DAIRY PRODUCE BILL, 1924—FIRST STAGE.

The Long Title of this Bill reads as follows:—

"A Bill to make provision for the regulation of the manufacture, marketing, and export of dairy produce with a view to improving the general standard thereof, and for that purpose to make provision for the registration and control of premises engaged in the manufacture or sale of dairy produce, and for the making of such produce, and for other matters conducive or incidental to the objects aforesaid."

Dairying is the foundation of Irish agriculture. Any weakness in dairying is immediately reflected in every aspect of agriculture, and if by any unfortunate mischance the dairy farmer should go out of business the wheels of the industry would immediately stop short. This is the first of two Bills aimed at improving the conditions of our dairying. The Licensing of Breeding Stock Bill aims at improving our cows, and this Bill aims at improving and standardising the quality of our butter. I do not intend to argue the need for improvement; it is admitted on all sides. The fact that we have been steadily losing our main market and that we are continuing to lose it without obtaining even a foothold in any substitute markets speaks for itself. The Bill is a contentious measure; it raises the very acute and almost time-honoured issue as to whether butter should be graded at the ports or branded in the creamery. We have adopted the second method, but we have introduced safeguards into the Bill which I hope will go some way towards allaying the fears and objections of a very considerable and well informed body of opinion that favours the first method. I have had the advantage of the Interim and Final Reports of the Agricultural Commission, and I have been in consultation with the trade itself and, I should think, practically everybody who would be in a position to assist. At the same time there are Deputies who, by reason of the fact that they were on the Agricultural Commission and that they have special knowledge of this particular business, have given the whole matter a very considerable amount of time, thought and attention. I hope that the Dáil will be able to agree with the main principles of the Bill, at least. I want to say that I would heartily welcome the co-operation and assistance of Deputies of all parties who have special knowledge on this subject, and I certainly will not complain of their criticism, because I am anxious that before this Bill leaves the Dáil and goes on to the Statute Book it will be considerably improved. I move for leave to introduce this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
Second Stage ordered for next Friday.