Committee on Finance. - Vote 37—Agriculture (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a sum not exceeding £40,037,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1968, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain Subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.—(Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.)

Before Questions, I was pointing out the State's duty to cherish the rights of all the citizens equally. I said that is not the case at the moment where there is one law for one section and another for another. The Minister for Agriculture spoke recently and accused various organisations of trying to turn neighbour against neighbour. I challenge the Minister on that point and I suggest that it is he who has tried it.

Firstly, he tried to set one farmers' organisation against another—the NFA against the ICMSA. Secondly, he tried to drive a wedge between the leaders of the NFA and the members of that association. Thirdly, he separated husbands from wives and families by jailing the husbands. Fourthly, he tried to set the rural community against their urban neighbours. Fifthly, he tried to set neighbour against neighbour through the setting-up of political organisations as was tried in Kilkenny by a Deputy. The NFA are trying to unite all farmers' bodies in Ireland as is the case in England and some European countries. He said their supporters had difficulty in making capital out of the activities of the NFA. That is the yardstick by which he judges a bona fide group—by the amount of political capital that can be made out of it. He must imagine that Fine Gael are as paltry and as corrupt as Fianna Fáil.

Taca, therefore, must be canonised as a prolific source of political capital but the NFA must go to the ground because they will not yield to anyone. The time has come when the Minister should begin to do his part in trying to end this unfortunate dispute and bring all together in the interests of the people and of Irish agriculture. The Fianna Fáil failure to formulate a long-term plan for agriculture, more than any other single factor, has been responsible for our failure to deal adequately with our chronic social and economic problems, to arrest our social and economic disintegration. That is what is happening and unless the Government take immediate action. I believe the present conflict will do untold harm to the country.

I began my speech by appealing to the Minister to do one thing immediately—to have the beef subsidy paid directly to the Irish farmers. He can do that in the morning and I hope he will see the light and not let vested interests come between him and the farmers.

I will start by referring to the farm apprenticeship scheme which has not received much attention during the debate. The Estimate includes money which may be given as awards to apprentices to help them to finish their courses. The best award would be to provide that those apprentices at some time in the near future will be in a position to get land which they can own and use themselves. It would be a pity if those men, having received this specialised education, will not be in a position at some stage to get some land and I suggest that the Estimate should include a sum of money to cover this contingency. Some discussion will be necessary with the Land Commission on this matter but to those really interested in agriculture, this idea must surely seem the best award these men could get. They should be given the land before they are 30 years of age.

The incentive bonus for which provision is made in the Estimate is another aspect which has not received much attention during the debate. This is a welcome innovation, another help to the small farmers, another inducement to efficiency. It is being offered for four years out of six. Perhaps it would be better to extend it over a period of six years with an initial payment of £50, four payments of £25 and a final payment of £50. In that way the incentive bonus would be spread over six years and the effect would last over six years rather than four. There would, of course, be two extra annual inspections and payments associated with this idea.

On the matter of unemployment assistance, though this properly belongs to the Department of Social Welfare, I suggest that efforts should be made to link it with the incentive bonus scheme so that instead of paying out unemployment assistance, the money would be paid as an incentive bonus to those who have land but are not in a position to work it. There is no doubt there will be people in areas who have not land and who must get unemployment assistance. There will be other people who have land but who for health reasons, must get some kind of assistance. They would be better classed as disabled people and paid social welfare under this heading. Again, a discussion with the Land Commission might help to loosen up more land under this heading. Disabled people at 40 or 45 years of age might be glad to hand over their land and take advantage of the pension offered. With those two pensions, they would be able to carry on and their land would be made available for those who are prepared to work on it.

When anybody rises here to speak on the Estimate for Agriculture, he is compelled to refer to agricultural prices. It is only right that much has been said about this matter. Some reasons have been offered but they do not seem to be the very obvious ones. I sought some information on this and I am informed that the important reason agricultural prices have fallen in this country is that consumption has fallen in Britain. I am informed that the fall-off was 12 per cent or 13 per cent from the years 1963 to 1965 and that there was a slight recovery in 1966. I have also been informed that this fall of 12 per cent or 13 per cent represents over 600,000 head of cattle and in this way we got caught up in this loss of consumption.

I was also told this factor arose because of the price of beef to the consumer in Britain and also the price in the Common Market countries, in anticipation of our going into that market. I am also told that in Britain, unlike other countries, the consumer does not consume beef when it gets dear. The same thing happens in regard to any other product. When the price of beef gets high in Britain, the consumer turns to some other class of meat. This does not happen in other countries. If this is an economic fact, it is a very important one. It is a disturbing fact as well.

I am not so enamoured of our proposed entry to the European Economic Community if this is the position and if those are the conditions we shall have to contend with. We are told that our meat, without being subsidised in Britain would get higher prices. We are told also that in Common Market conditions, most of our beef would be consumed by the British people, but if we are going to send them dearer beef, they will not eat it. Where will we be fixed then? There must be some answer to this. It might be said that all meat will be dearer but that is not a solution. It would not want to be dearer than the beef.

This is the situation as it was presented to me by a person who was well informed and on whose opinion I would rely. This is something which deserves an awful lot of thinking. Of course, a lot depends on the whole question of quality. If we are able to get in with good products and if we are able to keep all our products at that good quality and the prices right, we will be able to hold on to our markets. If we cannot do this, we are in trouble.

This brings us back to the question of markets. I have heard the previous Minister for Agriculture stating that the important thing as far as the meat industry was concerned was marketing. I have also heard this restated by the present Minister. I am now glad to see that the farming organisations seem to realise that this is a vitally important thing, that what is produced must be sound and all our energies must be directed to this.

During the past few days, we have heard that the obligation in regard to marketing should be on the Government. I do not know if that is correct. On the other hand, since I came in here many people senior to me in political experience have been criticising the Government and bureaucracy and saying when anything goes wrong, when it suits them, that the bureaucrats are to blame. This does not apply to one side in particular; it applies to all sides. On the other hand; when we want something done, we demand that the Government do it and thereby we create more bureaucrats. We will have to make up our minds at some stage what we want.

It was stated today that potatoes were being produced at a certain price down the country and that they were selling in Dublin at four and five times that price. Cabbage was also mentioned, and other produce. I feel it is essential for farming organisations to do this marketing themselves. All their energies and organisation should be directed towards cutting out the middleman, particularly the middleman who is not giving an essential service. When you ask the Government and the State to come in, you create a situation where so much of the money going to the farmers is involved in administration. Most of the suggestions I have heard in this House involve this principle. If the Government do it, we have more bureaucrats. We want more money given to the farmers and less money absorbed by the middleman. We must do something concrete about this.

I believe the best people equipped to do this marketing work are the farming organisations themselves. When they have formulated a scheme, and have decided it is a workable scheme, and they need financial aid at this stage, they could come to the Government and say that they want this financial aid to put this scheme through. On the other hand, if we take the opposite line, and ask the State to do all for us, we are going further in socialising the State and we are setting up, on a small scale, another State company. I do not know if this is really what we want. If you carry out this socialism to its fullest extent, you are going to decide what a farmer will produce and what you are going to give him and the last condition will be worse than the first. However, I believe that some effort along those lines should be made.

As already mentioned in the House today, in regard to getting cattle off the land during the winter months, some incentive should be given for this purpose and this would probably help. Last year when there was a glut of cattle, I felt that one remedy for it was to consume some of this glut ourselves. Those of us who remember the 1930s know what was said in those days by people who found this most unacceptable. Free food at that time was scorned and jeered at. Certain classes of the people in this country did not accept this at all. Times have changed very much since then. Now we have a demand for free medicine, free education, free social welfare and many other things free.

Is there anything wrong with free food, in spite of the history it has in this country? I am aware of the circumstances in which free food is given in the United States. I am also aware that a well-known economist in the past few months has advocated this on the principle that there is nothing wrong in accepting free food if you accept free education, free medicine, free social services and so on. I mention particularly this question of the glut of cattle at the particular time of the year. When we have not an outside market, if we could create a market here which could absorb this glut, we would be also doing something worthwhile for the consumer.

The next thing I would like to refer to is the dairying situation. We are told the re-organisation of the dairying industry is still going on. This interests us particularly in the north-west of the country. As yet, we have no outlet for our skim milk. I should like to urge on the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Department that such be provided for the dairying people in that area as soon as possible. It is the one part of the country now left without such an outlet. Worse still perhaps is the fact that it is now accepted that much of the constituency I and my colleagues represent is not suitable economically for anything but dairying. You will have tillage of a domestic type and the production of cattle, but dairying is the branch of the agricultural industry that provides most money there. The fact that skim milk is not as valuable as it might be is a definite loss to the producers there.

Mention of dairying reminds me that there is some discontent with the prices for milk. When you hear that in one part of the country milk is 1/5d per gallon, in another part 1/7d, in another 1/9d and in another 2/2d—this is without considering the skim—there must be something radically wrong. The Minister has been asked about this in the House. He has pointed out that this is a matter for the committees. Again, I feel here is an area of activity that should interest the farming organisations. Why should these members come to the Minister, who has no authority in this matter, and ask him to regulate the prices?

It may be said that the Minister should have authority. If things continue, and are really as I am told they are at present, no doubt he will have to take authority to deal with it. I would much prefer if this were done at local level by the people interested finding out what is wrong and trying to improve it. It was said today that it costs £2 in administration to give £1 of agricultural grant. If the Minister takes over this job, he will have to send down his inspectors and we are starting off again along this road where so much money is involved in administering particular schemes.

The milk-coolers, by which it is hoped to produce quality milk to increase the income of farmers, have been very acceptable to the small farmers in a position to use them. But there are still many of them who have neither the water convenient nor a sufficient supply to use them. Another aspect is the surface of the roads. In many parts of my constituency, where we have a large mileage of roads per head of population, it is difficult to get along some of the byroads. I am told that the mere taking out of milk along those roads in the morning would damage the quality of the milk and so it would not qualify for the bonus. Unfortunately, the people affected by this are probably the poorer and smaller classes of farmers. Again, strictly speaking, both the water and the roads are matters for the Minister for Local Government. It is an important aspect of agriculture, however, and I would ask the Minister to interest himself in it.

Pigs have been referred to on several occasions. I do not wish to repeat what has been said, but I must say this. When anybody discusses this matter with me, it always comes back to the question of feeding pigs and the price of feeding stuffs. I understand there is some investigation going on in the Department into this matter. It is an urgent matter. As far as my county is concerned, pig-rearing is traditional. Certain families reared pigs and others did not, no matter how good they were. But they are all complaining about the price of feeding stuffs.

I cannot understand why there is not a closer link between the bacon and pork factories and the producers. I referred to this before in my few remarks on the Budget. I understand this works adequately with the beet people. You have your contract with the Sugar Company to grow beet. They help you to produce it and take it from you at a fixed price. This should be our attitude to the pig industry. On television some weeks ago, a man pointed out he had to go 180 miles to get pigs which he should get within a radius of 40 or 50 miles. Somebody had to be paid for the cost of transport and somebody lost on this. No doubt if the people had confidence they would get the price for the animal, they would produce it. The last person I discussed this with seemed very pessimistic about the situation. He said he believed the pig industry was going to grow into something like the broiler industry. He said you would reach a stage where you had a lot of big people producing a lot of pigs and the small man would be pushed out altogether. I would not like to see this happen and I believe it would be a very bad trend.

This is another aspect of farming that should interest the farming organisations. They should go to the factories and establish this relationship with the factories, so that the producers would not have to carry pigs here and there around the country, taking a chance on selling them in some market or of having to bring them home again. If this were properly organised, then the factory could get the pig of the right quality where they wanted it. There are other remarks I should like to make about this, but it is not my intention to hold up the House any further.

This debate is peculiar for one thing. Agriculture possibly finds itself in a more difficult situation today than it has been heretofore. It is of profound importance to the economy of this country. Although this debate has continued over a considerable number of days, I do not think we have been honoured, except on very fleeting occasions by the presence of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

In fairness to him, the Minister has been precluded from being present by other business. The Deputy is well aware the Minister will be made familiar with all the remarks made by Deputies here.

I am glad to hear that because, no matter what views the Minister may have of Deputies who speak from the different Parties here, having regard to the somewhat parlous situation that agriculture is in, even the most insignificant contribution here would be of benefit to him.

I want to start off by saying that the situation that exists in agriculture is not peculiar to this country. It is a recognised fact that in every country in the world the agricultural community find themselves in a difficult position. That is evidenced by the fact that all these international organisations to which we belong are continuously stressing the difficulties that farmers face and the fact that while incomes in all other sections are expanding, the farmer's income has remained static. It is therefore very satisfactory that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have produced a brochure in relation to the Report on Agricultural Policies in 1966 by the OECD.

The OECD, representative of 21 nations, of which we are one, have produced an overall review of agriculture and it is about the most depressing document I have ever read in relation to agriculture. In effect, what it says is, briefly, that agricultural production should be reduced in as far as it is possible within the member countries. It also talks of technological advances, the reduction in employment and the taking of people off the land.

As the House probably knows, I had an opportunity over a great many years of representing Ireland at the Council of Europe in the Committee of Agriculture and I had many opportunities there to meet representatives of agriculture from various international and national organisations. I always found that the bureaucratic thinking in regard to agriculture predominated in all the reports issued whereas those who might be representative of agricultural production and agricultural organisations as a whole and of political bodies were careful to stress views almost directly opposite to those contained in the reports produced by these official bodies. The OECD seems to think that as long as we can take the people off the land and increase the size of farms, we will put agriculture in the same position as any other section of the community and give the people a decent standard of life. I regret to say that that seems to be somewhat the line of official thinking in this country today.

As I have said, national organisations and political organisations do not hold to that view. The majority of us feel that the background and the fundamental feature of agriculture, as it has been literally throughout the centuries, is the family farms structure. You cannot have it both ways.

This document, a synopsis, so admirably produced by the Department of Agriculture, in effect says: "Take the people off the land; make them more efficient; increase the size of farms." But, in the last paragraph it reverts, in order to save itself, to the absolutely contrary policy, which has been expressed by parliamentarians throughout the world, and says that we must preserve and maintain the family farm.

In the world of today, there is not only unparalleled hunger but unparalleled starvation. One-third of the people on the face of the earth are literally dying of starvation and two-thirds of the world's population are undernourished. Therefore, I cannot feel that any document produced by any economic organisation or national organisation makes sense if it advocates taking people off the land and, in effect, reducing agricultural production while that state of affairs exists.

I proceed from the OECD to another international organisation to which we belong, that is, the Food and Agriculture Organisation. From them, I am glad to say, emerges a policy that could appear to me to be of benefit to the world as a whole and to agriculture. They recognise the fact, as it is daily brought home to them by their numerous officials scattered throughout the world, that there is real, persistent and growing hunger and, in fact, starvation, in the world today and they have shown a semblance of a policy. Some years ago their policy was to endeavour to teach nations who were short of food and suffering from hunger and starvation how to feed themselves. That was known as their Freedom from Hunger Campaign. That campaign was put into effect and widely advertised throughout the world. Efforts were made to step up the production of these developing countries. That in itself was a desirable object and a fundamental in dealing with a situation which was threatening to cause a major catastrophe in the world and, in fact, has done so.

The organisation then began to realise, I am glad to say, after some time, that their campaign was not a success, that the countries concerned had not the necessary technological skill and a knowledge which would enable them to feed themselves. They produced a World Surplus Food Campaign in connection with which they asked for 100 million dollars to be contributed by the member nations of the FAO to try to feed those who were dying daily from hunger in various parts of the world. This country made quite a sizeable contribution to that campaign.

The reason I am stressing all this to the House is that I believe a reversal of policy is necessary, not only of national policy but of world policy, if we are to deal with this very difficult and dangerous situation in the world today.

The United Kingdom are spending a sum in the neighbourhood of £400 million in subsiding food production and all they have succeeded in doing is to destroy the markets of some of the people from whom they have heretofore bought food. The Federal Republic of Germany is spending enormous sums of money on the same projects with the same disastrous results to food-producing and exporting countries such as Ireland, France, Holland, New Zealand, Denmark and other nations.

To some extent this policy has been changed within the confines of the Common Market in that the Germans who were spending vast sums of money to augment prices within the confines of their territory were brought back in their prices under the agreement reached within the confines of the Common Market in their common agricultural policy. Therefore the move is an attempt to stabilise agricultural prices. Deputies may well say that if we withdraw all agricultural supports, the bottom will fall out of the agricultural market. That in itself is true, and if we are to endeavour to return to a free market in agriculture, in other words if our agricultural products are to find their own level instead of the situation where the wealthy nations are able to pay big sums to keep their farmers in affluence and small nations have to struggle alongside and subsidise heavily to export, we must have some interim policy.

I am submitting this suggestion to the Minister and his advisers for whatever it is worth. All countries who recognise the need for stable agricultural markets and the need for utilising all the money available today in agriture for the purpose of stabilising food prices and keeping them at a proper floor level, should, by international agreement, contribute a certain sum of money, if necessary by taxation, in proportion to their national wealth and according to their ability to pay, to buy food and put that food under international control in order to have some sense of proportion in its distribution throughout the world. I make that suggestion for three reasons. First of all, if the food produced today is, by international agreement, to be distributed among the people who want that food, who have the bare means of existence and who in many cases are starving, it will increase demand, and by increasing demand, will stabilise prices. It will give the people who are to get that food the means and the right to live. It will put them into a position to develop their own economy, because no nation can develop when its people are practically starving.

Secondly, by doing that, I believe we shall contribute greatly to peace and goodwill in the world as a whole, that we shall stop what is threatening today, the early signs of which are already here, what is known as pressure of population. We already have it to a large extent in the United Kingdom ; people are exploding from the territories in which they live in the search for food. People may well say this is just nonsense, that there is no real sign of that yet. It has begun in Britain where people have come to take up professions. The system in Africa is that a local contribution is made by the village and the bright boy is then sent over and takes a degree in some profession. He comes to the United Kingdom and not only to the United Kingdom but to other countries as well, from these territories where they have not sufficient food, and subsequently colonies follow him in search of food. That is what is going to happen unless we in the western nations face this crisis realistically and are prepared to club together to buy the necessary food. Unless we are prepared to do that, chaos will continue in the world.

We had a full-blooded agreement made by the Parliamentary Secretary's Government with the United Kingdom, the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement under which Britain guarantees to buy whatever store cattle we have at our disposal. I forget the actual figure but it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 600,000 per annum, and they guarantee to take from us 25,000 of processed beef. We were told enthusiastically and somewhat foolishly by the then Minister for Agriculture that the price of cattle would go up and that for the farming community everything was to be lovely in the garden from then on. There would be no further problems. This Trade Agreement came into effect something less than 12 months ago. I do think that even the most biased supporter of the Government must recognise the fact that as far as long-term stability is concerned, it has been a complete and utter failure from the word go.

In the Dáil recently the Minister was questioned by Deputy Clinton in regard to his relations with the British Government and about his recent review of the situation with the British Minister for Agriculture in the light of the fact that prices had become almost catastrophic in the past three or four months, with the exception of a very short period. I asked him if he had endeavoured to get a larger quota for processed meat and the reply was that he had endeavoured to do so but had failed. That is the one feature of this Agreement that I can see would be of any benefit to the Irish economy. We made an Agreement with the British under which we have guaranteed to sell them every store we have available on the land, and, as I read the Agreement, if we do not fulfil our obligation in regard to sending stores to the United Kingdom, the two Governments meet to have a further discussion on the matter.

I had a question asked in both Parliaments: I had a question asked in the British Parliament and a question asked in Dáil Éireann in relation to the trade of stores between this country and the United Kingdom, and the lamentable fact emerges that we shipped less stores to the United Kingdom since this Trade Agreement started than we did before. It is the old story that goes back to the OECD from whom we received a sound bit of advice, not to put all our eggs in the one basket. That is what we have done and that is the weakness of our cattle trade at the present moment.

The position is simply this. When the British want cattle, they buy them, and the proof is there. For a short period when the weather got a bit warmer in April and it was envisaged that there would be plenty of grass available here for the absorption of livestock and the same in the United Kingdom, the price went up; the price was good. Everybody was satisfied, but about a fortnight to three weeks afterwards the British had filled their immediate requirements and the bottom went out of the market. Therefore, I want the Minister and his advisers to take a very careful, long-term look at the agricultural situation.

I do not think even the most enthusiastic supporters of the Parliamentary Secretary's Party can be satisfied with the agricultural position as it is now. They certainly cannot be satisfied with the beef trade. Neither can they be satisfied with the gradual reduction of manpower on the farm. Neither can they be satisfied with the overall increase of 2½ per cent in agricultural production. Even though there appear to be no marketing facilities in the offing, or certainly no suggestions to that effect, it is desirable that agriculture should be in a sound, healthy state, in a position to produce more and produce it more economically.

The Government must take a new look at the situation and find out what other countries are doing and what they are beginning to do. Industrial production and agricultural production must be planned in the one channel. We can go on exporting store cattle to Britain so long as Britain wants store cattle. I hear people say that, if Britain goes in, we go in to the EEC. That is a parrot cry in relation to agriculture and not alone by the Government but by a great many other people. Another parrot cry is that, even if they do not go in, we will go in and, if we do go in, the British will raise tariff walls against us. Will anyone of commonsense tell me that the British, who will go on requiring our store cattle, will put a tariff on those cattle if we go into the EEC and they do not? If they put on such a tariff, that is their own affair, but where, in the wide world, will they get store cattle, except from the Irish farmer?

Whether we like it or not, we shall have to change our agricultural policy. We shall have to plan our industrial policy, remembering that in a free trade area, we will have to put ourselves in a position in which we can sell the finished product rather than the raw material, even though that raw material may be rather advanced raw material. That brings me to the question of milk. Our greatest export is beef. We heard a good deal in the past about the ranchers and the graziers. Beef pays its way. It is beef that helps to stabilise our balance of payments and we must keep ourselves in a position in which we can go on producing and selling beef. Today we have a higher production of milk. The question is are we going to continue to subsidise milk? Any extra help given to the Irish farmer invariably produces an outcry from the urban dweller. That is understandable from a human point of view because it is the Irish farmer who produces the food the urban dweller has to buy.

I referred at the outset to the fact that there are hungry people in the world today. We should adopt some scheme, preferably an international scheme, which will enable us to transport nourishing food to those in need of it. One of the ways in which we can do that is by processing milk. Processed milk is one of the easiest and cheapest foods to transport. If we are to increase our agricultural production, as assuredly we must, and if we are to continue to enjoy the standard of living we have, then we will have to increase vastly our milk production. There are two things we can do. We can subsidise milk in the certainty of continuing beef production or we can process milk and export the processed commodity to other parts of the world. I spoke earlier about hunger in the world and it is possible that some of those listening to me were under the impression that I was trying to show off my knowledge. I was not; I was merely trying to fit Irish agriculture into the overall pattern of world agriculture. There will have to be some new and very rapid thinking in the light of modern conditions.

There is a tremendous future for Irish horticulture. Horticulture lends itself to industrialisation. Up to a few years ago vegetables were sold fresh. Today they are processed and the finished vegetable is ready for the table. There is great scope in horticulture. Horticulture until recently was the cinderella of the Department. Now it is being transformed, largely due to the efforts of An Foras Tionscal. They have done a great deal of research. We have here an equitable climate and the means to grow the product. There is no reason why we should not process it. I do not say we can grow tomatoes as successfully as they do in Spain or the Canary Islands, where there is almost perpetual sunshine, something of which we do not see a great deal here, but we have a temperate climate, with no very high incidence of frost, and we have a longer period over which to grow these products. In the context of European agriculture, there is a great deal we should be able to do.

We will, of course, need a great deal of credit. Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary, who has had much more opportunities of hearing the debate than his immediate boss, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, will indicate to the House what has gone wrong with farm credit. How is it that, a few years ago, a farmer could apply for credit and get more or less reasonable credit to meet his requirements? In practically every case that comes to my knowledge at present, farm credit is refused.

Would the Deputy not agree that, in many instances, farm credit was abused only a few short years ago?

By farmers competing to buy land out of credit secured from the Agricultural Credit Corporation, both individually and maybe in groups of three and four. At that stage, land went to an exorbitant price. On borrowed money, land can be very expensive indeed.

I do not think I could agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that the high price of land was due to farmers clubbing together and buying it.

I am not suggesting that that was the reason. I am saying that the credit facilities were abused in so far as people purchased land and paid unrealistic prices in many instances on borrowed moneys, thereby limiting the amount of money available for distribution for some worthwhile projects and possibly for the further development of existing holdings.

Might I be allowed to explain why land was so dear in this country in spite of the good advice given to the Government from these benches that they should restrict foreigners from buying land here on the open market. Whereas land was £500 an acre in Germany, Bavaria and other places, it was nothing for a continental to come here and pay £250 an acre for land. That was what was putting up the price, not the money lent to farmers.

Very limited credit was given to farmers to buy land. I shall not join issue with the Parliamentary Secretary on the question of buying land. I object to the fact that, when farmers want credit to buy stock, the answer they receive is "No". I shall tell the Parliamentary Secretary that the answer is "No" because the Agricultural Credit Corporation have not got the funds at their disposal. I am not au fait with what is going on in financial circles or with the disposition of Government funds. I am only a member of the Opposition. It seems to me, however, that some years ago there was a reasonable sum of money available for credit and that that sum does not exist today. I challenge whoever is replying to the debate to say that it is available. Because of the many applications in respect of which I have been responsible for making representations on behalf of farmers in my constituency, I am aware that, in practically all cases they have been refused. I can recollect two that were given credit facilities. Where some of these cases have gone to a trust company or finance organisation, moneylenders, call them what you will, they have got the money. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary is jumping to tell me that it is at a higher rate of interest.

And with a much shorter term for repayment.

The trouble is that it is the Government or the Agricultural Credit Corporation who, under stature, should be lending the money but they are not doing so because they have not got it. The farmers are, therefore, forced to pay this higher rate of interest. That was not the situation a couple of years ago, whatever has gone wrong with the financial setup. Could it be that the money is being diverted to other purposes? That I do not know. That would be a matter to be explained to us when the Minister is replying to this debate.

One of the very necessary things, one of the very helpful things to agriculture, to our balance of payments and to everything in relation to a sound and fundamental economy here is, and has been over a great many years, the bloodstock breeding industry. The exports of bloodstock and the high place our bloodstock has attained in the racing world are well known to us all. For that purpose, it is necessary that the younger stock that are bred here, yearlings and so on, should have the highest nutrition available.

The Parliamentary Secretary will no doubt agree that our climate is a little uncertain. Very often, at harvest time, we are unable to save our crops as well, perhaps as our more fortunate confréres in other countries. For that reason, we very often have not available for such bloodstock—there are not perhaps so many in this country— first-class oats. I know that, some time ago, the Irish Bloodstock Agency, on behalf of their people, applied for a permit to import 4,000 tons of oats but were told they could get them here from so many different dealers. They wrote to all the dealers concerned—I think there were 16 of them altogether —and two or three answered and said they had not got the oats available. They re-applied to the Department of Agriculture or to the Minister and still they got no permit to import what they conceive to be necessary, namely, this high-class grain for the rearing of livestock at the most important stage— yearlings that are to be sold next August. The Parliamentary Secretary no doubt agrees that the sales of our bloodstock yearlings are of value to the country.


They bring in large sums of money.

When there are large quantities of top-class Irish oats available, they must be sold.

I would take it that those who breed bloodstock here are intelligent people and know exactly what they want. If they want to feed the animals on high-class oats and if they can get them here, surely they would buy them here? The simple fact of the matter is that they are unable to buy them here: that is my information. Perhaps the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us where they can get those oats. I earnestly request the Minister not to give the names of the same firms as he gave before. It is beautiful on paper but the oats are not there. That is the only information I have. I do not see any reason why I should be told that, if it is untrue. That is the situation which exists.

A great deal of play has been made with the export of small cattle. We sold to Italy small cattle which were just about a year old. I do not know the price: I suppose it varied from time to time. Perhaps we got rid of a lot of what are known as "scalds" in different parts of the country on account of their having been produced ad lib, due to the unfortunate heifer scheme with which I and many of my colleagues did not agree. Does the Minister, does the Parliamentary Secretary and do the officials of the Department think it good policy to export small cattle? They do not. They would be the first to admit that it is not good policy to export almost embryonic cattle like that which had not reached any stage of maturity.

Actually, until they were sold, they did nothing but take money out of the State. Many of them were subsidised to the extent of £15 by way of the heifer subsidy. Cattle of that age are certainly of no nutritive value to the land whatever. I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary is a farmer or not. He is not? Well, he is learning a lot this afternoon. Cattle of that age are of no benefit to the land. They extract phosphate from it. Some of these cattle, which were subsidised to the extent of £15, and which we allowed to extract the phosphate from the land were sold to Italy. I do not know how much they were sold for. It is quite obvious that the Minister and the Department are not very keen on that kind of trading but they found themselves in a desperate position. The Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement having failed, the processing of meat exports having dried up, and not having got a proper agreement, in desperation they sold these cattle. It may have been in order to atone for the disappointment over the 2,000 cattle which were to be exported to Germany but which I understand never left our shores.

I have been trying, during the time I have been speaking, to indicate to the Department that a change of policy is necessary. I do not attribute all the evils that exist to official policy, nor do I attribute all the evils to the Government. There has been, to put it mildly, a lack of foresight, or to use the expression which is used nowadays, a lack of forward thinking. I suggest that the Government should do a little forward thinking in the future and try to improve the lot of the farmer. In regard to the dispute going on at present, it seems to me as a touchline observer, although I am a farmer, that some members within the Government have no desire to settle the quarrel between the NFA and themselves. It seems to me to be the height of folly to create a National Agricultural Council and try to build it up as something representing the farming interests, something that is going to be of benefit to the whole future of the agricultural economy. It reminds me of the satellite governments created behind the Iron Curtain, a sort of make-believe organisation that is to be the be-all and end-all of agriculture in the future. The strength of the National Farmers Association is in the region of 300,000. The Parliamentary Secretary looks dubious but if he checks up on this, he will find that it is correct. I know there is a good deal of wishful thinking——

The total number engaged in farming is approximately 360,000 and I think the NFA could hardly be 300,000 strong.

Admittedly, some of them are in other organisations as well. You have to remember that there is a good deal of dual membership in relation to the milk suppliers and the NFA. The Parliamentary Secretary will find that that figure is correct. It seems that there may be one set of figures produced by the Department of Agriculture and another set produced by the farmers. Realising there is a controversy between the two sections of the community, I am not surprised that the figures the Parliamentary Secretary has been handed are somewhat different from the figures I have mentioned. Whether the number is 300,000 or 250,000, the fact remains that by and large they are representative of the farming community, not only in my constituency but in the Parliamentary Secretary's constituency, and, in fact, in all constituencies. Sooner or later, the Government will have to come to terms with the NFA and the sooner they do that, the better. The manner in which the Government are behaving is no credit to them.

It seems strange to me that ever since I came into public life, there has always been some sort of row going on between the Fianna Fáil Party in Government and some large organisation. For years we had the dispute between the then Minister for Health and the Irish Medical Association, of which I am a member, and now we have this dispute between the Government and the NFA. Is it that Fianna Fáil want to be the be-all and end-all of everything? I should like to warn the Government before I sit down that the answer will come, and will come very soon. It will come at the end of the month in the ballot boxes and then they will realise how foolish they are to try to force their will on the country as a whole, that we still live in a democratic age and we still have rights. Perhaps the Government will then see sense.

It is very gratifying to see that once again additional moneys are being provided for agriculture. However, it is somewhat disappointing to see that over the past year gross agricultural output has fallen. It is disappointing from the point of view that we as an agricultural country depend solely on agricultural output to keep our balance of payments at the correct level. Many factors enter into this question of a fall in output. Last year we had a very bad spring and a late sowing. We also had very bad growth in grass which necessitated many small cattle being held on the land, being housed and being store fed as they could not be put out at the normal time. The late spring held up sowing, and were it not for good harvest conditions later on, the gross fall in agricultural output would have been much greater. We can be very grateful for the fact that yields were not down more and, in fact, where the early sowing was done before the heavy rainfall, yields were found to be comparable with those of the previous year. However, this does not compensate the farmer or the agricultural community for the fact that gross output was down. It meant that the farmer's output was down and therefore he lost money.

During the year we also had an increase in the price of milk which was some compensation for the farmers for the bad spring and for many of the mishaps they suffered during the year. This increase in the price of milk was very acceptable. This also portrays the progress of the Fianna Fáil Party in regard to the dairying industry. When we speak about the price of milk and the dairying industry, we naturally think back to the beef trade. In regard to the beef trade, we must admit that during the year prices have not been comparable with other years, although we had an inflationary price about 18 months ago. We have now passed through the bad stage when we had reasonably bad prices. What is the cure for this? Can we offer any compromise? Could we stabilise the price of cattle? In other words, could we create a floor price for our beef? My procedure would be to create a floor price, let it be £7, £8 or £9 a cwt. for cattle. We could grade our cattle. We could present them for grading and have them tagged, and those cattle could not be presented again for grading in that year by the same person.

A floor price would be created, whatever it might be, and if the farmer were able to get more on the market, he would be entitled to it, and if he got less, the Government would subsidise him to the tune of the amount of money which he had lost on the sale. This is just a suggestion. It may not be feasible but it is something which could be considered. The grading of cattle might not cause any great bother because we have the stations where they could be graded, and we have the Department there to grade them, or some specialists who would be competent to do that sort of work. This would lead to our having better quality beef. The emphasis would be on producing good quality beef instead of ordinary stores.

The Minister referred to the sow farrowing scheme. This is a very good scheme and I should like to see it utilised more by the farmers in general. This again is a personal view but I think the £5 subsidy is not sufficient. Moneywise, it is a good thing for the farmer to be able to avail of this £5, but if we had a subsidy on the foodstuffs used in the production of pigs, we might be doing a good job. Anyone engaged in the pig-fattening business realises that the cost of the foodstuffs seems to drain away the bulk of the profits. This £5 can be collected only once on each sow, which eliminates the small producer after a time. If he has five sows the first year, he is eliminated. If we had the subsidy on the foodstuffs, this man could get great benefit from it. It might increase our pig numbers which would be very desirable. It is necessary if our pig trade is to stay alive, and if we enter the EEC.

The Minister also mentioned the price of wheat, and the production of wheat was also mentioned by other speakers. Under the present system, the production of wheat is a hit or miss affair. I fully agree that the price for wheat is very good, if you produce good quality wheat. It must be remembered that you must have the proper elements to get a good harvest. You must get good weather for sowing. This year we were nearly caught out when the time came for spraying, which is very necessary if we are to produce good quality wheat. We had a very wet May and it was very hard to get enough dry weather to spray the wheat. This is a factor at harvest time. Many farmers in my area could not spray their corn. It had got ahead of them and it was impossible to spray it. This makes me wonder about the wheat when it is brought in to the millers.

The Minister estimated that we will have more wheat this year than last year, that the acreage is up. There is no doubt about that. If you drive through the country, you will see that there are many more fields under tillage, and particularly under wheat, this year than last year. Last year we had not got exactly chaotic conditions at the mills but on numerous occasions the millers rejected many farmers and their loads of wheat and when the farmers went to another miller, they were accepted.

Send them to the same mill under a different name.

That position still prevails. I do not say that the Minister can step in directly and compel the millers to do whatever job they are supposed to do, but if there is a Department man on the scene, as there is supposed to be, he should take a firm stand. I have had the personal experience of bringing a load of corn to the millers, being told that it was rejected, putting it in a certain hopper which was supposed to be for rejected corn, and finding that the man behind me whose wheat was accepted put his in the same hopper. I do not know whether the millers have any electronic device which separates the bad grain from the good in the one hopper. That happens. Most of the wheat goes in together and comes out as offal or flour. It comes down to the fact that the farmer is being victimised because he has not the knowledge required to say whether his wheat is millable or unmillable.

We will be presented with a bigger problem this year because more wheat will be presented to the millers. There will be a greater rush, and the emphasis may be on getting rid of you as quickly as possible. I should like to avoid this happening and I hope the Minister will take steps to ensure it does not happen. We will also be faced with the problem of bulk grain. Many farmers have decided, because labour is so costly, to have bulk grain. I have been in touch with three millers and they have said they are equipped for bulk grain this year, the same as they were last year. If that is the situation, I do not think we will be able to cope with the bulk grain because from the agricultural sales, it will be realised that many more bulk combines have been sold, which means that a lot of bulk grain will be presented to the millers. How they will cope with it is their problem but we are also directly involved because it is our duty to see that the farmer gets a fair deal. I should like the Minister to look into this problem and see if the millers are capable of handling the amount of bulk grain that will be presented to them.

I notice that in the Minister's statement no reference was made to the production of potatoes or to potato prices. The area I represent is renowned for the production of early potatoes. The city of Dublin and many of the counties around Dublin depend solely on the production of potatoes in Rush, Lusk, Skerries, Malahide and Swords. It is a recognised fact that over the years we have been faced with the problem of producing potatoes at a certain price, presenting them to the middleman who distributes them to the shopkeepers, and the shopkeeper then makes a fortune at our expense.

On one occasion last year a particular woman who is not in my area telephoned me and asked: "Mr. Foley, at what price would you sell me a cwt of potatoes?" I said: "At 14/-" and she said that she had been charged 28/- by a man who is going around selling vegetables in his van or cart. It could be said of this woman that he was putting his hand into her pocket and taking out 14/-.

I do not blame a man for going round with his van or cart selling potatoes but I would expect him to get a reasonable profit. Surely 14/- on a bag of potatoes that cost him 14/- is not a reasonable profit? The housewife who has to pay for these potatoes is of the opinion that the farmer is making a profit on his potatoes. I should like to stress to the housewife that this is not so. The shopkeeper in such an instance is an extortionist and is taking from the general run of the public, and from the housewife, exceptional profit.

A marginal profit should be laid down for those people so that they will not reap 100 per cent profit. The producer whose profit is tied up with his production costs makes only 20 per cent profit or thereabouts. There is no reason why the shopkeepeer who is indoors should make 100 per cent profit. There is a solution for this. A floor price should be struck by the Department for potatoes on sale at this time of the year. How would this operate? We have the law of supply and demand and all of us directly involved know about selling in competition. Naturally, if 100 more bags of potatoes are put on the market today than were put there last Tuesday or Wednesday, the price will be down, say, 2/-. I cannot recall that during the peak period the price of potatoes increased. The general tendency is for it to go down. When it reaches rock-bottom, which is usually 16/6d a cwt we are told that there is a glut of potatoes and we have to keep the price down. Surely a way of settling this would be to have a floor price for potatoes all the year round, varying from week to week or from fortnight to fortnight? But let the housewife not be led to believe that the farmer is reaping a profit from the sale of potatoes.

This can be said about vegetables in general. I have the example of a neighbour of mine who produces sprouts. This man is very conscientious and is very definite about what he is doing. He produces the sprouts, washes them, packs them into five 1b bags and sells them in the markets. This man's wife had occasion to go to a supermarket not to buy potatoes but to buy groceries and she saw the same bag of sprouts as she packed and sold for 10d a bag being sold for 1/10d.

The vicious middleman.

I do not want to say for one moment that the farmer should be getting 1/10d for the sprouts but surely there should be a maximum profit margin for everybody and a maximum price which the housewife should have to pay for these goods.

There are other matters which come to my mind and I am bringing them up not for the sake of saying something but because they have been brought to my notice, and I have had personal experience of some of the things to which I wish to refer. In the hothouses and glasshouses from October on when the tomatoes have gone, generally speaking, there are many people in my area who produce flowers. One man whose name I cannot mention although it would probably give him publicity, is the only grower of a particular flower. He buys this flower for 6/6d, nurses and produces it and sells it usually around Christmas time at 12/6d to 15/-.

You can realise that if he has the flower for seven weeks, his profit from that price is reasonably small, but he finds as it is an off season job, that he is fully compensated. But if at Christmas, or any day in Christmas week, this particular man sends his wife into the shop to buy this flower, she is charged 30/- or 32/6d for it. These are just examples I took which I thought it necessary to mention. I am not mentioning them for the sake of talking in the House. However, I should like the Minister to take note of these things. If necessary, I can produce evidence to substantiate what I have been saying. The answer might be that competition is the life of trade, but I do not think that taking unreasonable profit can be classed as competition, nor do I think that such a procedure is treating the producer fairly.

There is one other factor I want to say something about, that is, the price of barely. Generally speaking, I think we can say the price of feeding barley is reasonable enough. We could possibly expect an increase in the next year or so, if production costs increase again, but generally speaking, the price is acceptable. I accept that the price of feeding barley is very good. But with regard to the price of malting barley—which perhaps does not directly concern the Minister—we have a certain firm here in Dublin who purchase a great deal of malting barley during the year. At harvest time it is commonly known that there are certain farmers who have contracts to produce barley for this firm. To my amazement—and I mentioned it last year on this Estimate—I found there are many people who have 10,000 and 20,000 barrels of barley on contract from Messrs. Arthur Guinness and that those people do not themselves produce any barley. This is not very heartening for the farmer who takes the risk of producing barley. As I said earlier, he has to go through the ordinary processes of growing, spraying, cutting, and putting it into packets for delivery to the mills. This man is confronted with a situation in which he grows a malting variety barley, produces a good quality barley. He presents it to the mills, or a buyer comes around, and he finds to his amazement that it is bought at 1/- better than the feeding barley price. He is doing well—he gets 1/-for it—but, if he follows his truck, he will find it has gone to a certain brewery where this barley is put in for malting barley. In other words, the farmer is selling his barley as feeding barley, is being given a feeding barley price for it but somebody along the line will get the malting barley price for it.

Surely if this firm is giving out contracts for the production of barely, and if we are to try to increase the production of barley, it should be made known to the Minister that this is happening, that the farmer, again, is being left in the wilderness in the price of the barley. He gets a specified price, which the Minister sets, and he gets 1/-more. He is doing all right, as he thinks. All right, if his barley goes for feeding, but, if he follows it up, he finds his barley is going for malting and somebody is making 10/- a barrel on him. That is not justifiable.

It would be well if the Minister looked into the distribution of contracts for the production of malting barley. The farmers who are prepared to take the risk of growing barley and producing it are entitled to a contract, more so than the ordinary businessman who has no barley or land whatsoever. That man may take five or perhaps ten acres on conacre and grow a little barley on it but he also has a contract for, perhaps, 10,000 barrels of barley. This is something worthy of note by the Minister, if we are to keep a steady line of production of cereals in this country. I do not say the actual allocation of contracts to the farmers would entice them that much but it would give an even distribution of the profits of the farmers' work.

Having said so much about cereals and vegetables, in which I am directly involved and have a great interest, I should like to compliment the Minister. Through his persuasion or intervention the farmers have got this £20 derating, and on a sliding scale thereafter up to £33 valuation. I listened to Deputy L'Estrange for some time—in fact I found it necessary to leave the House because he repeated so often one phrase, that the Government had let down the farmers, that we were entirely at fault, and that what we were doing for agriculture was not comparable with what he would do—and I thought it better to get out before I became corrupted. I do not care if the farmers get only 1d derating; I do not care if it is only a half-penny, as long as they are getting something, as long as we are trying to give something to the farmer. And as agriculture is the main source of supply for export from this country, it is necessary every year that we should, as we have tried to do in every Budget, and as each successive Minister for Agriculture has tried to do, give the farmers something extra. It is very gratifying to see this complete derating of the £20 valuation, and also 70 per cent up to £33 valuation.

Did the Deputy say 70 per cent up to £33 valuation?

On a sliding scale up to £33.

There is nothing at all after £20. The first £20 is free; that is all.

The first £20, but on a sliding scale thereafter.

There is no sliding scale; it is £20 valuation and nothing after that.

I think Deputy Tully had better ask a question about that. We are led to believe it is on a sliding scale up to £33.

There is just one other matter on which I should like to comment. I do not want to mention the NFA but I was particularly perturbed by the emphasis laid on this matter by Deputy L'Estrange when he spoke here at length about the whole procedure between the Minister and the NFA, their march, what they hoped to achieve, and what the Government had done against them. It is not my policy— and I hope no other Member on this side of the House would adopt such a policy—to bring these things up. As Deputies, it is our duty to try to solve the ills of the general public. The NFA are no exception and it is our duty to try to help, in whatever way we can, to resolve the disagreement between the NFA and the Government. We are all members of the Government Party and I for one would not back out in taking the rap for what the Government have done. As a member of the Government Party, I am prepared to stand by what has happened. It is very bad policy for any members of the Fine Gael or Labour Parties to refer constantly to these matters, hoping in their hearts to try to solve them, to refer to them and open up old sores.

There is one very disturbing feature about the whole thing. During the NFA demonstrations—the NFA wives were demonstrating also—but I felt very perturbed about one placard I saw which read—"We are NFA; not IRA". I do not see what discredit it was to have been a member of the IRA and I do not see why the NFA should so compare themselves with the IRA. When they go so far, one begins to lose sympathy for them. I do not know whether the general public would accept it in the same way or whether they even saw this particular placard, but if this is the attitude of the NFA, I do not think they will earn much esteem. I would appeal to them in particular to refrain from this kind of slogan, to try to come down to earth and appreciate the fact that Government policy has to be implemented, that taxpayers' money is being utilised to do so and that whatever facilities have been given to the agricultural community were given generally through the endeavour of the agricultural community and of the taxpayers and were not due particularly to the fact that the NFA intervened on behalf of the farmer.

I should like to compliment the Minister again in relation to the glasshouse grant. This a great boost to a country such as ours where we cannot depend solely on the elements for our agricultural production. If the grant which he has given is properly availed of—and from the figures produced it seems that many people are availing of it at the moment—it will be very beneficial. We must also face the problem of getting rid of a surplus of tomatoes. I should like to see the Minister stepping in and doing something, if he can, to promote the export of our tomatoes and to try to find markets abroad or in the North. This grant which the Minister has given should be a tremendous incentive to tomato producers and other hothouse producers in the future.

I should like to say one more thing, that is, on behalf of the agricultural worker. The agricultural worker at present is not getting what we would commonly call a fair deal because of the fact that he is not on the same comparable lines as the industrial worker. Perhaps it is too much to say that the agricultural worker should be paid the same amount of money as the industrial worker but an effort should be made to ensure that the agricultural worker can be compared in some way with the industrial worker. His wages are considerably less. He gets no pension whatsoever except a State pension. To my mind, the agricultural worker has to work much harder. He has to be a very skilled man in present day farming with the mechanisation which has come about. It is necessary for an agricultural worker, irrespective of who he is or where he is, to be able to drive a tractor, possibly a combine, a bailer and to know how to deal with all modern machinery. Some of the modern machinery takes a considerable amount of operating. With some of them, you even get a graph to work out the seeding rate. It should be noted that the agricultural worker is as capable as, if not more capable, in present day work than the industrial worker.

Having studied the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture for 1967-68, I notice that Deputy Foley at the end of his speech referred to the situation regarding the NFA. I naturally intended to refer to it. This is the first opportunity I have got to do so. It is natural that I should refer to it as a Deputy from Carlow-Kilkenny. I noticed that the previous Deputy mentioned that it was the duty of the Government to solve the ills of the farmers and at the outset I want to say that if Deputy Foley is sincere in that, I think the Government and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, who I am very sorry to see is not here very long during this debate on agriculture——

I have explained the position about three or four times— the Minister intends no discourtesy to the House and would, indeed, be here, were it not for the fact he has other important business to attend to. The Deputy should appreciate that this is likely to crop up more often than in an ordinary year.

So long as I feel that the Minister is trying to settle the ills of the farming community, I shall be quite happy not to see him here. However, before we go deeply into this Estimate and these figures which are quite interesting, I want to say that over 12 months ago when a particular section of the farming community who had a grievance and paraded outside this House, we saw what happened. They were arrested and were jailed just as has happened today. At a certain time when there were two by-elections pending, certain arrangements were made and those who had been jailed were released. Just because we were facing two by-elections, the present Government saw fit at that stage to take a different line of action.

I shall not go back over the past 12 months. I know the problems of the farming community. I am not a farmer but I am from an agricultural county. I know the plight of the farmers with rising rates and a rising cost of living and no increase in the price of cattle. Even up to today we see the price of cattle still dropping. I remember when the previous Minister spoke on the British Trade Agreement in this House, I am on record as saying that I hoped that what the then Minister said was true because if it was, by the end of that year every farmer in this country would expect to be a millionaire.

We have seen what has happened. We have had falling prices for cattle. We have listened in this House to the previous Minister make on a certain occasion an announcement of his arrangements for the export of cattle to Germany. I have not got the exact figure but I think it was 2,000 or 2,500 head of cattle. I wonder where are those cattle that were to be exported.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 13th June, 1967.