A fair yardstick of the success of the Government's agricultural policy is the degree to which the targets set out by the Government in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion have been reached. The proposed terminal year for the Second Programme for Economic Expansion is 1970. If we compare the projections made then as to what agricultural output would be this year with the actual results it can be seen that the agricultural policy has been a substantial failure.
The Second Programme projected that agricultural output in the sixties would rise by 62 per cent, but in actual fact agricultural output up to 1968 had only risen by 24 per cent. It is highly unlikely that we shall reach the targets in 1969 and 1970. Agricultural targets have fallen well below the targets set set out in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion. This should cause the Government considerable concern. They cannot sweep under the carpet the projections which they made in 1963 when drawing up the Second Programme. These projections were made by the Fianna Fáil Government, they have seen them through and if the programme has failed it is indicative of the failure of the policies the Government introduced to ensure that programme targets were met.
The target for cattle production for the year 1970 was 6½ million but in actual fact we only have 5,800,000 cattle at present. We failed to reach that target. An unfortunate aspect of cattle numbers is that the payments made by the Government under the beef export guarantee scheme have not kept pace with payments made to British factories and, in particular, to Northern Ireland factories. The Government have kept pace with the most recent increase in Britain, and this is commendable, but I cannot see why they cannot now restore parity and pay the same amount to our factories as is being paid by the British Government to factories in Northern Ireland. This puts these factories at a considerable advantage over our factories and, while the effect is not yet evident to any great extent, it could well become evident at any time if our factories get into difficulties. Northern Ireland factories would be at a very considerable advantage and the danger would be that employees in the meat factories here would be put out of employment. Because our factories are not receiving the same support, in a competitive situation they would be the first to go to the wall.
On artificial insemination, only 63 of the 265 dairy bulls in the service have been progeny tested. This is a very bad situation. We should ensure that all bulls used in the AI service are progeny tested. If they are not tested no one will know what kind of progeny they will produce and people will be working more or less in the dark. We should ensure that the highest proportion possible of these bulls is progeny tested. This could be done quite easily. So many bulls would not be necessary with modern methods of semen dilution and, by adopting the methods used in New Zealand, we could make a smaller number of bulls go much further, thereby ensuring that we use only the best.
In relation to performance testing, the Department takes a certain amount of credit in staling they are introducing performance testing and setting up a station to do this at Tully in Kildare. It is worth noting that in the Second Programme they were also talking about performance testing. That was in 1963. They are still talking about it. Nothing has actually been done yet. If the case for performance testing is as strong as it apparently was in the minds of those who drew up the Second Programme for Economic Expansion why have we had to wait until 1971?
It is, I think, very unfortunate that there is no representation of farmers' organisations on the CBF. The producers and their organisations are the most important component in the beef industry. They should have representation on CBF. I understand a classification scheme is at present being drawn up. This is being drawn up by a body made up of representatives of the CBF, the Department of Agriculture, An Foras Talúntais and the meat factories. Why is there no producer representation on the body responsible for classification? Surely, the farmers have as much interest as anybody else in ensuring that a proper classification system is drawn up? Such a system is one of the best ways of ensuring a good export trade for our beef because people will know what they are getting and the system will ensure they get what they want. The farmers have as big an interest as anybody in having a proper classification system in existence. I should like to know why it was decided not to give producer representation on the body drawing up this classification system to the farmers. I should also like to know when the system will come into operation.
With regard to milk production, the multi-tier system has been partially modified as a result of the recent announcement by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The system acts as a severe disincentive to expansion. That has been accepted by all responsible bodies in the industry. It is extraordinary that the Government have not responded to the repeated representations made to them by all the responsible bodies in the creamery milk industry. I notice that those producing over 30,000 gallons per annum are getting no increase. This is very unfortunate. This will operate as a disincentive to people to increase production beyond 30,000 gallons per annum. It is worth noting that under the most modern dairying methods in Britain and in the EEC countries the production of 30,000 gallons means that very good cows provide employment for only one man. The ideal in Irish agricultural policy is to ensure that on any given farm there is employment for two men so that there will be some time off for each and that no one man will have to be on the farm all the time. It is unfortunate that our agricultural policy in relation to creamery milk should contain a regulation which has the effect of preventing people reaching a level of production which, using the most efficient methods, would give employment to two men. With the most efficient methods of production a level of 30,000 gallons per annum would give employment to only one man. I think this policy will discourage the most efficient methods and also discourage people reaching a level of production which would give employment to two men. This is not in line, I think, with the policies we should be adopting.
In the last two years there has been a substantial decline in creamery milk production. The greatest decline has taken place on the small farms. These are the farms the multi-tier system was intended to benefit, the best price being given to those producing below a certain level. Yet these are the areas in which the greatest decline in creamery milk production has occurred. It is entirely wrong that we should have a system of pricing which discourages an increase in creamery milk production, particularly in view of the fact that it is essential, if we enter the EEC, that we should produce the maximum amount of creamery milk in order to ensure our taking full advantage of the opportunities offered for creamery milk production in the EEC. One of the sectors which should benefit most from EEC membership is the creamery milk industry and any policy which allows creamery milk production to decline is highly unwise. Such a policy means that we are reducing our capacity to take advantage of the opportunities available to the creamery milk industry in the EEC.
I notice that in the early 1960s creamery rationalisation was recommended by a study group set up by the IAOS. Subsequent to that there was the Knapp report which made the same recommendations. Now the Minister is setting up yet another study group to make recommendations to him on rationalisation. When will the studies and the reports stop? When will some decision be taken on creamery rationalisation? Surely we have done enough study now to enable us to take decisions? Is the Minister putting off decisions because he is afraid to take decisions which might make his party unpopular in certain areas? I sincerely hope that is not the case. It is clear we will not be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered in the EEC unless we have an efficient creamery milk industry. It is also clear that without rationalisation we will not have an efficient creamery milk industry. I should like to know why the Government have not yet taken decisions in relation to rationalisation.
In the case of liquid milk production supplied for domestic consumption, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in 1969 there was only one increase totalling three-pence per gallon to liquid suppliers. In that year the bottlers of liquid milk received an increase equivalent to 8d per gallon, or 1d a pint per bottle. Why should the Department sanction such a large increase for the wholesalers, who are merely the middlemen, and only give 3d to the producers? We should also remember that the increase of 3d this year was exceptional and that in previous years increases for the liquid milk suppliers were much less.
It is also worth noting that the 3d increase for the suppliers this year was intended to cover only the increased costs that had occurred to the end of 1969. Since 1970 there have been further increases in costs for the suppliers and the Government should consider whether the increase is sufficient to cover those increased costs since the beginning of 1970. Wage costs have increased by 25 per cent; fertiliser costs have risen by 10 per cent; and feeding costs have increased by 15 per cent. All these increases are reducing the profit margin for the liquid milk suppliers and the Government must look into this matter.
I am glad to see that the scheme in relation to farm buildings is being revised in order to achieve parity between dry stock and milk suppliers. I I hope that when this revision takes place certain bureaucratic requirements will be removed. There are many requirements for farmers to qualify for a grant under the farm buildings scheme —requirements that bear no relation to the productive needs on the farm. In some cases the requirements laid down by the Department would entail too much expenditure and it is not worthwhile for the farmer to apply for the grant.
In relation to the small farm incentive bonus scheme, at the end of 1969 there was a considerable decline in the numbers accepted for this scheme. In the last three months of 1968, some 1,646 people were accepted, whereas in the last three months of 1969 the number had declined to 621. These figures indicate that while this scheme was quite promising in the initial stage it has been declining in effectiveness. The scheme should be revised and made more attractive to farmers. I am sure that many who could benefit are not availing of the scheme. Something needs to be done, either by way of publicity or by improving the terms of the scheme to ensure that farmers are made aware of its benefits. In this connection it is important to note that there are some counties where the number of applicants have been high relative to the population and in other counties the number is very low. The areas that give greatest concern include Counties Donegal, Longford, Monaghan, Kildare, Roscommon and Meath. In these areas the small farmers have not been taking advantage of this scheme to such an extent as, say, farmers in County Mayo. These regional discrepancies need an explanation.
This scheme introduces the idea of farm planning and the keeping of accurate accounts. This is valuable. It should be applied to a wider range of farmers than is currently the case. If a farmer wishes to qualify for the scheme he must have a system of farming that in the last calendar year gave an estimated gross profit margin of less than £700. This figure should be increased at least to £1,000, particularly in view of the fact that inflation has been so high and the figure of £700 now bears no relation to its value when the scheme was introduced.
The greatest failure in our agricultural policy has been sheep production. It is worth noting that had the target set out in the Second Programme been reached, sheep numbers in 1970 would be in the region of 6.6 million. Sheep numbers in 1970 are no more than 3,900,000 and this indicates clearly that the policy adopted by the Government has been a monumental failure. It has also had a serious effect on our balance of payments. In 1966 our exports of sheep to Great Britain and Northern Ireland exceeded our imports from those areas by 66,000. However, in 1969 imports of sheep from Great Britain and Northern Ireland exceeded our exports by 41,000. The Minister claims to have evidence that the trend of the decline in sheep numbers in the past few years has been reversed. However, he has not produced any concrete evidence to back up his statement.
This decline is particularly serious when we consider that sheep production has the greatest opportunity for expansion under EEC conditions. The consumption per head in the Common Market is much lower than in Great Britain. In France the annual consumption of mutton and lamb is only 6 lbs. per head of the population, whereas in Ireland and Britain consumption is 23 lbs. or 24 lbs. per head of the population. Obviously, therefore, there is great opportunity to expand consumption of mutton and lamb in the EEC. We produce mutton and lamb effectively. There is an opportunity to increase consumption and to expand exports. It is worth noting that it has been estimated that in an enlarged EEC the self-sufficiency in relation to sheep and lambs, even taking into account the fact that consumption levels are so low and that there has been no effort to increase the consumption in Europe, will be only 60 per cent. There is great scope for sheep production in EEC countries. There are great opportunities for Irish farmers. It is a great tragedy that we allowed, and are continuing to allow, sheep numbers to decline. The numbers of sheep mentioned under the Second Programme target are twice what we have in 1970. There has been a constant decline to date in sheep numbers. It is a pity that this has happened. The advantages under EEC conditions may be lost. Emphasis should be placed on sheep production to ensure that we take advantage of EEC conditions. Under the Wool Marketing Act, 1968, a grading system was to be brought into operation in relation to wool. This system is not yet fully effective. I do not understand the delay in this matter.
A report of a body set up by the Government to consider pig production recommended rationalisation in relation to the number of pig factories in this country. Nothing has been done. We will not be in a position to take full advantage of pig production under EEC conditions because of this. There are a large number of bacon factories in the country at the moment. For this reason they are not as efficient as they might be. Lower prices are being given to producers and higher prices are being charged to the consumers in order to keep the factories in existence. The conditions prevailing in the future may force some of these factories out of existence. We must do something now about the number of bacon factories so that the employees can have proper re-training in preparation for the time when the numbers employed in the bacon factories decrease. These people must get re-training early enough to ensure that they will qualify for alternative employment. We have neglected to do anything about bacon factory rationalisation. It may be too late for many of the employees. We are misleading them. These factories cannot all continue to operate under competitive conditions. We should be doing something about the departmental report. If we are rejecting the report we should give good reasons for doing so. If we do not reject it we should be doing something about the factories. That report was introduced seven years ago. Pig numbers could be increased substantially. In Belgium pig production has been trebled over the last three years.
We have been talking about the damage done by sheep scab for many years. Efforts have been made to eradicate sheep scab over the past 50 years. The Department admit that a proper system of eradication could rid us of this disease within two or three years. We have not been resolute enough and have not taken the measures necessary to eliminate the disease. Perhaps a scheme similar to the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme should be put into effect, by which the matter would be handled on a county basis and eradication would be carried out in certain areas first and then extended to other areas. Farmers are quite used to this method. The eradication of scab does not involve the extensive use of blood tests as in the case of brucellosis. A scheme for the eradication of sheep scab could be introduced without undue expenditure. The short-term expense might be heavy but in the long term the savings would be great. The amount spent on small schemes which do not make eradication effective is probably greater than any expense involved if we adopted a full eradication scheme over two or three years. The severe losses to the national economy and to the sheep industry arising from this disease must be taken into account. I hope something will be done soon.
I deplore the attitude of the Minister and of the Government in relation to warble fly eradication. I quote from the document "Main Activities of the Department" which says in relation to the increase in warble fly infestation between 1967 and the beginning of 1970:
As a result it was decided to reintroduce a general autumn dressing campaign in 1970 but because of opposition by some farming organisations this was not practicable.
Clearly the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was trying to put the whole blame for the failure of the warble fly eradication scheme on the farming organisations. This is entirely wrong. There may be blame on all parties but to blame the farming organisations entirely is grossly unfair. This is serious in view of the fact that the most important component in a successful scheme for the eradication of this pest is the farmers' co-operation. If the Minister blames the farming organisations entirely he will ensure that he will not get the farmers' co-operation which is vital to the success of the scheme. In his speech the Minister says :
It seems that in future treatment of the warble fly will have to be on a voluntary basis.
It is clear to me that there is no hope of the warble fly being eradicated if it is to be done on a voluntary basis. We might as well cease calling it a warble fly eradication scheme if we operate it on a voluntary basis because the same thing will happen as happened in 1967. Infestation will rise fast and we shall be back where we started. In 1967, warble infestation was approximately 1 per cent but, by August, 1970, it was up to 12 per cent. Obviously, the scheme on a voluntary basis is not effective.
I should like the Minister to introduce a general autumn dressing with a price for the drug not of 4s which was considered by the farming organisations to be excessive. The Government withdrew the general autumn dressing in 1967 and the farmers naturally considered that a cost of 4s per beast for dressing was excessive. I trust that, in the near future, the Department will make a contribution towards the dressing costs in view of the fact that the scheme would not be necessary now but for the mistake made by the Department in 1967. That is one way of ensuring co-operation from the farming community. Then, some time next August, there should be an announcement that, in the following spring, spot checks will be carried out to ensure there is no warble infestation and that penalties will be imposed on farmers who have a level of warble infestation which indicates they did not have their cattle dressed according to the compulsory dressing scheme. If these spot checks are announced well in advance and if there is some penalty involved it will ensure that all cattle are dressed.
During the general autumn dressings in 1965 and 1966, a minority of farmers did not dress their cattle. Their farms became the seed beds for warble infestation and gradually it has spread throughout the country again. We should aim at rooting out these pockets of infestation. We must stop fiddling with the problem and get rid of warbles in a short space of time. There has been a considerable expenditure, a lot of which has gone for naught.
I am generally satisfied with the progress of the brucellosis scheme. However, under the voluntary brucellosis certified herd scheme which is in operation in all counties since June, 1965, and which is particularly important in counties where full-scale eradication has not been introduced, there is a possibility that a herd could become certified by using not only the negative blood test but also the milk ring test. This would be a more economical and less cumbersome way of testing for brucellosis. Careful consideration should be given to the use of the milk ring test under the brucellosis certified herd scheme.
A point which causes me some concern is the limit on the price to be paid per beast destroyed as a reactor under the brucellosis eradication scheme. Recently, this has been raised from £100 to £125 per beast as a result of pressure in this House and also from the farming organisations. A limit is unwise. Why can we not pay the actual value of the beast to be destroyed? With a limit, there is a tendency for people to go right up to the limit. The limit system is probably costing the Department more than would be the case if the actual value of the beast were paid. Does the Minister not trust his inspectors to settle the real value of animals destroyed under this scheme?
There has been a substantial decline in potato production. This fact is mentioned without comment in the notes dealing with the main activities of the Department. We do not know if the Department are prepared to accept this continued decline in potato production. Do they intend to arrest this decline? There has been a particularly bad potato harvest in parts of the country due to flooding. The potato harvest in Donegal has been very bad. Emergency measures may be needed here in the way of, perhaps, interest-free loans to farmers to help them to cope with their losses on this crop this year.
In relation to agricultural advisory services, we are told that in-service training is being given to advisers. They are being brought back for various types of courses even after they have completed their formal training as advisers. How many of them can avail of this? Another factor in relation to advisers is that many of them move from one county to another very quickly in order to obtain promotion. They move from one county to another to a great extent because promotion may, as a result of some staff changes, become difficult in a particular county and the logical thing is to move to another county where opportunities may be greater. As a result, we have a position in which agricultural advisers are playing musical chairs, moving from one county to another. This is very bad when you remember that the most important thing in regard to agricultural advisory services is the development of a confidential relationship between the farmer and the adviser so that they know each other personally. If the adviser is changed from one year to the next and there is a succession of different advisers they will not be able to develop this relationship. A bonus should be given on salary to advisers who stay in the same area for a considerable period and are thus in a position to develop confidential relationships with farmers in that area.
It has been generally pointed out in regard to international organisations that our contribution to the relief of poverty in less developed parts of the world has been well below that of other countries and certainly below the 1 per cent laid down, I think, by the United Nations. I do not know if it was that body: I have not done much research on this but I believe it is generally accepted that we have not been playing our part as a developed country in helping undeveloped countries. We all have a great feeling of sympathy when we hear of a disaster such as the recent Pakistan disaster but this is an emotional reaction, not something that takes much practical effect. It is easy to feel sympathy about something as obvious as the recent disaster in Pakistan but the need for aid in these countries is a continuing one. It does not arise when a disaster like this occurs; there is poverty all the time in some parts of the world. While I recognise that the Department have been increasing their contribution, it is clear that as a developed country, which we are, our contribution is not on a par with that given by other developed countries. I sincerely hope something will be done to improve the position. As an immediate measure I suggest that the annual grant-in-aid of £10,000 to Gorta should be substantially increased.
On page 47 of the notes on the main activities of the department it is stated that Ireland in 1967 signified its readiness to make a contribution to the Food Aid Convention and a nominal provision of £1.000 has been made for this purpose. I should like some information as to what this Food Aid Convention is and as to why, if the convention became effective in 1967, we are still making only a nominal provision of £1,000 towards it. Has the convention not become effective? Perhaps that is so. I should like some information on this matter.
I see that officers of the Department have attended meetings of the OECD committee for agriculture and its working parties during 1969. Among the matters which continued to engage attention, it is said, were the position and prospects in respect of agricultural commodities particularly dairy products and meat. I should like some information as to the result of our participation in these international bodies. We are sending civil servants to various parts of the world to attend meetings of bodies such as this but the House never gets much information as to what is happening, what our representatives are doing, what policies they advocate and what are the results of participation in these bodies. The OECD committees are only an example. There are many bodies to which we send representatives every year. The House never knows what is happening. I do not think that is deliberate; if we sought the information I am sure we would get it but I hope that the Minister, when concluding, will give more information than is given here about our participation in these organisations.
In regard to information and publicity, there is reference in the notes to the Farm Bulletin published monthly now. Deputies receive this publication. I do not know how much it costs. I do not suppose it costs a great deal. I do not know who else receives it or how wide its circulation is but I wonder if any reader research has been done to ensure that it meets the needs of those receiving it. Is it read or just thrown away? We should find out. I am not sure if the format has changed very much over the years but if we are spending money on it we should ensure that it is readable and fulfils an actual need. If not it should be withdrawn and we should cease spending money on it. I hope some reader research will be done on this bulletin and on all the Department's publications to ensure that they meet a real need. I am sure the £50,000 the Department spend on publicity and information each year could be more effectively spent.
Credit and fertilisers are probably the two most important inputs of any farming enterprise and I hope the Department will continue to extend the grant to the Agricultural Credit Corporation to ensure that all the credit needs of farmers will be met so that they can expand and take advantage of EEC conditions.
Under the technical assistance scheme grants are made to firms in agricultural-based industries to meet part of the cost of (1) training management supervisory personnel, (2) study courses and tours abroad, and (3) engagement of consultants to advise on matters relating to improvement of productive efficiency. Representatives of agricultural and rural organisations as well as officials employed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and by the county committees of agriculture participate in the programme. I should like some information on what type of enterprise gets assistance under this programme, what agricultural and rural organisations are represented and how long the programme has been in existence and how successful it has been. We should have this information. The figure of £45,000 is not very great but if we have this programme we should know more about it than we are told here.
In regard to the EEC the Minister said he had made arrangements for regular consultation between his Department and representatives of agricultural organisations on agricultural aspects of the negotiations. How often have these consultations taken place or how often is it proposed that they should take place? Is there any possibility of the Department bringing representatives of farming organisations to Brussels when the negotiations are taking place there so that the Minister would be able to have on-the-spot consultation with them if any problem arose in the negotiations which affected the interests of the farmers and so that he would not have to make an agreement without consulting them first? He could ensure immediate consultation with them if a difficult problem arose in the negotiations in regard to the position of our farmers. As these negotiations proceed farming organisations should participate on a day-to-day basis, not on a post facto basis where the Minister comes home and tells them what he has negotiated. That would not be true consultation but would be merely informing them of what he has done. I hope the Minister will adopt the idea of bringing representatives of farming organisations to Brussels with him or, alternatively, find some other method of having this day-to-day consultation as the negotiations proceed.
The Minister said :
Sheep numbers have been declining but there is evidence to suggest that this period of decline is now ending as a consequence of our improved production incentives and of the satisfactory level of sheep prices.
I should like the Minister to give us the evidence he has, and I should also like him to tell us the scale of the increase which is indicated by this evidence. To make a bald statement like that is not sufficient. The Minister also said that the Government decided to increase the level of support for our carcase lamb exports to Britain "by a similar sum". That was in relation to the increase in the British guaranteed price for sheep. I do not think this has meant anything so far as the Government are concerned because our exports of lamb to the British market do not reach the level where Government contributions are made from our side. So, that is really a rather meaningless statement.