip their farms properly, to instal proper machinery, provide buildings and the right type of livestock, are reaping the benefits of properly laid plans. It will be necessary in the future to continue to do that. It may even be necessary to increase the size of herds. It is not always the man with the large acreage who is best off. Very often the man with small acreage who manages properly is better off. The monetary content on farms is very high and many farmers have to seek credit from the ACC.

It is a two-way picture. It is useful to have the ACC to lend money to farmers, but it is also necessary to farmers to realise that the ACC have to get money to make it available to agriculture. There are many farmers who could readily invest some of their money, even on short-term, with the ACC. Not alone would they get a good return but they would be helping the industry and helping their neighbour. The ACC lend a kindlier ear to the farmer who has an investment with the ACC. While he may have a small amount invested just now he can be in a position to get a larger loan. This is the type of two-way policy I would like to see carried on.

While there is a welcome advance from £120 million to £220 million it will have to be increased very much more. If farmers in general examine the use made of moneys borrowed from the ACC in the past they will realise that it was the more farsighted farmers who borrowed and that those are the farmers who are progressing. The ACC have done a good job and I am sure they will continue to do so with the support and co-operation of the farmers.

I am grateful to the Seanad for the manner in which they have discussed this very important measure. If some Senators were tempted to drift away from the specific measure which is dealing only with the provision of agricultural credit, at least it was an instructive debate if only to instruct me on the depth of—I do not use the word offensively—ignorance which some Senators appeared to display on matters agricultural and upon the causes of particular difficulties. Weather, climate have a very important effect upon agricultural budgets. Perhaps that is something that Senator Killilea would like to learn something about.

When you have no money you blame the Arabs.

It would appear according to Senator Killilea that the forces of nature have no impact whatsoever upon agricultural produce.

They will be all laughing at you if you say that.

Senator Killilea thinks they will be all laughing. One of the matters perturbing the Opposition is that they somehow feel that there is an election in the air. They have all been rehearsing their campaign speeches. I want to assure Senators that they are wasting their breath at this stage. They would want to start contemplating what they might be saying in 1977 or 1978 and refrain from talking about the golden sunshine which Ireland enjoyed in 1975 which caused a temporary difficulty in the potato market. I look forward to hearing Senator Killilea's speech in Tuam in 1977 when I am sure even he will be lost for words of criticism of this Government for what they, in the interval, will have done for agriculture.

Senator Killilea seemed to suggest that the Government had been neglectful in relation to the price of fertilisers and foodstuff prices. It was difficult to determine at some points of his contribution whether he was on the side of the consumer or the producer. He knows that world factors determine the price of fertilisers in this country the same as anywhere else. We have the option of paying the world prices or going without. As far as this administration are concerned we will not ask people to give up using fertilisers. We will let them have the choice as to whether they want to buy fertilisers or not. We believe that is the proper course, and that is why the National Prices Commission does not control fertiliser prices as such although they continue at all times to review the profit margins made by the producers and distributors of fertilisers and if these are seen to be excessive then corrective action will be taken.

I would like to remind Senator Killilea that for the first time in our history, in 1973, the Administration of which I have the privilege to be a member introduced a guaranteed price for potatoes. They provided a floor price for potatoes below which the price of potatoes could not sink. This guaranteed all producers of good potatoes that no matter what happened to the market the State would arrange to buy in the potatoes at the floor price. That was a very significant guarantee to potato growers who knew at the time of sowing the potatoes that they were assured of a certain price. I therefore have to rebut on behalf of the Government and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in particular the criticism which Senator Killilea was tempted to indulge in because Ireland has had some unique sunshine this year.

Senator Killilea asked me to deal with the question of the budget loans. He accepted that short-term loans should be related to the production cycle itself. He also approved the six-month period for millers and so forth so that they could purchase the grain when available and pay for it as they sold it off. That budget loan system operates within a season. It might run something like this. I quote from a sample sheet which was issued by the Agricultural Credit Corporation:

15th October 1974, store cattle for wintering, a loan of £4,000

1st November 1974, fertilisers, a loan of £700

14th February 1975, seeds, fertilisers and fuel oil, £900.

That is a total loan of £5,600. The repayment of that money would arise thus on the sale of cattle, which might take place on the 30th April, 1975. The £4,000 cattle loan would be repaid and the proceeds of the harvest, which might reasonably be assumed to be for the year ended 31st October, 1975, would yield £1,600, plus, of course, profit. There would be profit, of course, on the sale of the cattle also.

This is the point.

That is the point in all business, whether you make a profit or not. Assuming, as of course they will make profits——

Controlled by the Minister.

No. God has a big say.

It used to be the Arabs. Now it is God.

We are greatly touched by the immense faith which Senator Killilea and his colleagues have in the almighty power of the Government but we recognise that in agricultural production in particular the laws of nature have a very considerable impact. They can cause considerable loss in profits, unfortunately. Until such time as we harvest everything under the roof in air-conditioned buildings, which would be rather costly, we will have to continue to experience those booms and those disappointments in agricultural produce west of the Shannon and anywhere else under God's good sky. I was giving the dates which indicated that within a year, which would be the normal cycle, it would be within a farmer's capacity to repay.

Senator McCartin and others referred to the need to decentralise the activities of the Agricultural Credit Corporation both to get cash from the farming community and also to have local needs understood by local officers. I am sure he is aware that the Agricultural Credit Corporation have been diversifying their activities. They now have a large number of local offices outside of Dublin. At a rough count, I think they have 23. They even cater for Senator Killilea and those who like him may feel that the world is full of disappointments and hardships and that no help is available to them, because, as Senator Killilea recognised, there is a fine office very well staffed in Tuam.

It was decentralisation of decision making.

In relation to decision making the local offices have wider powers now than they used to have, but they are related to the size of advances and the particular activities. When major advances are involved obviously the decisions have to be taken at headquarters. I would like to assure Senators that, from my own personal knowledge, I know that no decision is taken at headquarters without having very full discussions with the local officers and also, where circumstances require, with the applicants for the loans.

Before I leave the point that Senator McCartin was making about the need to attract funds from farmers —Senator Whyte and others made the same point—I entirely agree. It is disappointing that the percentage of depositors with the Agricultural Credit Corporation from rural areas is only about 30 per cent of the total number of depositors. This is disappointing considering that the Agricultural Credit Corporation advance all their moneys to the agricultural community and get only 30 per cent from that community, whereas the private banking system get more from the agricultural community than it returns to it. In fairness to the private banking system the fault does not lie entirely with them, but that is the situation.

Clearly, if the Agricultural Credit Corporation were to multiply the number of offices throughout the country their administrative costs might rise beyond a point which the traffic could bear. That, of course, would then have to be recovered in higher interest rates from the people borrowing from them. One has to try and strike a balance. There is a branch of the ACC in every letter box and if a person wants to deposit money through the post then the ACC will receive it. The people who deposit with the ACC get quite an attractive rate of interest compared with other interest rates. Today they get 10 per cent and tax is not deducted. That ought to be of interest to the farming community, in particular.

Senator Dolan and others questioned the placing of loans with meat factories. Perhaps he was also querying the granting of loans by the Agricultural Credit Corporation in what might be regarded as an industrial or quasi industrial area. I would like to assure the Senator and his colleagues that the ACC are mindful of their prime duty to make funds available for strictly agricultural activities. Where major sums are involved in what might be regarded as downstream agricultural activities they consult with the Industrial Credit Company. Obviously it is difficult to draw the line between what is an agricultural and an industrial activity. Even where the ACC advance money for food processing, whether it be a meat factory, a dairy factory or anything else, the principal benefit will go to the original producers who put their products into those plants. Care is being taken to ensure that the ACC funds are not eroded by too great advances in areas which might fairly be regarded as industrial.

Surely funds would hardly be granted this year to meat factories in view of what happened last year and the exorbitant profits that were made? Would it not be better to give the extra funds to the farmers, the producers?

Alternatively, would it be possible for the Government to distribute the EEC money direct to the farmer rather than give it to meat factories? Which alternative will the Minister take this year?

I will come in a moment to the question of intervention beef. As the Senators will appreciate, the board of the Agricultural Credit Corporation are the people who are responsible for the manner in which these moneys are distributed. Ministerial responsibility is quite limited to matters of interest rates and so forth. While I certainly from time to time have had consultations with the board of the ACC and have found them receptive to my ideas or suggestions—indeed I have conveyed to the board suggestions that were made previously to me here and in the other House regarding agricultural credit—the final decisions lie with the board.

Seventy per cent of the ACC advances are strictly to farmers and for the purchase of the working capital of a farm. Other advances which they make are in activities which are directly related to the agricultural community. I would expect that in this year, having regard to the profits which have been made by the meat factories last year, the ACC would bear that in mind if they receive any applications from meat factories for credit at present. We will certainly bring this debate to the attention of the board. Senators may be assured that the ACC will be reading the reports of their own accord.

I would like, at this stage to endorse all that has been said by Senators regarding the ACC, their operations, and the understanding and courtesy which Senators and their contacts have received from the ACC. I have participated in no debate on the ACC, either as Minister or at any other time, without hearing this very strong approval of the ACC being voiced. It speaks very well indeed when a financial institution get praise from people who have to resort to them for money. It is rather unique. Where disappointments occur in relation to some applications—and, of course, they do arise—Ministers, Senators and Deputies who may make representations usually feel that the ACC are justified in most cases in not accepting the applications. Often the reasons for not accepting them are very much in the interests of the persons applying for money. The ACC must have regard to their own depositors.

They also must have regard to the welfare of the applicants for loans. They do that by satisfying themselves that an applicant has the capacity to repay. There is no point in a person incurring a load of debts if he is not in a position to repay and, as a consequence, has to sell off his farm. The ACC are there to help farmers and part of the help they have to give is sometimes to make decisions which may cause temporary disappointment but in the long run are for the welfare of the applicants themselves.

Senator Dolan may be assured that the small farmer is not neglected. The average ACC loan to farmers is only £3,000. This is a fair indication that the small man is not overlooked and very often it is his only prospect of getting a loan because many a man who has not succeeded elsewhere has received assistance from the ACC.

Loans for the purchase of land are restricted to 12½ per cent of the total advances of the ACC. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, if the ACC were to advance a larger proportion of their available money for this purpose they would have less for other purposes. It is easier to get loans for land purchase from some other financial institution than it is for other agricultural activities. Therefore it is desirable that people should be channelled into applying for loans from the banking system, which in any event is obtaining a great deal of money from farmers. In addition to the 12½ per cent restriction on their total loan availability, the loans which they advance for land purchase are limited to a maximum of £20,000 and they may only be given if the total of land held and bought does not exceed 125 acres. Apart from ensuring a fair and useful use of available moneys this policy can be justified on the grounds that, if capital was to be available too easily and too cheaply for the purchase of land, it would drive up the price of land and that would make farming less economic than it is. I am satisfied that this policy works to the best advantage of farmers.

One of the healthier aspects of the debate was to hear the number of what I might call common-sense, business-like statements. They were in the main made from the Government side of the Seanad. I think I am not making a partisan observation when I say that. I hope that it will not be interpreted as such. We had on one side of the Seanad speeches declaring that farming was ruined, expressing a lack of confidence in farming, encouraging people to get out of farming; we had the poor mouth. We had a description of farmers which suggested that they were beggars and mendicants.

The Government do not accept that as a fair image of the Irish farmer, who is a dignified, independent person, who wants to make his own way and does not want to be at the butt end of the suggestion——

If he is allowed to do it.

——that all he is out for is to get money on the cheap, grants and benefits without having to work for them.

Senator Butler may be assured that I will bear in mind his recommendation that the management end of industry, including people like those in his own profession, creamery managers, will be considered when appointments to the board of the ACC come to be made. It is difficult, of course, to satisfy all needs, all personal preferences, when appointments come to be made to the ACC and indeed to any other State board, but I can see the advantage of having the management side of the agricultural industry adequately represented.

I am grateful to Senator Garrett for saying that he had some information that he could give to me relating to an application for a land purchase loan. If he would be good enough to let me have the particulars I would be only too happy to look into the matter.

On the question of intervention beef, it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment at the present time because, as the House is aware, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, in agreement with the Irish Farmers' Association and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association, has set up a review body to investigate the operation of the intervention and cattle slaughter premiums. That body was established last March and I understand that it is expected fairly shortly to issue its report. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries invited the farming organisations to come forward with details of a draft scheme which would bring more benefit to the producer and less to the factories.

Some of the farmers have to be protected from some of the co-operatives who were also included in this.

The IFA have a vested interest in the meat trade.

Why do the Government and the Minister bring in vested interests to ask their opinion about what the Government are to do?

Because we believe in consultation. I can well imagine the strong criticism that would be levied if the Government had introduced changes in the scheme without having consultations. However, if Senators want to——

The Minister should not twist our words.

——it would be inappropriate to bypass the IFA and ICMSA. I am aware that there are divided counsels within those organisations on this topic. That is the reason they were unable to come up with a scheme which would have received universal approval. However, the matter is at present being investigated by an impartial review body.

Why do the Government not do the job they were elected to do?

It is important that all interests would get an opportunity to express their views and that is what they have had. We like to make decisions having got the best advice and not to be operating in the dark. This is the sensible thing to do. I trust I have dealt with most of the main points raised in the course of the debate. If I have not, I apologise. I should like to conclude on this note. Any prices received for agricultural produce will have an effect on consumer prices. Any charges that have to be met for borrowed money will be reflected in the overheads of farmers. But unless money is borrowed in this country for farming and invested in farming we will not be able to achieve the growth which our economy needs, which the farmers of this country are capable of achieving and which, if they achieve it, will operate to their own benefit and to the benefit of the whole community.

That is the reason this Government have given such a massive increase in the amount of capital available for agricultural credit. This year, compared with last year, there is a tremendous improvement in deposits with the Agricultural Credit Corporation. This is an indication that there is every confidence in the corporation and that the farming community in particular are enjoying a much better year this year than last year. The deposits are on the increase and are expected to reach £25 million. As a result of the policies of the Government, as a result of the activities of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, we are certain that the farmers of Ireland will go forward to even greater prosperity in 1975 than anything which they achieved in the past.

The most recent adjustment of the Green £ in Brussels, which the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries negotiated yesterday, will give the farmers of Ireland an additional £17 million a year. Obviously, there is some concern as to whether or not this increase in agricultural prices will result in an increase in the consumer price index. The Government's policy is, as far as it is possible to do so, to ensure that there will not be an increase in the consumer price index. Having regard to the fact that the adjustment in the Green £ will operate to the benefit of the agricultural sector the Government consider that it is appropriate that the Irish consumer would, as far as practicable, be insured against any increase which the adjustment in the Green £ might cause the consumer price index.

The particular machinery to achieve this will be under active discussion in the course of the next couple of days. The end result of the whole process will be that there will be no significant increase in the consumer price index and that the agricultural community in Ireland will gain from £14 to £15 million as a result of the adjustment.

Could I ask the Minister, not in a disrespectful way, a question that is very vital to the cattle producers in this country in particular. Could the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, give those producers and farmers any guarantee that the Department of Finance and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will not allow this thing to happen again this year?

I know a lot has been said. There is a review body at present investigating this matter and its report, I am given to understand, will shortly be available. The House may be assured that the Government will be anxious to apply a system which will provide most of these benefits for the original producers and not for the middlemen. That is an objective that we all have. I think there is general agreement that it is not easy to produce——

I would like to inform the Minister that the potato marketing floor price is guaranteed. Let me explain exactly what this is. The record says there has been a floor price introduced by the Government. It is for a certain brand of potatoes which are normally used in a good quality starch. It does not signify that the entire potato crop has a guaranteed floor price.

I am sure the Senator will appreciate that if the price for any quantity of a harvest——

I suggest to the Minister, seeing the law has reneged this Government, that he should read the Gospel before every Government meeting. I would suggest St. Mark, after myself, Chapter 1, verse 3.

With the spiritual advice ringing in my ears I would like to thank the House again for their reception of this Bill.

Last year it was the Arabs, this year it is the Lord, next year we will have a general election. There will be nobody left.

(Interruptions.)
Question put and agreed to.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.