asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the plans, if any, the Government have to encourage farmers to invest in production other than beef, dairying and cereals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Farm Enterprise.
Aid is available under the farm improvement programme for a wide range of farm enterprises. The question of extending the range at an appropriate time to include certain alternative enterprises is under consideration. In addition, farmers' working capital for short term and stocking requirements is covered under the two Euro-Currency schemes which provide for a wide spectrum of farming activities.
The Government have established An Bord Glas with the primary aim of promoting the development of the horticultural industry so as to increase output, replace imports, promote exports and generate additional employment.
I am currently seeking special support in the discussions on farm prices in Brussels for aid for producer groups and harvesting machinery.
Is the Minister satisfied that An Bord Glas will be able to function as described by his party and in accordance with the hopes expressed, with no encumbrance under the directives proposed on the completion of the internal market?
I am quite satisfied that An Bord Glas will be able to so operate. I think that the high hopes for An Bord Glas will be realised in quite a short time.
Let me rephrase my question slightly. Is the Minister satisfied that An Bord Glas as a State company will not be in violation of some company directives and will not be liable possibly to be sued for breach of competition rules if the different directives I have referred to are passed into Irish law?
That is a separate question. I do not want to dodge it, but it is a distinct and separate question from the one put down by Deputy Mac Giolla. I will have the matter looked into and will discuss it further with the Deputy.
In regard to the Minister's remarks about An Bord Glas I am afraid that we have the wrong Minister on this one. Is the Minister not aware of the very strong concern that has been expressed about the hasty manner in which the interim board of that body were put together and the manner in which the proposed staff are being treated? They do not know what is happening. Is the Minister not aware of the very strong concern being expressed about what appears to be so far a totally cosmetic measure put together with no consideration or preparation?
Nail your colours to the mast, boy.
I think that is a wide extension of this question.
Is it not reasonable to ask if the Minister is aware of that concern? I ask him to comment on it and on whether the board are working well. What about some members of the board and the three men from the one company?
I am quite satisfied that the membership and make-up of this board consist of some of the most reputable people in the industry.
Card carrying, the whole lot of them.
I do not know of any single one of the board members who has not made a fine contribution to the horticulture industry and together they can help to sort out the mess in which the horticulture industry has found itself.
I welcome the formation of the Department of Agriculture and Food and An Bord Glas. Is the Minister prepared to consider an extension of the Euro-Currency scheme which he mentioned to conventional dairy enterprises which are very badly funded at the moment and in need of such help? Before encouraging or grant-aiding anybody in respect of an ACOT-promoted alternative farm enterprise, will the Minister ensure that any such proposal will be closely examined to ensure it is market-led?
I should like to assure the Deputy that the whole thinking in the Department is towards a market-led industry. In relation to alternative enterprises, ACOT have proposed for inclusion in the farm improvement programme deer farming, rabbit farming, sport horses and a whole range of other alternative enterprises. Subject to the Department being satisfied that the proposals are economically viable and that there is a market for them, funds will be provided to meet the additional cost which such enterprises will take up under the farm improvement programme.
Will the State provide marketing aids for such enterprises and take responsibility for marketing some of their produce in the formative years because that is when the difficulty arises?
The Deputy should rise in his place if he wants to put a question.
Will the Minister say whether he would be prepared to accept some of the responsibility of marketing the products from alternative enterprises in their formative years because experience has shown that many alternative industries, especially agri-businesses, have failed on account of difficulties encountered in the market place, because of lack of know-how, finance, and generally because of failure to penetrate the market? In the formative years of such businesses would the Minister consider that the State should take a direct interest in marketing such products, through agencies such as Bord Bainne?
The Department of Agriculture and Food are placing particular emphasis on what is generally described as beyond-the-farm gate activities. The same will apply in relation to alternative enterprises. We appreciate industries must be market-led in the early years in particular when the marketing of the produce of such enterprises will have to be given priority. I can assure the Deputy we will give such enterprises every assistance.
The Minister will be aware that those proposals were announced in 1986 when departmental officials visited the county committees of agriculture. Will the Minister endeavour to ascertain now from ACOT offices what has been the interest shown in such schemes so that they can be examined and co-ordinated, in order to ascertain the areas in respect of which they would be most suitable?
I can assure the Deputy I will be in contact with ACOT in order to get an up-to-date report on this scheme.
Is the Minister satisfied that the members he has appointed to An Bord Glas will give their all to the development of the food marketing industry? Bearing in mind that a number of those members are themselves directors of companies, is it to be taken they would not develop something that would damage their companies?
I have no doubt the individuals concerned are of the highest calibre and integrity and have shown in their private lives that they are leaders in the field of horticultural development. It is felt that together they can make a national industry out of the horticultural industry.
We will have a further discussion on that issue. We have the wrong man in the firing line.
What proposals has the Minister or his Department for the development of alternatives for smaller farmers, let us say those with under 30 acres, who are unlikely to have a visit from an ACOT adviser — in receipt of reduced travelling allowances — and who are unlikely to be able to pay such fees? What proposals has the Minister for alternatives for farmers in that category?
First he is telling them to vote "yes" in the forthcoming Referendum.
ACOT have a range of incentives and aid available to the smaller category of farmer. I do not know of any farmer who has been denied a farm visit by ACOT personnel. Additionally, ACOT provide a very wide range of lectures, tours, farm visits, and generally give——
——an excellent service. But how are they to travel now to small farmers?
They will be concentrating on lectures, visits and tours so that they can help small farmers to maximise their potential in the area of alternative enterprises.
Will they come in a bus?