Wednesday, 10 December 1941
Dáil Éireann Debate
That in order to ensure an increase in the area under wheat in the year 1942, Dáil Eireann is of opinion that the fixed minimum price for good milling wheat of this crop should not be less than sixty shillings per barrel of twenty stones.
Since these motions were put down, a necessity for reviewing the position has taken place. The Minister for Supplies came to the House recently for a subsidy of £2,000,000 in order that he might be able to keep the loaf at its present price. In making his case for it he said he would have to import 80,000 tons of foreign wheat this year, and is banking perhaps on importing a similar quantity next year. But in the light of what has happened in the last few days, I think every sane man should be convinced that there is only one sure source for the supply of our daily bread next year, and it may be for some years to come, and that is  our Irish soil. Otherwise, we will go short. That is the position we have to face. It is not a question of price. The Minister for Agriculture, when speaking in the House last week on another motion, talked of an increase in the price of wheat for the coming year as compared with the pre-war year, 1938. That was a fallacious premise to go on.
Before I deal with the wheat position that now confronts the country, with the expense of producing wheat and the absence of essentials for its production, or with the necessity for calling in land for its production that is not suitable, and that nothing would justify wheat being sown in except sheer necessity, I would like to have this Tillage Order clarified. The occupier of land, as defined in this order, would seem to be the owner of the land, and the owner only. I do not know whether the Minister will consider the exemption of land, particularly land around the City of Dublin that is being devoted to the production of milk, from the scope of this Tillage Order. When we were discussing these orders during the last few years, even last year, the position with regard to milk production was not as acute as it is now because then there was no restriction on petrol supplies. Now there is, and that restriction may become more acute as time goes on. It is all-important, therefore, that the maximum quantity of milk for Dublin City should be produced in or near Dublin, so that horse-drawn vehicles can take it into the city. For that reason I think the Minister should exempt dairy land this year from the scope of the order. I put that point to him in previous years when his orders were before the House for discussion, and it always seemed to me that it was a case of a line ball with him: that a little more would have made him make up his mind to exempt that land, but there were difficulties, he said, in the way, and he thought that perhaps the straight cut was the best line to take. The case for the exemption of that land is much stronger this year, and I would ask him to agree to it. In fact, I think all dairy land should be exempt, but I am  not pressing that point. I am, however, pressing for the exemption of dairy land near large centres for the consumption of milk as milk.
Take the case of a man with 100 acres of land. He tills 50 per cent. of it. He rents another 50 acres for grazing. That man is working 150 acres of land. The aggregate shows that he is tilling 33? per cent. as against the 25 per cent. required under the order. Will the 50 acres that he has taken for grazing be exempt? I said here on a previous occasion that the question of an adequate supply of food for the coming year is not one that can be met with a rough-and-ready order like this. The Minister should get down to his job now and ask himself what we are short of in the matter of food for man and beast, what we are likely to be short of in the coming year and in the years to follow, seeing that the world is now at war, and that we must produce at home all the food we require for man and beast. The breaking up of so many acres and of sowing what one likes in that land will not meet the case. The greatest campaign of all is for the growing of wheat, but one can observe this Tillage Order to the letter and not grow one grain of wheat. I do not think that is dealing with the situation. The Minister for Supplies, speaking here a few weeks ago, said that we want 370,000 tons of wheat. If so, our first and most pressing problem is to produce that quantity. There is, as I have said, no provision in this Tillage Order for producing one grain of wheat. I think there should be. To produce that quantity, we require to have 600,000 acres under the crop. Since we require that as an essential human food, then, I submit, the terms of the order should be such as to make it incumbent on us farmers to produce these 600,000 acres. If we shirk it and say: “No, we will not produce anything,”—and the Minister is going a good way about being told that—if we do not sow any wheat, we are not disobeying this order and this country, next harvest, will be faced with this situation, that there will be no imported wheat, no provision made for growing wheat here and we will not have one loaf of wheaten bread. That  is the loophole in this order and, if I were in the Minister's shoes, I would not take responsibility for it.
With regard to the food position generally, I submit now, as I did on a previous occasion, that the whole food problem is one of wheat, oats and barley. We have enough of all the other crops; we always had enough of them. I will except sugar beet; that is a special crop for certain areas where they have the factories. The beet industry will look after itself. The potatoes will look after themselves. I can safely leave the sugar beet to Deputy Corry.
Mr. Belton: I should like to see the beet produced at a reasonable price, not at the Deputy's price. I have no doubt Deputy Corry and his colleagues in the beet areas will produce the sugar and no special conditions need be laid down in an order. If the factories get their supplies—and there is machinery to look after that—then that industry will work out in its own way. I hope Deputy Corry will not again make the mistake he made last year and vote for an uneconomic price for wheat.
Mr. Belton: Our sins have a terrible knack of arising and looking us in the face at awkward times. I hope no sin of commission or omission will confront Deputy Corry this coming year as it did last year. The ghosts of last year should be enough to make him think quickly and rightly on the situation to-day. Last year he banked on eight barrels of wheat to the acre and he got five.
Mr. Belton: The Deputy said 50/- was too much. If he said £2 was not  enough he was only strengthening my case, because six and a half barrels, even at the price that I put forward, 50/-, would not quite equate with what the Deputy had in mind, eight barrels at £2 or a little more. If, last season, the Deputy was able to get only six and a half barrels to the statute acre, it is only fair to assume, when he is called upon to grow a little more next season on land not so well suited to wheat growing, that he can count on a lesser yield and I suggest the price should go up from 50/- to £3. I hope the Deputy's standard will be £3 for the coming year.
I think the Minister should look at the position in a practical fashion and give some consideration to our actual experience of wheat growing. I hope we will not have the sort of humbug we had last year. Every night when we switched on the radio we had one civil servant following another telling us to grow more wheat and that we would make money by doing so. I remember another occasion when they were telling us it was foolish to grow wheat, that it was grass we should grow. We who have experienced the different voices spoken by the same tongues have very little confidence in propaganda of that kind. I advise the Minister not to waste any more public money in that type of propaganda, in which the points that are put forward are far from the truth and only tend to make the whole thing look ridiculous.
Before it is too late, I suggest the Minister should be more energetic in making sure there will be enough wheat grown and that an economic price will be paid for it. The price I suggest is £3 a barrel. Last week, in reply to a motion proposed by me, the Minister said it would not be an optimistic view to take 17½ cwts. per acre as a yield for future crops. Did we get it this year? Did the Minister or Deputy Corry get that yield? Did anybody in this country get a yield of seven barrels to the acre? I have information from farmers who grew wheat over some of the best lands of Meath last season and the average did not reach six barrels to the acre.
What is the use of fooling ourselves? Why not face the problem fairly? If  the people of this country want bread we, who have the land, can produce the material for that bread, but we should be reasonably paid for it. There are countries to-day fighting for their very existence. They have their young men in aeroplanes, in submarines, in ships and in the trenches, all fighting to defend their countries. Our line of defence this year is the bread line, and if the commander-in-chief, the Minister for Agriculture, does not look after that line, he is letting the country down. Now is the time for him to strengthen that line. Now is the time for him to see that enough wheat, oats and barley are grown in this country and that those who grow it will be paid for growing it. The Minister says that 17½ cwts. to the acre, or seven barrels to the acre, is the average. Let us look at the figures that his colleague, the Minister for Supplies, gave us a week before that. He expects 290,000 tons from a crop of 491,000 acres. That is a little over four and a half barrels to the acre. If you allow for seed, which would be about .7 barrels to the acre, the two together would be considerably less than 5½ barrels to the acre. These are the figures computed by the Minister for Supplies, and after that the Minister for Agriculture comes along and says that we ought to produce 200,000 barrels more this coming year and expect a yield of seven barrels to the acre where last year we got a little over five barrels.
What has happened the rest of the wheat? There is no use in telling ourselves lies. Tell the other fellow a lie, if you can get away with it, if you like, but he is a terrible fool who tells himself a lie. The Minister for Agriculture who, as I said a moment ago, is the commander-in-chief of agriculture in this country, who is charged with protecting the bread line of the nation, is telling lies to himself and expects that we will swallow them. The Minister went on also to show that £3 per barrel was ridiculous. He said that the price of wheat had gone up since the war by 50 per cent., from 30/- a barrel to 45/- a barrel. Yes, and if the Minister asked the people of this country to grow only 200,000 acres of wheat this year, and if he gave them artificial manures, I say that they  would be well paid for growing it at 30/- a barrel. I do not think Deputy Corry will contradict me on that. But that is not the problem. The problem is to produce at least 600,000 acres without any artificial manures. There is no trouble for any man with a 20-acre farm to grow an acre or so at a couple of pounds per barrel, and he would be well paid for it, but the problem does not rest with the small area. We cannot import it. The problem is not one of price, nor of what it can be grown at this year as compared with previous years. The problem is to produce enough to give us bread, and when we start out to solve that problem we must put wheat into land that is not fit to grow wheat in the ordinary way of husbandry, but the country wants it and if we do not grow it there we cannot grow it at all. We have to put it into land that will produce three, four and five barrels to the acre, and the country has got to wake up to that situation.
It was entirely dishonest of the Minister to say that the price of wheat went up by 50 per cent. At that time we had ample fertilisers and we were only growing one-third of what we are asked to grow now. We had not then to put wheat into any land except good land, and we had only to put it where we chose ourselves and where we felt that we would be paid for it. The question of a price for wheat cannot be considered in an isolated way. It can only be considered in relation to the quantity that it is a national necessity to produce, and in relation to the fact that we have to call on land to produce it that no farmer who knows his job would think of putting wheat into in normal times. War is on now, however, and we are thrown back on our own resources and we have to put up with things that normally it would not pay us to put up with or that we would not be so foolish as to put up with. For instance, if we get sacks now, we are charged 5/- or 7/6 a sack— a sack that would be worth 4d. or 5d. pre-war—but it is not a question of price; it is a question that we cannot get them, they are not there and neither is the material to make them  with. We imported wheat in pre-war years at 15/- a barrel, but now you cannot get it at all. We must produce it ourselves, and we are called on to produce it. Surely to heavens, we are entitled to ask for payment for its production, and that is the whole question.
Now, there should be no fiction about figures. I would like the Minister, when he is speaking on these motions, to deal with these matters. If we had a crop last year of 17½ cwts. to the acre, that would be seven barrels to the acre, and the Minister for Supplies estimated that he should get from that crop 291,000 tons, which would represent 4.7 barrels to the acre. Allowing for seed, which would be about .6 or .7 barrels to the acre, the crop we would have would work out at less than five and a half barrels to the acre —let us call it five and a half barrels. Where have the barrel and a half, multiplied by 491,000, gone to? It is no answer to say that perhaps there is hoarding somewhere and the farmers are not delivering it. I am dealing with what the Minister for Supplies fixed as what he should get from the crop. I am not bothering about what may or may not be withheld by farmers or dealers or anyone else. The Minister only expects 290,000 tons. Why does he not expect a barrel and a half, multiplied by 491,000, in addition to that? He knows it is not there, and it is not fair for the Minister for Agriculture to mislead the House by saying that we can and should expect 17½ cwts. to the acre in this year's crop, and that the farmer has got his income increased by 50 per cent. The Minister asks what other class of the community have got their incomes increased by 50 per cent? That statement of the Minister is not true.
Now, before passing away from the order, I would impress on the Minister to consider, before it is too late, the necessity for the provision of an ample supply of wheat, oats and barley. I cannot see any way of ensuring that except by sitting down and making a mathematical calculation: What had we before the war? What did we import in the shape of foodstuffs? What  substitutes can we produce here? You must work out the quantity of substitutes, and ask the people to grow them, making the relevant orders accordingly. With regard to the price of wheat, the problem, as I have said, is a problem of growing—to take the Minister's figure the last day here—an extra 200,000 acres this coming year. If the yield that we had on 491,000 acres was only five and a half barrels to the acre, now that we have to increase our acreage this year, with less fertilisers, the yield must necessarily be lower. We have practically no fertilisers. I got tons of rubbish as fertilisers last year, and I would not dirty my land with them again. They are not fertilisers at all. I asked what was in them, and nobody knew. I think they were tons of eye-wash, make-believe. If I filled bags with road scrapings and put them out, I certainly would not have to pay as much for them, and I would have as good results. It is no fertiliser if the farmer is not handed a recipe of what he is putting into his land. If he does not know what he is putting in, he does not know whether he is working with a hope of a crop or working for nothing. You can cut them out altogether for this coming year. The only manure we can rely on is farmyard manure, or whatever reserve we may have; we cannot rely very much on whatever friends we may have in other countries, near or far. As far as fertilisers are concerned, we can forget the ordinary channels of trade, and when the Minister tells us that fertilisers will be very scarce, he might as well say: “We have none,” and have done with it.
Now, the Minister wants 200,000 extra acres of wheat. Members of this House have told me that they sowed wheat last year and did not get the seed out of it. They sowed it for patriotic motives. Can those people be expected to sow it this year? I had a bad patch in the middle of a big field; I would not sow wheat in it in the ordinary way. I gave it a dressing of artificial manure, but of the yield from that three or four acres the highest percentage was dirt. If that were my experience generally in my wheat crop,  I could not think of sowing wheat this year, for the simple reason that land of that kind would not grow it. People who do not know anything about agriculture think that all you have to do is to plough the land, shake a grain of seed on it, cover it up, and you have a crop. I wish that were true, and I am sure every farmer in the country would wish it were true. But it is not true. You must feed the land if you want a crop out of it. You must feed it with manure. When the manure is limited, your productivity is limited, and the area that you can put under the crop is limited. You may spread your manure over more land, but you can only spread it over it with a certainty of a diminishing return. The Minister knows quite well that 25 per cent. ploughed land, badly manured, may not mean—and I do not think it will mean—as much food as 20 per cent. ploughed land properly manured; or 10 per cent. ploughed land properly manured may mean more than 50 per cent. land badly manured.
The Minister is asking the country to grow 600,000 acres of wheat. The price last year, £2, did not pay. We have no better evidence of that than the fact that Deputy Corry, who strenuously opposed the motion for 50/- a barrel a year ago, was forced to come into this House and admit that 50/- should be the price of the crop for this year, considering the yield. I do not think he or any other farmer would ever hope to become very rich even at that price. The land is better able to grow wheat this year than we can hope it will be next year, and we have to increase the acreage, which means bringing in land that is not as suitable. If 50/- was an adequate price this year, it stands to reason that £3 cannot be too much for next year. If anybody thinks it will, let him ask himself will we get the 600,000 acres this coming year even at £3 a barrel. Deputy Corry said here the last day that it should be put up to the farmers to grow a sufficiency of wheat at 50/-, but that if they did not grow it they would get only 45/-. I would not be averse to that principle, applied in this way: Let the Government say to the farmers of this country: “Give  us 600,000 acres of wheat and we will give you £3 a barrel for it.” Let them calculate the amount which each farmer would require to grow in order to give the nation 600,000 acres of wheat, and let each farmer who grows the required amount be given £3 a barrel, while the farmers who did not grow their proportion of wheat would be given only 45/- or whatever you like. The man who does his bit when appealed to should not be held accountable for his neighbour who does not do it. Every man who grows the required percentage should get the higher price. The Minister need not shake in the face of the farmers the patriotism of other classes. Every class in this country showed its patriotism when it was called upon. The farmers were no better or no worse than any other class, and there is no need to shake patriotism in their faces. They are patriotic enough to respond to the call of the country, and I hope the Minister will be patriotic enough to see that, when he hands up his Portfolio as Minister for Agriculture, the soil of this country will not be more impoverished than he found it; I hope he will ensure that it will be no less fertile than when he became Minister for Agriculture.
I would suggest that the Minister should consider in his Tillage Order a plan extending over a number of years, which would fix the price for that number of years—post-war years too—and would enable the farmers to restore to the soil the fertility they are now taking out of it. I am sure the Minister will admit that excessive growing of wheat is bad farming when we consider that we have not fertilisers to restore immediately to the soil the fertility that the wheat crop will take out of it.
The Minister for Supplies recently came to the House for a £2,000,000 subsidy for flour. He explained that that was necessary in order to keep the price of the 4lb. loaf at one shilling. He said that if he did not get the consent of the House to that subsidy the 4lb. loaf next year would have to go up to 1/2. He gave as a reason for  that an increase of 5/- in the price of home-grown wheat, running up to 290,000 tons and an increase in the price of imported wheat, from what figure I do not know, but running up to 84/- per barrel, a little more than twice as much as the price at which native wheat was bought. Since the Minister for Supplies made that statement, the price of home-grown wheat for next year has gone up 5/- per barrel. It is a pity that the Minister for Supplies is not here to take part in this debate. It is a pity that he is not now looking for his subsidy side by side with our discussion on the price of wheat for next year's crop. He should be here to tell the House that the price fixed for that will fix the price of bread and the amount of the subsidy. If an increase of 5/- in the price of home-grown wheat in the current year was responsible for calling on the national finances to put up a subsidy of £2,000,000 for flour in order to keep the price of the 4lb. loaf stable at 1/-, quite obviously that increase of 5/- will put up the price of the loaf next year by 2d., or the subsidy will have to be doubled. Which is it to be?
Instead of that, I would suggest to the Minister what I suggested to him on the last occasion—that he should make two kinds of flour. We have been told by scientists, and even by some of the friends whom the Minister got to broadcast, that the present flour is more wholesome than the flour we had been eating. If that is so, it is good enough for anybody in this country. But the price of that flour has been stabilised by a subsidy of £2,000,000. It will take £4,000,000 to stabilise it next year. I would, therefore, suggest in all seriousness to the Minister that half of that flour should be milled at 95 per cent. extraction, and that the whole of the £2,000,000 should be given as a subsidy and the producer of home-grown wheat £3 a barrel. If that were done, the 4lb loaf could be sold at 11½d. As to the other half of the flour, people who want white flour are buying it here. There is a market here for white flour and for white bread. The relative price for wheat at the present wholesale price of white flour here would be £9 a barrel.  Why not mill white flour and give the grower of the wheat £3 a barrel?
Taking the Minister for Supplies' figure as a basis, you would require 450,000 tons of wheat, and that will be grown at £3 a barrel. You can sell your white loaf to anybody who wants to buy it. People who cannot afford it will not buy it, but they can buy a loaf similar to the loaf they have now. Where is their grievance then? It has been suggested that that would be making a class distinction. If you go through Dublin what do you see but class distinction in everything? One man can go into a first-class hotel and have a good dinner. Others will have to go into restaurants of different grades according to their purse. People go into tailors' shops and pay different prices for suits. They go into boot shops and pay different prices for boots. They go to the theatre and pay different prices for seats. Even in the trains you have different classes. So long as you have good, wholesome bread, what is wrong? That bread is provided for the people and we are calling on the general taxpayer to put up a subsidy of £2,000,000 to subsidise the price of that bread and make it available to everybody. What is wrong with that?
I think it necessary to put up a scheme of that kind because otherwise the price of bread will soar. It will have to soar or be made up by a subsidy, or we will have to do without it. All the wheat that is asked for cannot be grown and will not be grown at 45/- or 50/- per barrel. I think it will be grown at £3 per barrel. I suggest this scheme of milling two kinds of flour as the way out. It is worthy of consideration for this further reason: If you aim at 450,000 tons of wheat, instead of the 370,000 tons aimed at by the Minister for Supplies, and you fall somewhat short of the 450,000 tons, let the percentage of white flour suffer the loss of the shortage. If you do not get an ample margin to justify your production of white flour, do not produce it, but you will still have bread. If you go on any other lines, I am absolutely certain that there will be a shortage of wheat this coming year.
The simple economics of farming are  that there is nothing a farmer can do with a crop which will pay him as well as selling that crop for immediate consumption as human food. Therefore, the value of wheat for bread should overshadow the value of wheat used for any other purpose. Last Saturday, I refused to sell wheat at £3 a barrel for pig feeding. The Minister says that £2 a barrel is sufficient for that wheat. The merchants are charging £2 a barrel for the dirt and refuse of the wheat for feeding purposes, and, while that is going on, people cannot afford to grow it and they will not grow it, but the country is up against the fact that it must get it. I do not know whether the Minister and the Government want to hold the country to ransom, but misrepresenting increasing percentages in incomes will simply not work. If the Minister can get sufficient wheat to make flour on the present extraction for half or more of the population, he is safe on that front, but, on the other side, people are paying as much as 3/6 and 3/7 for 4-lb. white loaves. There is that market here. People are paying 1/2 a lb. for white flour. There is no secret about it. You will see chalked up on windows all over the city: “White flour sold here, 1/2 per lb.” Why not cater for that market, and you can charge for your wheat accordingly? You will get £3 a barrel for your wheat and you can reduce the present price of the white loaf by 1/6, by more than 50 per cent., as well as guaranteeing that there will be an adequate supply of the 95 per cent. extraction bread. Everybody will be paid for production and you will get all the wheat you require.
This price is necessary in order to compensate for the low yield which is inevitable, due, firstly, to the shortage of manures and fertilisers and, secondly, and perhaps principally, to the fact that we are calling on land to produce wheat which is not fit to grow it. Sheer necessity obliges us to do so. The average yield per acre for the current year given by the Minister for Supplies is less than 5½ barrels. The Minister for Agriculture, in a speech here last week, said that we need a minimum of 100,000 extra acres  this coming year, with less manure. That means the yield is going to be less. It is not the choice of the farmer to sow so much, but the country's need which obliges him to sow an increased acreage and the yield will be less on the increased acreage and the price must go up. The Minister has been warned by members of his own Party that if the proper price is not given, people will grow oats and barley instead of wheat, and the order admits that, because there is nothing in it to oblige anybody to grow wheat. How can you expect people on indifferent lands to attempt to grow wheat with a small yield, when they will not be paid for it, and when they can grow a fair crop of oats and barley and get their prices for them?
If the Minister persists in his price, we shall be able to tell him, when we are short of wheat next year: “We told you so,” but what good is that to us? I do not want to score over the Minister, nor, I am sure, does anybody else. We want to throw our experience into the common pool now so that the country will have enough wheat to give bread to everyone next year. That wheat cannot be produced unless it is paid for at an adequate rate. Any bill the farmer contracts— his annuities, his rates, his shop bills or his farm bills—must be met or the whole economic structure will fall. He cannot, without facing bankruptcy, grow wheat for which he is not paid an adequate price. I should like any person who opposes this motion with regard to the price of wheat to prove not that wheat can be grown, as was attempted to be proved by speakers last year, but that it can be grown economically at the present price. These people said last year: “We shall want a little more for it, but £2 a barrel is not a bad price.” I asked them: “Will you grow your share of the total supply for the nation?”, and they said they were growing it. I asked: “Are you putting so much of your arable land under wheat, so that if everybody did it, we would have an adequate supply?” and they said “No.” That is the crux. I could sow 20 or 30 acres of wheat this minute at 30/-  a barrel and it would pay me as it would pay other men. I would put it down as a matter of choice, but I intend to sow four or five times that acreage, which will not pay me so much. I might put oats in which will pay me a lot better than the wheat I will put in.
Farmers went through the mill in every movement in this country, and there is no use in parading patriotism or anything of that kind before them. Neither should the Minister wave patriotism in their faces and tell them to do something which he knows damned well they cannot do. An odd man here and there can do it, but taking the people as a class they cannot meet their bills. A man is not doing himself or his country any service unless he is trying to meet his obligations. I wonder if the Minister is still of the opinion that the price he is now offering for wheat is an economic one. Some weeks ago he said that the old price was an economic price, but since then it has gone up by 5/-. I suppose it depends on the side of the bed one gets out at in the morning whether a thing is at an economic price or not. If the Minister is still of the opinion that the price he is now offering is an economic price, I would like to hear him prove it. I would also like him to account for the discrepancy in the yield per acre in the current year. The Minister for Agriculture gave the figure of 17½ cwts. to the acre, or seven barrels, as compared with the figure of five-and-a-half barrels to the acre given to the House by the Minister for Supplies.
I suggest, in conclusion, that in this Tillage Order the Minister should take steps to ensure that in this coming year there will be no shortage of food here for man or beast. That can only be achieved by relying entirely on ourselves. If ever there was a time when a country was called upon to put into operation a policy of self-sufficiency, then it is going to be in this coming year here. It should be remembered that if we fail to do the job now, we cannot do it in six, five or four months' time, and almost two years will elapse before we can repair the damage of our neglect now. I have given my  views on the sort of order that I think should be formulated to meet the present situation. I stated those views in 1939, 1940 and 1941, and I am now giving them for 1942. My view is that a percentage of our land should be put under the crops that we are short of so that we will be sure of having enough of them. We do not want a 25 percentage of one crop. In particular, we want a sufficiency of wheat, oats and barley. I think the other crops will look after themselves. I submit that I have made an adequate case for the price of £3 a barrel for wheat during the coming year. If that price is given, I think the Minister would be entitled to demand an adequate supply of wheat and should take steps to ensure that he got it. If I were in his shoes I would take steps to ensure that I would get it, but I would not offer less than £3 a barrel.
I know as much about wheat growing as the next farmer. I am just as heavily in it as any farmer. I know what it costs and what it takes out of the land. We have nothing to put back into the land now. We are handicapped by having to call on land that, in the ordinary course of rotation, we would not put under wheat. We have no nourishment to give that land, and in our present situation we have to call on it to produce wheat. In view of all these circumstances, anything less than £3 a barrel would not be an adequate price to offer for wheat. I would ask the Minister and members of the House to remember that the problem is not one of price. It is one of producing 450,000 tons of wheat. That is our problem, regardless of price. We should produce that quantity and, therefore, I say give a price that will ensure its production. Give a price that will encourage and guarantee the production of 450,000 tons of wheat. The price that, in my opinion, will ensure it is £3 a barrel. If the House thinks that £2 a barrel will do that, then it would be foolish to offer £3, but if, in the opinion of the House, it were to take £4 a barrel to produce that wheat, then I think we should offer it. The main objective should be to get the 450,000 tons of wheat produced so as to be able to give bread to our people.
Mr. Cogan: I second the motion. I would like to congratulate the Government for having given time for this discussion, and of allowing the House an opportunity of voting on the proposal to give £3 a barrel for wheat. It is desirable that this discussion should take place at the present time. We have muddled through the year 1941. We have almost reached the end of the year, and are standing on the threshold of a new year. Unless we now wake up and take adequate measures to plan our food production economy, then this nation is in imminent danger of being faced with starvation and, as a result of it, with extinction. We are living in days of deadly peril and cannot afford to take any unnecessary risks. If, as a result of neglect or failure on our part, the people in this part of Ireland in 12 months' time are hungry, the Minister for Agriculture, the Government and every member of the House must stand convicted of criminal negligence, and of failure to safeguard the interests of the people whom we have been elected to represent. It is, therefore, pleasing to find that the Government have thoughtfully allowed an opportunity for a discussion of these motions at this time, because the time for providing an adequate wheat supply for our people is limited. Already nearly three months have passed in which a considerable amount of wheat should have been sown. I think that to the knowledge of every member of the House the amount of wheat sown during the past three months has been very disappointing. There are still two months left for the sowing of winter wheat. Not a moment must be lost in getting the crop into the ground. We hold that the first essential in that respect is to assure the farmer an economic price, not a price that will give him a profit. The farmer, unlike the speculators and the self-styled industrialists who look for excessive profits out of the present state of emergency or from special measures adopted by the Government, is not seeking anything more than the cost of his production. He seeks for nothing more than a price for his produce that will enable him to cover his costs of production, and to pay his workers a living wage. Anything  less than £3 a barrel for wheat will not give the farmer his costs of production, having regard to the fact, as Deputy Belton has pointed out, that we have got to increase enormously our acreage under wheat during the present year. We have got to go back upon land which has been intensively cropped with wheat during the past few years and we must have regard to the fact that we have to grow the wheat without the aid of artificial fertilisers.
The wheat cannot be produced for less than £3 per barrel. The Minister might say: “I would be quite satisfied to pay £3 per barrel for wheat if the money were available.” He might say: “There is no source from which this money can be obtained, except by increasing the price of bread to the consumer or by increasing taxation so as to provide a subsidy.” He might say: “The price of bread to the consumer cannot be increased at the present time, having regard to the limited incomes of the majority of our people,” and he might also say: “The burden of taxation cannot be increased, because it has reached its maximum.” I hold there is an alternative means by which the necessary money can be provided, and that is to increase the amount of money in circulation by the Government taking control of the national credit and providing the money out of its resources.
I have carefully considered the plan put up by Deputy Belton. That plan involves partly an increase in the price of bread and partly a subsidy. It involves the meeting of the increase in the price of wheat partly by subsidy and partly by increasing the price to the consumer. In private conversation, I have discussed this matter with Deputy Belton. I have raised many objections to his scheme and I must say he had no great difficulty in demolishing my objections. Nevertheless, I feel instinctively that the plan is not workable. I do not say it is illogical or unreasonable; it is no more unreasonable to have a luxury type of bread for the wealthy and a plain type of bread for the poor than it is to have luxury cars for the rich and plain push bicycles for the poor.
 Of course, there is an essential difference. In the first place, bread is far more essential than any other commodity, but there is a more important consideration, and that is that people have been accustomed, perhaps for 100 years, to regard white bread as an ordinary thing and not a luxury. No amount of reasoning will convince the average man or woman that white bread is a luxury. If the average man sees on the shop-counter white and brown bread side by side, he will either encroach upon his limited income to purchase the white bread at a high price and leave the brown bread to go mouldy on the counter, and in doing so he will deprive himself and his family of the quantity of bread they require, or he will accept the brown bread and will labour under a very acute sense of grievance. If he is an agricultural worker toiling behind the plough, producing the wheat that is so essential, and if he finds he cannot afford white bread, which people not engaged in active production can enjoy, he will feel he is wronged and is not getting a square deal. For that reason I feel this scheme would not be desirable and I cannot support it. Happily, it is the privilege of independent Deputies not only to differ with the larger political Parties here, but we also can display our independence by differing with each other. I feel I cannot support the scheme which has been suggested.
If wheat is to be provided for our people, a reasonable price must be paid for it, and that price can only be paid by breaking through the present financial system which is crushing and choking production in this country, just as it has done in other countries. Time for getting our wheat into the ground is limited. There are some very essential matters to which the Minister should direct immediate attention. First of all, he should raise the price to £3 per barrel. Secondly, with the financial resources that are within his reach, it is possible for him to provide cash advances for those who are engaged in wheat production. It costs at least £15 or £16 to grow an acre of wheat. If a farmer wishes to grow ten acres of wheat, it will cost him £150. A farmer has to wait until his wheat is  threshed before he can obtain that money. In the meantime, he has to meet the expense of production. I believe it should be possible to advance to wheat growers the same amount of money which is advanced by the Irish Sugar Company to beet growers for the production of their crop. It should be possible, not only to provide the seed on credit, but also a cash advance to meet current expenses.
So much for the price of wheat and the financial aid so urgently required to enable the farmer to grow the crop. After that there is needed a much more extensive drive to get the crop into cultivation. Deputy Belton suggested some form of compulsion in order to ensure that an adequate acreage will be sown. The Minister has hesitated about applying legal compulsion. There are, however, in this country, fortunately, more forms of compulsion than legal compulsion. There is such a thing as moral compulsion which has succeeded on very many occasions in the past in getting our people to face up to very difficult tasks, and I believe that with proper organisation and proper thought, such a measure of compulsion could be achieved.
Suppose, for example, that on the first Sunday of January or the last Sunday of December a notice were to go out through the length and breadth of the Twenty-Six Counties that a meeting of farmers would be held in every chapel area throughout the country, and suppose that the cooperation of the clergy and other influential people of every parish in rural Ireland were enlisted to secure such an organised drive and that at each of these meetings there was read a proclamation from the Government, and signed by the leaders of the Opposition Parties, calling upon farmers, in the national interest, to increase their acreage under wheat or, what is even more important, to get some acreage of winter wheat sown, say, before 1st March—because it is the most urgent question at the present time—supposing that such a move were made, I believe that you would get a response. I would go further and suggest that at such meetings the farmers would be asked to sign an undertaking as to the  amount of wheat they would be prepared to sow before the 1st March. It is always easier, when you get a crowd of people together, to get them to promise to do something, than if you leave them in an isolated position to think the matter over and weigh up the difficulties.
Having got a promise, there is a 90 per cent. chance that the promise or the undertaking will be carried out. Now, in such an organised drive it would be possible to secure even more than I have suggested. You could get from each farmer a statement of the amount of arable land in his possession. Nobody, at the present time, seems to know how much arable land there is in this country, notwithstanding the fact that we have had a Department of Agriculture here for 50 or 60 years. It would be possible, I say, to get from every farmer a statement of the amount of arable land in his possession. It would be possible also to get from him a statement of the exact acreage of wheat which he has sown during the present season and the exact acreage of winter wheat which he proposes to sow during the first two months of the coming year, as well as the amount of spring wheat which he would be able to cultivate. This information would be extremely valuable and, having got on foot a local drive which would have more life and energy in it than any drive made by civil servants or by officials broadcasting on the radio, I believe you would get a tremendous increase in acreage, provided always that you took the first essential step of making the price right.
Now, in this debate we are dealing not only with the production and price of wheat but also with tillage generally, and I want to touch upon that question very briefly. If we are going to get the acreage of wheat which we require during the coming year, and if we are going to continue growing other cereals and grain crops extensively and intensively for the duration of the present war—which may be a very prolonged term—it is absolutely essential that a fundamental change should be made in our entire system and economy of farming. We have got to change over, and change over completely, to a system of farming under which live  stock will be fed, and fed extensively and intensively, upon home-produced tillage products. Under such a system, and only under such a system, will it be possible to continue to till extensively and grow our essential requirements in grain. In order to implement such a policy it is necessary, as Deputy Norton has pointed out, to have at least a five-year plan for agriculture. The farmer must be assured that not only this year and the next year will he be paid for tillage: he must be assured that for many years to come tillage will be the most profitable branch of agriculture. Otherwise, you will not have the energy, the enthusiasm, the zeal and efficiency put into tillage operations that are required. We all remember what happened in the last war, when people were compelled to till. They ploughed up land—good land in many cases—in any kind of a way and they grew very indifferent crops. They realised that tillage was only a thing that would last for a few years. They felt that at the end of a couple of years they could go back to the old system of farming and that all would be well. They put no energy and no special effort into their tillage operations and, as a result, there was a considerable failure.
Now, that situation cannot be allowed to prevail in the future. We must get a guarantee that no matter what happens, whether the war be long or short, whether supplies of tillage produce be abundant from outside sources or not, the tillage products of this country are going to be given a security and a permanency in this country. The curse of our agricultural industry during the past 20 years has been the competition of cheap imported foodstuffs with our native produce. That may seem an extraordinary thing for a farmer to say, yet it is painfully true. I remember that, some years ago, the Minister's predecessor in office, at a time when, in the counties adjoining the district where I live, there was a determined agitation for better prices for grain, declared that that policy was unsound, and that the only sound policy for this country was one in which the farmer grew grain and other tillage  produce, not for sale, but for consumption on his own farm. But the then Minister for Agriculture overlooked the fact that nobody but a fool would grow grain or other tillage produce on his farm when he could purchase similar produce from abroad cheaper. The result was that there never was any substantial increase in tillage. When the present Minister took office he endeavoured to get an increase in tillage by the foolish, reckless and futile policy of destroying the live-stock side of the agricultural industry. He failed, because as in other things you cannot achieve what is right by doing what is fundamentally wrong, and the destruction of the live-stock industry by forcing the price down too far below the world's level was fundamentally wrong and unjust. Every farmer felt it was wrong and unjust, and, instead of entering enthusiastically into tillage, simply hoped and prayed for the day when the Minister and his policy would be swept aside. There is a glorious opportunity now for the Minister to rectify the mistakes which he made in the past, and I suggest that he should avail of the opportunity now on the lines which have been suggested in this motion.
Mr. Hughes: Since the Dáil discussed this question of wheat production under another motion the last day the House met, a very serious position in world affairs has developed, which, we must all agree, very gravely menaces the shipping position to a further extent, and leaves us with very grave doubts as to the possibility of any supplies from overseas reaching our shores. The position to-day is such that we cannot bank with any certainty at all on the possibility of supplies of wheat reaching this country in the near future. Hence, it appears to me that there is all the more reason why this House and the Government cannot take any risk in securing that our requirements of raw material for the production of the staple food of our people—bread —are produced on native soil.
Deputy Belton, in dealing with this matter, suggested that it should be compulsory on every farmer to put a certain percentage of his land under wheat cultivation. If the Minister  adopted that suggestion, I think there would hardly be any necessity for us to argue about the price here, because that would probably solve it, but I think he would be up against a very big difficulty. He would be up against serious opposition, and he would be up against impossibilities as well. I am afraid Deputy Belton has viewed this proposal merely from the County Dublin point of view. There is any amount of land in this country which is unsuitable and unable to produce wheat.
Mr. Hughes: There is any amount of land on high altitudes where wheat would never ripen. You cannot grow wheat on high altitudes. The people know that very well, and do not attempt to grow it. If they did attempt to grow it they would meet with failure and loss. Of course, it would be a very foolish policy to insist on putting land of that type into the cultivation of a crop which would not produce results. For those reasons, that suggestion is not a practical one. You must leave freedom to the farmer to decide what particular crops suit his economy best, and what particular crops are best suited to his type of soil. There is no getting away from the fact—no matter how anxious certain parties or certain individuals in this House and outside this House may be for increased cultivation of the land of this country—that, normally speaking, the type of agriculture which obtains in the various counties here has been produced through the normal evolution of things as best suited for that particular district. Practical experience has borne that out, and in the long run it always agrees with scientific results as well. Undue interference in the natural economy that exists in a particular district or locality or county, or field for that matter, is very dangerous. We have in this country, probably to a greater extent than in other countries, the question of variation of soil. It is a matter to which we have not given very much study. It is a matter on which I am particularly keen—that we should do a lot more in the way of soil examination and research.
 When you go into a country like Holland you may be told that a particular type of soil extends for 100 miles in one direction with scarcely any variation. In this country, as between one field and another, you have distinct variations in soil. When you have those variations even on a farm, not to speak about a district or a locality, it cannot be wise to force a man to put in a crop which would be absolutely unsuitable to the soil conditions. It appears to me to be ridiculous and absurd that the Ministry should contemplate that suggestion for a moment. I am surprised that a practical farmer like Deputy Belton should advocate such a thing.
Mr. Hughes: There is no use in the Deputy trying to twist what I have said. We are living in very abnormal times; we are passing through a very grave emergency, and there is an effort in this House and outside it to make a good deal of capital out of the policy of this Party in relation to tillage and wheat production. I think it is about time to make the position perfectly clear. This Party is not against wheat production. Some members of it grew wheat long before the present Minister was heard of as Minister for Agriculture. But we are against intensive production of wheat, normally speaking. In the case of an emergency like this, you cannot be against it; you have no choice. It is a good economic policy for the country to grow it. What we are against is the type of experiment that has failed in other countries; that intensive system of wheat growing which failed, ten years ago, in Austria, a country more suitable for wheat production than ours. What we are against is that intensive cultivation of  wheat which took place in the New World, in Canada and the United States, where soil experts and soil economists have warned the people against soil erosion, complete exhaustion of fertility, leaving the soil absolutely barren. That is the type of thing we are against. The most valuable heritage the Irish people have is the fertility of their soil. That does not belong to us; it belongs to posterity, and it is our duty to hand it down to posterity as good as we got it, and better if it can be made better. In a situation like this, we must draw on that fertility, and if those who have gone before us have built up that fertility we are lucky to be in a position to draw on it during this time of emergency. But, make no mistake about it, the production of our requirements of wheat at the present time means drawing on the built up fertility of that soil and reducing it. That means that every individual farmer who produces wheat is reducing the capital value of his land. All I have to say to the Minister is that in doing that the farmer is making a sacrifice in the interests of the State; he is reducing the greatest asset he has, namely, the fertility of his soil, and he is entitled to be fairly and justly compensated.
We have been asked to spend over £9,000,000 on a defence policy. I am not saying that is wrong. But I do say that when it comes to the question of the staple food of the people there is too much cheese-paring about it. I think that the Minister in fixing a price of 45/- is taking a terrible risk at the present time, facing the situation as I see it and as he ought to see it, with scarcely any artificial manures. The land that is most suitable for the production of wheat was drawn on very heavily in the first years of the wheat scheme, when people had no option but to grow wheat if they wanted to exist and pay their way. I have no hesitation in saying that the fertility of much of that land has been seriously reduced, and it is the experience of many men that the output from that land in the last year or two has shown a substantial reduction.
 What strikes me about all this is that the fixing of a price for the agricultural community, who are the very backbone and the very life blood of the country, has been done in a purely arbitrary way. The Minister fixes a price without consulting anybody. We are told that he consulted the Council of Agriculture. That is purely eyewash. The council are never really consulted. They are told what has been done by the Minister and they must take it or leave it. They have no option in the matter. The Minister has admitted that in the House. He listens to them, but what they say rarely impresses him. If you take any other section of the community, how are they treated? If there is a fixation of price in the case of our industries, new or old, it is based on the actual cost of production or manufacture. Within the last three weeks, when the Dáil voted £2,000,000 to subsidise flour and bread, that subsidy was based on a secured profit of 6 per cent. in the milling industry.
Deputy Belton referred to sugar beet growing. The House must bear in mind that the profits of the sugar beet company have remained static for the last three years; certainly they have not been reduced. I have no hesitation in saying that the profits which have accrued to the agricultural community out of the tillage operations this year have not been as good as in any of the years prior to the war. All I ask for is that the profits of the agricultural community should be preserved for them. They are doing essential work. The whole country is relying on their energy, determination and resources, and they should get more encouragement than they are getting. I put it to the Minister before, and I put it to him again: Is he able to produce any costings from any reputable sources to convince the House that 45/- is an economic price for wheat in the present circumstances? Some years ago we had an establishment officer in the Department of Agriculture who was dealing with costings. Is that officer still there, or is there anyone in the Minister's Department or any section of his  Department dealing with costings? It is a most important matter so far as the agricultural community are concerned.
As I said before in dealing with this matter, there is a complete departure in respect of price fixation from that which obtains in the Department of Industry and Commerce in dealing with manufacturers. There is no reason why the Minister should not get costings, say, in the Glasnevin College. There is no reason why the Minister should not ask county agricultural instructors to compile a set of costings that would apply to their individual counties, and try to strike an average from those. Of course the Minister would not do that. Why should he do it? Those figures would be altogether too favourable to the farmers, and he would keep away from them. After all, is not that the proper line of approach? There is no one who will say that there is any possibility of farmers amassing wealth. No farmer will get a chance of that at any time of his life. He does not hope for it. He will be quite happy if he can pay his way by securing a reasonable margin of profit.
Deputy Belton rightly pointed out that in bringing more and more land into the cultivation of wheat you are bringing in land that is less suited for the production of wheat. The land on which wheat was first grown under the wheat scheme was eminently suited for the production of wheat. It was heavily manured after a root crop, and it gave a good return. That was the very best land in the very best centres, and it was in the tillage districts where there was a knowledge of sound methods of cultivation. The moment you spread out from that to the less fertile lands, and on towards the marginal lands, you are bound to have a steep drop in yield. Coupled with that situation you have, practically speaking, a complete absence of artificial manures. In face of that situation, there is an increase of 5/- offered to the agricultural community. Is that fair or just or reasonable?
The Minister replied to that on the last day by giving patriotic reasons  why the farmer should grow wheat. He said that men were patriotic enough to leave good jobs in order to go into the Army when the country was threatened, as if the agricultural community did not show their responsibility in that respect. If a census were taken of the people who have offered their services to the nation, I think it would be found that as many were drawn from the agricultural community as from any other section of the community. There is no use in advancing that sort of ridiculous argument. We want to get down to brass tacks. We do not want any red herring drawn across the issue. We want it hammered out on hard facts, on the cost of production, on the return that the agricultural community will get by producing wheat, and on the loss involved in soil fertility that will have to be made good some time, and it will cost something to make that good. The farmer has a proper and just claim to say: “If I have to do all that, I must be paid for it.”
Then, in spreading this acreage out to the less suitable soil and to the marginal lands, you are going out to people in certain counties who have no experience of tillage operations. We in the tillage counties who know something about tillage know that, particularly in wheat production, a good deal of knowledge is required in respect of the cultivation of the land, getting the proper type of seed-bed, getting a good compact soil, and getting the capillarity of the soil right during a dry period in March and April. If that is not all attended to, and if the farmer does not know what he is doing in getting good contact between the subsoil and the top-soil, his results will be very bad, and a great many men are in that position. I remember last April taking a long run through parts of this country where the knowledge of tillage was not of a very high standard. I saw many fields of wheat crying out for rolling, where the wheat slowly disappeared out of the field, and where a man with a proper knowledge of how to handle the situation would practically save the crop; but simply because  of indifference or want of knowledge— I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and attributed it to want of knowledge —very serious losses were incurred.
Deputy Belton adumbrated here before a scheme of 50 per cent. production of white flour and 50 per cent. production of 95 per cent. extraction of flour, and he adverted to that scheme again to-night. I would not envy the man who advocates such a scheme. I think it would place any Minister in a very invidious position. There is no use in comparing the production of flour for the people with the purchase of a suit of clothes or a motor car. Bread is the staple food of the people and it has to be subsidised out of State funds, out of taxation, and all the people in some way or other have to make a contribution towards that taxation. During this time of emergency, when sacrifices have to be made, we ought all be prepared to make them together. If we have to live on an ounce of tea per week, let us all have the ounce. Do not let the people with money buy two or three ounces and let the other man do with half an ounce. Too much of that has occurred already, and let us hope it is not going to occur with regard to flour. The suggestion that we should make white flour for the rich and give the poor any sort of black bread is, I think, a horrible suggestion.
Mr. Hughes: Undoubtedly that is the suggestion made. I think the most serious matter which the agricultural community have to face this coming year is the lack of artificial manures. What efforts the Minister or the Government have made to secure a supply of artificial manures, I do not know, but I am not at all satisfied that sufficient efforts have been made to secure a supply. It is a well-known fact that Great Britain is chock-full of sulphate of ammonia, and so is Northern Ireland, so much so that there is a flow of sulphate of ammonia over the Border to the “black market” at racketeering prices. Sulphate of  ammonia is a synthetic manure, and ample stocks of it were held by Imperial Chemicals early last year. Early last June, British farmers were encouraged to take delivery of sulphate of ammonia at 10 guineas a ton, less a rebate of £1 a ton for early delivery. The British Government were anxious to have that heavy stock of sulphate of ammonia, which was concentrated at one point, scattered all over the country, lest it might be bombed and scattered all over Billingham.
If we are to continue to supply the British with good food in the way of beef and other commodities, we want something in return. Paper money is not good enough; we want goods in exchange. We want raw materials for the production of food, and at least we have a fair case for the releasing of sulphate of ammonia by the British to us. If we could get a quantity of sulphate of ammonia, it would be the most useful thing we could get at present, and as I say, I am not at all satisfied that sufficient efforts have been made to secure a supply. I again want to impress on the Minister the necessity for making every possible effort to secure some supply of nitrogenous manure. I do not think you are going to achieve very much by putting a civil servant on the telephone at this end to try to get something from the people on the other side. It is a question of putting up hard facts, of putting up our case. As I said before, we cannot be expected to continue to supply them with good food in exchange for paper money, and we want to know what they are prepared to do about it.
I support the motion and I think there is a good case to be made for a very substantial increase in the price of wheat last year. There is a completely new set of circumstances, particularly with regard to the possibility of overseas supply. That is practically ruled out, and this is a matter about which we should take no risk whatever. It is the staple food of our people and a home supply ought to be secured at any cost. We can afford to spend millions and millions on the Army. If we can find the money for one thing,  can we not find it for the other? At a time of emergency, we must do it and, if necessary, we must borrow to do it. Practical farmers know that as the result of attempting to produce wheat on much of the land of this country which is only very average land so far as fertility is concerned, and which is the land which has been producing wheat in recent years, the position is going to be disastrous because the yield will flop so much. Surely 5/- a barrel increase is no inducement or encouragement to the people who ought to be encouraged?
There is no use in the Minister going to Radio Eireann and trying to clap the agricultural community on the back for what they did last year. That is of no use to the farmer when the sheriff comes and asks him about his annuity. The farmer does not want any appeal to patriotism or anything else. Many of them are in a very hard plight financially, and their big worry and anxiety is to be able to meet their responsibilities, and I think that at least they deserve to be put in a position in which they will be able to pay their way. They do not want anything beyond that. If they are able to pay their way, the majority of them are quite satisfied.
The one thing I want to say on this Tillage Order is: for God's sake, will the Minister do something, or say something to his colleague, about trying to restrict the operations of the sheriff at present? We heard nothing about the sheriff while the foot-and-mouth disease was raging because he could not enter on a lot of land, but immediately there was freedom to move live stock, out he comes again.
Mr. Hughes: I intend to say only that much about the sheriff. On the Tillage Order, I am suggesting that the agricultural community must get certain facilities. They want facilities and time to pay their annuities. They have come through a very difficult time and the Government should not now pounce on them and cripple them. If they are to be essential productive  units, they will need some time to, so to speak, get on their feet again. No money has come into them for many months. We know what happened at the port of Dublin last week. The shipping of stock was stopped. Cattle had simply been fired into the port because the people are panting for money and want to get rid of their surplus stock. Greater credit facilities ought to be given the farmers in connection with this Tillage Order. The credit scheme that we have in operation through the local authorities is not nearly sufficient to enable the farmers to increase the area of their land under cultivation. To do that involves an increase in capital expenditure. The sowing and cultivation of a crop involves capital expenditure, farmers having to wait many months for a return on the capital so invested. Farmers without capital will need more liberal credit facilities than they have been getting. There is no use in talking about any particular pet scheme, or the compulsory cultivation of a certain percentage of wheat on individual farms. There is only one way in which that can be done, and now is the time to do it before it is too late. Make the price sufficiently attractive and the wheat will be grown.
Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan): Deputy Belton raised a few points with regard to the Tillage Order in the opening part of his speech. He asked if I had considered again the exemption of land devoted to milk production. That point has been put to us each year. I do not see that, at the present time, there is any great point in considering it because I think it is plain to everybody that the farmer must grow the feeding stuffs that he requires for his own animals during the winter. Even the farmer living near the City of Dublin, or any other city, who is supplying milk to a town, must produce the grain and roots that he requires for his herd of cows during the winter. In that way he will have to till his 25 per cent.
Dr. Ryan: They cannot buy them now. Apart from that, I do not see  how anybody could draw a line as between the man who would be entitled to have an exemption and the person who would not be so entitled, because it is fading away gradually: that is, as between the farmer whose only business is that of a milk supplier to the city and the farmer who supplies milk to a town or city where that forms only a small part of the business of his farm. From the effective and the practical point of view the granting of the exemption could not, I am afraid, be given. Deputy Belton asked me about grazing has let other land for til- a farmer who is tilling more than his percentage and who takes other land for grazing. The land that he takes for grazing is not put in with his farm, but with the farm that the grazing land belongs to. If the person who let that grazing has let other land for tillage, he may reach his 25 per cent. in that way. That is the unit that we must look to to see whether sufficient tillage is being done or not. We do bulk two or three farms together if they are owned by the one man. Suppose a man owns three farms and does all his tillage on one, and all his grazing on another, that is all taken as a unit as being owned by the one man. In the case of land taken on the 11 months' system, or in conacre, that land is not taken with the man's own farm.
Dr. Ryan: It does, but we could not work it in that way. The Deputy, in talking about the wheat scheme, — price, and so on—made some remarks which I would like to deal with before I come to the big point. He said that he did not see much use in civil servants going to the microphone and telling farmers what they should do with regard to wheat growing and so on. I do not agree with him. Long before I went to the Department myself I got many a good bit of information from civil servants, from the technical men in the Department, who told me how to grow wheat properly, or gave me some tip about the growing of wheat or some other crop, about live stock  or something else. I think they have done a great deal of good by these broadcasts. The fact that civil servants are now advocating wheat growing, and did not do it under the last Government, only proves that they are good civil servants. The Deputy, I am sure, will agree that whether it was under the Fianna Fáil Government or under the Cumann na nGaedheal Government they always gave the same instructions as to how wheat should be grown. But when we come to the other point, the point of advocating a bigger acreage under wheat, the situation certainly has changed owing to present circumstances, and to the change of Government. If the civil servants are helping now, by propaganda, in the growing of wheat, and helped under the Cumann na nGaedheal Government against the growing of wheat, well, of course, the policy of growing wheat or of not growing it enters there and is a different matter altogether.
Deputy Belton, I think, was not on very safe ground in the comparison he made between the statements that he attributed to the Minister for Supplies and myself with regard to wheat yield and the amount of wheat going into the mills. I said here last week that although the average yield of wheat in this country for many years would be somewhere between 19 and 20 cwts. to the acre, according to the statistics, this year probably it would be no higher than 17½ cwts. I do not think it is going to be much lower than 17½ cwts. to the acre this year.
Dr. Ryan: The Deputy then talked about 290,000 tons going into the mills,  and, adding the seed to that, he said that would make about five and a half barrels to the acre. The Deputy may be right in that figure. I do not know. The point, however, is that from 1932 to 1938 or 1939, when the war started, we never got into the mills more than five barrels to the acre, and never will, because the Deputy must remember that a great part of the rural population are using wheat that never reaches the mills. The Deputy, in his argument, left that out of account. I admit that he took the seed into his calculation but, as I say, he must remember that a very big part of the rural population keep some of the wheat for their own use. I suppose it is true to say that every member of the House who has land keeps some wheat for his own use. He either grinds it in his own mill or gets it ground in some other mill on commission and uses that at home for his family. The same applies to practically every farmer in the country who grows wheat. For that reason, never more than five barrels to the acre get into the mills. I do not believe we will ever get more than that because people will continue to keep some wheat for their own use. As the acreage goes up there will be more farmers growing wheat, and, if so, there will be more wheat kept like that by farmers for the use of their families. It is possible that on that account we may not require so much from the flour miller, but that is the thing we cannot take a chance on for this year. Experience will tell whether that is right or not. Deputy Belton says that if artificial manures were available, 30/- per barrel would be a fair price.
Dr. Ryan: I do not say that the Deputy did it in a disorderly or deliberate way, but he said I was not telling the truth when I mentioned that wheat has gone up by 50 per cent. from 1938 to 1941. The simplest calculation will show that if it was 30/- in 1938, and if it is 45/- in 1941, the increase is 50 per cent. I want to make it quite clear that when I said the price of wheat was increased by 50 per cent. I was telling the truth. It was increased in order to get 600,000 acres instead of 200,000. If we were quite satisfied to remain at the 200,000 acre mark, we would have left the price at 30/- a barrel, because there would have been no necessity to increase it. In the autumn of 1939 the price was increased by 5/-; there was a similar increase in the next year, and in the year following there was another 5/- added. The price was stepped up in order to get an increased acreage.
Mr. D. Morrissey: If that was the purpose of the increase, will the Minister say why two of the most valuable months of the season from the point of view of preparing the land for the wheat were allowed to go by before the 45/- price was announced?
Dr. Ryan: The Government believed to be true what Deputy Belton and others said—that the 40/- that was paid last year would be an economic price for the ensuing year. If the Government thought they would get enough wheat at 40/-, and that they were paying an economic price, they would be wronging the taxpayer or the consumer if they paid more.
Dr. Ryan: That did not mean any increase; the shilling was no increase to the farmer; it represented a change from the price in the haggard to the price delivered; it was never meant to be an increase.
Dr. Ryan: The Deputy did, but if he says he did not mean to insult me, then it is no harm. The Deputy said some farmers sold wheat and did not get the price of the seed out of it. There is no purpose served by taking a case of that kind.
Deputy Hughes, dealing with the price question said — and I think Deputy Belton agreed with him—that 30/- in 1938 was better than 45/- in 1941. Deputy Hughes would have liked costings, so that we could give the farmer exactly what it cost him to produce, plus a fair profit. Costings are very difficult to obtain. It is hard to cost a crop in agriculture. Anyone can say it takes so many hours to plough an acre of land, and so many hours to sow the seed—it is easy to calculate rents and rates—but the main difficulty arises out of the period of employment. In a factory they can tell you how much it will cost to produce a certain article. The farmer's position is quite different. He is not sowing wheat all the year round, and he is not cutting all through the year. The difficulty is to calculate the cost of a man and the cost of a horse during the periods when  they are not engaged on the production of wheat or other crops.
Deputies will, therefore, see that costings in agriculture are difficult to calculate. I would be glad if we could obtain costings. Deputy Hughes is wrong if he thinks that the Department is trying to shirk the issue. Let me compare 1938 with 1942. There is no difference in the rent. There is, possibly, a slight increase in rates. Wages have gone up by about 11 per cent. in the four years. So far as artificial manures go, there will not be any increase there.
Dr. Ryan: It will make a difference, but there will not be any increase in the cost of artificial manures. What is the increase in the cost of seed? I do not know; it is a very hard thing to calculate.
Dr. Ryan: I am sure it is not more than £1 a barrel on 1935. That would mean 4/- to the statute acre of an increase in the price of seed. We hear a lot of talk about machinery parts, and the cost of paraffin and other things. Let me take the point of a plough. The price may have gone up by 1/-. The increased cost per acre in that case would be only a few pence. The same would apply to paraffin oil for use in tractors. Let us put it at 2/- or 3/- an acre for the increased cost in machinery parts. All the increased charges would not come to more than £1 an acre.
There are no artificial manures. An awful lot of our wheat did not get artificial manure in any case—a great portion of our wheat was grown without it. Where artificials are not used there will undoubtedly be a decreased yield. Consider the position where our wheat is grown after manured crops. I take it that artificials were not used last season to any great extent. If the wheat were grown after potatoes, mangolds or beet, it was grown without artificial manures. I do not think that the want of artificial manures is going to decrease by more than a barrel per acre all round the production  of wheat. Half the wheat would not get artificial manures if grown on manured land.
Dr. Ryan: It will not. There is no necessity for any increase in the root crop, because we have enough. Taking it on the basis I have mentioned, I think the farmer is being well treated in 1942 as against 1938. He was not getting anything like as good a price in 1938, and even if the production went down by a barrel and his costs up by £1, he would still be better off in 1942 than he was in 1938.
Dr. Ryan: Did anybody ever hear such misrepresentation? I have just admitted that there will be a decrease in production, and the Deputy says they were only a nuisance. I have been listening to that sort of misrepresentation with great patience.
Dr. Ryan: And we may have to live without it, too. Deputy Cogan and Deputy Hughes said that we would have to change our system to get this big increase in wheat acreage. One would imagine from their talk and the talk of Deputy Belton who, I thought, would be a friend of ours in this matter, that we were asking for something colossal in asking farmers to grow enough wheat for ourselves. We are asking only for 600,000 acres—4 per cent. of the arable land. If a farmer puts 4 per cent. of his arable land under wheat, he is not going to take away all its fertility. There is no use in exaggerating the problem. There are Deputies here growing more than 4 per cent., and they have been doing that for five or six years. It will not hurt the land very much.
Dr. Ryan: Not at all. I warn the Deputy against Fine Gael propaganda. How can any Deputy say that a farmer would injure his land by putting 4 per cent. under wheat for the rest of his life without artificial manures?
Dr. Ryan: Because there is not. We have 800,000 acres under root crops. If a farmer follows the ordinary, sensible rotation by sowing a cereal crop, a root crop with farmyard manure, a cereal crop and then lets the land go into grass, that is all he need do.
Dr. Ryan: If the farmer follows the ordinary rotation, that is all he need do to give us all the wheat, oats and barley we need. Farmers in this country have farmed on those lines for generations, and some of them have never bothered about artificial manures at all.
Dr. Ryan: Not so much less. We have a great deal of barley and oats in the country. We have plenty of roots to feed to cattle. We have a fair amount of meal to feed to them, and I hope we have enough hay and straw to feed to them.
Dr. Ryan: They have. Deputy Hughes told us that every farmer who grows wheat is drawing on the fertility of his soil. That is another fallacy of the opposite Party. I was listening to a broadcast by an expert the other night, and he said that you did not draw a bit more on the fertility of your soil for wheat than you did for barley, oats, or any other cereal crop.
Dr. Ryan: What is the use in comparing the growing of wheat here with the growing of wheat in Canada? Deputy Hughes lectured us about the  dangers of exhausting our soil as they did in Canada. Canada has been growing wheat for half the world, every year, for several years. We are only asking the farmer to grow wheat on the same field once in 25 years. If he takes every arable field that he has, and grows wheat on each in turn once every 25 years, we will have enough wheat, and that is all we want.
Dr. Ryan: Deputy Keating is just going on with the ordinary catch-cry like Deputy Hughes and the rest of them, but he has grown more wheat than we want. If Deputy Keating would ask other farmers to do as much as he has done we would have too much wheat. That is the position.
Dr. Ryan: I was criticised here by Deputy Hughes—last week we had practically the same discussion as we have now—because I said that men were asked to do many things in this country for patriotic reasons, and that we are asking the farmers to grow wheat for a guaranteed price. Through making that simple statement, I was accused of inferring that the farmers did not join the Army or the Local Defence Force at all. I am quite sure they did their part as far as the Army and the Local Defence Force and all the rest are concerned. They always did. I believe that the farmers are just as patriotic, if not more so, as any other class in the country.
Dr. Ryan: That is quite right; they are very patriotic. When Deputy Hughes had finished lecturing me for accusing the farmers of not doing their part, he went on to say: “There is no use in making patriotic appeals to farmers to grow wheat; give them a price.” I believe there is use in appealing to the farmers' patriotism. I believe that the farmers will respond quite well to an appeal to their patriotism, as they did last year in growing a great deal of the food we want in this country. I intend to appeal to their feelings in that way as far as possible.
There is only one other matter to which I want to refer. It is a very scattered sort of debate, but that cannot be helped, I suppose. Somebody said here this evening, as well as last week, that the other members of the community were doing fairly well compared with the farmers. The farmer is getting 50 per cent. more for his wheat in 1941 than he got in 1938. The farmer is getting 43 per cent. more for his stuff generally than he got in 1938. If he is in the same line now, selling cattle, pigs, and so on, he is getting 43 per cent. more than he got in 1938.
Dr. Ryan: It is the average price from January to September of this year, compared with 1938. The returns are only to the end of September. He is getting 43 per cent. more than he got in 1938. Now, I am not saying that the farmer was well off in 1938. I am only comparing his position now with his position in 1938, because that is what Deputies were talking about here. He is getting 43 per cent. more now. What are his outgoings against that? You have to take them under two headings. In the first place, he  has to rear a family like any other citizen. He has to buy clothes, boots, tea, as far as he can get it, sugar, and so on. That comes under the cost-of-living figure. The cost-of-living figure has gone up by 22½ per cent. from 1938 to 1941. He is getting 43 per cent. more for what he sells, and his ordinary household expenses at any rate have gone up by only 22½ per cent., so to that extent he is better off.
Dr. Ryan: His rent is the same. His rates are up slightly in some counties, but not in others, and not very much in any case. Wages have gone up by 11 per cent. since 1938. He is not buying any feeding stuffs now, so we cannot compare the price with 1938.
Dr. Ryan: I do not like to give a figure, but it is not much, and especially on land it is not much. Artificial manures are not coming in either. I suppose if he could get them he would be better off, but he is not getting them. That is the position. With regard to machinery, I had dealt with that point already, as a matter of fact. The price has gone up considerably, but the farmer's total outlay on machinery is not very much of his total outlay in farming costs. If you take the cost of tilling an acre of land, and put machinery against it, it is not a very big item, but the cost of machinery has gone up. In any case, I do not think anybody can say that the farmer is worse off than he was in 1938, and that is the point I am dealing with.
Dr. Ryan: It is only about one-third of what we had last year, and we know that last year it was very low. It will be extremely hard to distribute it on any sort of a fair basis. I do not know how it is to be done. All I have to say in conclusion is this: If we are convinced that 45/- is a good economic price for wheat, and that it will pay farmers to grow wheat at that price, the point to be considered is whether we will get sufficient wheat at that price? Nobody can say. Deputy Belton even could not guarantee that we would get sufficient at 60/-.
Dr. Ryan: We probably would, but Deputy Belton could not guarantee it. He is only making a guess just like anybody else. I was told, when discussing the price, and when I said I thought we should increase it, that whatever increase we might make Deputy Belton or somebody else would look for more. I suppose that is only to be expected. I believe that if we go out on a campaign, as we did last year, and if we appeal to the farmers to grow the wheat we want, we are just as likely to get the total acreage wanted at 45/- as at 60/-, as it is a fair price. Therefore, I ask Deputies to vote against this motion. I do not know what Deputy Belton means to  do about his second motion. I do not think he wants to press it.
Mr. Davin: The members of this small group have given very serious consideration to the proposal contained in the motion moved by Deputy Belton. Personally, I have very great respect for Deputy Belton's viewpoint on matters of this kind, because he has proved himself to be a practical farmer, and so far as I can see he has made a good profit out of his farming operations. I consider that Deputy Belton, from his lifelong experience of farming operations, knows what he is talking about when he speaks on a motion of this kind. The members of our group are of opinion that the question of the price to be paid for wheat in the coming year cannot be satisfactorily settled in debate across the floor of the House. We agree that the responsibility for policy and decisions in matters of this kind lies with the Government. But the Government will agree, in turn, that the Dáil is the supreme authority and is entitled to consideration and consultation in a matter of this kind before the Government come to a final decision, at any rate, as to what price is to be paid for wheat during the coming year. This matter of fixing a profitable price for wheat in the coming year is as important, in our opinion, as the question of securing an effective defence machine for the purpose of meeting any attack from any possible invader. This is a question now, at any rate, of defending the homes of the people against hunger during the coming year, and the question of how many paper notes more will be paid out to the farmers for that purpose should not be treated so seriously as, apparently, the economic advisers of the Government are treating it.
I listened here from 1927 to 1932 to statements made by the Minister for Finance and by his colleagues, when they were in Opposition and after they came into power, that the cost of the Army should not exceed £1,000,000. He knows better than anybody else to-day that the cost of maintaining the Army during the current financial year will be close on £10,000,000. The  bankers and the money-lenders did not hesitate to tell the Government to go ahead, because they require protection as well as the rest of the community. Money did not matter when it came to a question of finding the necessary number of men and equipment to build up an effective and efficient defence machine. I also listened on many occasions here during the last few years to refusals from the people now on the Opposition Benches to accept proposals submitted from this side of the House and from Deputies sitting behind the Minister for small grants for the carrying out of minor relief schemes and for turf development schemes, because they said there was not sufficient money in the purse to carry out those schemes. We were refused £100, £200, or £300 for that purpose three or four years ago because we could then get imported coal in large quantities. There is now no limit to the amount of money that can be provided by the Government for the draining of bogs, the making of bog roads, or the carrying out of development schemes, because the financiers, who dictate policy in matters of this kind, are as much in need of turf as the rest of the community. We are quibbling here to-night about 1,000,000 or less than 1,000,000 paper pound notes, not printed in this country, but outside this country, and backed by nothing, or by something that nobody knows anything about in existing circumstances.
I think, and I have been asked to say so on behalf of my colleagues, that this is a matter which might be discussed and probably settled elsewhere, in the same way as matters associated with the defence of the country are discussed elsewhere and probably settled to the satisfaction of all Parties. Is it unfair for me, therefore, even at this stage, to suggest to Deputy Belton, as well as to the Minister, that this might be the subject of an all-Party conference to be held at once? It is quite possible that at an all-Party conference there would be unanimity on the question of a profitable price for farmers for growing all the wheat we require during the coming year. Will the Minister or any Deputy say that,  in the light of the existing international position, we can get a ton of wheat in next year? He would be a courageous man who would make such a prophecy.
We have to regard the situation as we see it to-day and it is extremely serious. I think every Deputy would subscribe to the view that we would get all the wheat we require in this country grown in that way. The existence of this State in future under any form of Government—and perhaps there will be a change of Government and a change of policy before this war is over in this country as in every other country—depends upon the Government and the House telling the farmers that they will get a profitable price for growing wheat. That can be done by agreement. I am suggesting on behalf of this small group to Deputy Belton, if the Minister will look at the position from that point of view, that he might, if the Minister agrees to the summoning immediately of an all-Party conference, agree to withdraw the motion.
Mr. Davin: I want to say, however, that we are perfectly satisfied as a Party, having received advice from some people who are supposed to know what they are talking about—from some experts—that 45/- per barrel is not, in our opinion, a profitable price. We are, however, prepared to take the responsibility with others, if the Minister for Agriculture and the Government agree to have this all-Party conference, to share the responsibility for whatever decision is arrived at and to go out on to platforms in the country and appeal to farmers, as a result of whatever decision may be arrived at, to grow whatever wheat is required by the people and to defend the homes of the people in the coming year against possible hunger.
Mr. Corry: There have been changes even since the wheat position was discussed last week. I would like to deal with the statements made by Deputy Belton with regard to the annulment  of the Tillage Order. I would not for one moment agree with Deputy Belton that dairy farmers should be exempted from the Tillage Order. I come from a dairy district which supplies Cork City with milk. The farmers in that dairy district never required a Tillage Order to compel them to till 15, 20 or 25 per cent. of their holdings, because they have been always tilling about 40 per cent. and had to do it in order to supply milk to the city.
If those gentlemen were to be relieved of their tillage obligations, the kind of farming Deputy Belton was visualising could be done in any backyard in Dublin—draw in the stuff to feed the cows, and get the milk. You do not need any land at all for that kind of game. The Minister has not taken proper steps for the enforcement of the Tillage Order. I say that quite frankly, as one who sees what is happening. Three weeks ago I asked that an advertisement be inserted immediately in the Press calling on farmers who, for one reason or another, found themselves unable to comply with the tillage obligations, to inform the local Civic Guard station within 14 days. That would put the Government in a position to enter on those lands at once and have them tilled, instead of the joke we had last year of dragging on from month to month and then, in the month of May, going into old barren ground with a tractor and harrow and trying to get grain out of it. We saw that in County Cork in May.
Mr. Corry: We could do better, but we have in the County Cork a few of those die-hards of the Deputy Dillon mentality who believe like Deputy Curran. Unless something of that description is done, and done at once, there will be the same joke this year, and people standing up to say the number of barrels per acre there will be next year. How many barrels per acre can you expect out of lea land which is ploughed only in the month of May? You could blow the crop of  grain off it. I know the difficulties under which the Government is working, or I have a fair idea of them. Even Deputy Belton thinks that I would not work at his 60/- rate. I think it is too high.
Mr. Corry: I agree, but the farmers of this country are prepared to do their bit and not squeeze the population. Even at Deputy Belton's price, the Minister might well stand up and say that, even if you give that price, we might be short. I put up a suggestion here last week on this matter and I put it forward again now as a fair and reasonable one. We require 370,000 tons of wheat delivered to the mills to feed our population here for 12 months. Of that 370,000 tons, we grew 290,000 tons last year. We require about 30,000 tons of hard wheat in order to give what is known as bakers' flour for those who want it. That leaves 50,000 tons which were not grown last year at the price offered and which, in my opinion, will not be grown this year at 45/-. I do not believe you will get even last year's acreage at that price. I am speaking frankly, as one who wishes to see our requirements in bread produced in this country, and as one who thinks that the Government shirks its responsibility if it does not see that it is done.
We will take that 50,000 tons of wheat that was short and take it at the price the Minister for Supplies told us he paid for it—£30 a ton. I doubt whether it would be brought in now at that price. 50,000 tons at that price would cost £1,500,000. My proposition is that, if the farmers of this country fill the gap and grow the 50,000 tons extra, they be given a bounty or bonus to bring them up to the 50/-, that they get the other 5/- in the way of bounty or bonus. If they do not grow it, then let it remain at the 45/- as, if they do not grow it, the £1,500,000 will have to leave the country for wheat—if we can get it, which I doubt. That is a fair proposition. The Government can, and  will, lose nothing—not one shilling. 50,000 tons of wheat grown here at home at 50/- a barrel will cost just £1,000,000. The increase of 5/- a barrel on the 290,000 tons of wheat that were grown last year and that we will grow this year would cost just £580,000— that is the same figure, with the exception of £80,000 difference. The Government gets 340,000 tons of wheat grown here at practically the same cost —practically with the 45/—and is not dependent on across the water to cover the balance.
I saw Deputies laughing here a few weeks ago when it was said that the Americans and the Japanese would be at war before any wheat was brought in. I do not think they would be laughing now. What hope is there of bringing grain across the Atlantic to-day? There are only two remedies— one is the absolutely rigid enforcement of the Tillage Order and the other is to give to the farmer an inducement that will make him grow his wheat at some little profit.
It is all very well to say that it would be hard to enforce the Tillage Order. What better means of enforcing it can there be than this inducement? If I grow 40 or 50 acres of wheat and am standing on the balance as to whether I will get 45/- or 50/- for it, and if I see another across the way who is evading his tillage obligations, do you mean to tell me that I will let him go? No, I will see that he ploughs; and if the farmers of Limerick did the same stunt as last year, I would be one Cork man who would go down and show them how to do it.
Mr. Corry: I would, when the harvest was saved, or if the Golden Vale is as good as it is said to be, I might plant in there, and I am sure I would grow good crops there. That is the situation I am asking the Government to face. I am putting up a proposition on which they could lose no money. If there is any loophole to be found in it, now is the time to find it. I believe it is a fair and honest proposition. I put it to the Government,  whether they are going to trust their own farmers or trust the foreigner, whether they are going to depend on their own farmers to grow sufficient wheat here to supply our requirements in bread or whether they are going to depend on the Japs, the Americans, the Germans, the Italians, and all the rest of them, to bring a shipload of wheat across from America, and then depending on the Yankee as to whether he will allow it or not. I would not depend on one or the other.
This Party put forward as its first slogan the policy of self-sufficiency, and self-sufficiency has proved itself in this country up to the present. Only for the policy of self-sufficiency, Deputies over there would have been living on black oats for the past 12 months.
Mr. Corry: The people lived on it during the last war and were very glad to get it, when John Bull was feeding them, and there was no kick in them. They lived on it. I remember, when I was in Belfast Jail in 1918, that they did not even take the hulls out of it and we ate the black oats, hulls and all. That was the position during the last war, and I remember that after the last war when we started feeding some stuff to the calves it killed them all. But we have succeeded since 1932 in making this country practically self-sufficient as far as our bread is concerned. Despite all the die-hards from every quarter, and despite all the opposition that we met with, we have led them along the road and have brought them to the point where all that we required from outside, in order to give our people plenty of bread for this year, was 80,000 tons of wheat, out of 370,000 tons. That is all we wanted, but I would say that we are lying down on it now: that the Government are turning back on their policy now if they do not see that a sufficient supply of wheat is grown here this year to supply the Irish people with bread in what I consider the most dangerous year we have faced yet, and a year when you have no hope of getting anything of any description from abroad,  and when you must depend on our own people to see that this country pulls out of this struggle without any danger of starvation. Deputy Belton gave one figure with which I do not agree. He said that five and a half barrels to the acre was the figure mentioned by the Minister for Supplies. That was on the acreage and on the tonnage that the Minister mentioned.
Mr. Corry: The Deputy loses sight of several factors. He loses sight of the first fact, that every farmer who grew wheat this year kept sufficient to mill and supply his own family with bread for 12 months.
Mr. Corry: The Minister has given two definite figures, 491,000 acres and 290,000 tons, and Deputy Belton has made up, out of that, five and a half barrels to the acre and says that that is all they are growing. I am giving the reasons why it works out only at five and a half barrels. One of the reasons is this. Take a constituency like West Cork, or Kerry, all the small farmers in the poor counties grew practically sufficient wheat for their own needs. They did not grow it for sale, but for their own needs. The larger farmers in County Cork, practically all of them, kept wheat because they said to themselves that if barley and oats were going to be mixed with the flour this year, they would make sure to have at least a wheaten loaf for themselves and their families, and the man who did not do so was an idiot. That, in my opinion, explains why the low yield is there.
I do not wish to delay the House further. I consider that this is a very serious problem, one of the most serious problems which we could meet, and I believe it ranks side by side with defence. Defence of our island against invasion, to my mind, goes hand in hand with a supply of sufficient food in  this country for our own people and a sufficient supply of bread for our own people. I do not agree with Deputy Davin's suggestion for a round-table conference. I think that the Government has been elected in this country and that it is the Government's responsibility to the people of this country to see that we have what we require. I would agree neither to a defence council nor to a round-table conference on this. I am glad to see that the Labour Party, who represent the poor here and the ordinary workers of this country, are not refusing or objecting to the farmer getting a fair price for his produce.
Mr. Corry: I think it is a very fair indication and I do not think there is any farmer or anybody that I have heard speaking in this House who would object to the farmers getting a fair price. The House, as far as I can see, is practically unanimous on that. If the Government adopt the suggestion that I put up, I can offer them the unswerving support of the strongest tillage organisation in this country, the Beet Growers' Association. I can say this much to the Government: that if they agree to the proposition and say that they are prepared to pay 50/- to those farmers, the members of that association will go out on every platform in the country and help them and back them up.
Mr. Corry: I do not believe that 45/- will get us sufficient for our needs, and I believe that 60/- is too much and that the farmers of this country are not prepared to come down on the people of the country at the present day, as things stand.
Mr. Corry: If the Government do not make sufficient provision for food for the people of this country in a time of emergency, that is the Government's responsibility and the Government's responsibility alone. The country elected them and put them there to do it. It is up to them, and I may tell you frankly that so far as I am concerned I think that in a time of emergency there should be no Government there, but a Hitler.
Mr. Corry: I consider that, taking the situation as it stands at the moment, the Government stand to lose nothing by the suggestion I put forward. It is the one suggestion that safeguards them against a situation that, even if they accepted Deputy Belton's motion, they might be paying 60/- and still have to look forward to importing 80,000 tons of wheat. If they accept this proposal, at least they will have the money to try to get it in, and I am putting forward the suggestion as one that is fair and reasonable. I do not want to delay the House any further, because I think we are tired talking about wheat and getting nowhere, or getting no results.
Mr. Bennett: In this time of crisis, I do not think there is a Deputy on any side of the House, no matter what his past opinions may have been on the question, who is not wholeheartedly behind the Government in the endeavour to secure that the food of  the people will be available next year and so long as the crisis continues. This motion asks for an increased price to the farmers for wheat. I intend to support it. The argument perhaps has been, or will be, made that every additional shilling you pay to the farmer, he pays a share of it himself. There is something in that contention, but there is also something in the fact that the farmer has to pay his share of every artificial or other help that is given to industry in this State. If the shoe pinches in one way, it pinches in the other. We prefer to pay our share of the burden from which we get most benefit, and if we have to pay our share to provide an extra price for the farmer all round, we are satisfied to pay it. I do not believe that we can get the extra acreage, or the extra production needed, which is a different question from the acreage, unless an increased price is given. I am glad that at least one member of the Government Party is wholeheartedly with us in that. We have his assurance that there is not a Deputy in this House who would not freely support that increase in price, and I am hopeful that something at least will result from this debate.
The Minister speaking a few moments ago assured the House that the farmer was already getting a good price, that in fact he was getting 50 per cent. more than he was getting in 1938. I do not like to be always contradicting the Minister, but I am prepared to argue that that is not a fact. The Minister said that the farmer was getting 30/- for wheat in 1938. He was; there was not a farmer who did not get it. We had a glorious summer, perfect harvest weather, and we grew the best of wheat, as good as any that will ever again be grown in this country. We had a bumper yield. This year, unfortunately, due to many circumstances— lateness in sowing, a bad season, etc.—we had a very low yield and a very inferior quality in wheat generally. The consequence was that the return per acre was very much less and the price fell in many cases to a figure much below the guaranteed price. I am entitled to speak only for the part of the country I represent,  but if I were comparing the position of the farmer in Limerick who grew wheat in 1938 with the position of the farmer who grew wheat in 1941, I would say that the position of the man who grew wheat in 1941 when the price was 40/-, was worse than the position of the man who grew wheat in 1938 when it was only 30/-. Even if I take the figures mentioned, a seven-barrel return this year instead of an eight-barrel return in 1938, he would not get the same return. In many cases the yield this year was less than seven barrels, even on the very good land in County Limerick.
In 1938, as I stated, we all got the full 30/- for whatever wheat we grew; I do not know of any exception. I hope the Minister is going to make some arrangement to protect the farmer next year to ensure that he will eventually get his fair share, whatever the basis on which prices may be fixed. In Limerick this year the majority of farmers did not succeed in getting the 40/- that the Minister promised; in fact, the bulk of them got more in the region of 35/- or 1/9 a stone. Seven barrels at 35/- which is the price that the bulk of the farmers in Limerick got, represent £12 5s. an acre. In 1938 eight barrels at 30/- came to £12. The farmer gets 5/- more per acre this year. I shall not go into all the details, but the Minister has himself agreed that the extra cost of production this year is somewhere in the region of £1 an acre, so that without going any further, I think that establishes that the bulk of the farmers were worse off in 1941 than in 1938.
On the question of the guaranteed price, I should like to see some assurance that farmers will be protected by the guaranteed price that the Minister is offering. If there is going to be a guaranteed price for millable wheat, let there be a definition of what that term connotes. If the millers are not going to mill it for the purpose of human food they should not take it for that purpose or take the subsidies which are given for that purpose. I believe that every grain of wheat grown in my county is getting for the miller the full subsidy that is given for millable wheat. That was forcibly  brought to my notice last week when a certain farmer sold his wheat to one of these millers. After a few minutes a man came up to him with a note stating that 35/- was the price he would be paid as his wheat had bushelled badly. The farmer arrived back at the mill within ten minutes and said that he would not give his wheat at 35/- as the Minister had guaranteed a price of £2 and he would prefer to take his wheat home rather than sell it at 35/-. The reply he got then was that his wheat had already been mixed with other wheat and it is presumably now being made into bread. If a miller is being subsidised for wheat purchased in that way, he should be compelled to pay the guaranteed price of £2.
The Minister does not always agree with us or we do not always agree with the Minister and, in fact, sometimes we do not agree with the experts either. The Minister quoted an expert as saying that wheat does not reduce the fertility of the soil. I am one of those Deputies who do not agree with the expert in that statement. Perhaps he is right and I am wrong. I believe that most experts will agree that wheat is a very heavy crop on the soil and that it will certainly reduce the fertility, particularly when we have to grow it under circumstances such as the present. I listened to the same expert, or I read a great deal of what he said in regard to another matter, and I also disagreed with him in that. I believe that it was the same expert who said that wheat was one of those crops we could grow at any time, in hail, rain, snow or frost, that you could get the pickaxe and put it down in frost or put it down in the mud during rain and the result was all the same. He said that wheat was one of those crops you could sow at any time. We had some experience of that last year, and some of the crop that was put in under very bad conditions did not give the return that was expected of it. I believe myself that was one of the causes, though not the only cause, of the bad return for the present year. As one who has grown wheat in more than one country, and a very great amount of it, one  who may not have the same theoretical knowledge as the gentleman in question but a much greater practical knowledge, I venture to disagree with him in both statements. I maintain that wheat reduces the fertility of the soil and is not, any more than any other crop, a crop that you can profitably sow under any circumstances. We have argued this question of wheat supply thoroughly. However much we all are behind the Minister in demanding of the agricultural population in this country that they must produce the necessary food—we hope it will be produced by one method or another—if we are completely honest, we have got to say what we think and, like Deputy Corry, I am not satisfied that we will get the necessary amount of wheat that this country needs next year at 45/- per barrel. I am not saying that, even if I were satisfied that we could get it, I would not be behind a motion such as this which asks a bigger price for the farmer, because I am inclined to believe that when prices rise in war time, as they are now rising in respect of every article, the farmer is as entitled as any other member of the community to get his share of the rising prices. But that is beside the question. The question we are on now is: will you or will you not get the necessary amount of wheat at 45/- a barrel? The Minister says that there is as much chance of getting it at 45/- a barrel as there would be at 60/- a barrel. I disagree totally with the Minister there. There is not as much chance of getting it. I might just as well say that there was as much chance of getting recruits for the Army at 1/- a week as there would be at 8/-. Nobody would believe me if I were to make the suggestion seriously in this House that you would get all the recruits you want for the Army at 1/- a week, and that you would get the same number at 8/-. When anybody tells me that we are going to get the same amount of wheat produced in this country at 45/- a barrel as at 60/- a barrel I say, at the least, it is illogical.
There have been two suggestions made in the course of the debate to which I would like to allude. One is a rather fantastic proposition by Deputy  Corry. Deputy Corry proposes a prospective and somewhat illusory bounty if the farmers grow the required amount of wheat next year. Deputy Corry forgets, in the first place, that such a proposal would be almost certainly inequitable, because the man who did not do his duty would get the same benefit as the man who did. In the second place, Providence might so ordain that, whatever efforts the farmers made, the amount could not be produced. There might be—we hope there will not be—some climatic change that would make even this year's poor return poorer still. Anyhow the whole proposition is vague. I think Deputy Corry would not get the backing of one farmer out of five throughout the country for it. Whatever we are going to get, let us be clear on it now before we sow the crop, and let us not have a position of “live horse and you will get grass”. Generally, the horse does not get the grass. I should like to see an arrangement made whereby whatever price the farmers are promised they will get, and let it be as good a price as we can give them. This year, the farmers were guaranteed 40/- a barrel and most of them got 35/- a barrel. The miller bought the wheat at 35/- a barrel and got the same bounty on 35/- a barrel as he got on the 40/-. Let us arrange that that position will not occur again.
I would like to support the proposition made by Deputy Davin of the Labour Party. We all have the same idea at heart—to secure for this country the necessary amount of food next year, and for subsequent years, as long as this crisis lasts. We may disagree as to the best way to do it, but there is a general consensus of opinion, I think, that the price of 45/-, arranged for wheat by the Ministry, is not enough. We have a backing in the Minister's own Party for that. I think the suggestion of Deputy Davin is an admirable one—that a conference, representing all Parties in this House, be called, which would arrange between themselves what really is the correct method of settling this price and arranging for a full production of our necessary food next year. I believe  that in half an hour the whole thing would be settled, and there would be the united strength of the House behind whatever agreement was made. I believe that is the best way to settle this matter.
As far as I am concerned, I am going to vote for the resolution, because I honestly believe that we are not going to get all the wheat we desire and need in this country next year on the basis of 45/- per barrel. As I said, and as has been said by other Deputies, there is a possibility, nay, a probability, of a lower yield even than we had this year. If we have an extra acreage it may not increase the aggregate amount we will get out of it. It probably will not. In every event the farmer is taking a bigger risk every year he grows wheat, owing to the lack of manures and other incidental disadvantages. I hope the Minister will consider the proposal of Deputy Davin, and perhaps, if he were to do so, Deputy Belton might be induced to withdraw this motion.
Mr. Harris: The seriousness of the situation for the country has induced me to take part in this debate. I do not like to make speeches in this House, but, having listened to some of the speeches here to-night, I think I would not be doing my duty to the country if I did not express my views on this motion. Deputy Belton has a reputation throughout the country of being a great agriculturist, and I believe he is. He is a successful farmer. He is a much bigger tillage farmer than I am, but, I think, when he is speaking in this House he speaks more as a politician than as a farmer, and I take his speech on its political value. It is a popular thing amongst the farming community to say that wheat is not profitable at the price fixed by the Government. As a farmer, I made the strongest representations that I was able to make, anywhere I had a voice, to secure the biggest guaranteed price possible, but I realised that the Government had its responsibility to the community, and that it had to take many factors into consideration when they fixed the price. I know it was only under very strong representations from farmers' organisations and others  that the price was increased to 45/- per barrel.
I heard Deputies talk about farmers having low yields, and I think I heard Deputy Bennett say that some farmers in his area got only 35/- per barrel for their wheat when there was a guaranteed price of £2. If a farmer got only 35/- per barrel for his wheat, the sample must have been of a very inferior quality. We hear talk about failures of wheat crop. If a wheat crop fails, a guarantee of £3 will not do much to improve the farmer's position. All crops fail from time to time. Root crops—crops in respect of which the farmer has no guarantee at all—fail occasionally. That is part of the farmer's life. He has had to put up with it in the past, and I suppose he will have to put up with it in the future; but at all times he has carried on. The Government, having taken all factors into consideration, and having fixed a price of 45/- per barrel, Deputies would not, I think, be doing their duty if they did not point out to the farming community the seriousness of the situation, and endeavour by every means in their power to induce them to increase the wheat acreage sufficiently to enable us to have sufficient bread for our people.
I think there is too much talk about wheat reducing the fertility of the soil. I am not as big a farmer as Deputy Belton, or perhaps as Deputy Bennett, but I do not believe that either of them could teach me anything about growing wheat. I have grown wheat for the past nine or ten years in rotation, and I have laid down my land year after year in wheat with grass seed, and I have as good new meadows and pastures as ever I had with oats or barley. If you grow wheat one year after another, without paying any attention to a proper rotation, there is no doubt that you will reduce the fertility of the soil, but the same applies to barley and oats. In fact, if you have meadow land one year after another, and if you put no manure back on it, you will reduce the fertility of the soil. I think it very unfair to blame wheat alone for reducing soil fertility, and I think it is criminal at the present  stage for Deputies or other public men to give expression to so many fallacies about wheat in that respect.
A big section of the people in my constituency are growing far more wheat than their share. Some of the farmers in Kildare have injured their land by taking two or three crops of wheat off it, but there is a big section of farmers in the country who have not been patriotic enough to do their part. There are farmers with good land— tillage farmers, many of them—who, to some extent due to the propaganda of people in this House who have been opposed to the Government policy, have not yet done their part in the growing of wheat. I believe that the people who have been growing wheat for the past seven or eight years will continue to do so, and, instead of conferences, as Deputy Davin suggests, what is necessary is that all Parties should give up playing politics and trying to score points off the Government and should tell the farmers, who up to now have not done their part, that it is time for them to do so. If we face up to the situation and if we are honest about it, I think the people will be brought to a realisation of the seriousness of the position.
I know farmers have risks with wheat. They have risks with all crops, but the farmers have carried on under difficulties in the past. Some of the people in the towns who know nothing about the country seem to think that the farmers pick it up easily and that there is no expense associated with their industry. I know the anxious times a farmer has and how hard he has to work to get his crop of wheat, but I know also that if every other acre on the farm paid as well as the acre under wheat the farmer's position would not be so bad. We should give up this playing for popularity and tell those members of the farming community who have not grown wheat in the past that they are not doing their duty to the country if they do not put in their quota of wheat this year.
I think it is time to give up all the raméis that is talked here, and all this insincere talk we hear. We hear it from Deputy Davin, from Deputy Belton and from all around. I live amongst farmers.  My friends are farmers. I know they would like to get 50/- or £3 a barrel for wheat. I should like to see them get it, but I know the difficulties of the Government's position. I know the poorer paid people in the towns and I know the questions that will be asked, as they have been asked here, in regard to the increased price of sugar, and what will be said when the price of bread has to be increased. The Government will be attacked then. We should forget our Party differences and tell the farmers that they should pull their weight and do their duty in this emergency.
Mr. Hickey: So far as the Labour Party is concerned, there is no playing of Party politics in my supporting the suggestion made by Deputy Davin. As a member representing a city constituency, I want to say that we look upon the farming community as the most important element in the community. As industrial workers, we are also mindful of the fact that, in most cases, if the farmer is a producer he is also a consumer and that 53 per cent. of our population live on the land. It was not very complimentary for Deputy Harris to say that Deputy Davin, in making his suggestion, was playing politics. I am in pretty close contact with farmers' representatives on different public boards in the City of Cork and take a special interest in what they say about the possible supply of wheat for the coming year. If we have some Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches saying that 45/- a barrel is not enough to get wheat grown for the coming year, and the Government saying that they are going to give a maximum of 45/-, surely one may suggest that a conference of all interested parties should be held with a view to reaching a unanimous agreement as to price. If anyone has gone off to play Party politics on this question, I think it is Deputy Harris. He did not deal with the case in the way that I think he should have. We are not seeking to score points against the Government on this.
This question has been discussed a good deal during the last two or three weeks. Deputy Corry will agree that  at public boards, of which we are both members, it has come up for discussion. The majority of the members on these boards are farmers. They are growing wheat and beet, and one has to listen to their views. I, like Deputy Harris, have come from the land. A good many of my relatives and friends are still on it, and it is because I know their difficulties and privations that we would like to see them paid a decent price for their labour. Having regard to the statement made by Deputy Corry, the Minister's statement to the effect that farmers to-day are 43 per cent. better off than they were in the year 1938 does not convince me. Even if they are getting 45/- a barrel, I am not convinced that it is sufficient. From my knowledge, farmers were not getting sufficient for their labour in 1938. Why can we not have a united campaign for the growing of wheat as well as a decent agreement with regard to the price? If, in that way, the price was fixed at 45/- a barrel, we would advocate that every man should grow wheat, and that if some were not inclined to grow it that they should be made to do so. I would not have spoken on this matter at all were it not for the unfair remarks made by Deputy Harris when he talked about the members of this Party playing politics and of trying to score points off the Government. I appeal to the Minister to consider the suggestion I have made for a united campaign to get grown all the wheat that will be needed to meet the requirements of the country.
Mr. Fagan: Even though some people were against the growing of wheat, they came into the breach last year and grew it. They did so because they felt it was a patriotic thing to do and thought it was necessary to do it. The speech of the Minister for Agriculture to-night disappointed me, because the position we have staring us in the face to-day is that next September we will not be able to get any wheat except what we grow ourselves. In view of that, no matter what it may cost, it is the bounden duty of the Government to give a fair price to the farmers to encourage them to grow enough wheat to provide bread for our people. If they do that, then they can make the farmers grow enough wheat. My own opinion is that 45/- is not enough. The Minister's speech, if studied, proves that. He admitted at one point that the farmers were badly off in 1938. Then he gave figures with regard to percentages and costs, and said that they were 43 per cent. better off now than in 1938. The Minister should now do the right thing for the farmers since he admits they were badly off in 1938.
From the point of view of the defence of the country this question of having an adequate food supply for the people should be seriously considered by the Government. They should give a fair price to the farmers. If they do, then, even those farmers who were against wheat growing, would be prepared to do the patriotic thing. The position this year would be very serious were it not for the fact that farmers who were opposed to wheat growing sowed the crop in response to the Government's appeal. Because of that we have enough bread for the people this year. So far as we can see, there will be no possibility of getting artificial manures next year. Years ago, when wheat was grown extensively, the people had plenty of lime to put on their land.
The Government, in my opinion, are not giving enough encouragement to enable people to get lime to-day. They should increase the lime subsidies to the county committees of agriculture, so that farmers will be able to get enough of it at a low price. I have been told by farmers who put plenty  of lime on their stubble land last year, after they had taken a crop of oats off it, that they got a bumper crop of wheat off that land. I saw this field in the County Meath myself. In view of that I think the Government should increase the lime subsidy to the county committees of agriculture and make it available for farmers at a low cost. Even though I propose to vote for the £3 a barrel for wheat, and thereby support Deputy Belton's motion, I am really doing so as a protest against the 45/-. I am of opinion that £3 a barrel is too much. I think a fair price for farmers would be 50/- a barrel. I do not like Deputy Corry's gambler's throw to guarantee the farmers 50/-. That sort of thing would do no good. Neither do I want the Labour Party's all-round conference. We have the situation that I have referred to staring us in the face. It is a very grave one, and it is the duty of the Government to deal with it. They have been elected to rule the country, and provide enough bread for the people. Let them fix a fair price for the wheat, and then tell the farmers to grow it.
Mr. O'Reilly: It is not exactly the motion that has induced me to say something on the question of wheat growing. The world circumstances of the last few days should, of course, force the ordinary, thinking individual to contribute all he can to enable our people to have an adequate supply of bread. All will agree that the changes that have taken place in world conditions are extremely bad. There is every sign at the moment of their becoming much worse. A nation having the freedom and liberty that we have should not lose any effort to see that both are maintained. I know of no way in which we could so rapidly lose our freedom and liberty as through a shortage of bread, especially in a country like this where, unfortunately, the bulk of the food consumed by the people consists of bread. That has been the position for a long time. I hope the future will not be like that, and that changes for the better will take place. At the moment, we want to get wheat grown. I do not know if it is to be got by paying £3 a barrel,  nor do I know that we can get it by saying now that the price next harvest will be 45/-. So far as the farmer is concerned, there are many slips 'twixt the cup and the lip. I am afraid that, from the time he puts in his winter wheat to the time the corn is loaded on a lorry for the merchant, very great changes in production take place—I think Deputy Belton will agree with me there—and it is quite possible that in the coming year those changes may be much to the disadvantage of farmers. Anyway, in my constituency all the farmers have done their utmost to comply, and have been extremely successful, and they have, no doubt, been complimented by the Minister for Agriculture and others. But I feel that they are to a large extent very much disturbed as to what the position is going to be next harvest-time.
There are people going around that constituency making speeches that are, at least, ill-advised. There are many Governments that would have prohibited those speeches. There are inducements held out at those meetings to labourers to become restive, to demand huge remuneration for their work. That is acting very badly, so far as the food of the people is concerned. I would be glad to see everybody getting as much as it is possible to give. At the same time, we must all remember that no matter who we are, if we make certain statements, those statements must cause reactions, and if those statements to which I have referred are causing reactions on the food position, then each and every one of us should be extremely careful. I do not know how much a farmer, in these circumstances, should get next year for his wheat; I do not think the Minister knows. The winter will be a long one, and the farmer has to face grave and serious risks. I am not quite clear what will happen when it comes to the harvest, but the position will be less clear when it comes to threshing.
There does not appear to be put into this whole question of food production an all-round national effort. If we could have an all-round national effort  it would be much easier to try to fix the price of this vital commodity, wheat. In my view a profit should be guaranteed to the farmer. Let him have his profit and let the rest gamble with the wheat—let them make their own arrangements. I will be quite satisfied if the farmer is guaranteed his profit—that is, under normal conditions. I do not mean there should be a profit for the farmer who makes no effort. I have in mind the farmer who makes a return to the miller of the average amount of wheat—he should be entitled to a profit.
In County Meath we have, perhaps, more difficulties than have the people in most other counties. They may have difficulties in County Dublin, but the farmers near the city have always been tillage farmers. Their proximity to Dublin has allowed them to remain in tillage, with some sort of a struggle, no doubt, but they have succeeded in holding on. In County Meath, since about 1850, tillage has disappeared, mainly because of the complications that arose then and the change in values. Live stock became valuable. To give you an indication of how the situation exists there to-day, reasonably good grassland is making £7 to £7 10s. and up to £8 an acre. Very special land is making £9 to £10 for grass.
Mr. O'Reilly: Yes. Wheat or tillage land set for conacre, without any conditions, is making, roughly, £2 10s. to £3 10s. an acre. There are cases where land quite suitable to grow wheat is let at 50/- or £3 an acre, with the condition imposed that if you grow wheat it will be £1 more. That does act to some extent as a higher cost of production. Evidently the profits expected out of live stock are far greater than the farmer can hope to obtain from other products. So far as an economic price is concerned, we must consider these factors, if we are to induce a man to grow wheat from an economic point of view. I do not deny that to a large extent we induced the farmers of County Meath and Westmeath to grow wheat last year from a national point of view.
Mr. O'Reilly: Quite so, but there was no difficulty in compelling them, considering the results were so excellent. To a large extent it was the farmer's national outlook, recognising and realising the danger of the country and the demands that were made, that prompted him to grow wheat. From that one might infer that the price was not so remunerative or so profitable as many people suppose. My difficulty is that if we fix £3, as Deputy Belton suggests, or 50/-, as Deputy Corry suggests, or 45/- as it is left, how do we know what is going to happen in the meantime and how costings are going to go? How do we know that the threshing mill will not charge 50 or 100 per cent. more than it did last year? Of course, there can be arrangements made to control those circumstances. The next difficulty we have is this. Hay, at the present moment, old meadow hay, is making up to 8/- a cwt.
Mr. O'Reilly: I am speaking of the country, not the city. New grass is easily making 10/6 in the country. There is another conflict of interest. Straw is selling at a little over 4/-, good wheaten straw, in Dublin city. In County Meath that straw is making 2/6—that was bid for it and it would not be taken. You may put down oaten straw at 3/-. It is not easy to balance these things. I am not talking now from a national point of view; I am looking at it from an economic point of view.
Mr. O'Reilly: These are some things we must consider; it is practically incumbent on us to do so, with the changing situation outside. I am not at all in agreement that we should appoint a select committee.
Mr. O'Reilly: The Government have a big majority. As to the speeches published in the County Meath, I want  to tell certain people there that we are not “yes-men,” that we have our opinions and can give voice to them. But we can urge, and, if we are eloquent enough, perhaps we can prevail on the Government to do certain things. But we want to be truthful about the whole situation.
I do not agree that a committee of this House would improve matters at all. I believe that the Government is quite capable of adjusting these things, and I believe, quite honestly, that at this moment adjustment is required in view of the circumstances in which we are living. I have tried to put before you the position that exists, from the economic point of view, in my county —possibly, the biggest wheat-growing county in the Twenty-Six Counties.
Mr. Belton: I think there has been a good deal of misrepresentation—not deliberate, I am sure—with regard to the suggestion made by me to finance this project. I agree with the whole tone and thought of what the last speaker said, and with regard to the objective of his speech I thought that, at the wind-up, he was going to accept the suggestion of Deputy Davin. The Government have a sufficient  majority to do anything they like. They got, at the last election, the confidence of the country, but many things have happened since, upon which the Government, I am sure, in their wisdom, ought to welcome the opinions of other Parties in the House. Deputy O'Reilly says that he has confidence that the Government will make the necessary adjustment, and it is time to make the adjustment, but has any Deputy got up here on behalf of the Government and said that they were prepared to make it? If not, they are not carrying out the wish in the mind of Deputy O'Reilly, and I am sure it is in the minds of the farmers of Meath just as I know it is in the minds of the farmers of Dublin. Very many things can be brought up at this conference. Some of the speakers here have associated this wheat movement with the question of national defence. We are spending about £10,000,000 on national defence, but I say that it is a more important kind of national defence to grow a sufficient crop of wheat, and although you are spending £10,000,000 on defence there is not a shotgun cartridge to be bought in Dublin to enable the farmer to shoot the crows which are eating up the crop of wheat. Why have we not shotgun cartridges with which to shoot the pigeons, crows and other birds that are eating our crops? If we are not able to produce a shotgun cartridge with which to shoot a crow, what are they mouthing about national defence for, and spending £10,000,000 on it? Come down to realities. I see, in this conference suggested by Deputy Davin, a chance of coming down to realities.
I notice that the Minister for Agriculture is not here at the moment. He quibbled about prices and percentage profits and that kind of thing. He talked about the price being 30/- in 1938 and being now 45/—and that had to be pulled out of him and out of the Government—and he spoke of that increase as being a 50 per cent. increase. That is a complete misrepresentation of the position. The problem is not to grow the wheat crop of 1938, but to grow a crop three times as large, with no fertilisers, and to bring land  under wheat cultivation that in normal circumstances is not fit to grow wheat. But because we want food we must grow wheat on such land, regardless of price, and the suggestion is that £3 a barrel should be paid for that crop. There are many people growing large areas of wheat to-day who would not grow so much only that they are alive to the national urgency and the seriousness of the national situation.
Deputy Hughes said that he objected to my fixing a percentage, and said that the farmers should grow it. This country is in danger of extinction— certain of extinction, if it does not grow the food for its people next year. Why should not the farmers, or anybody else, be told what to do in order to save the country from extinction? I hope to grow 100 acres of wheat, but I would not grow it if times were normal, because it takes too much out of my land. Evidently, some fellow with, perhaps, a degree in agriculture, whispers into the Minister's ear that barley and oats will take as much out of land as wheat, but that is all sheer humbug. Outside of a madhouse you would not hear such a thing, and no practical farmer would say that. I have grown wheat in the last two years on land that I have manured with farmyard manure, sometimes twice a year, for the last 20 years, but that land broke down this year on the second crop, and I would not sow wheat again in it. I am sowing oats in it and expect to get a good crop, but for the Minister to tell me that wheat takes less out of the land than oats or barley is as sensible as if he got up to tell me that we are in darkness here in the House. I do not believe it, and nobody who knows anything about the matter would make such a statement.
Now, with regard to my suggestion about providing white flour here in order to make money out of that end of the business to subsidise flour at the other end of the business, Deputy Hughes said that that would mean giving white flour to the rich and any sort of flour to the poor. I made no such statement. I said that we should give white flour at cost to those who are  able to pay for it, based upon £3 per barrel for wheat. Give the whole subsidy to flour, not of any sort, as suggested by Deputy Hughes, but flour of a 95 per cent. extraction, precisely similar to the flour that we have now, and if we give the whole subsidy to that 95 per cent. extraction flour we can sell our loaf next year at 11½d. instead of 1/-, without any increase in subsidy, whereas already 5/- of an advance on the basic price that the Minister for Supplies has guaranteed for wheat will mean an increase of 2d. per 4-lb. loaf next year or an increase of £2,000,000 on the subsidy. The Minister for Supplies, who will be asking for this subsidy, has not come in here to make his case, and on a motion like this he should be making his case, or rather on a Vote for his own Department, parallel or side by side with fixing the price of wheat for the coming year.
Now, the problem—and it cannot be too much emphasised—is to get enough wheat grown to give us bread. That would be 600,000 acres. Nobody has got up here and said that 45/- a barrel will give it or can give it. I welcome the suggestion of Deputy Davin, and it comes very well from the Labour Party. What also comes well from the Labour Party is the conviction that they are satisfied that the price offered is not an adequate inducement to the farmers to put up the full wheat supply. Do the Ministers and members of the Government Party who are present at the moment believe that this price will give them the full quantity of wheat required to give us bread? Have they stated that they do not believe it will? Are they not guilty of treason to this country if they are prepared to sit down and not take the necessary steps to produce the wheat required here to give food to the nation? They admit that the plan or scheme they are putting forward will not give sufficient bread. There is no chance in the world of getting any in from abroad, or at least it looks like that now, and any prudent planner for this country for the next 12 months would see to the growing of sufficient food in the country for our people. The Minister for Agriculture admitted  that he does not expect to get enough wheat for our requirements. Others have objected to my suggestion that we should give a good price, and if necessary compel the farmers to produce an adequate supply of wheat. In saying that, I spoke with as strong a farming support in my own constituency as any member in this House, and I claim that I voice the substantial majority of farming opinion in this country when I say that the farmers are prepared to accept compulsion to grow 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. of their arable land in wheat if that is the specific amount required in order to give us sufficient wheat. They are prepared to grow it if they are paid for it. They are prepared to accept compulsion, if they are paid for the wheat, and the price I suggest is £3 per barrel. How can the Government justify refusal to pay £3 a barrel to Irish farmers who grow wheat in this coming year, seeing that that is the front line of defence for this country? Last year the Government imported 80,000 tons of wheat. At eight barrels to the ton, that is 640,000 barrels, at four guineas a barrel, and the Irish farmers got only £2 a barrel for growing wheat here where there was no risk from submarines or aeroplanes. What is the Government's answer to that? In this coming year there will be no chance of getting wheat through the submarine and aeroplane barrage on the high seas. The farmers here do not want four guineas a barrel. They will grow it at £3 a barrel, and the Government says it is too much. It is good enough to give the Irish farmer 45/-, but they are prepared to pay four guineas, or anything else that is demanded, to foreign growers. It is not easy to understand the attitude of the Government.
As far as I am concerned, and as far as my colleague, Deputy Cogan, is concerned, speaking for the farmers in our respective constituencies, we are prepared to accept a conference on this matter, and to put up evidence as to what should be the economic price for wheat. Behind the figures which we will put up there will be an undertaking from the farmers—not armchair farmers, but farmers who farm—that  they will grow the necessary wheat to give a full supply of bread to the people of this country in the coming year, and time will tell whether they will honour that or not. If the Government want to exact guarantees that it will be honoured, they will get those guarantees. If the Government refuse this conference, they are refusing the co-operation of everybody in this House to help the country out in the present crisis. I do not think they will be showing their patriotism if they refuse this conference. As the biggest  Party, they are entitled to the biggest “say” on that conference. They are also entitled to turn it down and say: “We are the Government, and we will go ahead with our policy.” Whatever happens, we all hope that enough food will be produced, but if the Government refuse this conference and the food is not produced the Government alone will be responsible, and will have to answer to the country for refusing the co-operation which is offered to them to-night.
Bennett, George C.
Broderick, William J.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Sullivan, John M.
Pattison, James P.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Corry, Martin J.
De Valera, Eamon.
Fogarty, Patrick J.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Keane, John J.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
Lynch, James B.
McDevitt, Henry A.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
Rice, Brigid M.
Ruttledge, Patrick J.
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