Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Western Farm Grants Rate.

13.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he proposes to extend the pilot area farm grants rate to all districts in the 12 western counties.

(Cavan): Presumably the idea behind the pilot area scheme is to encourage other farmers in the area to follow the procedure adopted in the pilot area and, if this is so, would the Minister agree that one or two parishes in an entire county are inadequate to provide the necessary example? Will he consider designating more parishes in the various counties pilot areas?

As I pointed out on a few occasions in the past, the whole effort in regard to pilot areas is on the basis of experiment. It is of an exploratory nature in order to find out what we can get from an intensive application of various grants and schemes— specially increased for this purpose— being carried out with the aid of an adviser.

(Cavan): Would the Minister not consider providing more technical advisers in these 12 western counties?

They have not the colleges to train them.

Certainly, it is not the intention to do so at present. Whether or not it should ever be done can only be ascertained on the results of the intensive application of those schemes to the enlarged pilot areas.

(Cavan): Surely the Minister recognises by now that instruction of this nature is not alone highly desirable all over these 12 western counties but that it is absolutely necessary?

It is not now a question of recognising this. It is only about a year ago since those pilot areas were extended. Having started on the basis of one parish per county and having applied the various schemes in an intensive way on that small scale, it was then thought advisable to enlarge the scope of the scheme to include a three parish unit to find out whether what worked well on the small single parish basis would work as well or better on a larger scale. It is on that basis we are still operating. We do not yet know whether, in fact, all of this is going to work out as we envisaged— whether it is going to work better or perhaps not as well.

Question No. 14.

(Cavan): Did Deputy Dillon not suggest this on a larger scale nearly 20 years ago?

Will the Deputy tell us a few of the other things he suggested?

(Cavan): The Land Project, for one.

Where the pilot scheme is falling down is in the change of advisers——

Has the Deputy a question to put?

I am not aware that it is falling down. In fact, if that is so, is it not surprising that some of the Deputy's colleagues are seeking to have applied to the remainder of the 12 counties a scheme which Deputy Reynolds says is falling down? There is an inconsistency there that certainly needs some little teasing out by the Fine Gael Front Bench. If advisers are moving from one area to some other job, we cannot stop this.

Like the Fine Gael Party.

The three parish plan sets out the basic number of farmers which I am happy to think Deputy Haughey—who had some vision when he was Minister for Agriculture—and I found by experience was the practical unit on which to initiate the parish plan. Is it not true, as Deputy Reynolds said, that it is an essential ingredient for the success of what the Minister calls the pilot area and what Deputy Haughey and I call the parish plan that there should be familiar and confidential contact between the parish agent and the approximate thousand farmers whom he is charged to assist in the area where he operates? Would the Minister not agree with Deputy Reynolds that, in so far as it is possible, it is desirable to keep the same agent operating in the pilot area or in the parish unit, whichever you may care to call it?

In so far as it is possible, that is exactly what is done.

I am glad the Minister is learning sense.