Fertilisers, Feeding Stuffs and Mineral Mixtures Bill, 1955—Second Stage.

Thursday, 24 February 1955

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 148 No. 6

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Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Dillon): Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

This Bill is designed primarily to repeal and replace the Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Act, 1906. The objective of that Act was to prevent and suppress the sale of inferior and unsuitable fertilisers or feeding stuffs. It aimed at making the sale of such articles financially unattractive by reason of the civil liabilities which purchasers might invoke against the sellers in the form of claims for damages for breach of warranty. The main features of the Act were as follows:—

On the sale of any artificially prepared article as a fertiliser or a feeding stuff, the seller was required to give to the purchaser a written statement containing specified particulars of the composition of the article.

The written statement given by the seller of the article was to have effect as a warranty by the seller.

The purchaser of such an article was entitled, on payment of the required fee, to have a sample of the article taken, within a specified period, by an official sampler and analysed by an agricultural analyst, who would send to the purchaser of [997] the article a certificate of analysis indicating, inter alia, whether and, if so, in what respects and to what extent the article was found to differ, to the prejudice of the purchaser, from the particulars thereof given in the seller's written statement.

Every county council was required to appoint one or more official samplers and an agricultural analyst for the purposes of taking and analysing samples under the Act.

When put to the test, the Act proved here, as in Britain, to be defective in a number of respects; and prosecutions for breaches of the provisions of the Act were found to be difficult to pursue successfully in the courts. The Act's principal defect here, however, was the local machinery for the taking and analysis of samples. The county councils in this country fixed the fees payable for the sampling and analysis of articles taken under the Act at the request of purchasers at levels so high as to cover fully the analyst's fee for carrying out the analysis in each case. The high cost to purchasers of having articles sampled and analysed under the Act proved prohibitive, and requests by purchasers to have such articles sampled and analysed soon ceased to be made. Eventually this situation resulted in neglect by county councils to appoint agricultural analysts under the Act. For many years past the local machinery provided by the Act has ceased to function, in consequence of there being no demand for its use, and in all but a few counties that machinery has ceased to have even a nominal existence.

The lack of any effective power to prevent and suppress the passing off of inferior and worthless articles as fertilisers and feeding stuffs became a matter of major concern early in the “emergency” period. The widespread shortage, at that time, of good-quality fertilisers and feeding stuffs and of materials suitable for their manufacture created conditions favourable to the production of inferior fertilisers and feeding stuffs which could be readily disposed of at fancy prices. The situation necessitated the making of Emergency Powers Orders giving [998] the Minister for Agriculture powers to control and regulate the manufacture and sale of fertilisers and feeding stuffs. Separate Orders were made in respect of fertilisers, feeding stuffs and mineral mixtures. The relevant Orders now in force are:—

“1. Emergency Powers (Manufacture and Sale of Fertilisers) Order, 1944 [S.R. & O. No. 49 of 1944]

Emergency Powers (Manufacture and Sale of Fertilisers) Order, 1944 (Amendment) Order, 1950 [S.I. No. 263 of 1950].

2. Emergency Powers (Manufacture and Sale of Mineral Mixtures) Order, 1944 [S.R. & O. No. 50 of 1944].

3. Emergency Powers (Feeding Stuffs) Order, 1944 [S.R. & O. No. 196 of 1944]

(a) Emergency Powers (Feeding Stuffs) Order, 1944 (Amendment) Order, 1953 [S.I. No. 130 of 1953]

(b) Emergency Powers (Feeding Stuffs) Order, 1944 (Revocation of Article 6) Order, 1954 [S.I. No. 260 of 1954].”

The present Bill is designed to bring together in one enactment provisions replacing the Act of 1906 and provisions conferring on the Minister for Agriculture powers similar to those at present vested in him by the several Emergency Powers Orders cited. Those Orders are intended to be revoked when the Bill is brought into operation as an Act.

In replacing the Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Act, 1906, the Bill follows the main lines of that Act in requiring sellers to give to purchasers written statements having effect as warranties by the sellers as to the particulars stated and in entitling purchasers to have samples taken and analysed, on payment of the required fees — subject to the modification that entitlement to have articles sampled and analysed under the Bill is restricted to purchasers who propose to use the articles in the course of their farming operations. [999] The machinery for sampling and analysis proposed in the Bill is however, very different from that which was set up by the 1906 Act and which led to the partial failure of that Act. The Bill provides that application to have a sample of an article taken for analysis shall be made to the Minister, that the amount of the required fee shall (with the sanction of the Minister for Finance) be prescribed by the Minister, that the sample shall be taken by an officer authorised by the Minister, and that the analysis shall be performed by or under the direction of the State Chemist. In effect, therefore, the Bill provides a State service whereby any farmer who has doubts about a fertiliser or feeding stuff which he has bought may, on payment of a moderate fee, have the article sampled and analysed. If, on analysis, the article is found not to be of the quality and composition stated by the seller, the purchaser is enabled to obtain redress from the seller by means of a claim for damages.

While it is highly desirable that individual farmers should have a clear-cut legal remedy for losses suffered by them owing to the inferior properties of fertilisers and feeding stuffs which they purchased in reliance on misleading descriptions by the individual sellers concerned, it is also important that the manufacture and sale of fertilisers and feeding stuffs should be subject to supervision and regulation designed to secure that articles which are manufactured for sale as fertilisers and feeding stuffs are of satisfactory quality, of suitable composition, and conform to the descriptions under which they are offered for sale. Supervision and regulation directed to those ends have been for several years past, and are still, exercised under Emergency Powers Orders. Those Orders are of temporary duration and are due to expire in the near future. It is accordingly proposed, under the Bill, to give permanent effect to the powers now vested in the Minister by the Emergency Powers Orders. These Orders will be revoked when the Bill is brought into operation as an Act. The powers to be given to the Minister [1000] under this part of the Bill are, briefly:—

(1) Power to prohibit the sale or manufacture for sale of a specified fertiliser or feeding stuff (including mineral mixture) or of a specified class of fertilisers or feeding stuffs.

(2) Power to restrict manufacture to persons licensed by the Minister and to attach conditions to licences granted to such persons.

(3) Power to prohibit, limit or regulate the use of any specified article in the manufacture for sale of a fertiliser or feeding stuff.

(4) Power to require the production of books, etc.

(5) Powers of entry, inspection and taking of samples by an authorised officer.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Thomas Walsh  Zoom on Thomas Walsh  I welcome the Bill because I know how necessary it is for the farmers to know the analysis of feeding stuffs, and compound feeding stuffs particularly, and also the analysis of compound fertilisers. Under the 1906 Act, manufacturers were obliged to give an analysis of the fertilisers they were selling and also of the compound feeding stuffs. Where there were more than two ingredients in a feeding stuff, an analysis was to be given. As the Minister pointed out, it was very difficult during the war period, and even outside the war period, to have a proper check kept on the quality of feeding stuffs. Many millers throughout the country did supply the analysis, but there were millers who did not do so, and I would say that, during the war period in particular, meals came on the market which were of a very inferior quality. As a matter of fact, I think it is true to say that there was very little regard paid to much of the filling that was put in the compound feeding stuffs. For that reason, I welcome the Bill, because it will ensure that the farmer or feeder if he is not satisfied with the compound fertiliser or compound feeding stuff which he purchases, will have his remedy by having a sample taken and analysed.

There will be a few points on which [1001] I should like clarification, particularly in relation to Sections 4, 5, and 6, which deal with prohibitions and restrictions regarding the manufacture of both fertilisers and feeding stuffs. Amendments may possibly be put forward on Committee Stage to ensure that there will be no ambiguity in the analyses given. In the case of fertilisers, phosphatic manures or fertilisers, let there be the soluble phosphates analysis. Let it be either a water solubility or a citric solubility. There is no sense whatever in trying to confuse people. We find even at the present time fertiliser manufacturers giving two analyses—water solubility and insoluble phosphates, with possibly the citric solubility. It is confusing enough for the ordinary farmer to get one, but let us not have him trying to find out what is the citric solubility, what is the water solubility and what quantity of phosphates in the manures are insoluble.

As regards feeding stuffs, I believe that the analysis should contain the albumenoids, the oils and the fibre, which is more important than all the others. In the case of compound meals, there is nothing to prevent a miller or [1002] compound manufacturer including an excessive quantity of fibrous material. For instance, if a pig meal is being manufactured and oats go into the mixture, oat hulls are too fibrous, and the farmer should know what quantity of fibre that compound contains. If, in giving the analysis, the compound manufacturer would give the albumenoids, the oils and the fibre content, it would be of great value to the feeder.

Section 4 contains provisions which enable the Minister to prohibit the sale or manufacture for sale of fertiliser, feeding stuff, compound feeding stuff, or mineral mixture. This applies to lime, and lime in particular. We have a standard of fineness in this country which is largely accepted, but there are people who believe that our standard of fineness is not the correct one.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  In regard to ground limestone?

Mr. Walsh: Information on Thomas Walsh  Zoom on Thomas Walsh  Ground limestone, yes.

Debate adjourned.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. till 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 2nd March, 1955.

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