I beg to move:
That the Seanad requests the Executive Council to constitute at an early date Advisory Committees, composed in whole or in part of representatives from and nominated by the County Councils, for the purpose of co-operation with the Minister for Lands and Agriculture and the Minister for Education in the development and improvement of agricultural and technical instruction.
I wish to say at the outset that I did not introduce this motion for the purpose of criticising the Minister for Agriculture or finding fault in any way with him, but rather as a means to assist the Department. I think it is very necessary that we should give all the assistance possible to agriculture and industry in this country. I feel that the Minister for Agriculture should have the assistance of an Advisory Committee. I was a member of the old board from its inception to the very last, and I hold that the old Council and the Board of Agriculture did very useful work. I think the time has arrived when the Executive Council would be well advised to re-establish on somewhat similar lines the old Council of Agriculture, and to set up advisory boards in connection with it.
The Council of Agriculture was established on a very popular basis. The General Council of County Councils at that time were representing all Ireland. Unfortunately, to-day we do not represent the whole Irish nation, but I do not think that that is any reason why we should not establish a proper council of agriculture and also advisory boards. As it stood, the Council of Agriculture was arranged on a very popular basis. Each county council, after the Triennial Election, had a right to nominate two members of the Council of Agriculture, and the Government had a right to nominate a certain number. The council was composed of something like 102 members. Of these, 68 were elected by the county council, and 34 by the Government. When they assembled at their first meeting they formed themselves into provincial committees, and they proceeded to elect an advisory board of agriculture and also a board of technical education. The council had a right to nominate two members from each provincial council on the board of agriculture. The board of agriculture was made up of twelve members. Eight of these were nominated by the provincial committee of the county councils. That, to my mind, was a very representative and a very useful board, and I hold that it is very necessary that we should have a board constituted as this was, so as to advise the Minister for Agriculture in the Saorstát to-day. In other countries, like for instance, England, you will see there that the Council of Agriculture is a very important body. We all noticed that only yesterday, when a very important announcement had to be made, it was made before the Council of Agriculture. That was a statement dealing with foot-and-mouth disease. In a great number of agricultural countries you have a council of agriculture also. I think that the Department that is spending such a large amount of money should have the assistance of an advisory board. I read with great interest the statement made by the Minister for Agriculture last week. I think it was a very able statement. I noticed from that statement that the vote for agricultural purposes amounted to £421,000 odd. That is a considerable amount of money. I think that the Minister should have the advice of men who are in close touch with agriculture in this country to assist them.
I also notice that the overhead charges, salaries and travelling expenses, amounted to something like £125,000. That is a very large amount of money to spend in salaries, and I think it is a large amount of public money to be spent by any Department without any advice or assistance. I speak with a good deal of experience and I think that the country at present would have more confidence if the Minister for Agriculture took into his confidence expert advisers on agricultural interests all over the country rather than have all this money expended by paid officials. I think the time is ripe now for having advice and representation on such Boards. Another reason why I hold it is very necessary is that the question of tariffs is a very burning question at present, and on it there is a great division of opinion. Even the Executive Council are not agreed on whether it would be right or wrong that tariffs on agricultural produce in this country should be imposed. I think if we had a proper agricultural council and agricultural boards that would advise the Executive Council at present as to what would be the proper policy we might save an amount of trouble and unpleasantness in this country. At present we have one Minister in favour of applying tariffs to all agricultural products. We have another Minister up against it. That is not a happy state of affairs and it is quite possible when the election comes on that the country may be torn asunder on this question of tariffs. There again I hold that if we had a properly constituted commission in close touch with agricultural interests of this country it would be the best means of deciding what would be the proper course in the interest of agriculture.
A large amount of money was expended under the old Board of Agriculture on different interests all over the country. There again I feel an advisory board would be able to give great assistance on some very important matters. Take, for instance, afforestation.
The Minister for Agriculture made an important announcement on that question. I hold there is not sufficient attention paid to that particular branch of industry in this country. We all know that the country is stripped bare of timber. It will have a very serious effect in the near future, and I hold an amount of useful work could be done if we had an advisory Board to advise the Minister as to the proper course to be taken. We have also another very important matter, the question of drainage. A Drainage Act has been passed quite recently, but I hold that if the tenant farmers all over the country and the people interested in that drainage question have to wait until the Act removes all the difficulties it will not be in our lifetime. There again I feel if there were proper advice we could go a very long way to relieve, to a great extent, unemployment in this country by having useful work done in drainage and afforestation and by doing away, to a great extent, with the Bill. I think that the agricultural interests and the labour interests in this country should go hand in hand. When agriculture is prosperous labour should be prosperous. I think, with proper advice, we could go a long way towards having a great lot of employment under both heads. I have spoken of drainage and afforestation. There are many other matters in connection with agriculture in which I feel a Council of Agriculture and a Board of Agriculture would be very useful.
With regard to the educational and technical boards I think an Advisory Board would give great assistance. The technical board was constituted in the old regime of twenty-one members. A member was elected by the provisional council, a member by the borough council and a member nominated by the Government. I feel they did useful work. We had representatives on that council and on the boards in close touch with technical instruction and educational work and I think their advice was very useful. Surely we have men in this country capable of advising on agricultural matters on proper lines. I think it is a great reflection on the farming and agricultural industry that we have not a council of agriculture in the Saorstát. I remember that on one occasion when we were face to face with a scare, following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, the Council of Agriculture was summoned and decided on very useful action. We have examples of the need for Advisory Councils.
The Minister for Local Government thought it necessary to appoint an Advisory Committee to report on the roads. If that was considered necessary in connection with roads I believe it is more important that there should be an Advisory Committee to deal with agriculture and technical instruction. I may be told that the appointment of such a committee would require legislation. Even so, I say it is necessary. An Advisory Committee such as that which was nominated for roads by the Department of Local Government would not be so useful or so representative as one nominated by elected representatives. A body like the old Council of Agriculture could deal with matters that have not received the attention they should receive. For instance in 1913 £10,000 was voted for the improvement of horse-breeding. I am afraid that that branch of agricultural work has not received the attention it should receive. A good deal could also be done to improve seeds, so that the tenant farmers of the Saorstát need not import them. In the Northern portion of the State we had an enormous crop of potatoes for which there was no sale, while in other portions of the State there was a scarcity. If we had an Advisory Board that could not happen. It would also be an advantage if an arrangement was made whereby seeds would be changed from one county to another or from one province to another. I appeal to the Seanad to support this motion and to advise the Executive Council and the Minister for Agriculture to seriously consider the re-establishment of a body somewhat similar to the old Council of Agriculture. If that body were re-established we would have Advisory Boards. If the Minister cannot see his way to do so, and if legislation is required, boards consisting of nominated members could be set up, composed of men who have expert knowledge of the agricultural industry and also technical education.