Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Dec 1968

Vol. 237 No. 14

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

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a sum not exceeding £49,197,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1969, 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.)

When the House adjourned last night I was discussing certain proposals of the Minister to help mountain sheep farmers. I said there were extra grants for fencing also for re-seeding and I spoke about the extra subsidy for mountain lambs which has been increased from 10/- to £1. This was news which was very welcome by the people concerned. During 1968, mountain sheep made record prices. There can be no denying that. The only fault such farmers could find was with the price of wool which dropped considerably, but this is governed by the world market and there is not much we can do about it.

I come from an area adjacent to the Cork and Kerry hills and we have a number of such farmers. I had the great pleasure of helping them to form their own organisation. The Parliamentary Secretary, the late Deputy Davern, came down to Millstreet to meet them. They had been anxious to find out how schemes affecting them worked and the Parliamentary Secretary came to speak and to listen to them. It is sad now to think that that man is not with us— a young, energetic man. He is a great loss not only to our Party but to the country. His readiness to come down to meet those people is the complete answer to the allegation that nobody in the Department will meet the farmers. We had a full, frank discussion at that meeting and the Parliamentary Secretary took away with him a lot of knowledge as a result of which the schemes will work better. One matter which came up at that meeting was the problem that before the subsidy can be paid on lambs, the animals must be ear-marked and all that. Prior to then, the venues were arranged very often many miles apart and at that meeting the suggestion was made that the lambs should be marked at each dipping centre. This was sensible because at those centres there are facilities for rounding up the animals and they can be caught easily.

There is the matter of Cork Marts taking over International Meat Packers. Cork Marts are one of the best group of marts. From a very small beginning they have grown from strength to strength and are a very progressive outfit, so progressive that they have undertaken, on a large scale, sale promotion of store cattle throughout England. This has been a great success and I wish them further success in their new venture which has my personal support and I hope that all those others who have spoken about it will have their names added to the list of shareholders. It is only right and proper that producers should have some say in regard to marketing.

As we all know, 1968 has been a record year for beet. The output per acre will represent a record. Beet growing was not always popular. Many years ago a great effort had to be made to get beet grown. Now it is grown on a large scale. We are producing too much sugar this year and, therefore, can expect that the acreage will be reduced next year.

Some time ago the beetgrowers elections were held. In each of the four factory areas the growers elected 15 members and from the 60 members thus elected formed the BGA Council of 20 members. I was at the Mallow count. If the system adopted were adopted in a general election there would be chaos. None of the candidates—I am referring to those who were elected and those who were not elected—were allowed to see the ballot boxes being opened or the seal being broken or the votes being counted. The result as read out by the returning officer had to be accepted. You could like it or lump it. This is bad procedure. It would satisfy everybody if there were someone to examine the boxes or to ensure that the seal had not been broken and that votes were counted in a proper manner. Everybody would have been satisfied if each candidate had been entitled to nominate one person to carry out this supervision. I hope that in future elections votes will not be counted with such secrecy.

The 60 men elected selected 20 of their number to form the BGA Council but it now transpires that two others have been added to the council. Formerly, the BGA had the right to nominate two members on the NFA grain committee and, likewise, the NFA had the right to nominate two members on the BGA malting barley committee. The position now is that two men have been added to the council whose names did not appear on the ballot paper in the election. In the case of one of these men his name had appeared on the ballot paper three times in the past but he failed to be elected. He was rejected on each occasion by the growers. He is now on the BGA Council although not elected by the growers. A statement should be issued to satisfy the growers. Many more may be added without the growers being consulted. What was the point in having an election if two or three can be added afterwards, at will, from some other organisation? The two men who were added are not very small farmers. They have the right to attend meetings of the BGA Council and must be notified of such meetings and have the right to speak at the meetings, although not elected by the growers. It will ruin the organisation if people can come into it without being democratically elected.

We heard a great deal of plain talk that farmers should vote for farmers and not for politicians and so on but, the farmers having voted for each other, two men were added without the growers having any say in the matter whatsoever. Views were expressed in the press and statements were made that the old BGA Council had misappropriated money in one way or another. I should like to know how the expenses of these two new members will be met? Will the growers be asked to pay the expenses they incur in travelling to and from meetings or will another organisation pay their expenses for attendance at BGA Council meetings? This is a very serious matter and I hope the BGA will make an early statement on it.

How is it serious?

It would be very serious if the Dáil were elected and two Members were appointed whose names were not on the ballot paper. I know that the Deputy does not grow beet. The growers are entitled to elect 60 members. Now there are 62.

Are not most of the people who were elected to the other House people who were rejected by the populace? I know as much about beet as Deputy Meaney does.

The Deputy knows how to stir the sugar. One of these men was rejected by the beetgrowers on three different occasions.

There are Members of the Oireachtas who have been rejected on three different occasions by the people.

There are, but they are not entitled to come in the back door. There is a front door and a back door. There is a proper method.

The wheat yield in 1968 has also been a record. There is a surplus of wheat for our own needs. The Minister intends to make certain changes in the coming year. Obviously, he is anxious that there should not be too much wheat grown but that more barley would be produced. It is clearly desirable that the barley acreage should be increased. In this way imports of grain could be cut as we could use more barley here at home. The fact has often been stated that we can buy wheat on the world market much cheaper than we can produce it at home. If we had adopted that policy our balance of payments would be affected. The Fianna Fáil Party has always advocated wheat growing. The people opposite have not. At one time a member of the Fine Gael Party said that he would not be seen dead in a field of wheat. I am glad that the farmers have responded and have grown sufficient wheat to meet our own needs and that we are able to use more homegrown wheat in the loaf than ever before.

I am glad to see that pig production is on the upgrade. The number of sows and pigs has increased during the last 12 months. Of course, smuggling across the Border continues and is very difficult to prevent. No matter how well the Border may be protected, there are so many unapproved roads that a certain number will come in. The point is that the smuggling of pigs upsets the home trade. The Minister has now suggested to the Pigs and Bacon Commission that there should be a reduction in the weight at which pigs are killed. This will probably reduced the income of pig fatteners but it is the only way to combat smuggling.

This year has also seen an increase in the number of grants paid out for farrowed sows, piggeries, and so on. Fattening of pigs by feeding whey and mixed rations should be encouraged, rather than meal ration exclusively. By this means the cost of fattening can be reduced, in some cases by £2 a head. This is something that I will be asking the Department to pay special attention to. They should develop fattening by means of whey and investigate means of storing whey. Experiments are being carried out which I hope will be successful and will have the encouragement of the Department.

At the moment there is some uneasiness about the availability of shipping for stores and cattle generally to England. One often reads in the newspapers that at a moment's notice a ship has been taken off the service and I would ask the Minister and his Department to keep an eye on this matter in order to ensure that sufficient shipping space will be available for normal shipping requirements.

We have been lucky that to date we have escaped the foot and mouth disease epidemic which scourged England not so long ago and thanks are due to the Minister, his Department and the farmers for co-operating in the measures that were taken to prevent the disease. However, we must still be on our guard because this is a disease that could hit us at any time and if we experienced it we could lose the American market, something which we could ill afford to lose because it is increasing. If we had just one case of foot and mouth disease we would lose that market for three years. The Department are aware of this and I would ask them to be very strict in regard to the enforcing of the regulations. They should have no mercy on anyone who contravenes the regulations.

In recent times members of the Opposition have been attacking the Minister quite a lot saying that he is arrogant or one thing or another and that he does not want to meet the farmers and talk to them. We all know that, unfortunately, the position has arisen between some farmers' organisations and the Minister that there is no dialogue or meeting between them while others seem to have no difficulty in this regard. It is a pity that members of the Opposition have gone out of their way to see that there will be no improvement in this situation. This is an attitude that I deplore; it is something which should not happen because it is the duty of everybody here to help in this matter and to have normal dialogue, normal relations between the Minister and the farmers' organisations. Of course, we have various members of the Opposition, especially of Fine Gael, throwing the usual mud. We have had Deputy L'Estrange accusing the Minister of doing all kinds of wrong things. I would say to Deputy L'Estrange or anyone like him that they should always think of the farmers. I am referring particularly to people who have land to sell and who do their best to sell it outside the Land Commission. It is Deputy L'Estrange's glee that he got good money for his farm when he sold it to a foreigner. I think, however, that anybody who has land to sell should have the courage to sell it to Irish nationals. The people who sell land to foreigners are those who at by-election times will bemoan the present policy of the Minister.

We all know where Fianna Fáil stand in regard to agriculture. Their policy is that it should be subsidised, that milk should be subsidised. Fine Gael, however, in their policy doubt the wisdom of subsidising milk and at the last Fine Gael Ard-Fheis their Leader stated that we spent about £6 per head for every man, woman and child on the subsidisation of milk production and to supply the British housewife with butter at an absolutely uneconomic price. I would ask their Leader what would they do? Would they withdraw the subsidies? If they did they would certainly widen the gap between the income of people engaged in industry and those engaged in agriculture. When he was addressing the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis on 14th May, 1968 the Fine Gael Leader again dwelt on the fact that there was no place left in Europe now except for the big 400-cow farmer. The silence of his backbenchers at this statement was amazing, those who are always crying out for the small farmer, yet not a murmur was heard from them on that occasion. That is now the Fine Gael policy.

We have a different policy. The Minister has introduced something for which I have always been fighting, a two-tier price system. The small farmer cannot survive without being heavily subsidised and all our efforts should be directed to making as many small farms as possible economic units. This Government have been doing that and they have increased the piggeries grants, the farm grants and so on. Even if a man has not got a large acreage he can still build up an income within his farmyard.

This year we learned of the death of John Feeley, the President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association. He is a great loss to agriculture in general. He was the man who really represented the small farmer. He was a man who did service in the troubled times and farmers are much poorer for his passing. In conclusion, I wish the Minister well in his forthcoming visit to London. We know that he will have a tough job there and will probably have tough bargaining, but we can feel confident that we are sending the right man who will not let us down. Despite all the cries of the Opposition that the Minister should resign and so on we in Fianna Fáil are very proud to have him as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. We hope that he will be with us for a long time and we wish him every success in the years to come as the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in a Fianna Fáil Cabinet.

If a visitor were to take a seat in the Gallery now or if he had happened to enter the Gallery at 10.30 this morning what would his impression be? He would look down and he would see no member of the Government present and only a few Fianna Fáil Deputies and he would come to the obvious conclusion that we must be dealing with some unimportant, routine business because so little interest was displayed in it. It certainly would not enter his mind that the discussion taking place was on our major industry. You can rest assured that he would not think that the industry about which there has been so much uneasiness and in which there has been so much unrest during the past 12 months was now, for one day, being discussed when the responsible Minister was absent and no other Minister present except a junior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

That is disgraceful.

It is not. It is a statement of fact.

The spokesman for your Party apologised for your absence yesterday. This is a two-day debate. Where were you yesterday?


Where is the Minister?

Deputy Tully apologised for your absence yesterday.


The Deputy is entitled to refer to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

If these porceedings were being televised today——

You would have been up yesterday.

The debate commenced yesterday evening and it is concluding this evening at 9.15 p.m., according to the Taoiseach's statement and the debate will have lasted for a little more than a day. That is the time given to discussing our most important industry in this House. The time is so limited that we have not got a Minister present. What is wrong with saying that? Only the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Lalor, is here to represent the Government.

You have no one on your benches.

The Whips had to agree on it. The Deputy's Party has its Whips as well.

You are outnumbered five to one by the Government side.

The attitude of the Government to this discussion is a gross reflection on this House and the views that are expressed here, when we have not had the courtesy of a member of the Government present for this debate. Who is codding who? Does everybody not know that in connection with such a vital industry any suggestions that are to be made are likely to be made at Taca dinners or somewhere else and that the views of the elected representatives of the people are not listened to here?

We need a radical change in relation to debating agriculture. Not only should we debate it in detail once a year on the general Estimate but we should have a sub-committee appointed here representing all Parties in this House to discuss agriculture periodically. The progress of this industry interests everybody, not only the farmer, the man in the rural area, but the man here in Dublin city. Agriculture needs a great deal of assistance to keep going and that assistance is given to it by all sections of the people. Therefore, it is not true to say that it is only farmers who should be interested in the debate on agriculture or in agricultural development. Everybody has a greater interest in this industry than in any other. All the taxpayers who have to contribute towards the subventions which it is proposed to make to this industry have an interest in it. The procedures of this House should be changed, and the place to make a start is in this industry.

It would not be in order to discuss any procedural changes on the Estimate.

What I am maintaining here is that we should have a sub-committee of this House representing all Parties which would sit regularly and discuss the various aspects of agriculture, particularly the fluctuations in the industry that would arise over the year. In this debate we are confined—or those of us who will manage to be accommodated in this relatively short debate—to discussing agriculture for a matter of 13 or 14 hours, and it is unlikely, unless something unforeseen arises, that we shall have another discussion on agriculture save at Question Time, and everyone knows the limitations of discussing any subject at Question Time. Is that the way to treat agriculture? I say "No", and we in the Labour Party are convinced that radical changes are necessary in relation to this industry, and in relation to the procedure of this House. I shall not deal further with the second question in view of your statement, Sir, that it is not relevant to a debate on agriculture.

I want to labour this point about the sub-committee a little longer—and I am mindful of the fact that in this debate time is very precious, and I do not want it to stand in the way of other Members who may wish to contribute to this discussion later in the evening. This annual discussion here contributes very little towards the development of agriculture, particularly when so little attention is paid to it by the Government, which as I have already stated at the outset of my statement is self-evident. If we want to see agriculture developing as our main industry we should have established here this sub-committee that would meet periodically, say, monthly, to discuss in an informal way the pros and cons of agriculture then obtaining, and make representations to the Minister and to the Government.

I have already pointed out to Deputy Murphy that the question of setting up a sub-committee does not arise on the Estimate for Agriculture.

With due respect to your ruling——

Is the Deputy suggesting an inter-Party NAC?

The Parliamentary Secretary ought not to mention the NAC.

Is the present NAC non-political?

I think the Deputy agreed with my ruling; at least he started to do so.

In the course of the Minister's statement there is reference to the necessity to set up groups to examine agricultural matters and to make recommendations.

Yes. In the course of this statement the Minister has mentioned the setting up of groups, that he is awaiting a report from one group and that another group has made a report which is under examination. That is contained within this document. I am very sorry I am not able just to lay my finger on it at the present time, so that possibly, had the Chair known of the Minister's reference to the establishment of such groups he would have not ruled adversely on my suggestion that a group of Members of the House would be more conductive to formulating recommendations than a group of civil servants, members of Taca, or any other bodies. That is the relevance of my statement here.

I am not reflecting on civil servants at all. I believe that the elected representatives of this House who meet agriculturalists from day to day are in a much better position to make representations than any group of people across the road here in Merrion Square who are confined to their offices for 11 months of the year, leaving out the month they are at the seaside. That is not a reflection on these people.

Of course, it is.

They are doing the job they are asked to do, but, in my opinion, the job could be done better by representatives of the Party here, and then we would be on the road towards developing agriculture and seeing that the £57 million the Dáil has been asked to approve in this Estimate will be employed to the best advantage. Somewhere in the Minister's statement there is a reference, and rightly so, to ensuring that this money is put to the best use. Are the representatives of the people here not better judges in formulating plans than people who, by virtue of their positions, are far removed from the practical side of farming? Sub-committees are nothing new. Deputy Esmonde who spoke here last night, and who is a regular contributor to debates on agricultural patterns, is a member of the sub-committee of the Council of Europe, so the Council of Europe has a sub-committee as also have local authorities, county councils and corporations. Why can Dáil Éireann not have a sub-committee? Why not, in particular, have a sub-committee to make recommendations on agricultural matters?

The Deputy has already referred to this matter six times.

Farm organisations say that politicians should stay out of it.

I wish to say, in case we would ever lose sight of it, that everybody should have an interest in agricultural development because to some extent, agriculture has a bearing on the life of everyone. Does the Parliamentary Secretary deny this?

No, I agree.

Deputy Dowling over there who is a city Deputy is just as much entitled to make a contribution to the debate as any rural Member.

I am glad to hear the Deputy say that because I have heard Deputies on his side of the House say that city Deputies are not entitled to speak on it. Deputy Tully said that we should not have sub-committees or commissions.

I was not listening to what Deputy Tully said but I am sure he said that we should not have a commission of the type that we had in the past year. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the NAC; otherwise I would not have referred to it at all. The NAC is slowly fading away and is dying a rather peaceful death.

Is the Deputy suggesting a new one?

We do not like to speak ill of the dead but I am sure that could be applied also to the dying and I do not like reminding the Parliamentary Secretary of what the Minister had to say last year about the NAC when he said that it was a healthy, vigorous body; that it was doing outstanding work in forwarding farming interests and he said that we should all look with anticipation to what would be the position in 12 months time when that body would have left its mark on agriculture. However, this healthy, vigorous body lost itself rather suddenly and has steadily declined as if it were suffering from some kind of a disastrous ailment. Now, I understand that it is actually dead or, as I said earlier, just fading out.

In making this statement on the NAC, I must make it clear that I am in favour of a council of this type but not a council of the same composition as this one. What was wrong with the NAC Council was that it was overloaded with politicians of a one-sided view and, irrespective of their integrity — and I am not questioning that—it did not come over well to the general public.

Deputy Corry would take me to task if I were to reflect in any way on such an outstanding former Member of this House as Mr. P.D. Lehane of Cork who has been and still is associated with farming associations and farming development. Why I refer to him is to make it clear that I am not reflecting on the personnel of the council but I am reflecting on the system under which this board was established. The board was dominated by the Minister. It did not have the confidence of the people.

We have various documents here and I appreciate one particular document that I have concerning the main activities of the Department. This document is a very useful one and I compliment those who compiled it. It is a great advantage to us to get a memorandum of this kind. We get it from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and from the Department of Transport and Power and, perhaps, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government will have a look at the document and send us one from his Department because we need it badly.

We shall have to send it because the Deputy will not be here anyway.

The dairying industry is the main industry to be discussed. The changes which are envisaged in that industry could be termed revolutionary. I had occasion to refer briefly to one of the main changes in the course of a debate here recently on the mini-Budget. I refer to the changeover from milk and milk production to what is termed "the beef incentive scheme". The farmer the Government want at present does not bother taking his milk to the creamery but lets the calves milk the cows. He is the man who is considered as a new type of patriot—one who is providing cattle for export, thereby helping the balance of payments without any cost to the Exchequer by way of subvention. However, I remember when that type of farmer was derided and when we had accusations from the Government side to the effect that his land should be taken from him and that he should be removed from the agricultural scene. Now, the wheel has turned and this beef incentive scheme is to encourage farmers at present engaged in the production of milk to change over to the system envisaged by the scheme and, instead of the farmer milking the cows, they will be milked by the calves.

I appreciate that milk production and the selling of milk products is a problem but down through the years one would not need to have had great foresight or be termed a prophet in any way, to foresee the difficulties that would be brought about. In 1964 we embarked on the calved-heifer scheme and I know it is an advantage with a scheme of this kind to have hindsight rather than foresight. I think it is agreed it is responsible for this upper trend in milk production, particularly in north Leinster, Connacht and, I think to some extent, although I am not too conversant with the situation there, in Ulster.

The dairying industry was confined, to a large extent, to the southern part of this country. We sold our calves to people in the midlands and everybody was happy and, so far as subsidising milk is concerned, the need did not arise to any great extent. I remember a time when the milk subsidy was, I am sure, less than £2 million annually.

Did we make a mistake? Was this calved heifer scheme soundly based, having regard to what has happened? During the past four or five years, we have seen slumps in the price of calves and in store cattle periodically. Was that due to the fact that our friends in the midlands and north Leinster regions had their own herds by virtue of participating in the scheme and that the actual financial benefits which were got from the scheme, and which are indicated here in the report, were not commensurate with the disadvantages that flowed from the scheme? It can be and will be said that it has increased our cow population and that, in order to have increased meat, whether on the hoof or processed, for export, we need cows.

Why did we not think about a beef incentive scheme five years ago when we thought of the calved heifer scheme? If we had a beef incentive scheme at that time I think the position, so far as the taxpayer is concerned—the man who has to find the money for the subventions asked for in this Estimate—would be much brighter. Our milk production would not have reached the heights it has reached. We must pay the people proper prices for the milk because the farmers are responding to Government demands to increase production. However, were these demands wise and justified? It would be too much to ask that the Minister and his advisers or that the Government would say: "We made a mistake. Instead of this calved heifer scheme in 1964 we should have thought of a beef incentive scheme". In our view, the Minister and senior executives of the day regard themselves as infallible and would not be expected to own up to any blunders.

Now, we are told by the Taoiseach that this milk problem is a terrible headache. He told us it will cost us 1/1d to sell the products of each gallon supplied to creameries. That statement, to a large extent, is repeated by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. I do not want to go into further detail but I claim that the Government are responsible to a large extent for this blundering system that obtains at present. I claim that their short-sightedness and their short-term planning is mainly responsible for that position. We now have our farmers with their milk parlours geared for increasing production year after year and producing a commodity which, in the words of the Taoiseach some time ago and of the Minister yesterday, cannot be sold except at a substantial loss.

I welcome the beef incentive scheme. We are forced to introduce it even though it may be said that such a scheme is unlikely to provide additional agricultural employment. However, I see no alternative. I remember a time when, down in my part of the country, a beef bull would not be looked at. The emphasis was on milk —the friesian, the shorthorn or some bull from a mixed strain. Now the position is reversed. We do not want any more bulls of that type: we want beef bulls. We have got very mixed up in our priorities so far as this industry is concerned. Our top priority four or five years ago was to increase milk production. That was a mistake. If that industry were left to the Munster farmers—I am not looking for any special treatment for them—and if the Leinster and the Connacht people and those in Ulster carried on as they are, then the agricultural situation would be brighter and happier than it is today.

I have stated here on numerous occasions that the small farming problem is very difficult. It gets a great deal of lip service in the course of this debate annually and not a whole lot more during the remainder of the year. I appreciate that it is very difficult to turn bad land into good land. We are trying to do that in some cases under the land rehabilitation scheme, meeting with limited success. We have a great deal of rocky, mountainous land and we cannot just wave a magic wand and turn it into high productivity.

The sooner we accept that we have a large percentage of uneconomic holdings—which are likely to remain so— the sooner we shall make some beginning in helping the development of smallholders. Unless we are to weed out numbers and transfer their lands to their neighbours, unless we adopt that policy, which some people think we should adopt, of the Land Commission buying up as many farms as possible and neighbours buying land from their neighbours—unless we accept that that is the proper way to deal with the smallholders—we must come to the conclusion that small farming should be only a part-time occupation and we must try to provide some additional industrial activity, within his area, to help the small farmer to supplement his inadequate income from the small farm.

In some parts of the country—particularly down in south-west Cork— some farmers have found an outlet, which has no direct connection with agriculture, namely, the farm holiday scheme. Many farmers who let their houses or portion of their dwellings during the past summer seasons got great demand, particularly from continentals and English people. That scheme has got off to a great start in West Cork. I believe it will help at least a sizeable percentage of farmers to supplement their farm income and thereby enable them to make a living from their holding plus the additional income accruing from the other industry. If the Minister were present, of course, I should be asking him to bring forward, at Government level, the necessity to make grants available to farmers who engage in this scheme to extend their houses in order that they will be in a position to keep more visitors during the summer season.

Farming sidelines are important. Pig production is very important. There was a time when a great many farmers and many cottiers kept pigs, the farmers in large numbers and the cottiers in small numbers. There has been a rather peculiar evolution in the pig industry. Despite pronouncements by the Minister and by various associations from time to time, the pig industry is not improving. There was a big decline in 1966-67. At the moment it is showing an upward trend; there has been an increase of five or six per cent in numbers. We are told that the industry moves in cycles. If that is correct it is not unreasonable to assume that a downward trend will set in again in the not too distant future. Why are farmers not keeping more pigs? I think the answer is because they are not getting a reasonable return. If pig production were profitable it would not be necessary for anybody to talk about the advisability of keeping pigs in order to keep our factories going and our men in employment in the pig processing industry. Despite improvements in price over the last few years numbers are not increasing and the only conclusion one can come to is that the increased costs in the price of feeding stuffs, plus other incidental expenses, outweigh the actual improvements in pig prices.

I would stress the advisability of keeping the pig industry confined as much as possible to smallholders. Pig rearing should afford a smallholder an opportunity of supplementing his income. The Government, however, seem to have lost faith in the possibility of smallholders supplying pigs in the quantities demanded because the latest trend is to establish fattening stations—pig house is obselete—which will take more than 3,000 pigs at a time. What will happen? The pigs will go, as has been repeated so often here, where the hens have gone. If this trend continues pig production in the not too distant future will be confined to the big fattening stations in the same way as the poultry industry is now confined to a limited number who produce poultry and eggs not in tens or hundreds but in thousands, thereby ensuring that only relatively few people will benefit.

Incentives have been given but, despite these incentives, we are not achieving the objectives we set before ourselves. It is, indeed, difficult to understand why we have not been able to take our bacon quota on the British market. When the quota was established we were agitating for a sharp increase in the quota; we thought it was too small. We were afraid we would have a great deal of bacon left on our hands. It is vitally important to have certain industries developed in rural Ireland side by side with pig production. There must be processing plants for the produce. I have time and time again stressed the necessity for the establishment of processing plants. We have a processing plant in Skibbereen for horticultural produce. It is very successful. It provides farmers with an opportunity of supplementing their incomes. It provides employment both in the growing of the crops and in the industry itself, useful and gainful employment for men and women. The prospects for the industry are much brighter today than they were when we were discussing the Estimate for Agriculture in 1967. The position from the point of view of the marketing of frozen foods is good. We hope it will continue that way. There are also processing plants in East Cork, in Mallow and in Midleton and in Deputy Corry's area. Deputy Corry, indeed, deserves a word of commendation. He was very keen on this policy of establishing processing industries. It is a sound policy. It is a policy which is now bearing fruit. Even outside his own particular area Deputy Corry has given a great deal of assistance. He helped to get the Skibbereen plant off the ground. I like to give credit where credit is due.

I should like now to deal briefly with the desirability of increasing the subsidy to islanders engaged in butter production to make such production a reasonably economic project. That scheme was approved by Deputy Haughey when he was Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. It was a scheme for which I had been agitating for a number of years and I was very grateful when Deputy Haughey, as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, acceded to my request and introduced that much-needed incentive. It has worked very well. The cost is quite insignificant. As there has been no change in the subvention since the scheme was originated, I should like to say to the Department that the time for a change is at hand.

The Deputy is back again for a little more.

The amount given in the first instance was reasonably generous. It was accepted by all the people without demur. They were satisfied that the Minister had met the situation in a reasonable way. He sent down a figure of 1/6d in the £ which was considered fair and reasonable. If we get a little more we would take it.

The problems of small farmers have been referred to in the memorandum submitted to Members of the House by the Chairman of the National Farmers Association. It is a rather lengthy document but it is one that deserves some consideration. We must recognise the right of associations like the NFA and the creamery milk suppliers to a voice in the formulation of agricultural policy. In this Party we have stressed this, amongst other things. Our agricultural document is, indeed, very substantial and very bulky, and if I were to quote from it at length, and to elaborate on it, it would take more time than I am entitled to, in view of the limitation on the debate.

The Deputy has not got it in book form yet?

I will confine myself to commenting on this document. A suggestion is thrown out here so far as small farmers are concerned about which I have been thinking for a long time. I know it was one that was not likely to catch on too easily, but I am pleased to note that the chairman of the NFA has thrown it out for consideration. It has to do with group farming. It is accepted that smallholdings on their own are not economic. It is also accepted that additional incomes are required from outside sources such as farm holiday schemes or small farmers working in some industrial projects in the area, afforestation or some other schemes.

We should think about group farming. It does not, if you like, do away to any great extent with the independence of individual farmers. If ten or twelve smallholders join together in working their farms they can alter the farm structure completely. They can alter the system of farming and possibly get the work done in a much shorter time, and get it done more efficiently. This is one way we see whereby farmers could have weekly hours of work, the same as other sections of the community. At present, by virtue of the type of work involved farmers, and particularly small farmers who work their farms on their own, have a full time job, seven days of the week. They must be there to milk the cows on Sunday as well as Monday. In group farming that would not be necessary and the work on Sundays and other days could be rotated. This would be a radical change and a radical suggestion, but I think it is worth examining.

It has been suggested against this that in the case of nine or ten farmers their working capacity would differ and the size of their present holdings would differ possibly in some respects. It has been asked how could they come together and agree on the sharing of the profits. I believe it is possible to work these things out.

Is that not the principle of the pig fattening stations the Deputy was condemning a few moments ago?

Not at all. The Parliamentary Secretary is not very conversant with this.

The profits go to the farmers.

It is now agreed that accountancy in farming is as essential as it is in any other type of business. Farmers are becoming more book-minded in so far as the keeping of accounts of their activities and the working out of profit and loss are concerned.

It is also pleasing to note that educational standards are improving in other sections of the community, and in the farming community as well. Young farmers today are likely to view from a different angle many aspects of our farming operations, and they may consider obsolete some of the activities of their fathers and those who went before them. I am not reflecting on those activities but we are living in changing times. There is now no need for a man to follow a horse and plough, or two horses and a plough. We are advancing in the provision of mechanical equipment for almost all farming activities so that the operational side of farming has changed, and changed very much.

I do not want to labour this point further but I am pleased that Mr. Maher has thrown out this suggestion and I think it is one which should be examined. The Labour Party are favourably disposed towards trying to formulate such a scheme and I am sure that our views are similar to the views of the chairman of the NFA. We envisage a scheme covering people who are willing participants. There is no question of forcing anyone into such a scheme but, by pointing out the advantages, and by giving the farmers detailed information of those advantages, we think it is possible to get groups to join together on a voluntary basis to help themselves and to help the country.

It is not unusual for me to refer to our trading with the EEC in the debates that arise here from time to time because the former Taoiseach, Deputy Lemass, and the present Taoiseach as well, held out hopes from time to time of the bright future for all sections that lay before us when we entered this kind of heaven of a community of the Six European countries.

The prospects at the present time are no brighter than they were when Deputy Lemass as Head of the Government first mentioned them in the House. Judging from what has happened, it is reasonable to assume that if we become members of this community it will not be in the immediate future. I have stressed in the course of previous debates that we should try to make better bargains with the EEC as it stands. Why have we this adverse trading balance. We have had a few explanations, not in any detail, given us by one Minister this year. Our balances this year follow the usual pattern. We buy £2 worth of goods from EEC countries for every £1 worth we sell them. Could those whom we pay to represent us abroad not do any better?

In actual fact the trend is the same this year again. We sold £23.7 million worth of goods of one kind or another to the EEC countries and we bought £46.9 million worth of goods. We actually buy £2 worth for every £1 worth we sell. Why an adverse balance of £22.9 million? I notice a feature of this and I do not think I am going outside the debate in referring to it. I am quoting from the Notes of the Main Activities of the Department for the current year sent to us by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, so it is entirely relevant to the debate. I would prefer if a member of the Government had the courtesy to be present while the Dáil was debating this Estimate so that I could ask him why should we buy £24.6 million worth of goods from West Germany and sell them goods to the value of only £6.7 million. We have an adverse trade balance with West Germany for 1967 of £17.9 million. Why should that position exist having regard to the fact that £17.9 million represents almost three times the value of the goods we exported to that country?

We as Members of this House require explanations for things such as this. We are asked about them by our citizens. Anybody who reads this is likely to come along to any Member of this House, as people do, to get an explanation. We in turn are supposed to have full details from the appropriate Ministers or from governmental statements. Why is this system of trading continuing? We are a relatively small country and having an adverse balance of £22.9 million with the EEC indicates that so far as The Six are concerned, at the present time we are not benefiting from our association with them.

On exports and imports, in the Minister's statement emphasis is put again and again on the importance of the British market. He has stressed in almost every page of that document the importance of the British market. I am glad everyone is realising that the British market is so important. Appendix VI of the Notes on the Main Activities of the Department for 1968-69 states that exports were £200.2 million in 1967 and our imports were £196 million, so that Britain is the country where our trading seems to measure up, where they buy from us as much as we sell them. I believe that, unless we cannot get the type of goods we buy from such countries in other markets, we should insist if at all possible on countries where we buy certain commodities taking commodities we have in excess, and for export.

I do not want to delay very long on this question. It is clearly recognised now that the Labour Party in pointing out a few years ago in the course of debates in this House the shortcomings of the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement have been proved correct. We do not take any pride or joy in being proved correct. We warned the Government all the time that this Agreement needed further discussion. It needed much closer attention and we said that it was completely out of place when a few days after Christmas this House sat on Little Christmas Day, which never happened since the establishment of the State, to discuss the terms of this Agreement. It was a hurried document and hurried documents are not produced in the best way. Unfortunately, we know that is the case in so far as this particular document is concerned.

We had to face unfair criticism when the deposit charges were imposed by the British Government on Irish goods. We were told—I forget the exact quotation—that there were defects in this Agreement, that it needed improvement and that it should be remedied if possible. The Taoiseach as Head of the State went to Britain and got little or no satisfaction. I claim he did not get satisfaction because this hurried Agreement enabled Britain to act as she did in imposing the deposit charges and they were legally entitled to do so.

That is the kind of legislation we pass in this House in a hurried fashion, as we did in the case of the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement. It is only right that we from the Labour benches should again record that our observations on that measure at the time were quite correct and justified. I am labouring this point now because Labour were accused, particularly by Fianna Fáil, of trying to sabotage the efforts being made by them towards having better and more productive trading relations with Britain. I hope that, as a result of the visit of our senior officials over the past few days to Britain, something has been won for us and something has been salvaged; but having no statement on the outcome, so far, from the Government we are not in a position to know what has happened. We can only hope for the best. It behoves us in negotiating agreements with other countries in the future to be more careful than we were when we drew up the terms of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement.

We have had what is known as a bumper harvest this year so far as wheat is concerned. The Minister said that the wheat crop is phenomenal. The year 1968 was a good year for wheat. The weather was favourable and the crop was excellent. The production was higher than expected. Farmers have reaped a record yield of about 35 cwts to the acre. But what has happened? Naturally, we should thank the Almighty that the position was so and that the corn crop was such a success. That is only a reasonable thing to do. But how has it affected the consumer? As a result of this phenomenal harvest why has the consumer to pay more for the loaf of bread? He has to pay much more for the loaf of bread, which has increased by 3d per loaf. The taxpayer has to delve into his pocket and find the extra pence. Is there not something wrong? Are we forcing farmers to grow quantities of this crop for which we have no market? We have to sell our wheat surplus, which is of millable quality this year, for animal feed at a loss of £1 million to the Irish taxpayer.

Why should we be issuing statements asking agricultural organisations to grow wheat when we know that we have only our own market for a limited supply and that any grown in excess of that quantity is going to be an imposition on the taxpaying public, the shopkeeper, civil servants, the farmers themselves, and the working men and women here in Dublin town or in any other part of the country? We are told in the Minister's statement that no one could foresee last year that the wheat acreage would increase to such an extent or that the yield would be so high. Consequently, when the bureaucratic side of the organisation were compiling their statistics, they wrote in a figure of £40,000, I understand, for losses on disposal of wheat. This £40,000 had to be amended and instead of £40,000 in the Book of Estimates you have £1,040,000. The calculations which led to that situation were badly thought out. Do not be fooling with people next year by advising them to produce wheat when only a limited quantity is needed. Many farmers who grew wheat in response to the Government's request this year would have grown barley or some other crop like beet or replaced it by something else that would be just as profitable to them and not be such an impost on the Exchequer.

I would like to mention that the proposal of Cork Marts to acquire a big interest in the meat packing industry is one that is welcomed by the Labour Party. We support the idea and we wish it success. It is a commendable effort. It is a big matter to raise this money and to take over such a big industry but I am sure, judging by the past performances of Cork Marts Ltd., that they will not be overcome by this move which they are making at present and that it, too, will succeed in their hands.

I want at this late stage of my contribution—I was waiting on the Minister's arrival to say this—to repeat with as much emphasis as I can the desirability of processing, so far as is possible, products where they are produced. I want to tell the Minister again that, despite statements made again and again that our bacon factories are not working to their maximum extent at the present time and that some of them are working at little more than one half of their potential output, we in south-west Cork, the area which is foremost in the production of pigs, are not satisfied and will not be satisfied, irrespective of what Government is here, until we have our own factory located in the midst of the area which produces 11 per cent of the pigs.

That is a repetition of the statement I made 12 months ago on this question. Why should we contribute towards adaptation grants for factories in Cork city? There are no pigs produced in Cork city. You would not be allowed to produce a pig within a mile of Cork city. By virtue of the farming activities carried out in the hinterland and in the district contiguous to Cork city, pig production is not carried on to any extent. Why should the factories be located in the one place? Why should grants be given to renew or replace the factories in an area where we were told already that the factories were working at little more than one-half of turnover? Why not build that factory in the area where you would be sure of getting your pigs and where you would be sure of getting a turnover irrespective of what size it would be? I am satisfied you would be assured of getting the numbers required to keep the factories working fully and in the most economical way. As well as helping pig producers in the area it would give us an opportunity of employment for many of our men and women.

There is nothing parochial in this outlook. We have all to judge things on a national basis. We have to be very careful, if we are doing the job we are sent up here to do, to do it also on a constituency basis and on a local basis. As a Deputy from south-west Cork I believe it is imperative that I should make this justifiable claim which has been made by farming groups and voluntary organisations down in the constituency from time to time. It is all very well to be given the excuse that there are many factories in Cork, that the pigs can be fattened down in Schull, Dunmanway, and other places and that if there was a factory there it would keep the Cork factories idle. I do not grudge the Cork factories expansion and improvement so that they can provide additional employment. But we have to live ourselves and, consequently, this case being made against the erection of a pig factory in what is the foremost area for pig-production in the country is not just. We have the tradition there; and undoubtedly the claim to have the processing of pigs there is justifiable. I want to impress that again on this House.

It would be unfair of me to delay the House any longer——

Most unfair.

——in view of the limited time given to this discussion but I want to conclude on the note that I consider it completely out of place that this discussion on our first and main industry should be compressed into such a short time.

This industry affects every person in this country, irrespective of his vocation in life. I consider it wrong that the debate should be compressed into a day or a few hours at the time of the Christmas Recess and that that is the only wideranging discussion to be allowed on agriculture for the next 12 months. That is completely out of place. I want to recommend as forcibly and as vigorously as I can the desirability of making radical changes so far as the discussion of agriculture in this House is concerned. I want to assert that we should have a sub-committee of the House to deal with agriculture. There is no one more entitled to sit on a committee, to advise the Government of the day and the Minister of the day and to help in formulating agricultural policy than the elected representatives of the people. It is not out of place to ask that that should be examined by the Minister and by the Government.

In addition, the Opposition and Government in this country have more or less similar support. If you combine the Opposition Parties and the Government it is 50-50. Instead of making this debate one for scoring political kudos, with the Government trying to pick holes in the policy of the Opposition and the Opposition trying to find fault with Government policy——

You are no bad hand at it.

My appraisal is an objective and a factual appraisal. I do not want kudos. I think that is no way to do business. I believe that more benefits would accrue from sitting around a table with men like my neighbour, Deputy Corry, on a sub-committee. I would not confine the sub-committee to farmers. As I said, I am of the opinion that non-farming interests are entitled to have a hand in farm policy and to ascertain if the money they pay by way of taxation is being used to the best advantage. They could join the group I spoke of. I think such people—and I take Deputy Corry, since he interjected in the debate, as one such person—sitting down around a table and discussing the various subheads would be a much better idea.

I did not take up this book or deal with the various subheads here because to go through the various subheads in detail would take up too much time in a debate like this, but all these subheads could be examined in detail by a committee. I consider that more useful work would flow from that committee than from this debate. That committee would be a much more business-like operation than the type of discussion we have had in the past on this Estimate. That is why I strongly support the formation of such a committee.

In saying that I want to make it clear that I am not taking away from farming organisations in any way. The members of farming organisations, like members of labour organisations, are entitled to get together to form unions or associations to make their case to those who have a function in determining agricultural policy, particularly the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. It is no pleasure to anybody in a relatively small country, with less than 3,000,000 of a population, to see such a division existing among those who are supposed to have the interests of agricultural development at heart. I do not think any person here, irrespective of which side of the House he is on, is pleased that such should be the position. We are small enough and we have problems enough to try to get a better spirit of co-operation in dealing with such an important industry, a better spirit of co-operation between the Government, the Minister and the farming organisations. There is room for the constructive efforts of everybody to develop this industry, to ensure that the people engaged in it get justice and get reasonable incomes and to ensure that the money given to the industry by the tax-paying public is employed in the best way possible.

Deputy Murphy is a rural Deputy like myself and represents people who live and work pretty much like the people I represent. He has gone very thoroughly into this whole question of agriculture and into the Minister's speech. I appreciate that the Minister's speech is useful and also the other document which explains the various activities of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, if one had time to read and study them. I must admit I do not always find the time, in spite of my best efforts. With all the documentation that is flowing today from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, semi-State bodies and other places, it is not always possible to find time to study everything. Deputy Murphy referred to the fact that the Minister was not in the House and he was a bit critical of the number of Deputies in the House this morning. He seems to forget that we are working in new time. We are an hour ahead. We all find it a little bit difficult this year to get up in the dark of the morning and turn out. We are not accustomed to it yet. On this occasion I would be inclined to excuse the Minister and the Members of the House for being a little bit late because it is due to this new time. We are all finding that problem.

In the course of the Minister's speech he pointed out that the present year was a boom year, that it was a year of great progress in agriculture. He stressed the increases in production under various heads, particularly such items as grain—an increased production of wheat and of other grain crops. Most Deputies would agree that that was due, in the main, to the exceptionally fine year we had. As other Deputies said, we should thank God for that. He went on to stress that the farming community, the people engaged in agriculture, have got increased incomes as a result of this increased production. It is true to say that many people, particularly farmers who have economic holdings of land and who have a sufficiency of capital, have had a very good year of it. As a matter of fact, it is also true to say down through the years, generally speaking, people with economic holdings and farmers who minded their business and were reasonably lucky in their undertakings could make a reasonably good living. But it should be borne in mind that we in the West of Ireland particularly, and in areas like south-west Cork where Deputy Murphy comes from, have a problem which is much greater.

When it is a bumper year and a good year, the people in those areas gain very little from it because they have not the land or the resources to gain from such factors as an improvement in the weather, an improvement in prices or anything else. Our people are always labouring at a disadvantage because of the smallness of their holdings. It is quite true to say, as anybody who reads this document must be convinced, that people in such areas stand to gain very little from this Vote for Agriculture. It is true that the amount of money is increased, but it will not reach the small farmers in the West of Ireland to the extent it will reach farmers in other parts of the country whose holdings are larger and whose resources are greater. Therefore, I want to make the point that our people in the West of Ireland will still continue to emigrate, will still continue to go to England, as they have done down through the years.

It is a well-known fact that roughly 10,000 people leave the land every year. There is a continuous drain from the rural areas to the built-up areas even in this country and on a much larger scale across to England. Deputy John Fanning, when speaking here last night, pointed out that one of the problems Irish Agriculture is faced with is the problem of providing labour on reasonably large holdings of land. We all know even small farmers must employ a certain amount of labour at certain times of the year, if they can get it. We have in this country at the present, as they have in other European countries and other parts of the world, the 40-hour week. The county council worker, the teacher, the civil servant, all those people finish work on Friday night. The farmer has not finished on Friday night. He must continue to work Saturday morning, Saturday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night. We know there is considerable unrest at present and for some years past because of the fact that a person engaged in other activities can have his 40-hour week while the farmer must work seven days of the week and very often 15 and 18 hours a day.

That is one of the reasons why we have such a drain from the land. I do not know exactly how we are going to solve this problem, but this I do know: it is having serious adverse effects on production from agricultural land. Because of the fact that so many of our young people are leaving the land, we find the situation today that it is nearly impossible for any farmer to engage in tillage activity particularly. In olden days, and up until some years ago, even in the west of Ireland, as is also true of other mountainous regions, small farmers engaged in quite a lot of tillage activity. Today, with the increase in wages, and now that time has become more valuable, we find that it is no longer possible to engage in putting in reasonably big acreages of tillage. The majority of the people in those small holdings have now turned to grazing a few cattle or sheep, rearing them up to the store beef stage and then selling them to somebody from the eastern counties—from Westmeath, Meath or other parts of the country where the land is able to carry such type of animal—who is able to sell them off for beef for the export trade.

Some Deputy said here this morning that it was a serious loss to the small farmer that he had to sell the store beast one and a half years and two years old. I agree with that line of thought. It is the man who takes over that beast for the three months or the six months who has the real profit and that profit is at the expense of the poorer man from the small holding. It is no wonder, therefore, it is from the west of Ireland and from the mountainous regions that the majority of those 10,000 people who leave the land every year come, and that you have so many derelict holdings in such regions at present.

We also labour under the disadvantage of high freight charges in such regions. You have very little export from ports like Ballina, Sligo and Galway, which in the past were used in a big way for the export of farm produce. These ports should be utilised much more in an endeavour to bring about a reduction in trade charges on incoming goods and on goods being exported. It is true that farmers in those remote areas are faced with heavy additional charges and, as I have said, they have to labour under that disadvantage. They have to sell their store beasts to individuals who can fatten them in a hurry at great advantage in a short period. While such disadvantages are suffered in the West, the flight from the land will continue as it has done during many years past.

Therefore, I suggest it will be necessary for the State to subsidise transport into and out of such regions. I appeal to the Minister to go into the whole matter realising the disadvantages those people labour under in the matter of freight charges generally, realising that those farmers have to carry that additional burden. As a result, I hope the Minister will do something to subsidise freight charges into and out of such areas because at the moment they are competing with other farmers at a serious disadvantage on that one item.

I do not think the seed potato scheme has been mentioned during this debate so far. In North Mayo, and indeed in other parts of the county, people in the past engaged in the production of seed potatoes suitable for the requirements of farmers in other parts of the country. As well, they had a lucrative market in some European countries. Those who engaged in that type of farming had to conform to the highest standards. Their lands were suitable for the purpose of seed potato growing. They were under keen inspection by Department inspectors. If it became known that any individual farmer who engaged in that activity had committed any offence in the way of mixing another variety with his main crop, he was immediately struck off the list; his produce would not be accepted anywhere and in all probability he would never again be recognised by the Department. Such tight regulations were necessary, as we all know. It is imperative that people of repute are engaged in this activity so that only top quality produce would be sold in foreign markets.

For some reason or other that industry also has been declining. I have said it was operated in my county and it was also carried out in counties like Sligo and Donegal and was a valuable sideline for the small farmers who engaged in it. I am convinced that, due to some mishandling along the line, whether caused by strikes and other difficulties at the ports, the farmers over a period of a few years suffered losses on their sales of seed potatoes. They were forced to sell some of these potatoes to the Corroy alcohol factory, which is now a glucose factory, at prices as low as £4 or £5 per ton. This was a serious loss to those people.

Having been a member of Mayo County Committee of Agriculture for a long number of years, I and my colleagues on that committee appealed to the Department to come to the rescue and subsidise these people in a crisis year. They ignored our appeals and said that money could not be provided for such a purpose; in fact, they told us we were lucky to have the Corroy factory to take the potatoes and to give them anything for them. Those farmers who had difficulty in disposing of their crop got out of that business, and this valuable sideline in the west of Ireland is going to the wall as other good sidelines have already gone. That is a pity and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries of the day, no matter who he is or from which side of the House he comes, should be alert and awake to these possibilities and should not allow a good industry like this, which is valuable not alone from the point of view of providing reliable seed potatoes for farmers within the country but also for the export market, to go to the wall. Unfortunately, as I have already said, it is going to the wall.

Much more could be done to increase production of sheep and lambs in the mountainous western regions. I am convinced that much could be done to improve the quality of the herbage on these mountainsides with liming and fertilisation. I believe that an improvement could be brought about in the quality of the herbage and I do not think these matters are getting sufficient attention. It is true that we have agricultural instructors going around giving lectures. They are stressing the importance of going into more and more sheep-farming and of increasing our activities in that respect.

The proper steps are not being taken to utilise the resources available. Grants have been made for fencing in mountain regions where agreement was reached with the co-holders as to the areas each individual would fence and I believe that has been a success in some areas. The problem is not being tackled on the large scale that is possible. There are still thousands of acres of mountain land that could be usefully developed if lime were applied. Even if the lime had to be spread by helicopter, the result would justify the trouble in the improvement of the quality of the herbage for sheep and cattle because in many instances cattle as well as sheep graze there at some periods of the year. While the situation is allowed to continue that the Department do not take sufficient interest in these matters and do not encourage people to take advantage of these schemes, the industry will be slow to expand.

In the course of his speech the Minister did not refer to the sheep experimental station in Creagh, in Ballinrobe, although he has referred to it in another document. In my view it is worthy of mention in his speech introducing the Estimate. This is an industry that could be expanded and developed, hand-in-hand with the store cattle trade for which there seems to be some future.

Reference was made by the Minister to the interest being taken in the schemes with regard to pigs, sheep and oats which were initiated by the Minister. I have pointed out that the scheme for the improvement of sheep has not progressed and will not progress while things continue in the doldrums.

It is well known that pig production is a declining industry in the west of Ireland. The old methods have disappeared. As Deputy Michael Pat Murphy said the day of the old pigsty is gone. One does not find now a farmer producing two, three or four pigs every three months, with the possible exception of a small cottier who does this as a sideline. It cannot be suggested that there is any hope for the individual who is producing small numbers of pigs. This is the day of the big unit and the fattening station. There is a pig station located at Balla, County Mayo, which expects to be going into production at a fairly early date. I should like to think that the venture will be successful. I wish it well and have given it every possible support. I have encouraged farmers to invest in it. It is of paramount importance that that venture should be successful.

In that region there are bacon factories at Castlebar, Claremorris, Ballaghaderreen and in Sligo. The pig station is approximately half-way between Castlebar and Claremorris. Apart from the benefits to the farming community in the area, there is valuable employment created in the meat processing business in both of these towns which is availed of by people in the town and the rural areas. There is a good deal of male labour employed in the meat processing industry. We in Mayo claim to be first in the field in that type of industry. For about 20 or 25 years the bacon factories and meat processing factories have been engaged in canning and have exported their products to England, Europe and the USA. Telephone calls are made from these towns to Amsterdam and various European countries and to the USA in regard to business deals involving large quantities of their products. This is a very important industry.

I sincerely hope that the pig fattening station at Balla will have the effect of increasing production of pigs and the supply of raw materials essential for the processing factories in Mayo. It would be too bad if, after all the money that has been spent in developing these factories, the workers had to be laid off. That is one of the worst things that could happen. Not alone have the factories engaged in the processing of pig meats but poor quality reject cows and bulls and animals suitable for canning have found their way to the factory and have attracted a price twice the price that they would fetch if sold for any other purpose.

For a long number of years there have been unstable prices for agricultural produce. I suppose that situation will continue despite the best efforts of the Minister and his staff which, I may say in passing, I regard as a competent staff. They are very competent not only in the offices in Dublin but in their work throughout the country. I know this because I had dealings with them particularly in times gone by as an exporter and I know the value of their work. It is easy to be critical but I value the services of the men and women working for the Department. If it is at all possible they should be better remunerated for the great service they give.

I know that unstable prices are a problem and I am sure the Minister is doing his best to find markets in other countries. The bulk of our surplus produce must go to England for whatever the ruling prices are. While through the different trade agreements, such as the Deputy Dillon trade agreement of 1948 and later agreements, we have succeeded in getting more stability, it is still true that due to the uncertain position in Europe and the uncertain position regarding our application for membership of the EEC we must continue to export most of our produce to England, which, of course, is an industrial country. In my opinion Irish agriculture is pretty well at the crossroads and this must be a cause of anxiety to the Minister and to all of us. We have seen the warning signs and we should take note of them. The British Minister for Agriculture has told the English farmers that he is prepared to subsidise them more heavily so that they can produce more for the home market. This is a challenge to us and we should read the writing on the wall. It behoves all of us, particularly the Minister, to be on the alert.

People criticised the Taoiseach when he went to England recently and came back, as they said, with nothing, but I felt it was his place to go and I am still convinced that it was his duty to have gone and it is his duty, as well as the duty of the Minister, to go there when our position is threatened in any way. I hope that the clouds which I see on the horizon will clear away. As Deputy Murphy said, it is important for all of us that agriculture should be prosperous, but these challenges do exist. The British farmers have a market for their produce on the spot and their Government can afford to subsidise the farmers heavily because, after all, it is all internal spending, money spent at home. They can argue that this will help to correct their trade balance. They have plenty of problems at the moment and, indeed, the £ is again in the doldrums and at a "new low". All this added up means that we as one of their principal suppliers of agricultural produce must keep on the ball and, above all else, try to keep down our production costs and improve our marketing methods. The day has gone when you could put something into a sack, bring it to the dockside and have it shipped to England. Now it must go in a package with brand names on it and so on. The old standards were all right for the days when the British were starving, when foodstuffs were rationed and when they could not get enough to eat. Those days have gone. Now they are having cheese and butter dumped on them from various parts of the world and we must wake up and get down to the task of improving our marketing systems, to give them the best we possibly can with a greater use of brand names—such as Kerry Gold butter— and try to get right through to the consumer, the houswife in particular, in regard to providing good quality articles. No matter what impositions or duties the British may put on we will regain some of the ground we have lost if we do this. The Department should try to impress on the people the need for improving our marketing methods, our packaging and our greater reliance on brand names.

In regard to the west of Ireland, it is a cause of concern to many to see the finest of our people leaving the land. I know that small, uneconomic holdings of £5 or £10 valuation are pretty well out in the matter of competing with the bigger units. There are, too, people with more favoured locations, people who are nearer the docks, people in Meath or County Westmeath, or people near Cork harbour, who can unload their produce there and have it transported to the British market quickly. Whatever the solution may be for saving these people they are going from the land and will continue to go. In the main last year was a good year for farmers generally but people in the west of Ireland and in many mountainous regions gained very little from the improved returns because they had so little in the way of crops, cattle or sheep. There must be a reappraisal of the whole situation. The position could be treated as an emergency by the Government and the Department before more of our people leave the land. The Minister and some of his staff should visit the west of Ireland to examine the position and, if possible, try to find some remedy, some special treatment to get these people off the ground. If these people go to a bank or to the Agricultural Credit Corporation for money and state that they are farmers with a £7, £8 or £10 valuation, or for that matter a £20 valuation, the bank or the corporation is not prepared to advance money to them because they feel that the risk is too great and that they might not recover the money lent. A lot of our people have become accustomed to using motor cars and in rural areas the motor car is essential. The day of the push bicycle has pretty well gone and if our young people cannot have a motor car or an autocycle or some rapid means of transport they will go somewhere else, they will go to England. We cannot afford to lose any more of our people. A figure of 10,000 a year has been quoted in respect of those leaving the land, and the majority of those are from the west of Ireland. I would ask the Minister to regard this as an emergency. An emergency such as this needs emergency treatment, and that is what I am asking the Minister to apply.

Arguments have been put up here again on what was supposed to be a dispute with the farmers. There has been, over the past number of years, a fight going on between farmers who pretend to represent everything in farming and the ordinary representative of the producer of any particular farm commodity, the beet-grower, the creamery milk supplier, and others. That is the root of this whole problem. I remember, as a member of the Beetgrowers' Association, having each year not alone to deal with beet but to meet the millers on the price of wheat, to meet Messrs Arthur Guinness & Co on the price of malting barley, and then to meet the Minister on one thing only, namely, feeding barley.

Satisfactory negotiations were held with the Government each year except in one instance. There came an occasion when the then Minister made an appointment to meet us on a Thursday evening. At that meeting when we put up our arguments on the price of feeding barley we were told: "Oh, there was another farmers' organisation in here with me last Tuesday. They were responsible men; they were sensible men, not like you fellows." As a result, the price the farmers were getting for feeding barley was cut by 8s a barrel that year.

Rather than have two or three different farmers' organisations at the disposal of the Minister to be used as playthings by him, one against the other, a conference was held in Buswell's Hotel at which we handed over wheat and feeding barley to the NFA. I shall not deal with the manner in which they operated, except to say this. I have grown wheat on my land ever since 1914. I grew no wheat for the last five years because the price has been bedevilled by the NFA on the one side and the millers on the other. It was not until the agricultural committee of the Fianna Fáil Party met the Minister and straightened out the position on wheat that wheat has been made a profitable crop again. I make no bones about that. As time went on the fight became keener and we saw the result of it during the past few years. There is very little use in anyone pretending that that fight is between the farmer and the Government. It is a fight among certain individuals seeking power, and nothing else, and they do not care what they make the farming community suffer while they are at it.

Over the past 34 years we have been negotiating each year on the price of beet. For a long time the negotiations were carried out by civil servants who were in charge of the Sugar Company. There was a change when Lieutenant-General Costello took over, and after the first year of negotiations we hammered out what is and should be the farmers' charter of freedom, namely, that the price of the farmers' product be based on the cost of production of that product plus a fair profit. That agreement was reached in 1947 at a cost of £4,000 to the Sugar Company and £2,000 to the Beetgrowers' Association. On that basis the price of beet was fixed every year from 1948 to 1965.

In 1965 there was a change, and Lieutenant-General Costello came to me and said:

"I know you are entitled to an increase, but unless I get an increase in the price of sugar you cannot get it."

I suggested that he come with me to the Minister, but he refused. I told him he would have to do so, but it took a six weeks' strike on the part of the farmers to get what we were entitled to, 5/3d per ton increase in the price of beet. This is one of the men who, to the joy of Deputy Murphy, complained of the Minister's appointment on the National Agricultural Council. That man, who has a following here, entered into an agreement with us. He said there was no money for either the farmers or the workers. I said:

"Very well, we will sign for the present price of beet for the coming year on condition that you sign an agreement with us that any increase that you would give the workers during the next 12 months would also go to the farmers."

He agreed on that. He even agreed on 8/9d a turn and we gave him a reduction of 2/1d off the 8/9d. He was a man who honoured an agreement. Two years ago he paid us 6/8d a turn under the agreement, which was more than the price we had contracted for. The following year there was a new General Manager who, after a bit of a row, paid us 3/- a turn. That was the last year of the negotiations.

I know that the Irish Sugar Company have turned quite a number of corners this year and that they have arrived at a profit of £780,000. There is about 10/-a turn, or nearly £500,000 due to the Irish farmer on the crop delivered to the factory. I know that I gave them a scourging during the week on the quarter cwt of pulp that they had after 34 years, on the plea that there was not sufficient pulp from beet to enable the farmer to get the 1¾ cwt. I referred to my little bible—the one to which I referred here the other day—and I established that the farmers' quota of pulp was cut by ¼ cwt, that being done on the plea that they could not get the 1¾ cwts out of the beet. Forty-three cwts of beet pulp were exported for which £45,403 was obtained in the first seven months of this year. I got these figures from the trade and shipping statistics for January to July of this year and anyone who wishes to read them for himself will find them on page 32 of the Journal under the heading "Domestic Exports". I know that there was a certain amount of collusion and I know that it paid them well and that it paid the Sugar Company well to get rid of the representatives that the beetgrowers had. One would do a lot of manoeuvring to get £½ million and that is the amount that is due to the Irish farmers. This money has been taken from the Irish farmers through the collusion between the beetgrowers and the Sugar Company. I am stating this openly and they can make excuses later if they wish.

In connection with an article published in the Sunday Press about six weeks ago, I again looked up this journal and I found we imported into this country during the first seven months of this year a total of 41,621 tons of foreign sugar costing £866,000 and then we hear a cry about our adverse balance of payments. I should like the Minister, as the representative of the farmers, to investigate this matter very closely.

How many subsidies are they drawing? Are they drawing one subsidy on cheap sugar and another subsidy on cheap milk at the expense of the Irish farmer and the Irish taxpayer? This is what I want the Minister to find out. I remember the Government setting their face against the production of beet or, at least, against the prices paid for it and when there was a curtailment of the acreage of beet and we found ourselves having to import 75,000 tons of foreign sugar. That sugar was brought into this country at a cost of £12 a ton more than the price paid for the best white sugar leaving any Irish factory.

Those are the facts and I was surprised to hear Deputy Murphy sneering at the representatives appointed by the Minister to serve on the National Agricultural Council. Is there any man in this country today who, if he were asked to pick a man to represent Irish agriculture and its advancement, would not pick Lieutenant-General M.J. Costello? Deputy Murphy knows it. He knows also that he went down to his own constituency and in the town of Skibbereen, started an industry and found employment there for the boys and girls of whom he was boasting a while ago. How many thousands of men did this man put into employment in this country not alone in the beet industry, which was fizzling out when he took over, but in the vegetable and processing industries as well?

When I looked around me for a man who could and would be of assistance on any negotiating team when we were dealing with a pretty difficult team in the Sugar Company's negotiations, I took another man who had been selected by Deputy Blaney, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and that was Mr. P.D. Lehane. Those are men who, we are told, were picked for political reasons. Mr. P.D. Lehane was a Member of this House for seven or eight years and he always religiously voted against Fianna Fáil while he was in the House. He is a man who, we were told, was picked for political reasons and put in. He also was secretary of the Cork Farmers' Union and there were several representatives of that farmers' organisation on the Cork County Council. Those are the men in respect of whom the Minister was pilloried and attacked because he had put them in there as his advisers. I could pick as good a team of farmers out of the Fianna Fáil representatives in this House as one would find in any farmers' organisation. If you want an all-round organisation then do as Deputy Murphy says: pick them out of the elected representatives here— men who can advise any Government or any body on the policy that should be adopted in regard to agriculture.

Honestly, I do not know what to do with Deputy Murphy and Deputy O'Hara. Two years ago, I went to Tuam, on the borders of Deputy O'Hara's constituency, to purchase some of the potato processing machinery, that was lying idle there, for these Cork foods. I went out and examined it. What did I find? Deputy O'Hara complained about the transport charges. I found that the potatoes for the Tuam factory had to come from County Louth. In God's name, if the farmers of the West cannot grow everything, surely to God they can grow spuds? There is no reason why a vegetable-processing factory should not have, all around it in the surrounding counties, a prosperous lot of farmers producing the material for it. Deputy Murphy knows that the self-same thing applies to his factory in Skibbereen.

I do not know what is wrong with those smallholders of the West about whom we hear all the noise. The same year, Lieutenant-General Costello put two factories going in Cork county. He put the Skibbereen factory going and he put one in Midleton. They were both put going in the same year with the same amount of money, namely, a contribution from the Sugar Company in each case of £30,000 and £30,000 that the farmers collected and put up against it.

Our factory in East Cork, in Midleton, paid the first year £17,000 in wages and about £15,000 to the farmers. This is its fifth year of production. This year, it has paid to the farmers for the crops produced and processed by them a sum of £300,000 and, for this year, the wages bill is £210,000.

Deputy Murphy or somebody from West Cork got up and told us the position in regard to the Skibbereen factory. There is no good in pretending that we are growing something which you cannot grow. Deputy Murphy comes from a constituency that is ideally situated for the growing of carrots. However, last year, in the middle of our growing season, we had a rush from Erin Foods, Limited, that Skibbereen had fallen down and we had to grow extra in our own area of East Cork. On that basis we grew, this year, something like 2,250 acres of peas for the factory which gave a net average profit to the farmers of £60, everything paid. We went to an average of 4½ tons or £135 an acre.

Let me point this out to Deputy Murphy. The average tonnage of carrots grown for the Carlow and Mallow factories up to the time we started was nine tons per acre. For the past two years, we have been producing anywhere from 16 to 21½ tons of carrots per acre.

Deputy Murphy's little 25-acre farmer has had a factory put in by General Costello at his door and on five acres of carrots—that is on one-fifth of his farm—he will have a growth of 1,100 lbs. These opportunities are there at the door of every farmer. Why cannot the farmers take advantage of them? Why is it that you find such a wide divergence between two factories established in the same year on the very same basis? It is bad enough to see, as I did in Tuam, potatoes from Tipperary and Louth going into this factory in the West but, worse than that, I saw what we call "spoiled potatoes" taken out of the factory and thrown into a manure heap, potatoes for which the farmers in East Cork would give their two eyes if they had them for feed for cattle and pigs. In the name of God, are we ever going to help ourselves? I suggest we have to do a great deal of helping ourselves.

I heard a complaint voiced about wheat. Here is the position with regard to wheat. As the Minister stated, we had the finest harvest this year than we had for many years past. Our grain crops were harvested in tip-top condition. Is there any co-operation between the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Department of Industry and Commerce? From January to July of this year 3,382,663 cwts of foreign wheat were imported into this country at a cost of £4,735,000. That represents an increase of 54,000 tons of foreign wheat over the same period in 1967 and an increase in our adverse balance of £1,646,000. I am reminded of the time when the brewers tried the same little game. When we started in with our malting barley we found the malthouses could take the barley in for only a week and they would then close down. They issued a notice, after being closed down for a fortnight, to the effect that, rather than disappoint their farmer friends, they would now accept malting barley at 50s. The price we had agreed was 57s 6d. I remember on behalf of the farmers of East Cork, having to pursue these bucks into the High Court where I got them decreed for the 7s 6d they were trying to rob from the farmer. I should like the Minister to find out from his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the justification for importing in the first six months of this year an extra 54,000 tons of wheat adding £1,646,000 to our adverse trade balance. These are illuminating figures. These are the figures, plus the £800,000 paid for the extra sugar and the money paid for the imported ladies' clothing which are responsible for the Budget we had here a fortnight ago. I have to give the facts as I know them.

Deputy Murphy complained about milk. Now the in-calf heifer scheme was not brought in for the purpose of increasing the quantity of milk. It was brought in to increase the number of cattle, particularly cattle for export. Advantage was taken of it. The farmer who had 20 cows found that, if he put in 20 more, he would draw £15 a head from the Minister in respect of each of the 20. He put in 20 more cows and he then found that he had not room for the calves he used to rear and the other livestock he kept because he was carrying 40 instead of 20 cows. Accordingly, the dropped calf was hunted off to the mart and we had the spectacle of these being flown to Spain from the Cork marts or being shot over the Border for Mr. O'Neill's subsidy.

Again, we find in relation to the £15 subsidy for the in-calf heifer, that the gentlemen who drew the benefit of it were not the Irish farmers—or the Irish Government in having more cattle for export—but Mr. Craig's Orangemen in the North. These are the bitter facts and there is no one in this House who does not know that as well as I do. The calves are dropped and then a row arises because the farmers have skimmed milk and nothing to do with it.

I should like Deputy Murphy to read Dr. Scully's report on the pilot area in West Cork. We should read it and see what the farmers in West Cork are doing. If he does he will be able to talk much more sensibly here on that matter.

I want to refer to the speech just made by my colleague from North East Cork, Deputy Corry, and say I do not think there was any necessity for some of the inflammatory remarks he made in the opening part of the address with regard to farmers organisations. "Inflammatory remarks" are the only words in which I can describe them. In only one paragraph at the end of his speech did the Minister refer to Government-farmer relations, or Minister-farmer relations. I want to appeal today in a mild, quiet, calm way to the Minister to take another look at Minister-farmer relations or Minister-farmer organisation relations.

I know that if I refer to Captain O'Neill I will not be appealing particularly to the Minister, but I think it took great moral and political courage for Captain O'Neill to speak as he did a few nights ago. His speech was referred to by an eminent churchman as a statesmanlike speech.

I am afraid it does not arise on this Estimate.

I am appealing to the Minister to do something similar at this stage, after a breakdown for two years in the relationship between the biggest farmers' organisation, the NFA, and the Minister and his Department. It would be very advisable for the Minister to bury the hatchet and say to this organisation that he is prepared to meet them without any pre-conditions. The farmers and, indeed, the economy of the country cannot afford to have this breakdown existing any longer. We are lucky that we have not to put up with civil rights demonstrations and disorders which they have in most other countries, and we should be more sensible in our approach to one another.

Now more than ever a dialogue between the farmers and the Minister is absolutely necessary. For that reason I appeal to the Minister to bury the hatchet. I suggest that in this season of peace and good-will as a first step he should resume departmental advertisements in the Irish Farmers' Journal. Every Deputy in the House would be behind him if before Christmas he said as a first step in the direction of peace: “We are prepared to resume giving departmental advertisements in the Irish Farmers' Journal”. In my opinion that paper gives an outstanding service to the Irish farmer.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary say why is the Minister ignoring this discussion? One could understand his absence for a short time, but why is he ignoring the discussion?

The Deputy had ample opportunity to raise that point while he was speaking.

The Minister is actively engaged in the farmers' interests at this moment.

The Minister is ignoring this discussion and that is a reflection on the House.

Deputy Murphy ignored it yesterday when the Minister was here. He would not come in and listen to him.

One of the big snags in farming today is the uncertainty about markets and prices. I do not know if an arrangement could be worked out whereby six or 12 months beforehand the farmers could be sure of the price they would get for their products when it came to the marketing stage. It is my belief that they are working very much in the dark at the moment and that there is a large risk and a large gamble in whatever branch of farming they are engaged. Some system of contracts would be the answer. This would be the only way in which they could be sure of the price of their products. There should be an arrangement in which they would know that if they delivered their produce on a certain date the processors could give them so much for it.

Farming as a business should be much more attractive and much more profitable. More often than not farmers are not making any money from what they are selling. Last year was exceptional in that cattle prices remained steady throughout the year but very often that is not the case. In that connection I am glad most Members who have spoken referred to Cork Marts Limited and the takeover of International Meat Products. I want to add my voice in appealing to farmers to ensure that their names appear on the register of shareholders of that company. It is true that this venture is being spearheaded by Cork Marts Limited. It is also true that it is a national venture which concerns every farmer in the country. Therefore, I am sure that an appeal from this House to the farmers pointing out to them that it is for their good, and for their future good in particular, to invest in this project will not fall on deaf ears. I am sorry I found no reference to it in the Minister's long speech.

Farmers are now becoming much more enlightened than they used to be. The advisory services are being more availed of through organisations such as Macra na Feirme and Macra na Tuaithe. The idea of taking over International Meat Products is to be highly commended. There is a danger that if we do not avail of this opportunity now some outside interest might do so. Time and again I have said that it is my belief that the industry surest to be availed of in any town or city is one connected with agriculture, an industry in which the raw material is got from the land and here certainly is one that has everything to commend itself to the Irish farmers.

I will not refer to the dairy industry except to say that one of the big problems of farmers is getting a reasonable price for their culled cows. At the moment the price for culled cows is pretty high but it is very apt to fluctuate and, in fact, fluctuates greatly from one month to another. I believe that here the national meat products factory will be one means of guaranteeing that there will be a good price for culled cows. The farmers of today with the enlightenment they have are no longer prepared to carry cows that are not economic and, therefore, a good price for the animals they want to dispose of is a very encouraging thing and absolutely necessary to keep herds the way they should be.

Deputy Corry made reference to Erin Foods and particularly to the Cork factories. I should like to join with him in congratulating the management of Erin Foods because this year for the first time they are breaking even as far as their cash payments are concerned. The development and extension of vegetable growing especially for the small farmers, is something that we should encourage and look forward to. This year I gather we will have 10,000 acres under vegetables and that with rotational cropping means, in fact, that there are about 50,000 acres given to horticulture. Indeed, it is true to say that those who are growing vegetables in East Cork at any rate have been very pleased with their work. It was unfair of Deputy Corry to refer to the Skibbereen factory not being able to grow enough carrots for their needs because it is well known that the land around Skibbereen is not as suited to the growing of carrots as the land around Midleton or Fermoy. It is also true to say that West Cork and the Skibbereen district can grow other types of vegetables of a much better quality and much more profitably than we can around Midleton and Fermoy. To make reference to Skibbereen falling down on the job and not growing enough carrots is, I think, going a little too far.

One thing about Erin Foods — and I think this is why they made such a success of their business — is that they certainly went after the export markets in a big way. It is a great thing for the economy that practically all their produce is exported. I did not see any reference to Erin Foods in the Minister's statement and I think the Minister and the Department should encourage our small farmers to go in more for the growing of vegetables not alone in Cork but in other counties as well.

One of the principal reasons I wanted to speak was to refer to the very serious situation developing for the farmers in southern Ireland because, as I see it, the south will be closed to all cattle shipments in the near future. I wonder does the Minister and his Department realise the seriousness of this prospect because everyone knows that cattle, unlike parcels of goods, do not travel without suffering and if all the cattle of the south will have to travel to the North Wall, as I understand they will if the present proposals go through. I am quite sure that the farmers of the south will be in a serious financial loss. I am also informed that the position at the North Wall is anything but adequate and that the conditions there sometimes are chaotic. I want to make a special appeal today to the Minister and his Department to ensure that the cattle shipments that at present obtain in the south will not be interfered with. The farmers of the south deserve that and it was for that reason that I rose to speak in this debate. I know the debate is, unfortunately, too restricted and I do not want to interfere too much with the time of many other Members whom I know are anxious to speak.

Reference has been made to the shortage of labour on the land. It is unfortunate that 10,000 people are leaving the land each year. It is also true that it is very hard for most farmers now to get anyone to stay and work on the land. The reasons, of course, are not hard to find; they are economic. The only suggestion I could make to the Minister is one I made a few years ago and that is that the present rate abatement per man for farmers of £17 is entirely inadequate. If we are to show that we are interested in keeping men on the land we should consider increasing the rate abatement allowance. It has been £17 for some years and I appeal to the Minister to sympathetically consider having it increased to £25 or £30. It would be a step in the right direction.

Reference was made in the debate to the Land Project. I believe the officials of the Land Project are doing a tremendous job. Land which a few years ago was completely infertile is now crop producing. I refer to this because I want to make a plea. The Forestry Division are acquiring much land that could in present circumstances and with modern machinery be made useful arable land. Before the Forestry Division are allowed to acquire any land there should be a report from the Land Project officer or some officer of the Department that it is suitable for forestry only. This could be a very simple arrangement between the Minister and the Minister for Lands. I referred to this a few years ago when there was not even the modern machinery that there is now for the reclaiming of land. It is a shame to see land that could be made arable being planted and that, unfortunately, is still going on.

I should also like to refer to restrictions on farmers in the haulage of livestock and farm produce. There should be some way of helping the farmers rather than restricting them in the hauling of their livestock to the marts. We know that the gardaí have their job to do but one can see every week when marts are held a squad car harassing the farmers bringing cattle to the marts for themselves and possibly for their neighbours. There is room here for a bit of commonsense so that these people will be given a chance. Everybody in the House, including the Parliamentary Secretary, knows that CIE, who took on the job, are not capable of doing it satisfactorily. In many instances their lorries and trailers are too awkward to get into farmers' places, whereas the local man, with his handy tractor and trailer, can do the job much more efficiently and cheaply.

All Deputies who wish to speak on agriculture should be given the opportunity to do so. It is important, therefore, that the debate has been restricted. For that reason I will conclude by appealing again to the Parliamentary Secretary—there is a different Parliamentary Secretary before me from the man to whom I appealed a few minutes ago — a sensible man, to ask the Minister before he goes home for Christmas—the season of goodwill—to bury the hatchet and show that he is prepared to do so by, first of all restoring advertising to the Irish Farmers' Journal.

I deplore the attitude of Deputy Murphy, as indicated at the outset of his speech, when he condemned the Minister for not being present. I appreciate why the Deputy was so sour on this matter. I have been here since 10.35 a.m. and I have noted that Deputy Murphy has been the only member of the Labour Party in the House during all that time. That is probably the reason he feels so aggrieved. He could solve the problem by getting some other Deputies from his Party to come into the House.

My colleagues are at an important Party meeting. There is none of the Deputy's colleagues here.

I compliment the Minister on the large sum, £56.8 million, he has made available for agriculture this year, an increase of approximately £7.1 million. Farmers, and agriculture generally, have had an exceptionally good year and indications are that 1969 will probably be the best so far. Cattle, sheep and pig prices were good, milk production is still rising and is up on last year. The grain harvest was exceptionally good. All these things lead us to believe that the farming community have had an exceptionally good year. There is a definite reason for this: it is the Government's agricultural policy which is continuing to ensure that all farmers who work their land efficiently will share in the advantages of the growing prosperity of the nation.

Of course, it has been the policy of Fianna Fáil Governments through the years to ensure that the farming community get their share of the national cake and nobody can condemn the Government or their Ministers for not having given a slice of the national cake to the agricultural community. The sum of more than £56 million this year is no paltry amount to give to any sector of the community, although I realise that at all times the agricultural community deserve their share because they contribute such a large portion to our exports—approximately one-third by way of beef alone. Therefore, the agricultural community are an integral part of our economy and must be treated as such.

There are a few points in the Department's and the Minister's policies with which I am not in full agreement. First of all, I should like to refer to agricultural workers, without whom our agricultural policy could not be implemented. Though they participate so effectively in the agricultural economy, many agricultural workers are being abused. They are not receiving the remuneration they deserve. We have a tendency to put our agricultural workers into the lowest possible grade and I should like to see this eliminated. As most people associated with agriculture know, these men have to be fully skilled. If fully skilled men go to work in industry they will receive wages in accordance with their skills.

On this question of farm workers, it will be said that there is the Agricultural Wages Board to deal with their problems. I agree that it is the board's policy to see that agricultural workers get a fair wage and I draw the Minister's attention to it now so that he may ensure that the Agricultural Wages Board will do something urgently about this matter. Skilled men on the land are entitled to the same level of treatment as those in factories and I will not be happy until they receive the same remuneration as factory workers.

I should like the Minister to take up this point in an endeavour to better the lot of agricultural workers. For instance, I suggest they should be excluded from paying income tax. Their wages are so small that the amount of revenue collected by way of income tax from this source is also very small. The buoyancy of the economy is not solely dependent on the money received from this source of taxation. I know this is not entirely relevant——

The Chair was wondering under which heading this comes.

Of course, it is relevant. Why is it not? Farm workers' wages or anything that affects them is relevant.

I wish to refer to the growing of vegetables. A lot has been done for other sectors of the agricultural community—the beet farmers, milk farmers, grain men—but we tend to forget too often, particularly in the constituency of County Dublin, that we have a large number of farmers with small areas of land, many of whom make their living solely from the growing of vegetables—carrots, sprouts, parsnips, cauliflower, potatoes and other small table vegetables. These men do not receive any direct subsidies or any other form of relief from the Department, although they are the sole producers of their particular produce. Take a man in North County Dublin. He produces a bag of potatoes and sells them at an average price of from £8 to £10 a ton.

My business brings me into shops where potatoes are sold and I have seen potatoes that we sold at 10/- a bag being sold in these shops at 25/-a bag. How can that profit be justified? The housewife is blaming the farmer, alleging that the farming community derive undue profits. I want to make it clear to the housewife that between the farmer and the housewife there is a middle man who could actually be called a fiddleman from the point of view that he is deriving exorbitant profits from the farmers' produce. I gave the example of potatoes. Cauliflowers are another example. The producer sells for 6/- a dozen and they are sold in the shops at 1/3d and 1/4d each. This is a ridiculous situation. The producers, who should get the profit, are not getting it.

I can visualise, particularly in North County Dublin, the acreage of potatoes decreasing. First, they are too costly to grow. The outlay, having regard to the rate of interest, is too heavy. Labour is not available for harvesting. Most important of all is the fact that the producer cannot get the profit he deserves. The amount expended, if invested, would produce more profit. This is the reason why I want to hit at the middle people, particularly those who sell from door-to-door, who buy vegetables on the open market. The price is controlled by these people who can corner the majority of vegetables on the market and can regulate the price up or down.

Prices for vegetables should be established. I suggested this before in the House. In the case of potatoes there could be a fortnightly review of the situation or, in the early part of the year, the first weeks in June up to the last week in June, a weekly review and thereafter a fortnightly review. I do not think the housewife would object to paying a steady reasonable price in order to allow the farmers a reasonable profit. The housewife objects to shopkeepers taking as much money as they can out of her pocket. The shopkeeper can charge what he likes. There is no use in saying that people can go to other shops. People who go to a supermarket or a local shop will buy potatoes there rather than go down the road to a shop where they are selling at twopence less.

The price of beet, barley, oats, and so on is stabilised but is not stabilised in the case of potatoes and vegetables. The market tends to fluctuate according to supply and demand. From my experience in the market I know that the law of supply and demand does not operate in this case. There may be a demand and the price remains high. In other cases the demand may decline but the price remains the same. This position is created by the potato porters.

We are gradually becoming capable of producing a great quantity of wheat per acre. This development was inevitable. Even if the acreage did not increase, as it did, we would still be producing more per acre for the reason that there are new fertilising compounds, new methods and new varieties. We still use two main varieties— Quern and Atle—which ripen late in the year. I recommended to the Minister to consider the question of introducing a variety that would ripen early in the year at approximately the time of the barley harvest. This would be a great asset. There would be a long day for cutting and a long day for drying and the bad effects of the dewy September mornings would be avoided. The Department say that they are working on something but I should like to see it speeded up. A variety that would ripen about a fortnight earlier would suffice and would be a great asset to growers and millers. The millers would get the wheat in better condition and there would be no delay at the intake point. Positive action should be taken in this matter.

There were many predictions that we would definitely have to pay a levy of up to 13/-. My candid opinion is that we will have to pay a levy.

The Minister said so.

When we are producing more I do not think the farmer will object to having to pay a levy from the point of view that he has got away with it for the last few years. The only reason for the levy will be a good harvest. None of us can predict whether the harvest will be good or not.

Some of the Deputies over there were telling us that they could so predict.

The levy will be necessary only if we exceed the quota rate. That will occur only if the harvest is good, in which case it can be assumed that the farmer will derive a profit. I have been in contact with some of my neighbours who are not all of the same political views as I am. They do not object to the levy being imposed because they can see that the acreage of wheat is increasing, that the yield is increasing and that there is no alternative to imposing a levy.

On the occasion of the last Estimate for Agriculture I pointed out that the intake points that we have at present possibly would be sufficient or good enough if they were all in operation. We found this year that some of the new points were in operation but that others were not. I should like the Minister to do one positive thing about intake points. There is a representative from the Department standing at the intake point, on and off. He is not resident there. He may have to deal with two, three or four points. I would ask the Minister to have a representative of the Department standing there at all times that wheat is being taken in. The reason is that this year the hagberg test for qualification has been brought up to 140 for potentially millable wheat. There would be a greater number of border line cases. In some cases where the figure is 140 the hagberg will be repeated and the wheat will reach only 139.

I am not alleging dishonesty on the part of the miller who takes the test but I am saying that there could be a discrepancy as happened before in the test. I ask the Minister to set up a small prefabricated office in which he would have, say, a man and a girl, to carry out the hagberg test before it goes to the miller. We have two of these down at the Alexandra Road and one on the south side and these points could be manned by three people or six people. They are three of the main intake points and by availing of them the farmer would know whether his sample would be accepted or rejected. The farmer would have the advice of the Department and he would be able to say to the miller "Well, the sample was passed by the Department and how can it fail with you?" This is something which is essential to safeguard farmers this year because we are going to have a lot more borderline cases. I do not think that the implementation of this suggestion would cost a lot. The Minister might even do away with the Department official who may be responsible for two or three intake points and incorporate him into the running of these huts or whatever you might call them, for carrying out the hagberg tests. It would be a good idea and it would safeguard both the farmers and the milllers.

When Deputy Clinton bemoaned the fact that the calved heifer scheme was being abolished he said that adequate notice had not been given and he also said that it would entail a considerable loss for small farmers and small dairymen. This struck me as being very peculiar because when I came into this House first I remember Deputy Clinton and other members of the Fine Gael Party decrying the mere existence of the scheme. They said it was brought in solely for the big man and that the small man would not avail of it. Yet when it is announced that the scheme is to be abolished we hear them saying that this will mean a loss to the small man. It is evident that the agricultural policy of the Fine Gael Party is such that they themselves are bewildered about it and they do not know where they stand. I was surprised that Deputy Clinton should have said this because he is one man who should know about the agricultural community. Of course, it might have been a statement made just for the purpose of saying something contrary to the Department's policy. However, they must work this out for themselves, it is not for us to run their affairs; we have it hard enough keeping the agricultural community happy.

I want now to say something about the warble fly. I think the Minister is wrong in doing away with the scheme which should have been left for another year. Sometimes farmers are inclined to be somewhat neglectful in regard to the warble fly. It was open to them to report to the Department any time they saw evidence of the warble fly or traces of it in the cattle. This happened in a few cases and the gadfly is still hovering around. If the scheme were retained for at least another year I am sure we would be completely free of this pest. The Minister should reintroduce it. Although the figures show that a relatively small number of cattle had warbles, I think that many cattle which we do not know about have them. If the matter were investigated it could be that we would find that a larger number than anyone would believe is involved.

In regard to the pig industry, the day of the small pig breeder of one or even ten pigs has gone and today the emphasis is on having large numbers of pigs. I agree that if it is possible to have large numbers that therein lies the profit even for the small farmer who can avail of the necessary grants. It is from large numbers that they will derive profit and their livelihood. One draw-back, however, is the cost of feeding stuffs and this has been a constant complaint by pig breeders. This year we have an increase in cereal prices and this will lead to an increase in the price of pig feeding materials. I asked the Minister before if it would be possible to introduce a scheme to subsidise the feeding of pigs. The bonus scheme for sows is a very good scheme but I should like to see the introduction of a scheme for subsidising pig feeding. Because of the labour involved in the rearing of pigs the profit derived does not compensate the breeder to the point that he can expand very quickly. A certain amount of expenditure would be involved in such a scheme but I would ask the Minister to see if it would be possible to introduce it.

We have one big fertiliser factory which produces all grades and all types of fertiliser. The Minister referred to the increased outlay in the growing of cereals and this is mainly due to the cost of fertilisers. Every year the price goes up. Every year the fertiliser factories introduce a new gimmick to try to persuade the farmers — which they do successfully — that the new fertilisers are stronger and better than the ones they had the previous year. In so doing, they increase the tonnage price by about £3 or £3 10s. This is a very successful business to be in. These increases lead to an increase per acre of approximately £1 to 25/- if you top dress afterwards. This is all putting up the cost of production for the farmer but these particular fertiliser factories can show a deficit at the end of the year to prove that they have lost money and that it is not economic for them to be producing fertilisers.

I should like to refer to one particular grade of fertiliser which was known as 8-6-16 which most of the farmers in north County Dublin used as a balance in producing potatoes. The fertiliser factory did away with 8-6-16 and introduced a new grade known as 10-10-20 but this is not suitable for producing potatoes in our area. I had requests from many farmers last year and even this year asking me to find out if it would be possible for the factory to produce 8-6-16 again because this compound was very suitable for the land in north County Dublin and also gave a better quality potato. We are inclined to blame the 10-10-20 for blight in that it is of high nitrogen quality and does tend to grow the stalks on the potato considerably more than the 8-6-16. The tubers are more open to blight when they are in full growth. I wonder would it be possible to get these people to produce 8-6-16 again. I do not think it was on the advice of the agricultural community or of the agricultural instructors that they went away from this but that it was purely a point of economics on the one side and a point of profit on the other side. These people are putting up the price of these commodities every year without ever giving any consideration to the farmer's wants and needs. If these prices continue these people will price themselves out of the market and we will be requesting the import of fertilisers. This is something I do not want to see happening because these fertiliser factories are giving a considerable amount of employment. This is our aim, and this is what I should like to see increasing. However, I just make that point in the hope that the Minister will look into it.

The Minister is to be complimented on the grant allocations for glasshouses to the horticultural sector of the community. This glasshouse grant was introduced last year and was very successfully availed of in County Dublin. It was a great incentive to the people there to go into a high acreage of glass. The installation of heating made the glasshouses more adaptable to different commodities, tomatoes, flowers or even small vegetables. There is only one drawback I can see, that this grant has been availed of by people not solely engaged in agriculture or not in any way engaged in it. I know a few business executives: one has two acres of glass and another has three acres, and these people get the grant for it. They are going to flood the market with tomatoes. The result is that the ordinary farmer who is deriving his livelihood from glass and from agriculture generally is made out to be a very small man in the market. We have not the market for tomatoes. We can only eat so many tomatoes, and were it not that there was plenty of sunshine this year and that we ate a great deal of salad I do not think half the tomatoes would have been sold. We have to look for an outlet for tomatoes and, consequently, we should consider whether we should give grants to business executives or confine it solely to farmers. The Minister might argue that our purpose in introducing this scheme was to increase the acreage of glass in the country. That is probably right, but I think the grant should be confined to those whose livelihood depends on agriculture.

The facilities for marketing tomatoes are not adequate. We shall have to go further afield and market our tomatoes better. Our tomatoes are of good quality but we are a bit haphazard about grading and marketing them. The sphere of agriculture is highly competitive, and if we are to stay in the production of tomatoes and other commodities and if we are to increase employment, this is a problem which the Minister and the Department should look into.

There has been a great deal of criticism of the agricultural institutes, and they have been condemned for not paying their way and various other things. I want to compliment them for the research work they are carrying out. The farmers have learned a lot from the agricultural institutes, most of whose work has come to fruition in the last few years. A great deal of experiment and research are necessary in relation to the diagnosis of diseases, and so forth. It takes a lot of time to find a remedy for these diseases. At the beginning our agricultural institutes tended to be in the wilderness. They were proceeding very slowly. The evidence of their work could not be shown, but now it is beginning to show fruit and they should be complimented for this.

This work involves a great deal of dedication, time, experience and money. They deserve whatever money we can afford to give them. It is not wasted. Because people see commodities being pulled from the ground and thrown away, they think that commodity has been wasted. I live beside the Agricultural Institute in Kinsealy, and I know well the work they carry out there is for the benefit of the farmer. They are always open to requests to give advice. They have an open field day on which they give advice. They are doing a tremendous job and every benefit which can be laid on for them should be.

The only point I would make in regard to the agricultural institutes is that they should be limited as regards the amount of land they may purchase. Some years ago the tendency was that available land which came up for sale around the institute should be purchased. I do not think this is right. A standard should be set as to the number of acres of land on which the institute can survive and make available necessary information and knowledge to the agricultural community. They should not be allowed to buy up all the land available around the country.

It seems to be open to anybody to bring into this country any kind of dirt of agricultural machinery. I see certain agricultural machinery which is an utter disgrace being allowed in here. If there is a low enough charge for it the farmer will buy it because he is confined by his pocket. The guarantee that goes with this machinery is not worth the piece of paper I have in my hand. I am talking about agricultural equipment, not tractors, lorries or anything like that. There should be some means of seeing that this equipment is of better quality and that it carries out the job it is supposed to do. The Agricultural Institute in Grange take out a certain number of machines every year and try them out but they take out the best of them. The ones that are sent to the four corners of the country are brought in here and there is no check on them. Some of this machinery would not scratch a henhouse, never mind scratch a field. I have seen one working. Although I myself did not buy one, I have experience of one type of machine which would not be suitable under any circumstances here but which was allowed into this country. Being so dear, there should be some inspection of agricultural machinery to ensure that whatever is sold here is suitable for our agricultural purposes before it is allowed for sale on the open market.

I compliment the Minister and the Department on the tremendous work being done under the Land Project. I have always found the staff in that office very kind and understanding and anxious to assist people who could not raise the necessary capital for the drainage of their land. In my county, a fine acreage has been made arable. I hope to see an extension of that work because there are acres and acres throughout the country which can grow nothing but snipe grass, if some of it can grow even that. Unfortunately, the farmers need somebody to drive them to avail of the grants and the facilities for the drainage of land. A person should be appointed whose duty it would be to make known to them what can be done and how to do it. If we leave it to the farmers, I do not think it will be done. Our aim is to make as much land as possible arable and productive. Certainly, the work being done under the Land Project deserves praise.

I compliment the Minister on the manner in which he has taken over work in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and I am grateful for the courtesy extended to all of us by the civil servants employed therein. Personally, I should like to see the dispute in relation to farming organisations solved, as no doubt would everybody else, too. I do not want to see one person going on his knees to another person. There should be common unity and common responsibility. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries must treat the agricultural community as a unit. Certain people cannot be phased out and expect a greater amount of latitude than others. I would ask the Minister to use his good offices to endeavour to heal the disunity in the farming organisations. I would also ask the farming organisations to put their own house in order and to get together in one specific body which will bring their views to the Minister rather than have the present situation of different bodies bringing conflicting views. This is a situation which does not benefit the Minister, the farmers or the public. In order to achieve this, the farming community will have to get together and heal up their own sores and wounds. I am sure we should then have general harmony between the Government, the Minister and our various agricultural bodies.

Because the time allowed for this debate is limited and as other Deputies also wish to speak I shall confine my remarks to one sector of the agricultural industry with which I am fairly familiar, the dairying industry. It is vital that the record be put straight in relation to the role of the dairying industry in the national economy and, particularly, that certain misconceptions be cleared up. In a general way, the Minister adverted to the economic and social arguments in favour of subsidisation of our major national industry. It is essential that we should clear our minds as to the magnitude of this problem or whether, in fact, there is a problem of surplus milk production at all.

I was amazed at a headline in one of our national newspapers this morning over its report of the debate on Agriculture here yesterday —The Problem of Surplus Milk. This whole idea of over-production of milk is giving rise to serious concern in the traditional milk-producing areas. I do not believe there is any justification for panic on this matter. I do not agree that there is any danger from the present trend in milk production. I believe there is not a serious problem. There is a problem but it is not as serious as some people seem to think.

According to the most recent statistics available, 110,000 farmers and their families are engaged is dairy farming and the direct employment in it is reckoned to involve approximately 350,000 people. In the creamery industry and in the milk processing industry the most recent statistics indicate that there are approximately 8,000 to 10,000 full-time workers. At present, the dairying industry contributes approximately £30 million through exports of dairy products and, of course, indirectly also because we cannot have cattle unless we have cows. It is contributing to the cattle and to the meat export business. It can be said, I think, without fear of contradiction, that the dairy industry is the foundation stone of our whole agricultural economy.

It is an interesting exercise to examine how far State aid for the dairying industry can be justified. The Minister adverted to the subject and, in a general way, said there were sound economic and social reasons for subsidising milk production. The fact is the dairying industry is the only sector of our economy in which the targets set in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion have actually been reached. No other sector of the economy has performed so well. Milk production has risen to 520,000,000 gallons.

There have, of course, been cries of over-production and a good deal of "ullagoning" about surplus milk. The plain fact of the matter is that this production of 520,000,000 gallons was envisaged when the Second Programme was formulated. I took the trouble to check and I find that, when the targets were fixed in 1964, forecasts were made indicating that something in the region of over 500,000,000 gallons of milk would be the output in 1968. That target has been reached. No other sector has shown the same capacity for expansion and development as has the dairying industry.

Total milk output is only one aspect of the whole problem. Other factors enter into the picture. The basic question we must ask ourselves when talking about surplus milk is whether or not our dairying industry is competitive in comparison with the dairying industry in traditional dairying countries. It may be a relatively simple matter to increase milk production. It is a problem to find new markets but, in the final analysis, the acid test of performance is whether or not dairying products can be competitive. Here we have, indeed, a very satisfactory situation. Not alone have the dairy farmers achieved the targets set in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion but milk products are commanding premium prices on the export market. In the British market at the moment, and for the past year or so, the price of butter shows that Ireland is second only to Denmark. It is interesting to note the market prices. According to the latest figures I could get, Danish butter in the United Kingdom is commanding £337 a ton. Irish butter is commanding £328 a ton. British butter is commanding £320 a ton; Dutch £307 a ton; New Zealand and Australian £300 a ton and other countries also £300 a ton. That shows that the quality of one of the most important end products of our dairying industry compares more than favourably with that of any other dairying exporting country. As I pointed out, the price commanded on the British market is second only to that commanded by the Danes. It is interesting to note in this context that the Danish techniques in butter manufacture are quite different from ours. It is also interesting to find, in arriving at a picture of the effectiveness of the Irish dairying industry, that we are the lowest cost producers of milk products in Western Europe and the second lowest cost producers in the world, second only to New Zealand.

The fact that we are able to produce the highest quality milk products while, at the same time, having the lowest cost of production in Western Europe gives us a tremendous commercial advantage from the point of view of selling our products on the export market. There has been dumping of dairy products in Western Europe and of collapsing prices for dairy products on the export markets. Fears have been expressed in regard to the new British proposals for agriculture, proposals aimed at self-sufficiency, but I am quite confident that the Irish dairying industry has nothing to fear. The advice I have given, and will continue to give, to dairy farmers who express anxiety with regard to the over-production of milk is to go on producing milk, to gear their farms up to the highest point of efficiency and to go on getting maximum output from their dairy herds. As I hope to show, there are no grounds for fear in relation to the future for milk on the export market.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.