Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 12 Jul 1962

Vol. 196 No. 13

Committee on Finance. - Vote 43—Agriculture.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £12,723,410 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st March, 1963, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.

I propose also to move after the debate on this Estimate a Supplementary Estimate to provide £1 million in respect of creamery milk price allowances to enable creameries to pay an additional 1d. per gallon for milk, and a grant-in-aid to the Pigs and Bacon Commission for the development of export markets. I will deal with these two items in the course of this speech so that the debate may cover both the Main and Supplementary Estimates.

The total net Estimate for 1962/63 shows an increase of £2,928,250 on the original net Estimate for 1961/62, which amounted to £16,145,160. Including the Supplementary Estimate provision for 1961/62, the final total Estimate for that year was, in fact, £26,445,510.

As compared with the original Estimate for 1961/62, the following subheads in particular show substantial increases: K. 11—Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme; K.8—Lime and Fertiliser Subsidies; N—Marketing of Dairy Produce; K. 14 —Payments to the Pigs and Bacon Commission; I.6— An Foras Talúntais; K. 6 — Farm Buildings Scheme.

Only a few items show a decrease compared with the original Estimate for 1961/62.

Deputies have received a memorandum entitled "Notes on the Main Activities of the Department" giving detailed information on the operations of my Department and on various trade and economic matters with which it is concerned.

Despite some difficulties brought about by unfavourable weather in the latter part of the harvest season last year, and in face of obstacles on external markets, our agricultural industry can look back on a year of striking progress, a year in which new records were achieved in production and exports. Although total cattle in June, 1961, were slightly below the previous year's record level, the numbers of cows and heifers-in-calf had increased; sheep numbers were the highest recorded this century, and pigs were at the highest peak since 1935. The 1961 barley acreage showed a substantial increase, and, although the oats and wheat acreages were lower than in the previous year, the tonnage of wheat produced was slightly higher than in 1960. Potato production in 1961 also increased, despite a lower acreage. Agricultural exports, including processed agricultural products, reached a new record level of £112,000,000 in 1961 and accounted for nearly 70 per cent of total exports. The increase of £27.6 million in total exports in 1961 was largely due to increases in our agricultural trade. There were substantial increases in exports of fat cattle, store cattle and beef, and the total number of cattle exported alive or as meat was the highest ever. Of the 426,000 store cattle exported, 80 per cent were attested—a marked increase on previous years.

The increases in production and exports were reflected in significant increases in the value and volume of agricultural output. Gross output for 1961, excluding the value of livestock changes, is provisionally estimated at £211,000,000, an increase of £16,000,000 over 1960. There was a slight reduction in the value of stocks at the end of 1961, accounted for by a decline of 112,000 in cattle numbers, which was, however, accompanied by rises of 269,000 in sheep numbers and of 135,000 in pigs. The value of these changes in stocks was estimated at £3,000,000, and, when these are taken into account, gross output in 1961 at £208,000,000 was £13,500,000 over the 1960 figure. The value of inputs of feed, seed and fertilisers increased by more than £4,000,000 in 1961. Allowing for this increase and for increases in other farming expenses, it is estimated by the Central Statistics Office that the income of farmers (including employers) rose by £8,000,000 between 1960 and 1961. When output for the two years 1960 and 1961 is compared at constant prices, gross agricultural output, including livestock changes, rose by about 4½ per cent. and net output by 2 per cent. These figures are very encouraging. They show that our agriculture is continuing to make steady progress, that output, productivity and incomes are all advancing. They utterly confound the absurdly gloomy forebodings which our more biassed critics love to indulge in.

It has been suggested that our exports were high last year because we were living off our livestock capital, but the facts are that the total of milch cows and heifers-in-calf and the number of cattle under 2 years on farms last January was higher than in January, 1961. Sheep and pig numbers also showed substantial increases in last January's sample census. The long-term trend of crop yields continues upward. These production records are obviously influenced by the various improvement schemes operated through my Department and the County Committees which, coupled with the reasonably stable price and marketing arrangements for the great bulk of our production, have contributed to the substantial increase of £8,000,000 in farm income in 1961 over 1960—itself a record year. And it should be noted that, in calculating this income figure, expenses such as purchase of materials, maintenance of machinery, depreciation, rates and rent have been taken into account. Criticisms of the state of agriculture, if they are to be helpful, must first begin with an acceptance of these fundamental facts of progress.

Nobody denies that we have agricultural problems, as has every other country without exception, but it is useless to pretend that striking advances have not been achieved in recent years, or that these advances have not been greatly facilitated by liberal Government assistance. The action taken in the recent Budget to relieve farmers of a burden of £2,500,000 in rates and taxation, and more recently to enable the creameries to pay an additional penny a gallon on milk, amounting to £1,250,000 in a full year, furnishes further proof of the Government's concern to improve the position of the farming community as far as lies in their power.

At the same time, there are certain facts which cannot be ignored. We have to remember that one-half of sales off farms has to be sold on export markets where prices are in many cases quite uneconomic, and that this half represents some 70 per cent. of our total export trade. In these circumstances, nobody can seriously question that the Government are right in placing the main emphasis on measures which will increase production and reduce farm costs relative to sales receipts. There are limits to the extent to which either this or any other Government can go to help farmers by way of additional price supports. I agree that price supports are very necessary, but our agricultural future will depend much more on better farming than on increased price support. The Government are providing generous assistance to increase productivity under a variety of schemes, as well as spending considerable sums on price support.

Export markets are extremely competitive and we must therefore concentrate on improved marketing as well as on increased agricultural productivity, while looking to better regulation of international markets to improve selling prices. An Bord Bainne and the reorganised Pigs and Bacon Commission have assumed very important responsibilities and, to assist them in the discharge of their market development functions, considerable sums of money are being made available to them from the Marketing Fund established some years ago. A sum of £100,000 was recently handed over to An Bord Bainne for this purpose and it is also my intention to pay over a substantial sum from the same Fund to the Pigs and Bacon Commission. These bodies are assured of Government support in the carrying out of whatever measures are necessary to improve our marketing methods and diversify our exports.

Turning, now, to some individual products, I will take cereals first. There has over the years been a good deal of controversy about the millability of wheat. Farmers' organisations have alleged that rejections of wheat by millers were excessive. The millers have asserted that they have taken the maximum quantity of wheat for milling, consistent with their obligations to produce flour of a quality acceptable to the consumers. This has been very largely a barren controversy and I am therefore very pleased at the recent announcement of an agreement between the growers and the flour millers for the joint operation of a Cereals Laboratory. This is the type of arrangement which I had looked forward to for a long time, and, while I do not expect it to solve all our problems, I am satisfied that it is a step in the right direction, and I have already assured the sponsors of the agreement of my fullest support and co-operation.

Production of feeding barley continues to increase, and this year's acreage is expected to be a record. A large proportion is fed to livestock on the farms on which it is produced, and the arrangements for the marketing of the balance of the crop which I have made in co-operation with the Federation of Irish Feeding Stuffs Manufacturers have worked satisfactorily.

As regards milk, we had a record production in 1961, and production so far in 1962 is higher than in the corresponding period of 1961. The amount of money paid to creamery milk suppliers in 1961 was the highest ever—£24,732,000.

We must realise, of course, that the marketing of dairy products gives rise to serious problems. There is no need at this stage to go back over the history of the difficulty that arose with Britain last autumn, as the duty which was then imposed on imports of Irish butter was removed some months ago following negotiations between the two Governments. In the present financial year, our exports to Britain may not exceed 12,000 tons, but all the indications are that our exportable surplus will be substantially greater. While the market price in Britain has improved as a result of the import quota régime which is now operated by that country, considerable assistance from State funds is still necessary to bridge the gap between the export price and the price which we have guaranteed to pay to creameries for butter. The marketing of butter in excess of the 12,000 tons for the British market will be no easy task for An Bord Bainne, but they are pursuing this task with determination and zeal.

There was only one way of meeting the cost of the recent increase of 1d. per gallon in the price of creamery milk, and that was out of taxation:—

(i) Raising the home price of butter to absorb the increase in the price of milk would cause a decrease in consumption and thereby push up the quantity for export, thus accentuating our marketing problems and increasing the amount of the loss on exports, which is shared between the State and the milk producers.

(ii) The fact that per head consumption of butter in Ireland is the second highest in the world is a great advantage which we have been able to use with telling effect in international negotiations. It would be folly to throw away this advantage.

(iii) An increase in the gap between the domestic price of butter and the price in export markets would be contrary to policies laid down internationally, for example by the OECD, and would incidentally be an added incentive to butter smuggling.

Pig production has been increasing since 1959 and this trend has continued during the past year. While our internal price arrangements have kept the position fairly satisfactory for producers and processors, the export market situation in general has not been moving at all favourably. Export market prices for bacon and other pigmeat have been at a low level for most of the past year and the prospective supply position does not offer much hope of an early improvement.

Under these difficult conditions it is more necessary than ever to press ahead with ensuring that the quality of our pigs and the standard of our bacon exports are raised to the highest possible levels quickly. About three months ago certain bacon pig grading changes, to take place in three stages up to the beginning of next year, were therefore introduced to meet the requirements of the export market for lengthier and leaner bacon sides. At the same time stricter controls were instituted at bacon factories over the standard and selection of bacon for export. I am glad to say that recent reports from cross-Channel confirm that the quality of our exports has been improving. Our increased exports have taken place in the form of pork carcases, mainly lighter than bacon weight, rather than as bacon and the quality of our pork invariably receives very favourable comment.

I might also mention that during the past few months trial lots of pork have been exported to the United States and it is hoped that a useful outlet for part of our increasing production can be developed there. On the bacon marketing side I am hopeful that the attention by the reorganised Pigs and Bacon Commission to improved export arrangements on the lines contemplated by the Act of 1961 will lead to a strengthening of our position in that respect also before very long. In the present situation it is vital to adopt every possible way of improving things as the indications are that the measure of export support that will be required in the current financial year will probably be even greater than last year.

As regards pig breeding, I should mention in particular the Accredited Pig Herd Scheme which was introduced in the latter part of 1960 and which now includes all the main pedigree herds. The aim of the scheme is to secure the widest possible distribution of the superior breeding stock from herds reaching accreditation standards. A comprehensive report on the first year's working of the Scheme will shortly be issued. As previously announced the extension of pig progeny testing facilities has also been in hands and, while these will be available somewhat later than we would have wished, every effort has been and is being made to provide them at the earliest possible dates.

Unfortunately, the general situation in regard to the poultry and egg export trade has not improved and this branch of livestock production has consequently continued to be depressed. The numbers and exports of ordinary fowl and turkeys have shown some further decline during the last year and in view of the position in Britain where large-scale production has been expanding considerably it has been difficult to see what practicable remedial measures we could take here to develop larger exports.

The Poultry Production Council, representing the various branches of the industry and my Department, which I established pursuant to a suggestion by the Advisory Committee on the Marketing of Agricultural Produce, very thoroughly examined the prospects of developing broiler production for export but their conclusions in a Report made to me and published some time ago were not very hopeful.

There has been some hope of developing a fairly large export trade in day-old chicks and hatching eggs of improved strains based on imports, under very stringent veterinary conditions, of high-class American strains and every encouragement is given by my Department to efforts being made in that direction.

As the House is aware, a useful arrangement was negotiated some time ago with the United States authorities under which some 5,000 tons of sugar were exported to that country on favourable terms, in consideration of the import of a quantity of maize. My Department was glad to co-operate in this arrangement by giving the necessary undertaking in regard to the import of maize.

The Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme has made very satisfactory progress, and the gross amount provided for the Scheme in the current financial year—£10¾ million—is the largest allocation made so far for this purpose. It is my confident hope that the whole country, apart from six southern counties, will be attested by the end of 1962. The temporary arrangement with the British Government in regard to once-tested cattle will terminate at the end of this year, and this emphasises the importance of going ahead rapidly with the final stages of eradication. It is in the interest of every farmer to give his full support so that his cattle will continue to find satisfactory outlets.

I would like to acknowledge the valuable co-operation we have received from farmers and veterinary surgeons, and to acknowledge also the devoted work of the officers of my own Department in operating the Scheme, and I appeal to farmers in the counties still to be cleared to concentrate on bringing their herds to the attestation stage as quickly as possible. We are launching an all-out effort in the six southern counties during the next couple of months. We are arranging to deploy the maximum forces in that area with a view to attesting these remaining counties in the shortest possible time. How soon this will be, will depend very largely on our getting the fullest support and co-operation from the farmers in these counties. Personally, I have not felt in the past that the maximum degree of support for and interest in the Scheme was always forthcoming in some of these southern counties, though I understand the difficulties that existed. An enthusiastic push by farmers in the South could cut at least a year off the period that attestation of that area will take.

As I mentioned earlier, 80 per cent of the store cattle exported in 1961 were attested. That is a measure of the progress we achieved in that year and undoubtedly we are going to do even better in the future.

I should like, now, to deal with some other major schemes the fundamental purpose of which is to increase our agricultural productivity. I am glad to say that, due to the operation of the fertilisers subsidies, the upward trend in the use of fertilisers has continued. This season the consumption of phosphates was about 50 per cent. higher than in 1957/58, when the subsidy was introduced. The quantity of ground limestone used in the year ended 31st March last was 50 per cent. more than in the previous year. The use of potash has also increased substantially. I do not know of any country in Europe, with the possible exception of Britain, where farmers can buy fertilisers more cheaply than in Ireland. The subsidy scheme is, admittedly, an expensive one, but I believe that it is one of the main keys to our future agricultural development, considering that, traditionally, our fertiliser usage has been far too low.

During the past year, approximately 100,000 acres were reclaimed or improved by farmers with the aid of grants under the Land Project. The backlog of applications has been considerably reduced, and the waiting period between the date on which a farmer applies for a grant and the date on which he receives approval to proceed has been reduced to an average of about four months in almost all areas. The Fertiliser Scheme operated under the Land Project could be profitably used by farmers to a much greater extent than it has been in the past. We have had an encouraging response to the scheme for the fencing of mountain grazings and commonages which was introduced last September, and I expect that activities under this section of the Project will steadily increase in the future.

There has been a rapid response to the increases granted last year in the grants for cowbyres and piggeries and for repairs to farm buildings generally. From the commencement of the Farm Buildings Scheme until the end of the financial year 1961-62, grants totalling nearly £6¾ million have been paid to over 200,000 applicants. This represents a total capital investment by farmers and the State of roughly £26 million. Last November, special grants and loans were made available towards the cost of repairing farm buildings damaged by the autumn storms. These special facilities have been of considerable utility to those who were hard-hit at that time.

Deputies have, during the past six months or so, been supplied with several detailed memoranda prepared by my Department on the subject of agriculture in the Common Market. This subject is also dealt with in the White Paper which was presented to the Oireachtas very recently. The position of agriculture in the Common Market is under continuous study in my Department, in consultation with farming and trade organisations, and, during the past year, one of our officers was transferred to the Brussels Embassy to keep us directly informed of all developments and, in general, to look after our agricultural interests in the context of the Common Market. It is also my intention to arrange for a survey of consumer food requirements in the principal Common Market countries by an export firm of market consultants.

The procedures for developing a common market in agriculture are far more complex than those for industry, as is indicated by the rather slow and painful evolution of a common system among the present members of the European Economic Community. We hear all kinds of pronouncements from time to time about how our agriculture will fare in the Common Market, but many of these pronouncements do not seem to be backed up by a serious study of the matter.

The agricultural advantages which membership of the Common Market will entail, as well as any possible problems, can become fully clear only by a process of continuous study of the decisions taken in Brussels, according as they become available. I have said before—but I cannot repeat it too often—that the real advantage of the Common Market will be that all farmers in Western Europe should have equal opportunities of fair competition under reasonable market conditions when the common agricultural policy is fully established. The benefit to be derived by any individual farmer will, therefore, depend mainly on how good a farmer he is and not on how much money any individual Government are paying out to him. A self-reliant and progressive attitude by farmers will, therefore, be extremely important in the future, and I believe that, in this direction, the voluntary agricultural organisations have a very important part to play and a very serious responsibility to carry. In the Common Market, it will be no use blaming the Government for everything that goes wrong, because there will be a common system throughout the area, and this system will be the result of decisions taken, not by one Government but by many Governments.

I believe that the fullest possible utilisation of the many aids to agricultural productivity which the Government are now making available should be one of the main objectives of the voluntary agricultural organisations. That the Government are encouraging and supporting these organisations is shown by the fact that in the five years to 31st March, 1963 a sum of over £160,000 will have been paid out to such bodies as the IAOS, the NFA, Macra na Feirme, Macra na Tuaithe, the Irish Countrywomen's Association, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association and other bodies. These grants have been made available for a variety of purposes, such as the training of personnel, the defraying of expenses incurred in sending representatives to conferences abroad, the hiring of experts from outside the country, the purchase of building and equipment, and, in one case, the undertaking of a management survey of the organisation in question.

As the House will remember, last year in connection with the Freedom from Hunger Campaign of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, I mentioned that the Irish Red Cross Society had kindly agreed to organise a public national collection in 1962 in aid of the campaign. The society's fund raising programme is in progress and, as the House is aware, it has been decided that the Irish national collection will be used, through the Food and Agriculture Organisation, to assist in the agricultural development of Tanganyika, probably by sending trained advisers from this country to collaborate with the advisory and educational services there. The Freedom from Hunger Campaign is a most laudable project deserving of the fullest support from our people, who whatever their difficulties, enjoy a standard of living incomparably greater than that of the majority of the world's population who are located in the under-developed countries.

I should also mention that another important programme to assist the under-developed countries has recently been launched. It is called the World Food Programme and it will be operated jointly by FAO and the United Nations. It will be initially an experimental scheme, lasting for three years, to utilise food surpluses to aid the under-developed countries. The programme will be operated with the aid of voluntary contributions from Governments aiming at a total resource of $100 million in commodities, services and cash to be pledged by participating governments at a Conference to be held later this year. I feel that there is a moral obligation on this country to contribute to this programme and I expect to be making proposals to this end in the Dáil later in the year.

The purpose of the Supplementary Estimate is twofold. First of all, it provides the money, amounting to £1 million to enable the price of creamery milk to be increased by 1d. a gallon from 1st June, 1962. I have already dealt with this matter in the course of this speech.

The second item in the Supplementary Estimate is a payment of £75,000 to the Pigs and Bacon Commission for the purpose of developing export markets, which amount is being counterbalanced by an increase of the same amount in Appropriations-in-Aid through a recoupment from the Marketing of Agricultural Produce Account. This procedure is necessitated by the fact that, because of a provision in the Pigs and Bacon Acts, a grant made direct from that Account to the Commission could only be paid into the Commission's Stabilisation Fund and used only to meet losses incurred on exports of bacon.

In the White Paper on the Export Marketing of Agricultural Produce, it was indicated that the Government's policy was that the Marketing of Agricultural Produce Account should be used for such purposes as market surveys and sales promotion in respect of dairy produce, pigmeat and some other agricultural products. It was also decided that the bulk of the funds in the Account should not be committed until after the establishment of An Bord Bainne and the reorganised Pigs and Bacon Commission. A grant of £100,000 from the account has already been made to An Bord Bainne, and it is desired to make this grant of £75,000 also to the Pigs and Bacon Commission.

I move:

"That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration".

I do so because it appears to me that the Minister for Agriculture lives in a perennial kind of cuckoo land in which he persuades himself everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. He tells us today that there is an increase in the incomes of farmers in this country of £8,000,000 over last year. I want to make one comment on that preposterous proclamation. The incomes of farmers in the Annual Return of Economic Statistics issued prior to the Budget is to be found in Table X. The income in the 1957 year was over £129,000,000. It fell in the first year of the Minister's régime to £117,000,000 and then it rose to £127,000,000 in 1960. Then it got back to where it was in 1957 to £129,000,000 and now in this year it has reached £137,000,000.

But let us compare that with the incomes of the non-agricultural domestic section of our society. Their incomes in 1957 amounted to £319,000,000. That figure is now £409,000,000. Their incomes have gone up by £19,000,000 in those five years. The incomes of the farmers remained stable until last year and this year have gone up by £8,000,000. When we come to examine how that £8,000,000 came to hand, we discover that the stock of cattle on the land has gone down by 112,000 head. That does not include calves exported. It does not include yearlings because we do not export yearlings. It is two and three-year-old cattle. Multiply that by £60 a head and you will find it largely accounts for the extra £8,000,000 that is represented as increased farmers' income.

Then you have to work out how that increase in agricultural exports came about and you find that for the first year in our history, we spent about £5,000,000 subsidising the export of cattle. I believe that scheme was introduced originally in this House as part of a programme to expedite bovine tuberculosis eradication. I am told that administratively the whole scheme broke down and that they shipped cattle for immediate slaughter to the ports of England, that the scheme is now wound up because they could not keep control of it.

But this increase in cattle exports for immediate slaughter derived very largely from the unprecedented export bounty which, I understand, is not to be renewed in the current year. Anybody who is in contact with farmers in this country, whether they are small or large farmers, I do not think will find they express the same sentiments of optimism as seem to dazzle the Minister for Agriculture. The reason is not far to seek. I represent in this House and I live among small farmers. The farmers among whom I live in County Monaghan are really people who work themselves. They employ practically no labour and they themselves, for part of the year, seek employment from the public authorities. They are, in fact, working men. Their incomes have remained virtually stable during the past five years and yet over that period there has been an increase in the cost of living of 23 points— from 135 in 1957 to 158. That is an increase of 17 per cent. in the cost of living. Expressed in those terms, it is not easy for ordinary people to grasp its significance, but it means that every £1 people earn today buys as much as 16/2 bought in 1957.

It means in effect that the incomes of most farmers have effectively been reduced by about one-sixth since 1957. The result of that, of course, is that a great many farmers with large families have thrown their hands in and have got out, taken their wives and families to England to get industrial employment there because they could no longer meet the increased cost of living on an income which showed no prospect of expanding.

Mind you, it is significant of the immense potentiality of the agricultural industry to study the figures of the total exports of this country in the year 1961 as compared with the year 1960. Everybody is talking about increased exports and if you believe much of what you read in the papers, you would imagine this is due to the arrival of factories from the other ends of the earth. Of the sections that showed increased expansion last year, four-fifths was provided by the increased exports of livestock—live animals. People will say that is evidence of things moving in the right direction. I wish it were.

That striking increase in livestock exports is in large measure due to the substantial subsidy which was paid on the export of live cattle by the Department of Agriculture during the past year but it does show what an immense potential the land of Ireland has if its resources were fully exploited towards the rectification of the country's balance of trade, and in the course of the next year or two we may have urgent need of expanding exports to take care of our balance of trade.

I see around us still, both in my own constituency and in the home I come from in County Mayo, the disappearance of a growing number of small farmers, and I hear the Minister for Lands announcing his intention of revising the procedure of the Land Commission so that he can go down to the congested areas to resume the abandoned land which is there in such abundant acres. This does not strike me as a description of a prosperous and progressive agriculture.

Our people are leaving it and fleeing from it each year because they have failed to get a decent living from it. The answer is, of course, that the small farmers are being gradually squeezed out and, mind you, a lot of people in Dublin are facing that prospect with relative equanimity because they do not understand its full significance. If the small farmers are being squeezed out, there are others who will go with them. Every small town in Ireland and the employment given in it depended on the capacity of the farmers to spend their money in the small towns of this country and if these towns are finding the population decreasing around them, they will dwindle, too, and the employment they used to give will decline. That will ultimately be to the detriment of Dublin and Cork.

It would be well for some of our city-minded Deputies, and our city-minded Taoiseach, to wake up in time to the fact that there is developing in rural Ireland a trend which will end in the destruction of the whole social pattern of the life of the country, and will leave us ultimately in a position which I certainly do not care to contemplate.

While the introduction of foreign capital for the establishment of industries in our towns and cities is a good thing, do not let us forget that these are all peripheral industries that may be here today and gone tomorrow. There is one thing upon which we in this country can ultimately depend, that is, the 12,000,000 acres of arable land with which the Lord endowed us. No one can take them away. We will be mad if we neglect them and suffer ourselves to be dazzled by other prospective sources of income, without realising that the economic foundation of the country is the 12,000,000 acres of arable land upon which so large a proportion of our people live and get their living, and from which so large a volume of our external trade is derived.

I read a speech made by the Taoiseach in Killarney in which he referred to Ireland's "economic man" in 1970. He said:

As a farmer, also, he must have modernised his equipment, and his knowledge of the techniques which will enable him to increase his output per acre and in that way to minimise his costs.

I read to-day that under the Freedom from Hunger campaign we are to undertake the education of the people of Tanganyika in how to cultivate their soil, while here in this country our advisory services which are, to my mind, an indispensable pre-requisite to successful agriculture are grotesquely inadequate, as everyone who lives in rural Ireland knows.

I am told by the Minister for Agriculture that his view is that you must not press advisory services upon the farmers until they ask for them. I do not want to press anything upon individual farmers but it is the clear duty of the Minister, if he is serious in his intention of preparing and helping the people to get from the land of Ireland the maximum return which it is capable of yielding, and if he is serious in his desire to equip the agricultural industry to derive the maximum advantage from the European Economic Community, to provide that adequate agricultural advisory services are available to our people.

It has been said that a great many farmers do not want them. It is very often the case that the farmer who stands most in need of them is the one who is most reluctant to accept them. That is not peculiar to farmers. We hear the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce warning industrialists that they should get in business consultants and re-organise their business and industries for the situation that will obtain, if we enter the European Economic Community. It is the industrialist and businessman who are most urgently in need of re-organisation who are most resolved not to get the kind of advice they are advised to take.

The same is true of the farmers. It is the farmer who is most in need of technical advice who very often is the most reluctant to look for it. I am perfectly confident that one of the most urgent needs of the present time is adequate agricultural advisory services. Anyone who knows anything about the agricultural background of the country should realise that our main wealth is our capacity to produce livestock more economically than almost any other country in the world, and that in that situation, the main source of wealth should be the grasslands of Ireland.

It was said by a man from New Zealand who inspected the country at my request, when I was Minister for Agriculture, that he did not believe less grass could be grown on such land as we had in Ireland under such skies as perennially shone over us. It is common knowledge that the amount of grass could be greatly increased, were it not for the incredibly low standard of husbandry in regard to the cultivation of grass.

If there is one thing urgently necessary it is that we should enable our people to expand their output of livestock from the soil. To do that, the first and most urgent thing to do is to improve the grasslands. That is only the first step. Many other things require to be done. Concentrating on that aspect, one of the problems is that if you do facilitate the farmers and persuade them to maximise the grass production of their land, the second problem is that there is no use in growing grass if you have nothing to eat it. There is no use in advising a farmer on a programme of expansion and to expand his output if he has not the money to finance it. Therefore, I urged on the country, and I urge on this House that over and above the urgent need to provide adequate agricultural advisory services, we must provide the farmers who are prepared to collaborate with that service, and in approved schemes of expanded production, with the necessary capital with which to carry them out.

I therefore urged, and I urge now, that we should be prepared to advance to farmers who are prepared to work with the services, loans of up to £1,000 to enable them to give effect to the advice we are in a position to offer. Unless we do that, we will never get anywhere in time. We are making grants of tens of thousands of pounds to industrialists who are prepared to set up factories; we are prepared to lend hundreds of thousands of pounds to people who are prepared to set up factories and employ men and women in the various parts of rural Ireland; and I do not think we should regard it as being in any way extravagant or absurd to say to the farmer living on the land that if he is prepared, in consultation with the agricultural advisory services, to undertake an expanded programme of production, we will give him, interest free, credit up to £1,000. I am quite satisfied that if such an investment were made—and no cost would be involved for the State except whatever cost of interest might be on the moneys that would be raised as capital for the purpose—no investment could possibly be made which would provide a more enduring or valuable return to the national income as a whole.

Over and above that, I feel that if we really mean to maximise agricultural production, the great mistake was made when Part B of the Land Project was terminated. It was under Part B of that project that the man who had not the necessary ready money could get the rehabilitation of his land done on credit. I have heard the Land Project in a circumspect kind of way, denounced and repudiated by Fianna Fáil speakers. But there is one very significant fact. They never dared to wind it up. They are still spending £2,000,000 a year on it. If they think so little about it, is it not odd that in the past six years, they have spent over £12,000,000 in implementing it?

It has been there for the past 30 years, in fact.

That is one of the delicious delusions of which the Minister's mentality can persuade him. The Minister can believe anything and he can believe that too, if he wants to. I remember very well, when I inaugurated it, the Minister jeered at the people of Cavan for putting their land on top of pipes, but that tune is now ended. The scheme is now a great blessing. It was a great mistake to withdraw from the agricultural community the credit facilities provided for them under Part B.

Do be fair. Do not attribute a criticism to me which I do not recall having ever made.

I am gratified to discover that the Minister at all events approved of the Land Project. He must not have had much influence with his colleagues. I suspect he has not much influence with them now, either, but he is Minister for Agriculture and, as such, must be held responsible for the agricultural policy of the Government.

I have experience of pipes on land. I am entitled to express an opinion as to their utility and how they should be used.

I am very glad to note that the Minister finds himself in substantial agreement with the facilities I was happy to make available to our farmers. It was a mistake to put an end to the credit facilities that went with that scheme.

There is another aspect of rural life in which I think the Minister for Agriculture could legitimately have an interest. I raised this question today on the Housing Bill with the Minister for Local Government. If we are to get our farmers to make the maximum use of their holdings, one of the most urgent things is to make it possible for them to live in decent comfort in their homes.

The standard of housing on the farms under 70 acres, 60 acres, 50 acres, 40 acres, 30 acres of land is deplorably low. In many cases, small farmers are living in houses which are manifestly inadequate in relation to the accepted standards of modern living. When we compare them with the relatively new houses in the towns and villages, with which they make comparison, naturally the farmers are becoming more and more discontented with the homes in which they have to live. Yet that is not a problem easy of solution unless one is prepared to approach it in the proper way.

It is quite true that the small farmer can get the housing grant not only from the Department of Local Government but from the local authority. Theoretically, it is true that he probably could get a loan under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts from the local authority. However, our farmers will not do it. They are not accustomed to doing it in that way.

There is a way in which they will do it because they are accustomed to it and are not apprehensive of the debt burden in which the necessary steps would involve them. That would be to let the Land Commission do it and allow the cost of the house to be added to their land annuity to be paid off over the remaining term of the land annuity. That would have the material advantage not only that it is a form of finance which our small farmer understands and would accept without undue apprehension but it would place at his disposal, through the Land Commission, a service he otherwise would not have and that is some form of technical advice on the structure of the house.

Ideally, even a small farmer laying out £1,000, or whatever the building of a house would involve, should have the assistance and direction of an architect in building his house. He will not have it (1) because he will not pay for it and (2) because he does not know how to go about getting it. The Land Commission could provide that service. Houses not only of good quality but of aesthetic quality could be provided for our small farmers on the land annuity. That would make a very great and urgently necessary contribution to stability amongst the population on the small farms.

I want to refer to the milk industry. It was a tour de force, I thought, on the part of the Minister to announce that he would enable the creameries to pay an additional 1d. a gallon on milk. They will not be allowed to pay 1d. a gallon to the export subsidy on butter because the Minister took the Bord Bainne 1d. a gallon off milk and put it back through this device. I understand the cost of that operation will be about £30,000 a year in book-keeping.

Surely it would be much more sensible to announce that they would pay 1d. a gallon to Bord Bainne and not have Bord Bainne operate the levy at all? If that was the Government's intention, it is a daft situation that the Minister for Agriculture should assert that the levy of 1d.a gallon by Bord Bainne is something inescapable and inevitable and then introduce a Supplementary Estimate, within a month of the Budget, to give back the 1d. If it is true, as I believe it is true, that that sort of activity will cost the country £30,000 a year in book-keeping, then I think the Minister should be called upon to give us some kind of explanation.

I want to suggest to the House that the time has come to review our attitude to the co-operative creamery industry. I do not deny that at one time when I was Minister for Agriculture I took the view strongly that we ought to go to the extremest length to preserve the individual co-operative creamery, however small, if it was sustained by a rural community.

I held the view strongly that the sociological amenity of a small group being intimately and directly concerned with the management of their own creamery was worth some sacrifice of efficiency or economy in operation. I do not think we can afford to retain that view. The time has come to urge on the co-operative movement an extensive rationalisation of the creamery industry by amalgamating small creameries into large units such as at present exist in Mitchelstown and several other large centres of that kind.

I am reasonably sure that if the maximum economics deriving from such a procedure of increased efficiency and rationalisation could be realised we would have in hand approximately 2d. a gallon in the price of milk which I think should be used in order to offer an inducement to farmers to raise the quality of the milk that they bring to the creameries.

What I should like to see happen is that when the economic would be effected we would pay the present basic price for creamery milk and offer a premium of 2d.a gallon on milk which conformed to the highest standards obtaining as minima on continental Europe. If that were done, I believe we should be able considerably to diversify the manufacturing process in the milk industry. We are confined to butter because, in respect of certain other products, the quality of milk reached in our creameries is not of a kind that is readily convertible into cheese and certain other commodities for which we might find alternative and more profitable markets than we at present can get for butter.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 17th July, 1962.