I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill might be described as a one-clause Bill, and it became necessary owing to the fact that we had lost certain powers that we had under the 1933 Act. Under the 1933 Act it was possible for the Executive Council to raise the price of wheat after it had been fixed. First of all, the Executive Council had to fix the price two years ahead, and within that two years they had power to raise that price, but they had no power to lower it. When we were bringing in the amending Act of 1935 we amended very materially all the provisions relating to the growing of wheat but we did not include this particular power in the amending Act of 1935, although we deleted it in the 1933 Act. I might say here that it was an oversight, because I am sure that if I had been aware of the omission I would have realised that this power would be required. We would not require this power if we did not intend to fix the price of wheat. The price of wheat was fixed for the 1936-37 crop —that is, the present crop—more than a year ago, and the Executive Council would now like to amend that price and raise it. This particular year representations were made by the growers that they had a bad season for sowing wheat last winter. They had a bad season for the sowing of the wheat and a bad season for the harvesting of it. They had a bad crop and had expended more time and labour on it than they would have had to expend in a good year. Taking all those circumstances into account, they thought that they should get a better price for their wheat than the fixed price. They also argued that the consumers were not, in fact, losing anything by giving a better price for the wheat, because the world price of wheat was also high, and, at that particular time, had in fact gone above the price here.
Public Business. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Bill, 1936—Second Stage.
For what class of wheat?
Well, we were taking a class of soft wheat. The flour millers met the wheat growers and said that they thought that the growers had made a good case, but that they did not like to pay that increased price unless they had some sort of Governmental approval. The flour millers came to see me and I said: "Certainly, I have no objection to your paying a better price, taking all these circumstances into account." In fact, I said I would like to see them paying a better price. They paid 27/6 a barrel.
It will be difficult to get the farmers to go back to 23/6 next year. I feel that when the next harvest comes in the farmers will again make a good case. It will not be impossible that the flour millers will agree that they should pay more and the farmers will look to get a better price for the wheat. But I think it would be better that the farmers would now know what they will get next year. In order to know that in time we must get this amending Bill, which we must have before we make an order. The Executive Council did agree with me in saying that 27/6 was a fair price for this year on account of the bad season the farmers had in sowing, the bad season for the growing of the wheat, and the bad harvest period. It was because of these drawbacks that the farmers got 27/6 this year. If the seasons next year are good the Executive Council might think that 27/6 for the wheat would not be justified. I move the Second Reading of this Bill specifically to give the Executive Council power to fix a higher price for wheat than was fixed something more than a year ago when the average price was 24/-. The average price if now fixed would be about 26/6.
What is the average price for seed wheat?
It is 24/6, delivered here at the port.
May I ask the Minister a question? Was it agreed that 27/6 this year was to be the flat rate?
Yes, though I should like to say that I did not approve of that. It should be by bushel rate.
Is there not a provision in this Bill for grading?
Oh, yes, there is.
The Minister never mentioned it.
There has been a provision for grading in every Cereals Bill. In that respect there is no change in this.
I think the picture the Minister draws for us of the millers rushing up to town and saying to him: "We wish to pay 3/- a barrel more for wheat than the price fixed, and we would love to pay it, but we would not like to do so for fear we would hurt your feelings," is one of the most grotesque attempts that have ever been made in this House to cover up one's practices. The fact was that the Minister sent for the millers and told them: "If you play ball with me I will play ball with you; it does not suit me at present to increase the price of wheat by 3/-, but if you do it I will get the Minister for Industry and Commerce to close one eye when examining this matter and I can guarantee that the Prices Commission will be effectively hog-tied and silenced."
That is quite untrue, every word of it.
And the millers said "it is a matter of indifference to us how much we pay so long as we will be allowed to put it on to the flour."
The Deputy is quite wrong. I thought it was rather a rule in this House that if I make a statement and a Deputy accuses me of telling a lie——
I did not accuse the Minister of telling a lie.
What is it then?
I accused the Minister of misinterpreting the reason which actuated the millers to call upon him and I accused the Minister of having conveniently forgotten having observed previously to one or other of his officials that if a message were sent to the millers telling them to call on him and ask his permission to pay a higher price, he would not object to their paying 3/- a barrel more for the wheat. That is how the matter was stage-managed. The millers came in with a statement that they would love to pay 3/- more but that they were anxious to know whether it would hurt the feelings of the Minister if they were to do so, and the Minister said: "No, it will not." The millers then walked out and trotted off to pay this 3/- a barrel more. Now really does any sane man in the Saorstát believe that?
The Minister has made a statement regarding his action in this matter. The Minister's word must be accepted by the House.
Certainly, I accept the Minister's word as to what he did say, but I am only giving my word as to what actually happened. Let the Minister reconcile these as best he can. He cannot reconcile them, but that is not my fault. Every sane man recognises that the millers had a perfect right to pay the farmers 60/- a barrel if they liked, but that they should come trotting up to Dublin asking the Minister if he would allow them to pay 3/- more is rather too grotesque for belief. Does any sane man believe that they were going to pay more for wheat if they could not put it on to the price of flour? Did they not know that the Minister for Industry and Commerce could prevent them from putting up the price of flour?
Before this matter goes any further, we should know whether the Minister's statement is to be accepted. We should know that before this debate goes any further. Deputy Dillon's argument is directed towards making out that the Minister's statement is not to be accepted.
The Minister made a statement about action taken by him. That statement must be accepted. While the Deputy may put his interpretation on the Minister's speech, he may not imply that the Minister deliberately deceived the House.
I am prepared to accept any statement the Minister cares to make, but not a statement that the millers voluntarily came to the Minister. The facts are that they were really indirectly summoned and told that the Minister would be glad to discuss this matter with them. It may be that it was not the Minister who summoned them, but as you, A Chinn Comhairle, have ruled on other occasions, that the Minister is responsible for what happens in his Department, it is, I submit, an unfair attitude for the Minister to take up in this House that he did not do it, at the same time having a mental reservation that it was done by someone in his Department.
When I say that I had nothing to do with the millers calling on me I am having no mental reservation. The Deputy has not the courage to accept what I said.
Very well, I accept that the Minister believes that he did not establish contact with the millers. Suffice it to say that the millers came and asked that experimental question: "Can we do something that we have an absolute right to do, a thing that nobody can divert us from doing—can we give the farmers a minimum price of 3/- per barrel over and above what is laid down; have we your leave to do that?" It may be that representations were made behind the Minister's back that induced the millers to make this approach. At all events, it is extraordinary.
It may be extraordinary but the Deputy should have the decency to accept the statement.
The Minister now says that the price will probably be raised next year. The price was raised this year because the farmers had bad weather for sowing, there was bad weather during the period of growing, and there was bad weather for the harvesting. At one time we told the Minister that wheat was a very precarious crop in this country and that taking the average year wheat was hardly likely to mature in this climate. What happened? We were told that we were sabotaging the resources of the country. But the Minister has now come to learn that the growing of spring wheat in this country is very precarious. Is the Minister aware of the legal actions that are being taken by farmers who failed to harvest the crop against seedsmen who sold them Red Marvel Wheat? Is the Minister aware that the seedsmen sold this wheat bona fide to the farmers and that actions are now being taken against them?
Yes, because it was not spring wheat they sold.
Whatever it was, it was sold bona fide as spring wheat. Does the Minister maintain that spring wheat is anything but an extremely precarious crop in this country? Would the Minister advise any farmer to attempt the growing of the crop on any large scale, if he was not prepared to put in winter wheat? When we told the Minister that, we were told that the whole thing was a complete fraud. Let me mention one case of a farmer in Meath. The Minister can check on the approximate costs. He planted 25 statute acres of wheat, and he estimates that he spent £50 on 25 barrels of seed. I suppose he got the best seed that money could buy. He estimates that the ploughing, harrowing, sowing and threshing of that wheat cost about £50. The crop failed, or partially failed, and, on being sold, produced £40. I do not suggest that that happened to all crops. It did not. But it brings home to Deputies' minds the particularly precarious character of the spring wheat crop. Will anyone deny that while the average yield in the one or two pet years we had was nearly ten barrels to the statute acre, last year the fair average yield was between six and seven barrels? Will anyone contend that if farmers were getting the minimum price of 24/6 for six or seven barrels they could make any money? Of course, they would not. If the millers had not come in and added 2/6 to the subsidy which the consumer eventually has to pay, every wheat farmer would be “broke.” Now, the Minister tells us that he looks forward to the price of wheat rising still further. He says that the reason for that is that once farmers have got the price of wheat up, it will be very hard to get it down. I entirely agree. That is what happened in France. Once wheat became a popular crop in France, the price rose and rose until, eventually, the French Government was buying wheat at 50/- a barrel in Paris and selling it at 17/- a barrel in London. That has been going on, but I believe the present Government of France is ending that position. Of course, the same thing is going to happen here. It must happen.
If you get an artificial price for a crop and induce people to grow it, and if you destroy the live-stock industry, and make it impossible to employ the land profitably, everyone will be "broke." We could all grow melons or grapes if we were paid well enough to do so. A time will come when all the land will be under wheat and the Government will be frantically trying to sell wheat abroad for whatever it will fetch. I do not know what the estimate, as to the total value of the wheat crop, would be if we were to supply all our own requirements. We have not got the most recent figures. Suppose we are paying at present £1,000,000 a year, and that it is worth £1,000,000 to the farmers—which I do not believe— it is costing the community, as far as I can find out, £1,500,000, because flour is 10/- dearer here than in Great Britain. In addition, it is costing all the administrative expenditure involved in advertising and inducing people to go in for wheat culture. There is, of course, the additional expense of giving cheap seed to agricultural committees and various other things. I believe £1,750,000 would be the cost. Giving £1,000,000 to the farmers, it would be much cheaper to tell them not to grow wheat, and to pay them the full price. Of course, this whole ramp is extremely difficult to comprehend. On the assumption that £1,000,000 is being given to the farmers, representing less than 2 per cent. of our entire agricultural output in normal times, we are spending from £1,500,000 to £1,750,000 per annum on that, while the remaining 98 per cent. of the agricultural output could be maintained without expense to the community in normal times. In order to get people to understand the position it is necessary to say that I do not deny in existing circumstances, with the live-stock industry destroyed, and all the normal agricultural practices of our people disrupted, that any man who has to live out of farming exclusively must grow wheat, and must grow beet if he can get an acreage allotted to him. I entirely approve of that.
This Bill is an amending Bill. In discussing an amending Bill, Deputies can only discuss the main Act in so far as it is affected by the amending Bill. The purpose of the Bill before the House, in the main, is to fix a minimum price. The whole policy of wheat-growing does not arise.
The policy of the Bill the Minister told us was to raise the fixed prices. It is rather difficult to argue the desirability of raising wheat prices if one cannot examine the desirability of growing wheat at all.
It is not the fault of the Chair if the Deputy finds a difficulty.
It is, definitely. I cannot conceive how to prove an argument as to whether prices should be raised or not unless it is decided whether wheat is a desirable crop to have. That is the whole purpose of the Bill.
The Deputy realises that a series of Cereals Acts has been passed by the Oireachtas and decisions arrived at regarding the policy of wheat growing. The present Bill deals simply with the raising of the minimum prices of wheat. To a certain extent the Deputy might refer to the wheat problem. He was proceeding to discuss wheat and beet, and the advisability of altering the Government's agricultural policy—all outside the scope of the Bill.
I understand it is the intention, apparently, to go on increasing the prices of wheat indefinitely, and I freely say that, so far as we are concerned, while the economic war continues, any farmers who can take advantage of that ought to do so. No one will quarrel with them, and no one will blame them. That led me to deal more comprehensively with the question, but I say that unless we are to discuss the principle of the Bill, which you say is irrelevant to the purpose we have in mind——
You are coming around.
I say that the policy of indefinitely subsidising wheat, and the policy which leads to a continued increase in the artificial price of wheat grown in this country, is one that is bound to lead to disaster, not only for the agricultural industry but for the community as a whole. Comparing the cost at which wheat can be produced in the world abroad, we must realise that wheat can be stored in a Canadian elevator for a half cent a bushel per month. Compare that with what the Minister pays millers and farmers here for the purpose of inducing them to store wheat under similar conditions. Wheat can be carried from the Argentine to Liverpool for from 9/6 to 15/3 a ton, while it costs 15/- a ton to carry it 70 miles in this country. Wheat can be put into an elevator to-day and taken out 12 months later just as good as the day it went in, and better. Then think of the crop that can be grown on the prairies of America. With machinery in the United States of America, a combined gang of three men can deal with 1,500 acres of wheat.
The Minister is not seeking to fix a minimum price for American wheat.
No, but it is sought to fix the minimum price for the production of wheat in this country on ten acre farms.
Would three men handling that number of acres be good for the community?
No, but it is good for the community in America. It is what made Canada and the United States.
But not for here.
Of course, it would not.
Why advocate it?
I do not advocate it.
The way you mention it is equivalent to advocating it.
I am always trying to make the members of the Labour Party and the Fianna Fáil Party understand that to use the land of this country for the cultivation of wheat is to throw the land of this country away. The land of this country ought to be used for intensive forms of agriculture which will yield a sufficient profit to employ infinitely more men than the cultivation of wheat can ever employ.
What are you doing with yours?
We have just had a ruling from the Chair that the private activities of individuals should not be taken into consideration here.
They are no concern of this House.
Certainly not, and I do not propose to enter into any examination of Deputy Corry's activities in County Cork or to allow him to examine into my activities in County Mayo. I do say that a policy designed to continue indefinitely an increase in the price of wheat is going to ruin agriculture in this country. It is an attempt to bring our farmers into competition with the combine of three men. Any such proposal is foredoomed to failure. It is an attempt to harness the Niagara of progress with an eggcup. It has no conceivable justification whatever as a permanent policy in this country, although it can be justified if you are going to continue indefinitely the economic war. I do not want to go too widely into the subject, but let me say that I believe this particular brand of insanity can best be exorcised out of the people by trying it out to the end. I think it will have to be tried out to the end. It can never be properly tried out until we recover our foreign markets. I should like to see a premium on the price of wheat and our foreign markets open, so long as there is one farmer in this country who wants to grow wheat for sale. I venture to make this prophecy: that if our natural markets were open and a premium of 4/- or 5/-per barrel, over and above the world price, is given by the Minister for Agriculture, or his successor in office, for wheat, there will not be one farmer in this country who will wish to grow wheat for sale, even at the premium price, if he has an opportunity of using his land for the production of the ordinary normal products of agriculture.
What are the normal products of agriculture?
Beef, cattle, sheep, pigs, bacon, eggs—eggs that brought in £7,000,000 per annum to this country and now barely bring in £4,000,000. However, let us not go into a general discussion of agricultural policy. I want to make this last observation. I have been told by the Minister that this subsidy was necessary, and I have heard from the Minister for Defence that this subsidy was necessary in order to provide that, in the event of war, no enemy can starve us into submission. If there is any reason left on the Fianna Fáil Benches, I want to put this to them in answer to that argument. If any Deputy really believes in that danger, can we not build silos at the North Wall, Galway and Cork and put into these grain elevators sufficient wheat to maintain our population for 12 months? Then if somebody declares war and cuts off our supplies, can we not require every farmer to plant two acres of wheat forthwith, and while that crop is growing and maturing on the land, the contents of our silos will maintain the people.
The Deputy must surely know that replying to a speech made by a Minister a year ago on another Bill is out of order now.
Which point the Minister is going to put in answer to me for raising the price of wheat. I will not attempt to answer the arguments of the Minister in defence of his proposals. Creating an artificial price for wheat is like beating the wind. There are no valid arguments for this insane policy except that the Minister said he was going to promote the growth of wheat, and, cost what it may, it has to be done. A few individuals are making money out of it. A few men, who would be much harder hit by the Minister's general policy, are being spared some rigours by the subsidy on wheat at present. I certainly feel that it is wrong and bad. I feel that the most effective way to exorcise it out of the minds of the people is to let it be worked. I pray for the day to come when we let subsidised wheat compete with the ordinary agricultural policy and let subsidised wheat compete with the live-stock products produced by our people and sold on the markets, and then we will see how long wheat will continue to bleed the consuming public of this country and provide them with an inferior article at an inflated price.
I wish to deal, in the first place, with Deputy Dillon's insinuation in connection with the wheat crop this year. It was only what one would expect from the twisted, suspicious mind of Deputy Dillon. I hope this country will never be visited with one of the ten plagues—that is, that Deputy Dillon will never be on these benches in any sort of responsible capacity. At the start of the harvest this year, we realised that the price of wheat, considering the season and the difficulties we had in saving it, was not sufficient and that the farmers were entitled to more than that price. As representatives of an organisation comprising over 30,000 farmers we called on the Millers' Association and demanded an increased price. They told us that if we produced proofs of our statements they would be prepared to consider our case and give us the increase demanded. We asked them what proof they required and they said, "If the Minister for Agriculture says your case is fairly correct, we are prepared to increase the price." On these grounds, Mr. Green, the chairman of the Wheat-Growers' Association and I called on Dr. Ryan and got a statement from him. Armed with that statement, we went to the millers and put that case to them.
The Minister, through his letter to Deputy Corry, went to the millers before the millers came to him. That is precisely what I said and what the Minister angrily denied.
And does deny.
Deputy Corry says he brought your letter to the millers.
Deputy Corry is in possession.
The Deputy has a twisted mind.
What else could he have?
Deputy Corry —on the Bill.
What I said was that, as representatives of the farmers, we went to the millers' association.
Armed with a letter.
Shut up, if you can. We went to the millers and demanded a price. They asked us to bring verification of our statements. We went to the Minister and asked him to verify our statements. We got that verification, we went to the millers and we got a price which meant £300,000 in the farmers' pockets. That is the position in regard to Deputy Dillon's statement. I am glad that the Minister is now taking steps to enable him to increase the minimum price whenever the occasion demands. I think that that is the proper way of meeting the situation. Instead of receiving a subsidy, according to Deputy Dillon's statement, I maintain that the farmers are entitled to a market here for their produce and a price for that produce which will remunerate them for growing it and enable them to pay a decent wage. Nobody can call that a subsidy any more than the price paid for anything else produced is a subsidy. Deputy Dillon's statement on this Bill, taken in conjunction with his action on the Agricultural Wages Bill, shows how his mind is working. It shows that the biggest upset he has got is that the farmers have existed despite all his dismal prophecies and have succeeded in weathering the storm despite all the talk about bankruptcy.
The land of the farmers in my constituency is rated, on Griffith's valuation, as wheat land. In many cases it is valued at from 30/- to 35/-per statute acre. The action of previous Governments in regard to grain are pretty well known to all of us. They put the farmers in that area in such a position that the Cumann na nGaedheal members appealed to the Minister for Agriculture and to the Minister for Lands not to look for any annuities because they could not pay them. That position has been changed, I am glad to say, and these farmers are now growing wheat, with advantage. I can assure Deputy Dillon or any other Deputy on the opposite side that no change in the agricultural economy would induce them to go back to grass and the bullock. Deputy Dillon spoke about wheat as a precarious crop. I wonder if Deputy Dillon ever saw a dead bullock or a dead calf or if he knows anything about the loss every year in live stock. Apparently, he knows nothing about that. He can only see the precarious element in wheat. Wheat is a crop the price of which we can control. We can see that the farmer gets a fair price for his wheat. We can still grow 250,000 acres more of it and find a market for it at home.
There are other matters arising out of this Bill on which I should like to get a statement from the Minister. I know that the Minister has been subjected to some pressure in regard to the admixture scheme. I know that certain parties are pressing for a reduction of the admixture.
That does not arise on this Bill.
It is a matter of information.
There are many important matters on which Deputies might desire to put questions to the Minister but they are not relevant on this Bill.
I should like some statement from the Minister on this question before he finishes. It is of importance to the agricultural community and I should like to warn the Minister not to pay any heed to the protestations of the brewers and others who have 37/- a barrel——
The question of the meal admixture is quite irrelevant.
I am glad that the Minister has taken steps to deal with the matter outlined in the Bill and to secure that, in future, we shall not have to be begging from anybody for prices. The Minister will have power to alter the price if he thinks proper. On behalf of the farmers, I may say that we are deeply grateful to the Minister for his action this year in seeing that the farmers' interests were safeguarded and that they got a fair price for their wheat. We are fairly safe in the knowledge that, when we grow a crop, we have a Minister for Agriculture sufficiently sympathetic to see that we get an economic price for it. I welcome the amending Bill.
The powers which the Minister seeks in this amending Bill are powers which, I think, he ought to have. It is essential that he should have these powers if he is to have control of wheat-growing and see that justice is done not only to the farmer but to the consumer and the other interests involved. As the Minister has told us, he had power to increase but no power to reduce. As everybody knows, there was an abnormally low yield last year. Hence, with bad harvesting and heavy work on the farms, the increase in the price of wheat was justified. With a good summer and with a bumper yield, the Minister might, at some future time, find it necessary to exercise his powers in the opposite direction.
There is one point I should like to make—that it does not necessarily follow that because the wheat scheme is criticised from this side of the House we are all in agreement with that criticism. On the contrary, there are farmers on this side who, I am aware from conversation with them, are believers in wheat-growing and will continue to grow wheat. That is their own point of view. Deputy Dillon looks upon the matter from the point of view of the 26 Counties and does not take into account that there are eight counties which depend almost entirely on grain-growing. It is only fair that I should say that, so far as my knowledge of the negotiations between the Wheat Growers' Association, the millers and the Department goes, what the Minister said is substantially correct as regards his attitude and the part he played. I do not think that there is much more for me to say on this except to refer to the criticism made about the growing of spring wheat. It was said that the growing of spring wheat was a failure, or that to grow it is not desirable. That is not what the practical farmer finds. There was some trouble, as every farmer knows, in connection with spring wheat last year. That was due to the fact that seed wheat got into the country which was sown as spring wheat though, in fact, it was winter wheat. I understand that caused a lot of trouble in places like Meath. A certain amount of inferior seed got in there, and, as might be expected, the results were undesirable, particularly as the summer was so wet.
There does not appear to be any doubt in the mind of anybody that the Bill before us is required. Even Deputy Dillon did not deny the necessity for it. The unfortunate thing about the whole situation is that the greatest condemnation of the success of any branch of agricultural activity is that it must have fixed artificial prices, and that is what we have here.
Deputy Minch has stated that there are wheat-growers on this side of the House. There are, certainly. There are people who will continue to grow wheat while there is a fixed price for it. What I want to know is: is there ever going to be any relation between the price of foreign wheat and the price that we pay for wheat here? In other words, is there ever going to be any consideration for the bread consumer. Is not that the position?
Of course, it is. I remember well President de Valera quoting the saying in this House, and, personally, I think the saying a good one, that whatever brings the greatest good to the greatest number ought to be pursued. I do not think that even Deputy Corry will quarrel with that. It is well to point out that we have a greater number of bread consumers than of wheat-growers in this country. I am a wheat-grower myself, and as long as I can get an artificially good price for wheat I will continue to grow it. If, however, there was a free market, if we could get into the market which at one time was open to us for the disposal of our live stock, we would grow and feed other crops to live stock so as to get a better return for our labour, but as long as we continue the policy of subsidies we must have fixed prices. We must have the power to fix prices, to keep them well above world prices, irrespective of what the people pay for their bread.
But a policy of that sort is not, I submit, good business. As long, however, as the Government pursue that policy, a Bill such as this is necessary. I think that we ought to have either now, or in the very near future, a statement from the Government as to where they are going to stop with regard to the price of wheat; as to what relation it is going to bear to the price of foreign wheat. I think that for the sake of the bread consumer in this country such a statement ought to be made. At the moment the price is reasonable when compared to world prices, but a short time ago the world price was much lower. I do not know what is going to happen in the future. For the sake of the bread consumer, there ought to be some relation between the artificial price that we are prepared to pay for wheat in this country, and the cost to the bread consumer. There surely ought to be some consideration for the bread consumer. I hope that some comparison will be made either now or in the near future.
The Minister to conclude.
With regard to what Deputy Dillon said in the opening part of his speech, I would not like to be thought so foolish, even by the Deputy or anybody else, as to say that the flour millers were paying this increased price out of their profits or their pockets.
Nobody thinks that.
Deputy Dillon tried to infer that I thought it. I need hardly say that I never asked the millers to do it. I would hardly be so foolish. I presume that they passed the increased price on to the price of flour. To refer to the precarious crop that Deputy Dillon spoke about, I do not know if wheat is more precarious than any other crop. So far as I am personally concerned, I can say that in my own district the crop that was really precarious this year was hay. Much more hay was lost this year than wheat. Yet, I am sure no Deputy on the opposite side of the House would say that we ought to give up growing grass or saving hay. It is true that last year a certain amount of seed wheat was imported here which was labelled spring wheat but which, in fact, was not spring wheat. This was a misfortune for the farmers who got it, but I believe they have been compensated for the losses sustained. What happened there does not prove that wheat cannot be grown here. It does point to this, that we should be more careful, perhaps, about our own spring wheat. We have already taken steps in that direction, under an Act passed last year, to have available a fairly substantial amount of our own spring seed in future, so that we need not be depending on imported seed not certified to be absolutely dependable.
Deputy Dillon talked about wheat being a precarious crop, and tried to infer that he has been right all the time in his contention that wheat cannot be grown here. I think if Deputies were to refer back to the interesting debates that we had here in 1929 and 1930 they would find that we were right when we said that wheat could be grown here: that the soil and climate were suitable for the growing of the crop. Everything that we said then has proved to be correct. Wheat can be grown here, and, in fact, we are now growing 250,000 acres of it. It was not correct for Deputies to say that the crop is being subsidised to the extent of £1,500,000, or anything like that figure. We are growing, as I have said, about 250,000 acres, and, basing a calculation on about seven barrels of millable wheat to the acre, the subsidy amounts to something like £150,000, and for that subsidy the farmers are receiving in cash over £2,000,000 which, when all is said and done, is not a bad bargain.
I do not see why there should be any relation whatever between the price of our wheat and the price of foreign wheat. If we can grow good wheat, and if the flour miller and the consumer of bread are satisfied to give the grower what it costs him to grow it, if we can regulate our own economy here apart from what the price of foreign wheat is, why should there be any objection to our doing that in the case of wheat any more than in the case of anything else? It is true that we have more bread consumers than wheat growers, but it is equally true that we have more bacon consumers than pig producers, and that we have more butter consumers than milk producers. Yet, all these people are being subsidised to enable them to meet competition in a foreign market. If they were not subsidised they would be unable to meet that competition.
Deputy Dillon gave us an account of a combine in some foreign country, and he told us of three men who were producing an enormous amount of wheat, some 1,500 acres. What is the point? They are selling wheat here at the same price as that at which we are producing it, or perhaps a little less. I do not see much point in it. These three men are able to produce 1,500 acres of wheat and by the time all the mortgages, the cost of shipping, and so on, are met, it is as dear as the wheat we grow ourselves. The main point, from our aspect, is that we employ men here, we employ our own men, not Canadians or anybody else. I do not know what the Deputy wanted to prove. He certainly did not succeed in proving very much.
The argument was also raised that we would have to keep increasing our prices as time goes on. I stated some two years ago that I could not tell the Dáil what was a fair price for wheat. I do not think farm costings are of very much use. You do not employ a man by the hour to sow wheat. If you did you could have costings and you could let him stand off when the work stops. At the present time if it commences to rain the working man generally turns his hand to something else; he is not paid off for the rest of the day. That is why it is impossible to do costings in agriculture. You have to keep your man at some job or other while it is raining. The main point is to give a sufficient price which will induce farmers to grow wheat.
We have got a rather rapid increase in the acreage on the prices that ruled up to this year, but I am quite certain we could not get our 100 per cent. requirements on that price, and that is why I am anxious to recommend that we pay a higher price from this onwards. This Bill makes it possible to give a higher price for next year's crop and the crop of the following year. Without this amending Bill we could not alter the price up or down. We want to alter it upwards, to a certain extent. I would be glad to answer Deputy Corry on the question of the mixture if I could be sure that the Ceann Comhairle would not rule me out of order. Perhaps I will do it later on, in private.
Can the Minister give any indication when he will advise the Executive Council with regard to next year's price?
If we could get all the stages of this Bill completed now, an Order could be made within a fortnight, at any rate.
Question—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time"—agreed to.
If there is no objection, perhaps we could take the remaining stages of this Bill now.
There is no objection from this side. You can have all the stages.