Thursday, 26 May 1955
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. O'Hara: When speaking on this Vote last night, I was pointing out that we in the West of Ireland have a particular problem compared with other parts of the country, in view of the fact that our land is, in the main, much poorer than the land in other parts of the country. Quite a lot of the land in the West of Ireland is unsuitable for tillage and we have to rely to a great extent on imported feeding stuffs. Naturally, imported feeding stuffs being very expensive, this places our farmers at a serious disadvantage and that brings me to the point that I would always like to see in this country a vigorous tillage campaign.
It is true that at present cattle prices are very high, are abnormally high, but we are not sure that that state of affairs will last indefinitely. Deputy Giles last night expressed the opinion that a position might arise in this country at a later date in which cattle prices would fall and in which it would be unwise to have all our eggs, so to speak, in one basket. It is natural, due to the fact that cattle prices are very high at present, that our farmers should be inclined to increase production of cattle. That in itself can be a very good thing for the nation and a very desirable thing, but at the same time it could be brought too far. I would like our farmers to be encouraged, side by side with cattle production,  to increase their tillage as far as possible.
In the matter of tillage, during the emergency phosphates and other fertilisers were very scarce. We have not yet got round to making up the deficiency in phosphates and other fertilisers in our land. It is true that we have made a big advance in liming, due to the undeniable fact that the present Minister, when he became Minister some years ago, initiated ground limestone schemes. As a result of his efforts we now have lime in sufficient quantities to make up any deficiency. Prior to that, we had no suitable means of providing lime in sufficient quantity. There was no other source of supply than the limekilns here and there throughout the length and breadth of the country and they were wholly inadequate and unsuitable for present conditions. There was no other source of lime in the country and the Minister did a very good day's work in getting ground limestone plants into operation and making it possible for farmers to buy lime at a cheap price in order to restore the fertility of the soil.
You can talk as much as you like about tillage, but any sensible-minded person must appreciate that over a long number of years the soil was becoming more and more deficient in lime and had we continued along the road which the previous Government was bringing us along, we would have reached the stage where it would have been almost impossible to grow crops or rear live stock. The other Government did not seem to appreciate that and it was just in the nick of time that the present Minister took it upon himself to make the limestone available at a subsidised price. It has a great bearing on production generally, both in tillage crops and in cattle.
If it were possible for the Minister to reduce the price of fertilisers to our farmers, it would bring most beneficial results. If it is possible to subsidise ground limestone, it is also possible to subsidise fertilisers, which are just as essential in their own way. I would ask him to consider that whole question seriously. The price of fertilisers is  very high at present and they are beyond the reach of the ordinary small man. That has a serious effect on the cost of production and on the cost of living for many of our workers and many of our townspeople. I sincerely hope that the Minister will see his way to subsidise fertilisers if it is at all possible.
Lots of people seem to have the notion that farmers are the wealthiest class in this country, that they are terribly well off and have really no problems or headaches. You often find, as Deputy MacCarthy said last night, people who live in towns who have that mentality. Therefore, let us examine the position for a moment or two. In the main, the farmer gets up at seven or eight o'clock and must look after his stock, perhaps before he gets his breakfast. He has to work all the hours that God sends him, and may not finish until 11 or 12 o'clock at night—working a 16 or 17 hour day. In addition, he has to be out in all weathers. At all times he has to run the risk of losing his crop through bad weather conditions, such as we experienced last year. In that way he may lose practically his whole income. These things are not taken into consideration seriously by quite a lot of our people.
Some people think that because a farmer gets a grant for a haybarn or a cow byre that is very bad business for the Government and very bad policy generally. I do not agree with that. We all know that for hundreds of years this country was ruled by an outside power that had no interest whatever in building up this country. On the contrary, they were concerned only with plundering everything they could. That went on for a long number of years. Is it not only right and natural that an Irish Government should set about improving our main industry and improving the lot of those engaged in it, considering that it is the industry upon which everything and everybody depends? Therefore, it is a very good policy for this or any other Government to give substantial grants to farmers for the improvement of cow byres, haysheds and so forth.
Again, when you consider the laying  on of water, though the initial cost may be rather high, it is well worth it. It means that the farmer can produce the goods in better condition, that the animals will be more comfortable and better fed and that they will thrive better. Accordingly, in the long run it is good policy. It would be advisable that people who have the mentality I speak of, should make up their minds that theirs is a foolish outlook on things, that there are no grounds for the suggestion that the farmer is so well off and so prosperous.
I referred last night to the small uneconomic holder. Let it be remembered that despite the increased agricultural prices he has gained precious little, as his cost of living has gone up and he has no guarantee that he will ever harvest the crop he puts in, due to weather and other conditions. Contrast that with the position of civil servants and others. I do not look down in any way on civil servants or anyone else—they are an important cog in the machine—but it is true that when they reach the age of 65 they can go into retirement. If they go out on a Sunday to the seaside, to Dún Laoghaire or somewhere else for amusement, once they lock their doors they know everything is safe at home. The farmer can rarely get a day off and if he does he has to be out early in the morning, he has to leave someone in charge of his stock during the day and often he has to return early. In many ways, the farmer has not the grand time that lots of people are inclined to think he has.
I would like to turn now to the high cost of farm machinery. We know the important part that good and efficient machinery can play in bringing about increased production. In the main, farm implements are most expensive, and beyond the reach of the ordinary people. There are few farmers who can afford to pay cash for their machinery, and accordingly they are placed at a further serious handicap. This is the type of farmer about whom I am mainly concerned; he is the small type of farmer who has to buy his machinery through a hire-purchase system, or apply for a loan to the Agricultural Credit Corporation, which he has very little chance of getting.  That being so, he is placed at a very serious disadvantage from the word “go”.
I think this question of machinery for increased production on the land should be gone into by the Minister with a view to bringing about effective reductions, if it is humanly possible. It was generally felt that the cost of agricultural machinery generally was exorbitant. In my opinion it is far too high. Taking into consideration the cost of many machines, it leaves the farmer in the position of buying on the dearest market and selling on the cheapest, and he is always transacting his business through middlemen. That will bring us to the co-operative system which I think should be encouraged. Anything we can do to bring down the cost of production, and to make it possible for our farmers to increase production, and accordingly increase their incomes and the wealth of the nation, should be done.
I mentioned a while ago that it was almost impossible to get loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. That is my experience, and the experience of other Deputies. I know of several credit-worthy farmers who looked for loans of £100 or £200, and were unable to procure them. The majority of our people have made up their minds that there is not a hope in the world of getting a loan from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. People engaged in other businesses, professional people and others, seem to have no serious difficulty in getting loans of this kind, but when it comes to those in the main industry of this country, the farmers who are the producers of food and wealth, looking for a loan, they are turned down, and nothing is to be done for them.
I feel the Minister deserves to be complimented and congratulated on his efforts for the farming community generally. In his opening remarks he asked members of this House on both sides to offer constructive criticism. In so far as I could, I have offered a few suggestions, and I have offered criticism. I feel, in the main, that the Minister should be complimented for his magnificent handling of a difficult situation. One of the greatest difficulties with  which he was confronted was the fact that the weather last year was so bad, and it occupied a considerable amount of his time and energy running around the country trying to deal with what might be described as an emergency. His handling of that situation, I think, was excellent, and it seemed to satisfy even the severest critics.
I will conclude, therefore, by saying that I have the greatest confidence in the present Minister for Agriculture, that he will, within the shortest possible time, try to improve the conditions of the Irish farmer on whom so much depends. I am confident that it is his honest desire and wish to do so. If he succeeds, as I sincerely hope he will, then we can all look forward to better and brighter days.
Dr. Esmonde: I could not agree more with the last speaker, Deputy O'Hara, when he said that the farmer works harder than any other section of the community. I think it is true to say that if other sections worked as hard it would not be long before this State would be a wealthy one. The farmer has also to contend with every type of difficulty imaginable. All of us appreciate what the farming community went through in the past 12 months. I have listened with great interest to speakers from all parts of the country, and of the different Parties, giving their points of view. I think it has been a constructive debate. I think it is good, on such an important Estimate as Agriculture, that all Deputies who are associated in any way in their constituencies with agriculture, should come into the House and give their points of view.
Controversy has ranged a great deal around the dairying industry, and the breeding of live stock. I should like to say, at the outset, that I find myself four-square behind the Shorthorn breed. After all, this country is dependent upon what it can export. It is a well-known fact that the basis of the production of good stock depends on the foundation stock. I think it has been proved over the years that the soundest foundation is the dual purpose Shorthorn. Arguments are  put forward with regard to higher milk production from other breeds. That may be true. It may be that, if you specialise in a milk breed, you are going to get a greater production of milk, but you must remember that, if you are going to get a greater production of milk, you do so to the detriment of your live stock, and you are injuring the agricultural industry as a whole.
It is true to say that there are potentialities in breeding from Friesians. I have heard Deputies arguing in favour of these animals. I think you could get a fair measure of beef with a Friesian cross. I have also heard Deputies arguing in favour of Jersey and Guernsey breeds. If you breed a bull calf from a Jersey or Guernsey, the only profit you can look forward to is to pass it to the meat factories, maybe for £1 or £2 notes, for utilisation there. It is no use for the furtherance of our live stock.
I think that the Minister and his Department are right over the years in believing that the foundation stock which is going to give us the best results is the Shorthorn breed. I think that the artificial insemination centres have proved their worth, and that the farmers, as a whole, are using them. I would like to suggest to the Minister that he should concentrate more as a cross breed for beef on the Poll Angus in the insemination centres I know that as far as possible he has looked throughout the world for Poll Angus bulls but in the insemination centres adjacent to my area there was not, up to recently at any rate, Poll Angus insemination.
That brings us back in the main to breeding from pure Shorthorn crossed with the Whitehead bull, which is good for beef production, or alternatively with the Poll Angus, which is even better. The sooner the farmers are in a position to put their beef on the market the greater is the profit for all concerned.
In that connection I think it is very essential that our dairy industry is maintained here. Apart from anything  else, it is impossible to lay the foundation of a good store unless you have plenty of milk. The difficulty in the dairying industry seems to be the costing and it appears to be a fact that any surplus of milk in the country is very hard to dispose of.
Chocolate crumb is not as remunerative as heretofore, due to marketing difficulties. The same seems to apply to the cheese industry and the dried milk business and the butter production industry also seems to have its weaknesses. The reduction in the price of butter resulted in a greater consumption and that, to some extent, has eased the position for the moment.
It is a fact that too many farmers in Ireland concentrate on the production or breeding of calves in the one season; we always have a heavy production of milk throughout April, May and June and after that it returns to its ordinary level. I think that if we were to stagger out our breeding of live stock over the year, the milk situation would stabilise itself so that any considerable surplus of butter would be easily disposed of. I believe that we can and should increase our milk production because if we do so we increase the trade that means so much to us—the export and the bringing to maturity of carcase beef, so essential to us in order that we may maintain and stabilise our economy.
Some Deputies expressed the fear that the price of cattle might not maintain itself. I would be inclined to disagree with that. The level of the price of cattle at the moment is due to the fact that it is a product being sold on a free market. We have a specialised market in that the British public as a whole like to buy first-class beef and as long as their purchasing power remains at its present level I can see no decrease in the price of our live stock, apart from the ordinary seasonal retrogression.
When prices were controlled they were fixed at a certain level and maintained at that level but at the present moment we are selling beef on a free market and we are able to produce sufficiently good beef to engage the attention of the British housewife. It  is there that the market lies. That is where our market remains stabilised so long as the purchasing power of Britain is good, and I see no immediate reason, other than a world disaster, why that purchasing power should change in any way.
For that reason, it is essential for us in this country to concentrate on the production of a better type of stock. A lot of our difficulties lie in the fact that our foundation stock in some cases is not good and that our bulls, in other cases, are not good. A good deal of cross-breeding is not good either. It is a well-known fact that you may cross a breed once but not twice. A lot of our trouble about poorer types of stock is due to the double-crossing of the breed. It is quite well known that if you have a good beast, well reared with plenty of milk as a calf and afterwards well fed, it can be brought to maturity under two years of age. That is what the aim of the Department of Agriculture should be. I know they are alive to that, but I say that they cannot concentrate too much on it because it is one of the great essentials of the industry in this country.
Marketing is another essential. At the moment it cannot be complained of. I admit that it was difficult to market pigs some time back. An examination of the situation will reveal the facts. The Federal Republic of Germany, a nation with a big population, went in extensively for the rearing of pigs. After a time they had over-production. As a result of that over-production it became necessary for them to cut down their sows. Now, the balance between over-production and under-production is always difficult to stabilise and, having cut down their sows, Germany found they had got below the level of their own bacon and pork requirements so that now they are forced to buy from the Scandinavian countries. That influenced our market, and that is why the price went up recently.
It is also due, I might add, to the Minister for Agriculture that the price of pigs was maintained as well as it was during the industry's leanest time. We had an agreement with the British Government whereby they had to take  all our surplus pork and, were it not for that agreement, our pig industry would have gone down to rock bottom. It is nonsense for Fianna Fáil Deputies to come in here and talk about the disruption of the pig market. It was maintained in this country when no other country in Europe was able to carry on. We were able to keep our sows and stocks in existence here, and now, the price having gone up again, we are reaping the benefits of that good management and good arrangement of markets.
Farm machinery has been mentioned here. I have brought this matter up before and I believe you cannot say a good thing often enough. In my constituency we manufacture farm machinery on a free market. We have no benefits, no quotas and no protective tariffs but the two firms operating there manufacture the greater part of the agricultural machinery used in this country. They are forced to buy their raw materials from Irish Steel Holdings, Limited, in Cork. They are operating on a free market and are forced to buy raw material on a protected market. Is it any wonder that farm machinery is dear? I suggest to the Minister—of course I know he has to fall in with the other Departments—that there is scope here for greatly reducing the price of our agricultural machinery if only these firms were allowed to buy their raw materials on a free market. They export some machinery as well. I think that is a matter for consideration.
I have not very much more to say except to congratulate the Minister for Agriculture. I think I am only saying a simple truth when I say that the farmers of Ireland have confidence in the Minister. He is a man of considerable ability; he has worked very hard under difficult circumstances. I do not think any Minister for Agriculture has had to face such a difficult situation as he had during the past harvest. Coming from a constituency which has a ratio of 28 per cent. tillage, I think I really should pay my tribute. It was the worst season that ever came, yet the Minister for Agriculture got that harvest cleared.
 He had to make the most of the circumstances that existed and I think that all credit is due to him that he cleared that harvest. I am quite certain he has the farmers of this country behind him and I feel that with the policy he is now promoting—a mixed policy of tillage and the rearing of live stock—he will re-establish the agricultural industry on a firm and lasting basis. Proof of that lies in the fact that the Minister for Finance, when making his statement on the situation in this country, was able to tell the House that, for the first time for quite a few years, the number of people employed on the land was not decreasing. That is a tribute to good farming, to good management. The greatest and the surest maintainable employment that can be given on the land is the building up of live stock. If you build up the live stock and our markets are maintained as they are, as, please God, they will be, we will gradually get the measure of prosperity to which we are entitled.
Mr. O'Connor: As a rural Deputy, I must avail of this opportunity to endeavour to put my point of view to the Minister. I have heard several Deputies mentioning the operations of the reclamation scheme. In my opinion, the officers operating it are not sufficiently flexible in applying themselves to local conditions. There is one complaint which I have been requested to bring to the Minister's notice. This may appear like reducing the matter to the parish pump level, but it may apply in other places.
The case I have in mind is in connection with a field of 22 acres. There was a dip in the field which required drainage. The local officer included in his estimate the entire field, instead of taking, say, half, if he wanted to make it an economic proposition. After some bantering and badgering, he reduced the area by some couple of acres, but not sufficiently to meet the situation.
If local officers are defeating the spirit of the Act, they should be brought together, the matter should be discussed with them and they should be asked to interpret the Act more liberally and not to apply economics in  the manner in which they are now being applied.
That is the case in my constituency. Several people have approached me to ask if I could do anything in the matter. The people say that they are powerless, that the Act is there and that the interpretation of it by the local officers must be accepted. I would remind the Minister that the matter may need clarification and it may be necessary to issue a circular although that might be a dangerous thing because one person might put too liberal an interpretation on it and others might overdo things. I have every confidence that the Minister will rectify that situation.
There is another matter about which I feel very strongly, that is, the powers conferred on autonomous bodies, such as the Dairy Disposals Board. They have absolute powers and will not entertain any advice from any local representative. They believe that you have an ulterior motive if you approach them with the best possible case. They are at liberty to put the interpretation on it that you are a politician, that you only want some privilege or perquisite for some pal of yours. If a person is elected to this House, as I have had the honour to be, the people have a certain amount of confidence in him. If I go to the chairman or any junior member of the Dairy Disposals Board and put what, in my opinion, is a legitimate claim or grievance to him, I expect that it should receive some consideration, but, as far as my experience goes, it will be brushed off on the basis, “he does not count; he is a politician”. I feel very strongly about that.
I have a particular case in mind which I brought to the Minister's notice but I believe the Minister is stripped of powers. Those powers are handed over. The case was in connection with the establishment of an auxiliary creamery. It had been decided to open a proprietary creamery. I pointed out that the wits of a proprietor had to be much sharper than those of an autonomous body that was Government-sponsored. I endeavoured to have this auxiliary  creamery established in this particular site, but for some reason unknown to me, the Dairy Disposals Board would not entertain it at all and gave me no hope.
When you are confident that you have a genuine case you feel that it should receive some measure of attention, some measure of sympathy and should at least merit investigation by the Department of Agriculture. In my opinion, that is not the case. You are handed over to the Dairy Disposals Board and they are supreme. There is some dissatisfaction.
While I must admit that at the time the Dairy Disposals Board took over it saved the dairying industry in many areas, since then there has been a serious change of heart. They have become monopolists and have got an idea of themselves that they are the people who count and that we are the serfs and the slaves. The attitude they have adopted is: “You will bring your milk here and take whatever price we give you”.
I must congratulate the Minister and the present Government for saving the dairying industry last year with the introduction of the 5d. a lb. subsidy on butter. Whether I am wrong or right, I believe that it saved the industry. Were it not for that, the amount of butter we would have now in cold storage would create the position that people would be forced to get rid of their stock and, under present circumstances, the price would be attractive and they would have no difficulty at all in doing it. Because of the subsidy, the price was maintained for milk and people were able to hold their stock.
The dairying area which I am chiefly concerned with plays a bigger part in our economy than most people will be prepared to admit or some people realise. The dairying area is the reservoir of the cattle markets. Without that, you would not have weekly cattle markets. Were it not for the benefits accruing to the national economy from our export trade in live stock, were it not for the fact that this year our income was so much increased, our economy might have been threatened to some extent. We can  talk about industry, about wheat-growing and tillage but, whether we like to admit it or not, our stock in trade lies in the export of our surplus cattle, which is very great.
For that reason I would like to point out to the Minister that the Dairy Disposals Board should be brought to heel and should facilitate the people in every reasonable way. In one of the best dairying areas in my constituency the people lose a great deal of time in travelling to the nearest creamery, whereas at very little expense, say, with the expenditure of £4,500 or £5,000, one could be established in their midst and could save 100 hours a day manpower which is a huge consideration in view of the fact that it is well-nigh impossible to get labour in dairying areas. The simple fact is that cows must be milked 365 days a year and, if you multiply that by two, you have a fair idea how hard it is to get labour. These men must work on Sundays; the cows are not so obliging as all that and they have to be milked twice on Sundays.
The people in the dairying areas should receive more sympathy and consideration for their efforts. There is a tendency to minimise their importance, and a suggestion came even from this House that the land they operate should be taxed to the extent of £2 per acre. That is not denied at all yet. I have heard no comment on it, and I would like to hear the Minister commenting on it when he is replying. The statement was made here that there was a justification for a £2 tax on arable land, whatever that may be. Who is to decide what is arable and what is non-arable, what is taxable and what is non-taxable?
That is a very important question and it needs clarification. When I heard the statement made I took it with a grain of salt. I thought it a huge joke but apparently the people of the country are not prepared to treat it as a joke. I have been approached several times by people who have asked: “Have you said anything about it? What is your attitude towards it? Do you agree or disagree with it?” This is the first opportunity  I have had of stating categorically that I disagree with it. I hope the Minister does too.
Mr. O'Connor: There is a feeling among county committees of agriculture that with the operation of the parish plan the Department of Agriculture will take unto themselves the functions which are satisfactorily performed by these county committees. I would like to know what is in the mind of the Minister in this regard. In my opinion these committees are performing a most useful function, which is an argument that could be put forward for the abolition of the Managerial Act, but that is another day's work.
The relations that exist, as far as I can see, between the C.E.O., the agricultural advisers and the staff concerned are ideal. The co-operation the committee receive from the agricultural officers in my county, at least, is marvellous. They are a wonderful set of men, anxious to help and possessed of a great degree of enthusiasm for their job. I hope the Minister will not jeopardise that position. I believe that such is the case in every county. The county committee of agriculture advised by their C.E.O. are giving absolute satisfaction. That certainly has been my experience and I come from a county where you will not get away with much because political feeling runs high and if there is the least suggestion that there is something wrong you have had it.
The Minister should consider this matter very carefully. By way of criticism I would say that the Department could be and should be more liberal with grants to those county committees of agriculture. I was responsible in my committee for a resolution seeking a grant for a projector, a really good one, not a magic lantern or anything like that. The finances of our committee would not stand that because the expenditure for the year is cut so fine. The Minister would be well advised to consider making a grant for a decent projector and film because people are prepared to be educated through the eye now rather than through the more tedious and long  term methods of the ear. It would be a progressive step if the Minister considered favourably the making of that grant.
In conjunction with that I appeal to the Minister to be more liberal with county committees. As far as I can see, county committees finish up with a deficit every year and in the following year they have to try to make that good. If any proposal comes up which requires finance, no matter how attractive it may be, you have to try to provide the money from somewhere. It comes out of your grant next year and you are starting off then with a debit balance. The Minister should be more generous in view of the fact that agriculture is playing such an important part in the economy of the country.
There does not seem to be any limit to the amounts which can be made available for other projects, such as the setting up of some mushroom industry. I know industries are necessary because of the high labour content, but there is also a very high labour content in the land. Unfortunately, the microscope is used when it comes to making State grants available. I think the Government should be more liberal. There should be at least double the number of technical agricultural advisers available in every county. I do not agree with subsidies for spraying machines or manure distribution because I think private enterprise will provide those if we make available the necessary technical instruction. That would be a step in the right direction.
The people of the Shannon valley were very lucky in the recent flooding because for the first time in the history of this State we had flooding on which the Government did not turn the blind eye. Several years ago the Feale and its tributaries ran riot. There was no loss of human life but people's property, potatoes, turf, oats, cattle and farming machinery were swept into the sea. There was no Government response, and I think the people in the Shannon valley would have the same story to tell were it not for the fact that the Tolka overflowed in Drumcondra. Because of the preponderance  of Dublin City Deputies in this House, the Shannon was considered in conjunction with Drumcondra and in that way the people in the Shannon valley were very lucky indeed.
A few years ago we had a tidal wave and a storm on St. Stephen's Night and the Maine overflowed its banks. It literally cleaned out a number of unfortunate people living along the banks. One farmer alone had 18 cattle swept out to sea. They were all he had in the world. They were his stock-in-trade. We set up a committee and we did not even get a generous response. We appealed to the Red Cross and we got a paltry sum of £100. In the end we had a very small amount of money to distribute in order to relieve the plight of the unfortunate people. We did the best we could and the people were thankful. But we had to do it all without any Government aid. The people in the Shannon valley were lucky.
When the Feale overflowed its banks I was an employee of the Kerry County Council at the time, and I assisted the engineering department in making a survey. The losses were colossal. Houses were inundated to a depth of four, five and six feet of water for three weeks. No relief of any kind was forthcoming because, unfortunately, the Tolka remained within bounds.
With relation to the farm building scheme, I would like to offer a little criticism. This scheme is the subject of much adverse criticism on the part of people living in urban areas. It is said that farmers get grants for water, for buildings, for byres, for out-offices and everything else. It is even said they get grants for old derelict buildings. Now I have had personal experience of the application of that scheme, and what I am about to state is not hearsay.
I had an old derelict out-building and I decided three years ago to make application under the scheme. An inspector visited me. I told him what I proposed to do. I got an estimate for £123 for the purpose of putting a roof on the shed, a concrete floor, plastering the walls inside and out, two coats, installing a door, a window and  frame of a certain size. Spending £123 I would receive by way of grant £6 15s. for that work. Needless to say, I abandoned it because I would lose at least £40 on the transaction. The concrete floor was necessary and the plastering, one coat, was also necessary, but the urban standards would bring it up to £123.
I know the position is somewhat difficult because there are extremes; some people want jam on it and some people want money for nothing. I think the selection of the people who operate the scheme has a good deal to do with its smooth running. However, the Minister cannot be blamed for that. He can only do the best he can with what he has.
With regard to the bacon trade, pig producers are passing through a pretty lean time. Admittedly they have weathered worse storms, but I appeal to the Minister and his Department to devise some scheme for the control of the bacon industry. I could not hope to pit my wits against the Minister, but I suggest that a group of experts might make some effort to solve this problem of stabilising prices. The price of pigs fluctuates so rapidly that the producer is always taking a gamble, right from the day he purchases the bonham to the day he markets the pig. Usually, the reduction in price—the downward trend—is much more rapid than any increase in price or upward trend. I think producers should be protected against that. Ample notice should be given that bacon stocks are increasing and we are approaching a surplus. It should be possible to arrange that. It might not be possible to do it to the satisfaction of everybody, but if it could be arranged to the satisfaction of the majority it would give everybody a fair chance.
The discrepancy between the price which the producer gets and which the consumer has to pay seems to be a bone of contention everywhere. I imagine that the Minister who has a knowledge of business, should, if anybody could, make some effort to try to even things up between the price the producer receives for his pigs and the price the consumer pays for the lb.  of bacon. Is it possible that you have speculators going in for pig production and bacon raising on a colossal scale? This is only a suggestion—that those are the people who have the effect on the market, and is it tantamount to a racket? We had racketeering in wheat, combines of thousands of acres grown by people who I believe were not nationals, but who were reaping the benefits.
While I do not agree with the slashing of the wheat price to the extent to which it was slashed, I do realise and admit that between the price the consumer had to pay and the cost of the subsidy there had to be some adjustment. I think the slash was too drastic. However, that is beside the point, but is there a suggestion that there is any racket going on in pig production? These people may be nationals, but after all it should be the poor man's gain or at least the middleman's gain.
I may be the subject of very serious criticism for that statement and I may be told that I am suggesting restricting the freedom of a person to produce, but if it is a benefit to the majority I would say without hesitation that we should seek the greatest good of the greatest number. If a group of people combine to produce 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000 pigs per month I think that is a monopoly. Their finances would enable them to stand a loss where the unfortunate man in a rural area living with his wife in a cottage or small farm producing three, four or five pigs every three months would have losses a good deal greater by comparison with the combines producing the 1,000 pigs.
I wish to renew my congratulations to the Minister on the manner in which his Department has been handled since he came into office about a year ago. I think his timely introduction of the butter subsidy saved what might have become a very awkward situation for the dairy people. It has at least reduced the amount of butter in cold storage and the people have renewed confidence that prosperity for our agricultural industry is mounting. The recent increase in cattle prices which is increasing our national income may  I think in some measure be laid to the credit of the Minister for Agriculture.
Donnchadh Ó Briain: Although I could not agree with everything Deputy O'Connor said I would like to congratulate him on what, so far as I know, is his first contribution to the proceedings of this House.
Deputy O'Connor spoke a good deal about the dairying industry and naturally, we Deputies from the South, as far as agriculture is concerned, are primarily interested in the welfare of that industry and of the dairy farmers. In that connection, I would like to tell the Minister that we in the South, the people in the constituency that I represent and the people of the county of which I am a native, are particularly interested in the findings of the Milk Costings Commission. They are impatient and do not understand why there is such a delay in letting the public have them. I understand the Minister, in reply to a question yesterday, intimated he would speak on this matter when he is replying to the debate. We shall await with interest what he has to tell us. Not alone shall we wait here in this House, but the dairy farmers all over the country will also be waiting with interest to learn what information the Minister has to give.
This subject of dairying is a subject to which we could devote the whole of this debate and devote the whole of the time that has been given so far to the discussion of the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture but there are varying interests in agriculture as in other spheres of livelihood. Dairying is principally the concern and the interest of the representatives from the South of Ireland. I say “principally” because there are other areas also interested in it.
The Minister has rather a dark kind of past in connection with the dairying industry and one of his solutions for the problem of over-production in dairying given recently in Longford might not be the solution that would be most satisfactory. I think he was speaking to a group of farmers and a number of them in Longford would, of  course, be small farmers. He advised them to leave two calves to a cow if they wanted to get out of being span-celled to a bucket and stool on a Sunday evening. Whoever can do that— and I admit that the larger and the medium-sized dairy farmers can at any time they wish, or can with a little bit of inconvenience, change their system of farming and go from dairying to tillage, perhaps, in one case, or go from dairying to dry stock in another area—but if there is one element in the dairying industry that cannot do that and will never be able to do that, it is the small dairy farmer, the eight, ten or 12 cow farmer, the backbone of the industry in this country.
Probably 75 per cent. of the dairy farmers all over the country are of that type. By dairy farmers, I mean the farmers who supply milk to creameries for conversion into butter, or cheese or chocolate crumb, as the case may be. They will have to stick to that type of production whatever happens.
In connection with dairying and the whole problem of the agricultural industry, there was a good deal of discussion here about the best breeding policy. As far as that is concerned and as far as the debate here was concerned and so far as the position all over the country is concerned, the old Irish proverb applies—ni lia feirmeoir na tuairim. I know of no two farmers who are in complete agreement as to the best breeding policy. A large number of our dairy farmers, in particular, have become very suspicious of the dual purpose Shorthorn and of the policy that has been in operation here since the passing of the Live-stock Breeding Act, 1925. They do not believe it has brought the benefits to them, particularly in regard to dairying, which it was intended to bring.
The Minister and the Department will swear by the Shorthorn. Since the introduction of artificial insemination, I notice that in County Limerick in particular the trend for the past couple of years—I think it is a welcome and a desirable trend—is that some farmers go in for the beef breeds, the Hereford and the Aberdeen Angus, others go in for the  pure Shorthorns, when they can develop that breed, and others go in for the Friesian. What I mean to say is that, in the same herd, you have that type of development. You will find a dairy farmer with these different kinds of breeds. How that will work out eventually only time will tell because the experiment is only in its infancy.
On the subject of dairying in general, the Minister's previous incursion into that sphere during the period 1948 to 1951 was disastrous. I warn and advise the Minister to be very careful in the future as to how he deals with the dairying industry. During that period, the population of cows and in-calf heifers fell by some 90,000 head. When he left office, our dairying position was much worse than it was when he took office.
I heard Deputy O'Connor speak about the reduction of 5d. per lb. in the price of butter last year and of the effect that had on dairying. It had no effect whatever on the dairying industry. It was a consumer subsidy, pure and simple. It was far removed from the promise given during the election campaign to reduce the price of butter to its 1951 level, that is, to 2/10 per lb. instead of the 3/9 per lb. which it costs now. I have figures here to show the consumption per head of the population from 1950 to 1954 in respect both of butter and margarine.
I put a question on the subject to the Taoiseach on Wednesday, 18th May, 1955. These figures would indicate that there was a higher consumption of butter per head of the population in 1950 than there was in 1954. The reduction is very slight but nevertheless the consumption per head fell between 1950 and 1954. It was at its lowest in 1951—while butter was still 2/10 a lb.—at 40.8 lb. per person. In 1950, it was 41.8 lb. per person; in 1951, it was 40.8 lb.; in 1952, it was 41.2 lb. and in 1953, when butter was 4/2 per lb., it was 41.1 lb.—higher than in 1951, when butter was only 2/10 per lb. and when it was subsidised considerably. In 1954, the consumption  of butter per head of the population was 41.7 lb.
The consumption of margarine rose from 2.4 lb. in 1950 to 2.7 lb. per head of the population in 1954. It was 2.2 lb. in 1952; 2.7 lb. in 1953 and 2.7 lb. in 1954. Therefore, there does not seem to be much of an indication that the additional subsidy to the consumer has had very much effect—so far, at any rate. As a matter of fact, as far as butter consumption is concerned, we have reached saturation point on the home market for creamery butter. I remember a time in my young days when that was not the case. My mind goes back to the figures for the year 1931. In that year, we produced 610,000 cwt. of creamery butter. We exported more than half of it at sacrifice prices and consumed the balance here.
There is a different story to be told now. There is a small surplus and there was a small surplus last year but we consumed most of it—something over 700,000 cwt. of creamery butter. That is desirable because if we were depending on “the old and valued customer” in the export market, as the Minister called him some years ago, the position of the dairy farmer would not be as satisfactory as it is at the present moment—not that the dairy farmers will admit to-day that their position is as satisfactory as they would wish it to be. Of course, they are pinning their hopes on the findings of the Milk Costings Commission and we shall have to wait until we hear from the Minister about that. Perhaps he will be able to tell us that the findings will be published immediately.
We had certain selected quotations from Deputy Palmer in connection with statements made here in the past about the British market. My mind can go back in that connection to the time prior to 1932 when the be-all and end-all of agricultural policy here was production for the British market. That policy ended in complete disaster. On several occasions the British market let us down—and any export market will let you down because, if there is a glut, the producer of the commodity of which there is a big surplus will have to take it in the neck. Our farmers took it in  the neck when they were depending on the policy of production solely for the British market—and they would have to take it in the neck again if that policy were ever reverted to.
I remember a time when we were producing bacon for export and when we were importing American and Canadian bacon for the tables of the very farmers who produced their own bacon at home and sold their pigs to the big stores for export. I remember that, in my young days, we imported Australian, New Zealand and Danish butter every winter because we had not any of our own for our own people to consume. I remember when we were importing eggs from China and Poland and, I believe, from Russia, as well as from various other parts of the globe. Chinese eggs were imported here to go into the manufacture of, for instance, biscuits.
Donnchadh Ó Briain: It may be that the Minister was not in the country at the time. We were getting oats and barley from all quarters of the earth while our farmers here who were producing barley could get nothing for it. We had 21,000 acres under wheat when we took over in 1932. All the wheat that we were producing then would only give us a six weeks' supply of flour. We were getting most of our sugar from outside, and even in the case of margarine we were importing it then. The position was that we were producing for the British market and disregarding the home market.
That day is gone and never again  are we going to be dependent on supplies of bacon from Canada or America, or on foreign eggs as the raw material for use in our important industries here. I hope the day is gone when we will ever again see foreign cheese or foreign oats and barley to the extent that was the case then.
Donnchadh Ó Briain: I hope also that we will get out of the use of maize from the River Plate on which the Minister is so keen and that we will rely on the resources of our own land to produce the requirements we need for our agricultural industry generally and for food for our people. That is the policy of this Party here. It is the policy that we have stood for and that we stand for, that the home market is the safest market. It does not matter what the foreign market is, whether it be in England or anywhere else, it is not as safe or as secure as the home market that we have available here. We can guarantee and reserve that for our farmers and thereby provide something like remunerative prices to them for what they produce, so that they will not be dependent on slumps or booms in England, Germany, France or anywhere else.
Of course, I know that there will always be a certain surplus of agricultural production. There has always been a surplus of cattle which will have to be disposed of. The only thing we can do is to dispose of them at the best price that we can get for them or for any other surplus that we have. But when we talk about the foreign market particularly “our old and valued customer” who is so dear to the present Minister's heart, we should remember what happened in this country and what our farmers suffered and went through between 1922 and 1932. The be-all and the end-all of agricultural policy then was production for the foreign market and it let us down.
I remember the then Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Hogan—the Lord rest his soul—coming down and addressing a meeting in Hospital, County Limerick, some time in . It was  a Cumann na nGaedheal meeting, and he there told a group of farmers that agricultural prices were bad at that time and that they were going to be worse, but that the policy still must be “one more cow, one more sow and tighten your belts and stick it”. He had nothing else to say to them except to tighten their belts. It is a long time since that happened and a lot of water has run under the bridges since then. There have been a lot of changes in regard to agriculture and agricultural policy here since then.
There is one thing that I do argue, and I do not think there is anybody in this House who will disagree with me, and it is this: that to have all your eggs in the one basket and to be depending solely on any foreign market is dangerous. That is why farmers feel such insecurity always. Even with the present cattle boom they realise what has happened in that same market with regard to the price of eggs, bacon, butter and chocolate crumb in the last one and a half years. There has been a collapse in prices, particularly in the poultry industry. The results of that are evident. The number of poultry in the country is now about 3,000,000 less than it had been. That was inevitable.
The same is true with regard to pigs. The reason why bacon is so dear is that there are not enough pigs to meet the requirements of the market for bacon here. The people got out of them when the slump in prices came. The farmers are more clever now than they were between 1922 and 1932 and they will not stick in any line of production when it will not pay them. As soon as they find that they are losing money they will get out of it and they are wise. They could not be expected “to tighten their belts and stick it”.
There have been many references in the debate to the slashing of the price of wheat by the present Government and the present Minister for Agriculture. The statement that intrigued me most was that which was made by Deputy Palmer who trotted out the old story about the wheat racketeers. I am sorry to see that Deputy O'Connor fell for the same story  about the Englishman renting 1,000 acres of land for the purpose of growing wheat here. Well, I do not know and perhaps these things happened but I am not aware of any case of the kind down in the South, in the constituency that I come from. Neither have I heard from any of my colleagues that anything of the kind occurred in any other place in the South. There may be more racketeers around the capital City of Dublin than among the simple people down in the South. But even if there were such people, I think that was a lame excuse for the slashing in the price that took place.
Deputy O'Connor seemed to imply that there were also bacon racketeers. Will the Minister for Agriculture come along and slash the price of pigs because there are such racketeers? I do not know, but there is one thing that I see happening in the County Limerick and perhaps it may happen also in other parts of the country, and that is graziers going around to auctions and taking hundreds of acres of land for grazing at inflated prices. There is never any objection to that and they are never called racketeers. The only people who are racketeers are those who take land for tillage to grow wheat and other tillage crops. If they take land in substantial quantities, they are called racketeers. I have not come across any of those people who are called racketeers in the County Limerick.
I know farmers who own their own land and who grew substantial quantities of wheat on it. They grow what I would regard as substantial quantities, 20 and 30 acres. I know one man who grew 100 acres. But I have not seen any of the racketeers that the Minister talks about. Níl ins rud ar fad ach leathscéal bacach ag an Aire.
As regards Deputy Palmer's suggestion that the people in Kerry welcome this reduction in the price of wheat, what benefit was derived from it by the people in Kerry or in any other place? The only source it benefited was the Exchequer and the Minister for Finance. If the £1,000,000 saved by the reduction in the price of wheat by 12/6 a barrel had been applied to  a reduction in the price of flour and bread then the Government would have something to talk about, but it was not. In his Budget last year Deputy MacEntee, the then Minister for Finance, made a provision of £900,000 so as to be able to reduce the price of the loaf by a halfpenny.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, who is now sitting opposite to me, termed that Budget “the ha'penny Budget”. Well, not even as much as a halfpenny has been provided out of the £1,000,000 secured by the reduction in the price of wheat from the hard-working farmers of the country. Not as much as one copper out of it has been applied towards reducing the cost of living or the price of flour or bread. It is a saving that has been effected by the Minister for Finance at the expense of the wheat growers and tillage farmers of this country.
As regards the talk about racketeering, my surmise is that it has not extended to any more than 10,000, or at the most 20,000 acres, of the 450,000 acres sown. If that problem could not be handled in any other way than by slashing the price of wheat the resources and abilities of the Government are very limited indeed.
There has been a lot of talk in this debate about increasing agricultural production. It all depends on what you mean by increasing agricultural production. Does it mean an increase in the pig population by doubling it and glutting the market and leaving the fat pigs or the bacon produced from them unsaleable on our hands? Does it mean increasing the number of cattle in the country to such an extent that you will have no market for them and that they will be unsaleable also? Does it mean increasing the acreage under oats and barley to such an extent that the produce will be unsaleable? Does it mean increasing the production of butter so that there will be no market for it? If that is what is meant by increased production I am against it. When industrialists find that their production is no longer marketable the only thing they have got to do is to cut down production or at least to stop increasing it.
 There is only a very limited market and unless we have a guarantee of being able to dispose of everything we can produce and for all our increased production there is no point in advocating increased agricultural production. If you mean by increased production getting two blades of grass where only one grew before or getting a yield of 25 cwt. of wheat per acre instead of a ton per acre we are making a more solid approach to the matter. You can only increase production in any line where you are reasonably sure of a market and it is not fair to ask farmers to take risks of that nature. They often took these risks before and they paid through the nose for the risks they took. It is not fair to ask farmers to take a risk of that kind when they do not know what is going to happen. Farmers and farmers' wives took a risk in recent years in regard to poultry and eggs and they burned their fingers badly. They got out of the production of poultry nearly as quickly as some of them got into it.
I am sure the Minister is weary at the length of this debate. It is not the longest we have had on an agricultural Estimate. I remember the length of the debates when Dr. Ryan was Minister. This has not been by any means as long as these others were but it was unsatisfactory because of the fact that it was interrupted so often. It is unsatisfactory that an important Estimate of this kind had to be taken piecemeal. I know it is difficult to arrange that a debate on such an important Estimate could be carried right through, but I hope it will be possible to do so in future without any interruption whatever except for the Minister to get his tea break and that it will go through from start to finish without interruption. However, on the whole, with the exception of a few unfortunate contributions, the debate was reasonably constructive and was not as wicked and bitter as such debates used to be in years gone by.
Coming back to the intervention of Deputy Palmer, I doubt if he is speaking the mind of the men of the County Kerry when he said that they welcomed the slashing of the price of wheat. He was a bird alone in regard to that as  far as the other representatives here from Kerry are concerned. He was the only Deputy from Kerry, as far as I can remember, who voted against the motion we put down here protesting against the reduction of the price. Deputy O'Connor did not take part in that division and neither did Deputy Finucane. The Fianna Fáil Deputies from Kerry voted for the motion of protest. From what I know of farmers and from what I can judge of the farmers of Kerry, which is a county with an outstanding national record and which carries more scars of the sacrifices made for Irish nationality than any other county in the way of wayside monuments and crosses, even though they might feel in their hearts that there might be some justification for some reduction in the price of wheat they would never admit it openly. I do not believe that the farmers of Kerry would break away from the general solidarity of the farming community all over the country in regard to a matter of this kind. The statement made by Deputy Palmer in regard to the farmers of Kerry is, in my view, a libel.
Mr. Madden: The agricultural industry is so closely associated with our national income and prosperity that I am not surprised that the discussion has been contributed to by members of all the Parties in a very interesting way. We are told by experts time and again that the prosperity of any country depends upon production and that production comes under two headings, either industrial or agricultural. Industry in this country is dependent more or less on raw materials that are limited, so, in the main, we have to depend on agriculture. When I look around the House I can see that there are not many here left of my generation. We lived, in that generation, through a state of terrible tyranny, a tyranny described by no less a person than Edmund Burke as one than which no greater tyranny was ever inflicted on any country. That was the tyranny inflicted by Irish landlordism on the Irish farmer. Through the Irish Parliamentary Party the bonds of that  tyranny were broken and the farmers were given a vested interest in their own land.
We have had our freedom now for 32 or 33 years and I hope I will not be regarded as a pessimist when I say that looking back on that period of time one cannot look at it complacently. I do admit that since 1945 there has been a specific development of industrial activity but it does not seem to give any incentive to our national income when compared with agricultural production. The industrial revenue seems to be about one third of the total revenue of this country and if it could be expanded four times it would amount to £120,000,000.
Several Deputies have referred to the tragic disappearance of the rural community and, in my opinion, it is a very serious matter. According to Dr. Lucey, the Bishop of Cork, in the Cork Examiner a few days ago—and he had authentic figures before him— in the past two years, 50,000 of our youth, of our boys and girls, have flown from this land as they would from an eastern pestilence. We also have authentic figures to show that the number who disappeared over the past ten or 15 years is from 10,000 to 15,000 a year and mainly from amongst the agricultural community. Is that not a terrible problem?
When I listen to the bitter exchanges here on trifling matters, I sometimes feel that we are neglecting the question that ought to be paramount in our minds, that is, the preservation of the Irish race. We were told some years ago from the opposite  benches that all this country needed was a good Government, “which I propose to give you”. A good Government in this country should be able to preserve in normal frugal comfort 15,000,000 people. Look at the catastrophic level of our population to-day —a little less than 3,000,000. Is that not something that ought to set us thinking? Since the disappearance of the ancient tyranny, other countries in Europe, geographically worse off and climatically not to be compared with this country, have done infinitely better. The population of Denmark, for instance, increased twofold or threefold, while our population has gone tragically down.
Men of my age are rapidly passing on to the inevitable end, but I often wonder if we could get a unanimity amongst all the Parties with regard to facing up to this great national problem of preserving the race. I saw that one of our Ministers some time ago very properly pointed to the great spiritual empire we have and it would seem to me that we have been destined by God to build up that empire, the greatest in the world. We have not got the great empire in lands or in wealth that the United States have, or that Britain has, but we have an infinitely more important empire because we have, through the efforts of St. Columbanus and those who went to Iona, a great spiritual empire. Yet we have these 10,000 or 15,000 of our people leaving the country. Something sometime must be done about it.
I heard one Deputy speak, as I thought, disparagingly about that section of the agricultural community whom he referred to as big farmers. These men, perhaps by reason of having a greater area of land and greater technical training and understanding, took advantage of combines and other machinery and availed of the opportunity to go in for crops for which a remunerative price was paid and quickly got into a much better position than they were in before. Some Deputies bemoaned that fact, but, when I heard that said, I went to the trouble to find out precisely the categories in which our farmers live and have their being. The figures are very  illuminating for those who may not have had the opportunity of seeing them, and I had these figures authenticated so that I could stand over them when they appeared in print.
The number of farmers with valuations varying from £1 to £20—I need not tell the House that farmers within that range must remain in the category of small farmers—not exactly uneconomic farmers, although some would be —is 274,592. The number with valuations from £20 to £50 is 70,061, and above £50 but not above £100, 22,705. The number of farmers over £100 valuation about whom there was much controversy and perhaps unfair criticism— the men referred to as the big farmers who quickly availed of the opportunities presented by modern machinery and technique—is 11,733. Deputy Ó Briain talked about production and his approach to it was perfectly sound, but how can these 274,592 farmers produce more? They are people with little or no capital. Some of them are small farmers with three sons, but the sons of these farmers are rapidly leaving the country.
The labour is not there. That is a problem not alone for the Minister but for the whole country and it must be faced. Some farmers cannot get people to milk the cows, some people will not milk cows on Sunday. Some farmers have had to sell out. Those of us connected with the auctioneering business know that they are changing their system of farming, as it has become uneconomic since they have not got the manpower or the womanpower to operate it successfully. That is the problem that is felt by 274,000 people. Some of them may have reasonably good banking accounts and with one year's successful crop they would quickly be able to rehabilitate their position. That does not apply in the cities.
Someone mentioned—and I agree with him—the amount of débris and wasted land in this country. Land rehabilitation is making good progress and much is being done and we know the Minister is going to intensify his effort, backed by the Department to get it done expeditiously. Coming from Limerick up here, however,  coming through the Midlands and looking casually through the window, as far as the eye can see there are miles of wasted land and débris with blossoming furze to the right and left. There is much of that throughout the country, while some of the poorer farmers are flying away. The thought struck me: “Well, Madden, could you give us any remedy for it?” I see the Minister for Lands under me here. He knows some of the things that could be done.
There are thousands of acres that ought to be acquired. There are some of the larger estates that are not an economic proposition. It nearly sins against the canons of the moral law to leave one man with 600 or 700 acres and only one or two men employed and see the youth and brawn of the country going away. The Government's first charge, according to the canons of moral responsibility, is to see that justice is done. They must answer the moral law as a Government, individually and collectively. I know places where men have 600 or 700 acres and very few men employed. They have been reported to the Land Commission.
Mr. Madden: With due respect to the Chair, I was suggesting how we could stem the terrible tide of individuals flying from the land. They were born on the land and trained with the whole technique of agriculture, but that knowledge and experience and training is going in the service of others when it could be of considerable benefit to the nation. However, I am passing back, under your ruling.
Is not that an awful picture—rural Ireland losing its population? How can we sit complacently here, being conscious of the fact that under our eyes and with the authority of the Government, and while we are passing bitter epithets here from one to another, here is the life blood of the nation gradually and inevitably disappearing and there seem to be no  effective measures against it. No committee has been set up to deal with it. Even if it cost millions, the nation is worth more. I do not know what the economic value is of a young man who is born in the country and reared to 20 or 21 years of age—I understand it was estimated at something about £1,000 each. Those men are disappearing on the boat, to give the benefit of their energy, their youth, their training and their culture to another land.
We read here in the Cork Examiner of May 23rd about rural Ireland, the flight from the land, by Dr. Lucey—and this is not the first time we have heard it from Dr. Lucey. It says that one in nine has been going from 1951 to 1953, as well as the normal number of people born—they went and with them 50,000 more. I heard some Deputies in another discourse telling some of us to go to the North Wall and Dún Laoghaire and see the saddening picture. What pleasure is there in that? What steps are the Government taking? It is not the first time these matters have been related here. If agriculture is paramount and if a prosperous agricultural community is essential for the well-being of the nation surely some help should be given to these 274,000 people, not exactly in penury but not very well off. Some steps must be taken by the Government to help them, by the provision of machinery that would help to defeat even the vagaries of the weather and bring to fruition the result of their toil on their own land.
We find that there are 80,000 more who are suffering from a similar difficulty. Every county councillor is well aware that we are filling forms every other day to be sent to the Agricultural Credit Corporation in Kildare Street. Much has been said against that body, but much could be said for them. I had the experience last week of getting a cheque for nearly £800 to bring out to a relatively poor farmer with four sons. He got credit for the machinery beforehand and it is money well invested. Therefore, there is no use in exaggerating improperly the evils of that system. The Agricultural Credit Corporation has to be cautious and careful, to see that the people to whom they advance money can give reasonable  security for its repayment to the State and to them.
I did not intend to say so much, but people of my age feel it, we who lived amid the clash of rival jurisdictions, who saw the tyranny and slavery, and who realise what those who are now dead had to suffer until after 1916. Then we see this, in the Statistical Abstract for 1952, that over 18 years ago we had 552,000 rural workers, and in 1952 that depreciated to 441,000, a decrease of 80,000, and then 10,000 every year thereafter. Is not that an appalling picture? We hear men talking about the Shorthorn and the Longhorn and the cow with no horn at all, the advantages of the Friesian and butter fat and the dual purpose cow and milk and foundation stock. These are only details. We know we have people with different ideas about these matters, conflicting opinions. They tell you the Jersey has a greater flow of milk and better butter fat than even the Shorthorn. I do not know, but I know you have conflicting opinions, as you had demonstrated here for the last three or four days; and while they are talking of that, talking of Friesians and Whiteheads and God knows what, the nation is going, fleeing with a vengeance, and the decrepit and the old are marching on slowly to the end.
Is that right to the Irish nation, which did so much for the cultural and Christian advancement of the whole world? “They fought every nation's battle but their own.” When people are talking here, sometimes it is a discredit to hear the tone and see the indiscipline and the want of courtesy. I say that with all due respect to the Chair. They tell you to go down to the North Wall and see the nation they ought to preserve going away.
An agricultural inspector came to my land a couple of years ago to teach me something I knew nothing about. He cut out a small square patch on a field, and on a handkerchief he placed some weeds which he had pulled from the square. I cannot recall the 50 different names of these weeds. When he had cleared the square of those, what was supposed to be left was nutritious, but it was hardly worth looking at. I said: “That demonstrates to you that  practically every field in the country, especially those remote, are the unaccommodating ones for tillage. That represents 80 per cent. of the fields of this country, in the main.” Eighty per cent. is of little food value, and I have to laugh when I hear people saying that we can raise good dairy cows with a high milk yield on such land. It would not maintain them, and they would be liquidated in no time.
You must get at the land, plough it and re-seed it, if there is to be an improvement. How are 274,000 small farmers going to proceed on a programme of re-seeding in order to promote a higher fertility, and a more nutritious grass? If not, the Friesians and the Ayrshires will go hungry, and will starve. These are problems to which I am sure the Department of Agriculture is perfectly alive, and I am sure the Minister is also alive to them. Deputy Blowick, the Minister for Lands, is, I am sure, doing good work, and I am also sure that the Ministers who came before him did likewise.
I deplore the disappearance of the youth of the country who, if they stayed on the land, would probably be able to make it more productive. Any of us who are farmers know that if we had had help, and had the machinery for saving the crops, we would not have had a crop such as we had last year. I am referring to the hay crop which was composed of 30 per cent. water. There were no concentrates in it, and some of the farmers could not make up the deficiency due to the presence of water. They had no carbohydrates or any of these things.
These are the questions which ought to be approached from a broad national viewpoint. Forget the bitterness of Party strife, and forget what Party you belong to. If we  work in harmony the glory of our achievement will be evident in the future. We are now free from the tyranny of foreign despotism, and should not be fighting or carping. We should be showing a high standard of Christian kindness, charity, nobility and patriotism.
I hope that the Minister will continue to do this good work for the agricultural community, and that he will bring to fruition some of the things which were mentioned in this debate and which I believe are essential for the welfare of our agricultural community.
Mr. Aiken: Deputy Madden's short speech raised some issues that would take a very long time to discuss. Indeed, the treating of them would bring us outside the scope of this particular Estimate. What is commonly called the flight from the land has its origins very far back. It is not exactly a flight from the land, as we know, because, if any farm is exhibited for sale, be it big or small, there are many people to bid for it. So it is not a turning of backs to the land; it is the leaving of the land by those who cannot live on it. The small farms cannot compete with the modern standard of life in the cities, and cannot give the three or four members of a family the same standard as they would get in their own cities, or in foreign cities. If we want to stop people leaving the land—we cannot, of course, very quickly intensify agriculture to the extent that it will absorb all the people born on the land—if we do not want them to emigrate, we will have to provide alternative employment for them in our own cities, otherwise they will go abroad.
We started late in the industrial race in comparison with a number of other countries, which started 20 or 30 years before us. Foreign countries have big investments in industrial concerns, and they have extended their investments in those industries, and have given opportunities for employment to their own people, at a very much more rapid rate than a country like ours, which started with a very big handicap, could possibly do. There are some of those  industrial countries at the moment extending their industrial equipment at the rate of £200 per annum, per head of the population. That is an extraordinary figure and we are only a few tens of pounds per head, per year, at the most.
As regards our cattle, I think the best thing for us to do is to produce in every breed of cattle the best strains: if they are Friesians let us keep the best Friesians in order that we may get as much beef and milk as possible. That is what they do in Holland. If we keep Shorthorns, let us have good Shorthorns—Shorthorns that will not give us just milk and no beef or beef and no milk. The same goes for all the other strains of cattle. Instead of arguing about what breed of cattle we should concentrate on, I think we should leave the decision to the farmers themselves and concentrate on advising them on the best strains of the different breeds that would give us the best production to meet our needs.
In the short time I propose to intervene in this debate, I want to concentrate on one point, and I should like the Deputies supporting the Government to open their ears. The Minister for Finance, in dealing with the financial and economic situation at the time of the Budget, said that the financial situation last year was, on the whole, satisfactory. He pointed to the fact that our external trade was in reasonably good balance and went on to point out that one of the reasons for that was that we not only increased our exports but that we had reduced our imports of the type of commodity that we could produce at home. We have come to the point, after many years of discussion, where the vast majority of the members of this House recognise the importance to the national economy and to the progress of the nation of having a reasonable balance in our external trade. We know that if we had not some reserves to fall back on when we need to buy machinery or raw materials we would have to look to some foreigner for a loan to buy these things. There is no reason on earth why we should get ourselves into that situation.
We must not get into such a situation if we want our people to enjoy a  reasonably good standard of living. We know that the country which started so far behind cannot be expected to give the standard of living to everybody that is available in America with its vast area of land and its vast industrial equipment. The Minister for Finance pointed out that one of the reasons why we had a favourable balance of trade was that we had not to pay so much money for wheat. I say that there is no reason why we should not agree to grow here our reasonable requirements of wheat. There is no reason why we should take umbrage at a farmer who grows wheat making a little profit. If we get into the frame of mind of thinking that the nation should be divided into many sections and that only nine out of ten of these sections can prosper if the tenth one is depressed, we are starting off in a very dangerous frame of mind which could well lead to disaster. I think we should have the frame of mind that each one of the ten sections will do better when all are reasonably prosperous.
There might be arguments as to what is the right price for wheat this year, last year and in the years to come, but I think we must agree that we should give a price to the farmer that would be reasonably profitable and would encourage him to grow as much wheat as we can for ourselves. I am aware that we are under contract for the next year or so to import 270,000 tons of wheat if its price goes down to 155 cents a bushel, that is, £21 a ton, but if we did import wheat at that price we would be very lucky to get it because it would save us importing a similar quantity of maize for which at the moment we are paying very much more than £21 a ton. In addition, we would be getting a very much better animal feeding stuff than the maize, the bad pollard we are now importing.
There is nothing in that agreement to stop us from growing wheat or from producing all the wheat we require ourselves. I think we should at least provide for ourselves two-thirds of our wheat requirements in order that we might have the security that we would need in case a time would come when we would not be able to get it from abroad. From the economic or financial  view point if we pay on the average £30 a ton for wheat—we have been paying around that—it would cost us £15,000,000 to meet our requirements. Fifteen million pounds is a lot of money particularly when it is thought of as £15,000,000 worth of dollars and I do not think that anybody would propose, in the line of agricultural production, where we would get £15,000,000 extra in one year to pay for our wheat requirements.
We have seen how eggs have gone. A few years ago they were expected to provide us with a profitable market but the bottom dropped out of that market. The price we could get abroad for bacon at the moment is regarded by farmers as anything but profitable and it would take us a long number of years to get an extra £15,000,000 out of the production of cattle in order to substitute for the wheat we are growing. Nobody will question the fact that what we need is increased wheat production and an increased cattle population. They are both complementary rather than conflicting. Deputy Madden pointed to a demonstration given on his farm by an instructor and I think that if our agricultural instructors could take our 200,000 or 300,000 farmers around their fields they would be able in many cases to count more weeds than in the sample Deputy Madden spoke of.
Our experience has been that as we go up in tillage we also increase the possibility of higher cattle, pig and hen production. The continentals, who have up to 60 per cent. or more tillage, are producing, at the same time, more cattle and beef and butter per acre than we are. I think we should agree to give the farmer a reasonable price for wheat in order to keep him in production and in order to encourage him to rotate that crop around the farm so that all the weeds on his land might be ploughed down and after the wheat and root crops had been taken out that the land would be laid down to good grass. If we are going to have grass, let us not have a collection of weeds which is described as grass, but let us have good clear  grass with good seeds, put in after a good cleaning rotation.
From the point of view of the farmer, even taking the present boom in cattle prices, it would be unprofitable for him and for the country to turn, say, two acres of land which would produce, on very middling soil, two tons of wheat, a ton per acre, at the present price of £60 or £70 for those two tons, out of wheat and to put on a bullock which might improve in value by £20 in the year if it is fed on grass and silage of the two acres. From the national point of view it would be disastrous to turn the 400,000 or 500,000 acres that we have under wheat back into grass in order to get an extra production of beef.
I do not believe it would give us an extra production of beef but the reverse. If we had 500,000 acres under wheat and turned it back into grass for bullocks, at £20 improvement for every two acres, or £10 per acre, the extra production of beef that we would get would be something about £5,000,000 and, at the same time, if we got wheat at £30 a ton, we would have to raise £15,000,000. We would be £10,000,000 short if we sold this notional extra production of beef or meat and bone in the form of stores to England. We would get a notional £5,000,000 extra but we would be still £10,000,000 short to buy the wheat that we could have produced on that 500,000 acres of land.
I think it is a good proposition, from a national point of view, that our farmers should be encouraged to go as far towards that production of wheat as is possible. There was a controversy a long time ago as to whether we could grow wheat or not. The farmers had gone out of the production of wheat for a great number of years. They had lost the art, apart from a small number of farmers who grew half an acre or an acre for their own requirements. Last year put the finishing touch on the proof that wheat is by far the most suitable cereal for adverse weather conditions. All over the country oats were lost, barley was lost but I do not know of any wheat that was lost.
Mr. Aiken: I saw wheat reaped in the second week of December that was standing up to six inches in water a couple of weeks before. Wheat has been proved to be a very hardy crop. It is suitable for our soil and we should encourage farmers by a reasonable price to continue to grow it.
Mr. Aiken: There was no outright loss. In my own limited experience of the country, I did not see a field of wheat that was not reaped. I did see oats. I saw oats that cattle were turned into because it could not be reaped. It had gone down to the ground and had started to grow. I am giving the Deputy my experience of one field that I saw in the second week of December. There was, in fact, some wheat cut after Christmas. I am merely on the point that, at this stage, there should be no doubt as to whether we can grow wheat or not. It proved itself, last year, to be the hardiest of all the cereal crops. We had phenomenally bad weather but wheat stood up to that bad weather better than barley or oats. I do not think any farmer will deny that.
Let us take a figure of 500,000 acres; it is not quite 500,000 acres; but if we are to turn that 500,000 acres, that will give us the wheat we require, back, not into grass, but into the production of other cereal crops, what will be the result? We remember what happened in 1948. In 1948 there was a lot of advice given to the farmers to go in for oats and barley and the bottom dropped out of the market. Oats that they were selling at 45/- a barrel in 1947 went down in some cases to under £1 per barrel.
Barley also went down. If we are to swing the 500,000 acres that are under wheat at the moment into barley and oats, what price will oats and barley be and what measures could any Minister for Agriculture, not to speak of the present Minister, take to see  that that flood of oats and barley could be absorbed by feeders at a price that would pay the farmers? It is a very difficult proposition and I doubt that the Minister for Agriculture could do it.
One of the results of having a glut of oats and barley on the market would be to disgust farmers with tillage altogether and make them make up their minds that they would go out of it as quickly as possible. That happened after 1948, after the crash in the oat and the barley and other cereal crops. The result was that by 1950 tillage was down by 500,000 acres.
An acre under cereals of any kind is worth at least £30 to the farmer and the cereals that it produces, if not produced at home, would have to be bought from the foreigner at £30 or more. That 500,000 acres represents at least £15,000,000 worth per year of maize, milo-maize, barley, oats and all the sorts of things we had to import from abroad.
I do not know where we can go to sell anything extra, but, if we can sell more cattle and eggs and bacon at profitable prices, then we should use the extra money to buy more industrial equipment and more agricultural equipment rather than to be spending it for some of the things that we could very well produce for ourselves on our own farms.
If you look at the £40,000,000 of Marshall Aid, which represents a considerable burden at the present time, as we have to repay interest and sinking fund and to pay it in dollars, the whole of the £40,000,000 of Marshall Aid went in three years in buying substitutes for produce which we could have produced at home on the 500,000 acres that were allowed to go back into grass.
It would be a disastrous thing to turn our backs on a reasonable tillage policy. We should encourage our farmers to go ahead and produce wheat at a reasonable price. This 12/6 per barrel was a disastrous and a savage cut. No other section of the community suffered anything like that reduction. Other sections of the community got increases and, as many Deputies on  this side of the House said, it is ridiculous to say if there was some problem of mono-culture by a few people in regard to wheat that it was necessary to destroy 50,000, 60,000 or 100,000 farmers in order to deal with the problem when it could be dealt with in several other ways.
One other effect of going out of wheat and advising the farmers who have land particularly suitable for wheat to go into oats and barley is to destroy not only the farmers who are producing the wheat but also the farmers who have traditionally produced oats and barley for the market. It is all very well for the Minister for Agriculture to say that he will give a floor of 40/- per barrel for barley but it might be very difficult to implement it. He refused to put a floor under the price of oats in 1948 and it was an alternative Minister for Agriculture who did it when he was absent. At that time he stressed all the difficulties of maintaining a floor if there was a great surplus of oats. I would say that the same arguments would hold, if they are valid, in regard to a flood of barley.
We are at present paying nearly £30 a ton for wheat. We do not know whether it will go up or down but if we allow the farmers to go out of wheat-growing it will be difficult to get them back. The area under tillage this year very much exceeds the area that will be under tillage next year if there is no change in conditions. This spring the farmers found themselves with a lot of stubble ground. They were not accustomed to the technique of direct re-seeding into grass and they ploughed it up and put another cereal crop in to be a nurse crop to the grass sown down at the same time. I have seen very little lea-land ploughed up this year. I do not know who has, but it would indicate that next year, unless conditions change and the price of wheat changes for the better, we will have a very big decrease in acreage under wheat and perhaps other cereals. If we do, it will mean that not only will the farmers themselves be worse off but the nation will be worse off because our balance of payments will very quickly get into a chaotic state.  If our balance of payments runs very badly against us, our ability to make progress either in agriculture or industry, our ability to make progress in dealing with the problem of emigration, will be very seriously diminished.
I would urge the members who are supporting the Government to spend their time between now and the next harvest in getting the Government to face up to these problems, impressing upon them the unfairness to individual farmers, and the disaster to the nation that is involved in this question of the savage cut in the price of wheat, and get them to change their minds and fix a price that will be reasonable for the farmers to grow the wheat that the country so badly needs.
Mr. Crowe: I would like to intervene in this debate for a short space of time. Having given the greater part of my life on the land and having indulged in all the different phases of agriculture, I think I should be in a position to say some few words on it. I firmly believe that if you have not a happy, prosperous and contented farming community, you have prosperity in neither town nor village. I believe also that the dairying industry is the pivot around which the whole agricultural industry swings. I would love to see the agriculturists of this country in the position that they could cope with the industrialists and thereby keep the men at home so that we would not have this flight from the land.
I have seen fairly dark days in Irish agriculture. I often wondered how the people of this country survived from the thirties to 1948. It often amazed me how they paid their way and were able to get on. I remember at one stage selling the 13 best yearlings in the town of Tipperary for the price that I could get for one decent suck to-day. How did we live? How did we cope with the sheriff? There is a great deal of talk to-day about wheat-growing, about making it a national crop. It costs money to grow wheat. The plain people of this country are paying for the heavy subsidy on wheat. Somebody mentioned that it was costing the country £8 an acre for every acre of wheat that was grown in 1954.
 Wheat is propounded as being the national crop. Why does somebody not mention cabbage to-day? There are people in the City of Dublin to-day pining for cabbage. Why would not somebody mention what could stand on its own legs, a good Irish acre of potatoes? All the talk is about wheat. Why would not somebody mention a good Irish acre of oats or of Ymer barley which would be of some benefit? I think it is all tomfoolery. We have heard many speeches in this House and they are all too longwinded with no sincerity behind them. Five weeks were spent discussing the Budget and I was just thinking this morning that, in spite of that, there was not enough pluck in the House to challenge a division. I agree with Deputy Manley, who said the other day that we have too many legislators and too many longwinded speeches. There is no sincerity behind it all.
We should concentrate on producing fertilisers as cheaply as we can. I must give the Minister credit for pioneering the ground limestone scheme. When the Minister came into office in 1948 there was scarcely a spreader in the Thurles area; to-day they are travelling all over the hills and the country is taking on a flourishing emerald hue.
For 30 years I have grown wheat. In 1946 I had to take a beating of 10/- per barrel on one consignment of wheat and a beating of 6/- on another. Those who complain to-day should consider that; and there was not much weeping or wailing in 1946 when we had to take that beating.
Being a dairy farmer, I am a firm believer in the Shorthorn—the dual purpose cow. For breeding purposes that animal can be mated with the Hereford. I have confidence in the future and I think all Parties now are beginning to realise that the cattle trade is the trade best suited to the needs and the economy of this country. We want the cow and the golden-footed calf. Back in the seventies our people grew wheat and they got a good price for it; but they changed from wheat to the cow and the golden-footed calf.
Mr. Geoghegan: There are one or two matters I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister. First of all, I think the tomato scheme is an excellent one and it is regrettable that it has not been extended. As the Minister is aware, we in Connemara have practically no fertile land at all. We depend mostly on a little bit of fishing in order to make ends meet. Some people have tomato houses and the production of tomatoes has helped them considerably and I would like to see that scheme extended all over Connemara. The people are anxiously awaiting such an extension. At the moment it is confined to about 20 miles along the western seaboard; it could be extended for another 60 miles at least.
I appeal to the Minister to place more Aberdeen Angus bulls in the West of Ireland. In the opinion of the experts the Shorthorn is not suited to the farming economy of the West. Again, in the opinion of the experts, the Aberdeen Angus is the most suitable. I know that a few extra ones have been placed in the last year. I know a good few people who have applied for them have been turned down, I think, because of a shortage, but I hope that in the next 12 months everybody who applies will get one.
With regard to land reclamation, the scheme is an excellent one where there is good fertile land. In the West, unfortunately, we have practically no fertile soil. Most of the land is composed of little rocks. Land reclamation is being carried out in the West at the moment under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture but I would like to impress upon the Minister that what we need there is a scheme whereby a small drilling machine or suitable excavator would be made available to bore and blast away the rocks in the little fields so that the water which is lodging in them would have some outlet. A bulldozer cannot be used because it is impracticable.
Mr. Dillon: As Deputy Geoghegan probably knows, my interest in the Connemara plan is an intimate one and he may rest assured that the problems to which he has referred are engaging, and will continue to engage, my close attention.
This has been a protracted debate, but it is right and fitting that it should be so, because it deals with the fundamental industry of the country; and it is very valuable that we should have all views expressed on an occasion like this on a matter of such significance. I want to say at once that, in respect of the great majority of the speeches made in the course of this debate, I have no complaint whatever to make. I think Deputies expressed their views fairly and reasonably. But I want at once to challenge one particular type of cliché habitually used by people who are, in my opinion, misinformed; that is the suggestion that the agricultural industry is seriously prejudiced by revolutionary upheavals in policy every time there is a change of Government. I do not think such revolutionary changes, in fact, take place. I look back to 1948 down to to-day and I cannot see that any very revolutionary change has been made during that period.
I have heard some rather immoderate references to the change in the price of wheat. Some people have described it as a “slash” in the price of wheat. I do not think it was a slash in the price of wheat. I think it was a fair adjustment of the price of wheat, considering the situation in which we find ourselves.
The Fianna Fáil Party appear to desire to create the impression that the decision in regard to the price of wheat was taken recklessly and without any regard to the interests of the farmers of the country. They seem to imply that if they were here a very different policy would have been pursued. I think it right to ask again, as I asked before, what did they propose to do?
I have already submitted to the House the decision taken by their Government on the 22nd January, 1954, which was communicated to the  Minister for Agriculture by the then Government in the following terms:—
“I am to refer to the memoranda dated 18th instant submitted by the Minister for Agriculture and by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce relative to the policy of the growing of wheat and to inform you that the Government at a meeting held to-day, 22nd January, 1954, decided that the general aim of policy in regard to the growing of wheat should be to secure an annual mill intake of 300,000 tons of dried native wheat and that the Departments concerned should forthwith consult together immediately with a view to finding solutions of the problems concerning transport, drying, storage and finances that are likely to arise in ensuring that adequate facilities will be provided on a permanent basis to handle in future years an annual crop of the magnitude represented by a mill intake of 300,000 tons of wheat.”
Now, how did the Fianna Fáil Government propose to reduce the acreage of wheat that was in fact planted last year to the level that would yield the equivalent of 300,000 tons of dried native wheat? Did they propose to ration the acreage, and if they did, was it their intention to send out inspectors to inspect every farm in Ireland and determine whether any farmer had planted more wheat than his ration allowed and to prosecute him if he had? How did they propose to carry out the terms of their own decision which is recorded on the 24th January, 1954, to reduce the acreage of wheat? Whatever they had in mind they handed over the job to me with 490,000 acres under wheat plus an undertaking under the international wheat agreement to purchase, if tendered to them, 270,000 tons of wheat. And that was the situation with which I had to deal.
I described to the House in the debate on wheat prices which took place on 2nd December, 1954, the situation that had developed out of the Fianna Fáil policy up to that date in which we had a series of gentlemen  hiring land on conacre, tearing it up, planting it in wheat and planning to get away with the swag. I gave the House full details on that occasion of the situation that obtained in different counties. In County Dublin three individuals harvested or tried to harvest over 1,000 acres of wheat each, and of that 60 per cent. was conacre land.
“The wheat price at 82/6 represented approximately a subsidy of £8 per acre to the man who grew wheat. These three individuals between them collected £24,000 in subsidy from the Irish Exchequer. In the County Dublin three other individuals had each between 500 and 1,000 acres of wheat. In each case, a large proportion of it was conacre land. In addition to that there were 16 persons in the County Dublin and each of them had between 100 and 500 acres of wheat. Most of them— certainly half of them—were limited liability companies, some of which in my judgment were clearly established for the purposes of making a killing out of the guaranteed wheat prices....
In Kildare we have one grower with between 500 and 1,000 acres of wheat. We have 24 individuals in the County Kildare with between 100 and 500 acres of wheat. In Louth, we have at least ten, each one of them having from 100 to 500 acres of wheat. In Meath, we have one combine who have between 500 and 1,000 acres, and we have 11 with between 100 and 500 acres of wheat.”
Surely, I am entitled to ask the Fianna Fáil Party why it is in the whole course of this debate on the agricultural Estimate which is taking place six months after the discussion on wheat, that nobody during the course of this debate told us how did Fianna Fáil propose to give effect to their own Order of January, 1954, in which they decided to limit the acreage of wheat to an acreage which would produce the equivalent of 300,000 tons of dried native wheat?
I do not want to introduce any note of extreme acrimony into this debate,  but I think there devolves on Fianna Fáil the obligation, if they wish to criticise me on a decision taken by this Government on my advice, to tell us what they would have done. We believe the right thing to do was to bring the guaranteed price for wheat down to a figure which in our judgment would provide the farmers with an incentive profitably to produce a balanced output of wheat, barley and oats. Deputies in this House know that as a result of the reduced acreage of oats and barley last year we have had to import barley from Iraq and Canada this year in order to keep going. I hope I shall succeed in this year in substituting home-grown barley in a very large degree for maize and for imported barley from other sources.
Some Deputies are inclined to say: “What happened to you that you got so fond of barley? You used to be very fond of maize meal?” I want to remind the House of a very radical change that has taken place in the last 15 years. Prior to 1939 the only variety of barley that we had in this country was Spratt Archer. There were large parts of Ireland where you could not grow Spratt Archer. Spratt Archer was a weak-straw variety and a very low yielder but it yielded a very high grade type of malting barley. It is true that in East Cork and throughout the province of Leinster and in Louth, Spratt Archer grew well, and if farmers got a high malting price for it, it was relatively profitable, but what was the yield of the barley?—14 to 18 cwt. per statute acre.
I think it is true to say that I was in no small measure responsible for popularising—in this country in any case—the short-straw, high-yielding barleys, Ymer and Herta. What is the position in regard to them? These varieties of barley can be grown in any part of Ireland where oats will grow provided there is lime in the land. These varieties will produce not 14 to 18 cwt. of grain per statute acre, but 40 cwt. of grain per statute acre. There were large parts of Ireland where you could not grow it because there was no lime. We provided the lime to lime the land to enable the people to grow the feeding barley.
 If you can get a barley which will produce from 40-50 cwt. per statute acre, instead of a barley that produces 14-18 cwt. per statute acre, then barley becomes a very much more economic proposition versus maize than it ever was before. I have to think of the farmer in West Cork as well as the farmer in East Cork. The farmer in East Cork is a grain grower. The farmer in West Cork is a pig feeder. That goes for the farmer in Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal—in fact, throughout the whole congested areas. All the poorest farmers in Ireland are largely dependent upon rearing pigs and fowl.
I was trying to get for the poorer farmers of the country the cheapest feeding I could get in order to help them in their modest husbandry. I was in favour of maize as against barley which had to be purchased on the basis that there was a yield of only 14-18 cwt. per statute acre no matter how careful or how excellent the husbandry of the farmer might be. It is quite a different situation when you are dealing with the short-straw nitrogenous barley, such as Ymer barley, that we are dealing with to-day.
I say to the West of Ireland farmers: You ought to grow on your own land a great part of your own fodder requirements in the form of barley. You are able to do it now. If you want to buy supplies surplus to your own capacity to produce then it is my job to get it as cheap as I can and if I can get it as good and as cheap from your own neighbours in Ireland is it not much better than to buy from the other end of the earth? Is there anything illogical or shameful about that? Would I not be a complete idiot if I refused to change my attitude in regard to this matter when the fundamental facts relating to this whole question have changed? Only a fool closes his eyes to the changing world in which he lives and refuses to change his mind. The world has changed and I am happy that it was our Government in 1948 which created one agreeable change in this country and that was that we could grow and reap a variety of barley on our own land which would yield  40-50 cwt. of grain to the farmer who grew it.
When I look back on the year that we have been in office and compare it with the three years we were in office before—any Minister for Agriculture, at the end of his year, will search his conscience as to whether he has given value for the money he has received by way of salary——
Mr. Dillon: When I look back to the three years we had, I think I can say that there are seven principal achievements which the Department of Agriculture can look back upon. Up to the 31st March last, the land project rehabilitated close on 450,000 acres of land in this country. Is it not a queer thing that if the Dutch inaugurate a scheme costing oceans of money and, as a result thereof, have it to tell that they have reclaimed 180,000 acres, there are three double column articles about this amazing achievement in the Manchester Guardian and they are copied into the Irish papers? We are all told we ought to study what the Dutch do. We go out ourselves without any great hullabaloo and we rehabilitate between 440,000 and 450,000 acres of land—and there are no articles about it in the Manchester Guardian and no hullabaloo in our own newspapers. Nobody says how wonderful we are and that the Dutch and the Danes ought to come over and see what we have been doing. We have a tendency to run down anything our own people do and to play a brass band about whatever anybody else does in any other part of the world.
I like to remember that during those three years—from 1948 to 1951—for the first time we provided a scheme under which any farmer in Ireland, wherever he lived, would get a 50 per cent. grant on the cost of bringing running water to his wife's kitchen. I think that was a good scheme. I always like to remember the late Deputy O'Donnell from South Tipperary. I remember him inveighing most energetically year after year in this House about the need for bringing running water into the farmer's kitchen and he got very  little sympathy. The time came, however, when I saw how great that man was. It was a source of great satisfaction to me to get authority from the Government of that time to put it within the reach of every farmer in Ireland, large or small, who had not running water in his kitchen to bring it there and get 50 per cent. of the cost defrayed by a State grant.
I like to remember that in those three years we provided that any farmer in this country who had not the means to fertilise his land would be able to get every acre of his land fertilised, and 60 years to pay for it, so that there would be no man left in any part of Ireland, rich or poor, who would have it to say: “I am prepared to work hard if I could only get my land back into heart.” I said to them all: “If that is your problem you can fertilise every acre of your land and if you cannot pay for it down, or any part of it, you can have 60 years to pay the balance.”
I like to remember that when we took office in 1948 there was not as much ground limestone in Ireland as would fill one eggcup. When we left office, there was enough lime for everyone who wanted it at 16/- per ton to his gate wherever he lived. Even in the remotest part of Ireland, anyone who wanted it could get the lime delivered to his gate at 16/- a ton.
I like to remember that when we took office in 1948 the entire soil-testing facilities in this country were one man, one boy and a discarded bicycle wheel with an old medicine bottle tied to it revolving on a 4d. nail in a back room of Ballyhaise Agricultural College, County Cavan, and that when we left office we were equipped to test and are now testing 100,000 soil samples per annum.
I like to remember that when we took office there were less cattle, less sheep and less pigs in Ireland than at any time since Brian Boru was killed at the Battle of Clontarf, and that when we left office the numbers were increasing and have continued to increase on a scale to which I shall have to refer later. I like to remember that when we took office in 1948 for the  previous 20 years an average of 80,000 calves were lost every year from slaughter or disease, and that, when we left office in 1951, this animal mortality was reduced to something in the order of 12,000, and has continued since steadily to decline.
I mention those seven incidents so that I can compare what we have been able to do in the last 12 months. We launched the bovine T.B. eradication scheme. Now that is no small undertaking. When you look at Clare, Sligo and the Bansha area of Tipperary and Limerick that enterprise is small, but it is well under way and we started it. I am glad to be able to tell the House that we have been able to inaugurate a pig progeny testing service at Ballyhaise. The figures which I will submit to the House shortly are in no sense conclusive and are based on so small a sample as to be nothing more than the merest indication, but I think I will astonish some Deputies with the comparison which I shall be able to make between the pig progeny testing service in Denmark and what we have been able to produce out of our random selection of pigs.
Mr. Dillon: I make this offer to Deputy Moher that if he gives to this the same reasoned consideration as he showed himself prepared to give to the suggestions which he himself referred to in his contribution I shall be content to abide by his judgment in the matter.
We have removed the limit imposed by my predecessor on the land rehabilitation project. My predecessor seems to have laboured under the illusion that the limitation which he submitted to at the instance of the Minister for Finance on the maximum sum which might be expended on an acre of land had done little to slow down the land rehabilitation project. It is my duty to inform the House that 50 per cent. of the schemes prepared under the land rehabilitation project had to be abandoned on the ground that the limit imposed by my predecessor would not permit of their being done. That limit  has now been removed and the work is proceeding.
I am glad to think that we have inaugurated the parish plan. I shall have to refer to that and deal with it in greater detail as I go on. I have to ask the collaboration of Deputies to help me in bringing more clearly to the attention of farmers throughout the country the specific cure which is now available for white scour in calves. That research work has been going on over the last three years. I want my predecessor, Deputy Tom Walsh, to share most fully, in so far as he and I are responsible for the veterinary college and the veterinary research stations in the country, in any credit that derives therefrom. The credit should really go to the research workers who did the work, but they could not do it if they had not his authority. From that research work has emerged the stimulating fact that there is now a specific cure available to every farmer in the country for white scour in calves and the more publicity given to that fact by all of us the better it will be. If any farmer who has now white scour in calves goes to any chemist's shop and asks for the appropriate specific cure for it he will get it with all the appropriate literature, or he can consult his veterinary surgeon.
I have held the view that the situation in the bacon factories was not satisfactory. I could not feel it was right and proper that there should be three grades of bacon and only one grade of pig. I have, therefore, initiated conversations which I hope shortly to bring to a conclusion designed to persuade the bacon curers hereafter to publish their prices on the basis of grades A, B and C. The officers of my Department will superintend the grading of the farmers' pigs when they are delivered in these factories so that they will know that, under the supervision of officers of my Department, their pigs are properly put in whatever grade to which they belong, and that they will be entitled to get from the factories payment for their pigs in accordance with the grade to which they belong.
I think I am entitled to say that in  the last 12 months I had to deal first with the disposal of the wheat crop which was no small task in view of the weather we experienced and, subsequently, with the Shannon floods. May I make this comment on that, that in a debate which has gone on here for several weeks I could find nobody to find fault with the modest efforts we made in the Department of Agriculture to grapple with the very real hardships which fell on the people in Shannon valley consequent on the Shannon floods? Am I unduly self-satisfied if I say that it is no mean achievement if we succeeded in giving through our ministrations in that area such universal satisfaction that there could not be found a single member of the Fianna Fáil Party to point the finger of scorn at me for the manner in which the job I had undertaken was discharged?
I am satisfied that what we did was not perfect. No human effort ever is but we did our best, and I think I can certify with absolute certainty to the House that we left behind us no case of hardship unrelieved. Doubtless, we left many people who are disappointed, who felt that they should have got what they did not get, but I think we can be satisfied that no case of genuine hardship was left unrelieved. We believe that out of a great evil some good has come because, in order to ensure that certain persons who had experienced an acute shortage of fodder would be relieved from the necessity of depending on the purchase of fodder at the earliest possible date in the spring, we undertook an intensive fertilisation of areas of grassland on a large number of farms. These intensive agricultural experiments have proved extremely successful, and in addition to providing the necessary fodder for the people who require it, I think they will serve as most admirable demonstration plots throughout the whole of the Shannon valley area.
Certain specific questions were asked, and as I go on I propose to reply to each one. I think is was Deputy O'Hara who inquired as to the constitution of the Potato Marketing  Board. The position is that I appoint two members on it, the growers appoint three members, one from Donegal, one from Mayo and one from Galway, and the merchants appoint seven members. Now, it is largely a marketing board, and naturally the board is mainly constituted of people experienced in the matter of marketing potatoes.
But it is desirable to have on the board representatives of the growers and in order to increase the proportions I have put on two officers of my Department whose function it is to protect the interest of the growers. I fully understand Deputy O'Hara's hope that greater detail would be given about the costings and fuller information about finances but you cannot distribute this information broadcast without giving it to your competitors and to your customers.
The Minister has two nominees on the board and the growers have three nominees and these will see that the merchants' representatives will do full justice to those who produce the potatoes and also that they will do all they can towards avoiding publicity which might be greatly prejudicial to our interests in the highly competitive markets to which we are exporting. I do not think there is any other effective way in which we can see that the interests of the growers are fully protected and at the same time avoid giving to our competitors and customers certain confidential information which we would be just as glad to leave them without.
Mr. Dillon: Deputy Childers is very often much troubled about the use which he says that some people unscrupulously make of statistics. I do not pretend to be omniscient about how you should interpret statistics, but you can make statistics so complicated  that nobody can understand them. However, there are certain inescapable facts which emerge from statistics and which have significance for me. There is no doubt, and I think all will agree, that in 1948 our Government, at my instance, emphasised strongly the value of live stock and live-stock products if we were to earn in our foreign markets the wherewithal to pay for our essential imports in order to maintain industry and to maintain the standard of living of our own people.
Deputy Ó Briain seemed to work himself into a passion at the thought of anybody paying any attention to our export markets. That is surely the most ridiculous cod. The present division of our entire agricultural output is that roughly one-third is consumed on the farm, one-third by our own people not resident on the land and one-third is exported. What on earth is the use of saying that the market which consumes one-third of our entire output is relatively unimportant particularly when you bear in mind that one of the inescapable economic laws is that the price obtaining on that market for the exportable one-third will ultimately rule the domestic market in respect of the other two-thirds?
When you have a surplus to export the tendency will be for whatever quantity of that commodity is consumed at home to drift down in price to the price level that obtains on the export market to which that surplus is exported. Therefore it is vital to our people that we should search around to find out what commodity we can produce in this country which will command a profitable price on our export market. It is nonsense for Deputy Ó Briain to say that the export part of our production is relatively unimportant. I beg the House to awaken to the fact that it is on that export surplus that the whole community is living. If we do not export that surplus there will be no raw material to employ our industrial workers or our distributive workers. Eighty per cent. of our industrial raw materials are paid for by agricultural exports. If they should dry up it is not rural Ireland that will bear the  first blow but the cities of Limerick, Cork and Dublin. It is the industrial and distributive employees of these cities that will suffer.
It is therefore with that in mind that I want to try and find those lines of agricultural production where it was most probable that we would get a profitable export market. I may have my own views about the growing of wheat but one thing is certain and that is that I cannot sell wheat in foreign markets—there is a smothering surplus of wheat all over the world. Turkey is exporting wheat, Sweden is exporting wheat, countries that never exported wheat before are all at it now. I have told the House on many occasions why the Government has guaranteed the price of wheat. It was in order to avoid the very thing that I referred to earlier—that there would be a fear that we would have bloody revolution in agricultural policy whenever there is a change of Government.
We in this Government believe in democratic principles and the true test of a democratic Government is not the size of its majority but the solicitude which it displays for the feelings of the minority. The Fianna Fáil Party seems to have a kind of mystical enthusiasm for the growing of wheat but I think that a reasonable democratic Government ought to see that nobody tramples on anybody else's feelings. We have tried to ensure that and we have guaranteed the price of wheat for two years. While doing that we had, at the same time, to look for profitable markets.
I am convinced that the most profitable market is that for our live stock and our meat products. On that understanding we put our hands to the task of increasing the numbers of our live stock and our exports as well. On the day we took over as a Government in this country in 1948 there were less cattle in Ireland than there ever were before in our recorded history. I am talking now in terms of numbers and I am going to give our cattle population and cattle exports in terms of heads of cattle.
In 1948 we exported 405,000; in 1949, 524,000; in 1950, 590,000; in 1951, 642,000; in 1952, 738,000; in 1953,  619,000; in 1954, 834,000. That could rightly cause alarm if it meant that we were stripping the land of Ireland of its live-stock population. But what are the facts? In 1948 we had on the land 3,920,000 cattle; in 1949, 4,126,000; in 1950, 4,321,000; in 1951, 4,376,000; in 1952, 4,309,000; in 1953, 4,396,000; and in 1954, 4,504,000 cattle. And that is the latest figure I have.
Now let us turn to sheep, taking mutton in terms of sheep and lambs; in 1948 we exported 58,000; in 1949, 97,000; in 1950, 165,000; in 1951, 118,000; in 1952, 348,000; in 1953, 336,000; and in 1954, 330,000. And bear in mind that every head of live stock exported over those years made us a profit. And everyone who handled them made a profit and there was no subsidy paid on any of those and we paid nobody to eat them. But they paid us for eating them, and they paid us fancy prices. My gracious me! Cattle were going £9 a cwt. in the Dublin market a couple of weeks ago. I am not at all sure that this is a realistic price. In fact, I think that price has gone so high as almost to cause us concern. But we have this consolation: any of our cattle that are leaving the country are being paid for at that price by those who want to eat them in any foreign country. It is not very often that we have to pause and wonder if we are getting too good a price from our customer, but I notice one strange thing in regard to prices. When this debate began nearly a month ago, the very first salvo from the Fianna Fáil Benches was about the catastrophe that had overtaken the price of pigs. I was told pigs had gone down to 200/- a cwt. and less. Do you notice the topic of pigs has dropped out of the debate very much in the last couple of weeks? I did not hear a whisper from the Fianna Fáil Benches in the past fortnight about pigs.
Mr. Dillon: If everything goes right they do not proclaim me. I do not blame them for that; I just wanted to comment upon it. The statistics I have just read out are very relevant to this thing. I think they are very significant and I make no apology to the House for having drawn attention to them. There are other statistics which might appeal more to Deputy Childers' statistical mind. I have further statistics on our total output of cattle, meaning our output of cattle in any given year, taking home consumption and sales on the hoof together, that is to say all the cattle that moved off the farms of Ireland into consumption. They are estimated by the Central Statistics Office to have amounted to  692,000 head in 1948; 821,000 in 1953; and 1,038,000 in 1954—the highest figure ever recorded since statistics were first taken in Ireland. The figures for sheep—again the total output as defined—were for 1948, 665,000; in 1953 the figure was 947,000. The total output of pigs as defined was, in 1948, 555,000 and in 1953, 1,197,000.
I think it was Deputy Madden who said that he was sometimes exasperated to hear us swopping figures like this across the floor of the House, but I know of no other criterion by which you can judge the results of a policy. If you set out to increase the number of your live stock and you base your policy on that end how are you to judge the failure or success than to look at the results from time to time recorded? I have great sympathy for Deputy Madden's concern about migration from the land which is going on, but I would ask Deputies of this House to be realistic in regard to this matter.
It is not alone an Irish problem. It is a problem which is perplexing every country in the world. I recently attended a conference in Paris of all the Ministers for Agriculture in Europe and I went out of my way to approach the Minister for Agriculture for every State in Europe to ask them what their experience was in regard to this and all of them said that their main problem was to try and keep the people on the land. It was just as acute in Denmark as anywhere else.
“Minister, we are no different from you are. We have developed electricity very largely in Iceland with our water power and we made up our minds to bring every amenity to the farmers of Iceland. We made up our minds to give them all the electrical amenities enjoyed in the city and we brought them the electric light and the telephone on every farm and really you would think that  the first thing they did when they got the telephone was to ring up Reykjavik and get a lorry and bring themselves, their wives, their families and their furniture into the town.”
Ask the authorities in the United States of America and they will tell you that in certain states where there are not any big industrial cities, the efflux of population into neighbouring states is so great as to be a serious population problem because the people are leaving the land in rural states like the Dakotas. Think of what the record shows in the United States of America. Do Deputies in this House realise that 50 years ago 60 per cent. of the population of the United States of America lived on the land and that the remaining 40 per cent. were in the cities? Note the percentages to-day: there are 20 per cent. on the land and 80 per cent. in the cities. There is no use blinding our eyes to the fact that transport is so fast between this country and Great Britain and family relationships are so numerous on both sides of the Channel that the big centres of industrial development in Great Britain are operating on our rural areas just as Chicago is operating on Dakota, just as St. Louis is operating on the State of Kansas, and it is illusory for us to imagine that boys and girls who are going to industrial employment in Great Britain at the present time are going primarily as a result of economic hardship.
Mr. Dillon: I think I would be going a little outside the scope of my relevance to-day if I proceeded to discuss the value of the greatest spiritual empire in the world. I have no apologies to make before the world for the relative status of Ireland and Denmark in the comity of nations but I think that goes a little outside agricultural policy.
What I am trying to emphasise is this, that the flight from the land is a grim and distressing feature but it is not a characteristic of Ireland alone. It is a problem that is bewildering populations all over the world and I  am not sure that any of us here knows the answer to it.
I am bound to say this, and it is not a popular thing to say, that a great many people who are most eloquent about the flight from the land do not show any inclination on their own part to fly back to the land. You will hear them getting very philosophical and eloquent but you will very frequently hear the oration being made in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Wexford or Waterford and I never hear them saying: “Come on, let us lead a great exodus from the cities and we will go out and take the place of the people who are moving in from the land.”
I suggest to some of the philosophers who get so eloquent on this subject that they would sit down some night, scratch their heads and say, “Why do not we all go out and take the places of the people who are leaving the land?” It is not so long, in respect of many of these philosophers, since they or their forebears left the land themselves.
It is not an Irish problem; it is a world problem. Whether it will adjust itself or not, I am not sure because it is bringing in its train the introduction of a very great degree of mechanisation that might not have come but for this problem of getting labour to work upon the land.
What is the answer to this problem? I do not know the answer to this problem. I met a neighbour of mine in Ballaghaderreen a fortnight ago. I had not seen him for a long time. I asked him how he was and how were the children. “Children?” he said, “Sure they are all grown up,” and then I realised that, of course, they were. I said, “How are they?”“Grand,” he said, “myself and the four boys were over on the Isle of Grain for the last six and a half years building the refinery,” and to hear him speak you would think he had done the whole thing. He had done his part. They are all sensible, wise fellows. “Do you know, sir, what the five of us earned for the past six and a half years? We drew between us between £4,000 and £5,000 a year.” He said, “We had 3/4 an hour, 6/8 an hour for any overtime, £2 10s. a week lodging allowance and 10/- bus fare. The five of us were all living together in one house.”
Those people were born and reared on 14 acres of boggy land. Is there anybody in this House who can explain to me how in the agricultural industry we could offer to that man and his four sons between £4,000 and £5,000 a year, without any capital investment at all except their own skill and hard work? What is the answer to that and should we say to them: “Oh no, we are going to take our professions as doctors and lawyers and architects and engineers and so forth but do ye stay below on the 14 acres”. All they have got to exploit is their skill and industry. By exploiting them to the full these five chaps could earn between them £4,000 to £5,000 a year.
The rest among us who are relatively well to do can get education in one profession or another or can apprentice ourselves to engineering shops and so forth and become skilled craftsmen and get high wages, as a result, in some restricted trade. Are we to say to our own neighbours: “Oh no, you cannot get the education we have got. You will not be admitted to the skilled trades as apprentices to get into restricted, highly-paid occupations and here is employment crying out for you by which you can get an income five or six times as great as you would ever get on the land but you are not to take it. You have a patriotic duty to stay where you are?” Does anybody in this House say that?
I would much sooner see my neighbour and his four sons earning their £1,000 a year apiece next door to me at home but are we to say to them that they must not earn it at all? I cannot find it in my heart to say that to hardworking people, neighbours of mine, who seem to me to be as well entitled to get the best living they can where-ever they can get it, as I or anybody else.
I do not know the answer. Lots of people say to me: “That is not a politic thing to say. You ought not to say that kind of thing in public.” I  have reached a time now that I have got where I wanted. There is no further I want to go. This is what I wanted to be and I got that. I believe I have an obligation now to tell the truth and I am sick of a lot of the cod that is talked in this country about the flight from the land and emigration. I am not saying that they are not problems. They are. But you will not solve problems by talking cod. I want an answer to that problem. What am I to say to my neighbour and his four sons who by diligence and skill can get themselves £4,000 to £5,000 a year? Am I to say to them: “No, that is wrong?” I do not think it is wrong.
I think we are dealing with the same situation as is perplexing other countries and it is this, that in a time of expansion such as the world is going through at the present time, industrial employers will pay anything to get workers. Take a big factory in Birmingham that is short of 500 or 600 men. They will go out and dig for workers and will pay whatever is wanted. If people want to build an oil refinery at any place, certainly if they want to build it on the Isle of Grain, they go out and offer wages, which will get the men and they are able to afford to do it. Agriculture is not able to compete with the rate of wages that these industries are in a position to pay. What are we to do about it?
I want to envisage the kind of remedy people may have in mind. Beware lest we betray ourselves into the belief that we should erect an iron barrier around our country and forbid our people to travel. It is one of the most essential elements of freedom that a man may stay within the jurisdiction or go outside it if he does not like it. If you take from the humblest citizen of this State his right to sell his labour or whatever else he has to sell in the best market he can find for it, I think you very seriously abridge the minimum freedom to which the citizens of this State are entitled.
I believe the fact is that the world is divided into two types of people, those of us who prefer to live on the land and in the country and those of us who prefer to go where we can get  the largest income. If people would only stop getting excited about it they would see that. There are doctors in this country who prefer to be dispensary doctors. They could be doctors in Fitzwilliam Square, Fitzwilliam Street, Harley Street or in Birmingham or in Manchester, but they are just made that way; they would sooner live amongst their neighbours; they would sooner look after their neighbours and their friends, not earning as much as they would in a municipal practice in Great Britain or Ireland. They are not the majority, but if we get all hot and bothered and start trying to tell the doctor he had a duty to live in the city or in the country, he would laugh at us. The fact emerges that you will get some to opt to live in the country and you will even get some applying to the Appointments Commission from Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, and London for dispensaries in rural Ireland, because they are made that way.
There are certain of our people who like living on the land but who must make the same choice as the doctor or the lawyer who practises in Country Cork or Clare and does not come to Dublin at all—the solicitor who prefers to live in the country and who must make the same choice as these people and that is that they accept as part of the reward for their labour the amenities and the circumstances of rural Ireland.
Ultimately we must face the fact that agriculture cannot compete in the time in which we are living, in the matter of monetary reward, with industrial occupations and avocations. Those who are prepared to accept as the norm of their daily life the conditions of industrial employment in a big industrial city in England, who like that, there is nothing will keep them on the land. I would not like it and I know a great many people who go and try it for a while, discover that they do not like it either.
I remember standing once on a very cold and wintry day at the far end of the mullet of Belmullet and I met a man there who seemed to have an American accent. I asked him if he could tell me what brought him to the  end of the mullet of Belmullet. He said:—
He was as happy as a lark on the far end of the mullet of Belmullet looking philosophically over the sea to Achill Island and thoroughly convinced he had acted very prudently in coming home from Providence, Rhode Island, to improve himself. He unquestionably had because on the mullet of Belmullet he was as happy as a lark and in Providence, Rhode Island, he was an anxious, worried unemployed man. He had come to the conclusion that Belmullet was a substantial improvement on the precarious existence he had known in Rhode Island and so far as I was concerned I was in a position to say I entirely agreed with him. I saw life in Chicago, New York and London and I was as happy in Ballaghaderreen as he was in Belmullet, but I am very conscious of the fact that there were 8,000,000 people in London, 9,000,000 in New York, 4,000,000 in Chicago and there were only about 1,000 between Ballaghaderreen and Belmullet.
The fundamental fact we must face is that there are some of us who prefer to accept the standard of living and the kind of life that agriculture in rural Ireland can provide but there will be quite a majority who will opt for bright life, high wages and excitements of living. Security has very little attraction for the young. Do not let us forget that most of us in this House are moving on to middle age and as we approach middle age security becomes more and more important. But let us not forget that the young fellow of 22 or 23 years of age, either when he goes to seek his fortune or to take a wife, is not so much concerned for security as he is for adventure and romance. Therefore, the tendency for the young is to opt for the adventure, the chances and the variety of city life whereas when we  grow older it seems more and more obvious to us that there is much more to be had in the security, the calm and the steadiness at home and of modest but enduring substance from the land.
I do not think we need be fussed. I do not see any sign of the Irish race disappearing. I do not see any sign of Ireland bulking smaller before the world than she ever did before. I do not see a single creature leaving this country as an emigrant at the present day under the spur of genuine destitution. Have you every thought of how far we have travelled in this country in the last 50 years? Do you realise that 50 years ago in this month or a month or two later, usually the month of July, there used to be summoned to the Custom House on the quays—where the old Board of Local Government sat—an annual conference to concert measures between the various Departments of State to deal with the possible development of famine in the West of Ireland? The first decision always taken was to authorise every R.I.C. barracks in the congested areas to issue 4 lb. parcels of Indian meal to any starving person who might apply.
Can you imagine authorising the Civic Guards barracks in Ireland to-day to issue 4 lb. parcels of Indian meal to starving persons in the western areas of this country? Have we not travelled a long way? Is it not remarkable the change in the standard of living of our people? I wonder would those of us who personally or vicariously have knowledge of those days, ever ask themselves what are the two great factors that changed the standard of our people in rural Ireland? Would I greatly exaggerate if I said it was the Land League and the Shorthorn cow? From 1880 down to to-day was it the Friesian, was it the Ayrshire, was it the Jersey or was it the Shorthorn? The younger members of Dáil Éireann should go and ask their fathers that question and their fathers will tell them.
That brings me now to what Deputy Moher had to say to me. I do not know why he feels when he speaks here that he is a voice crying in the wilderness. I do not think he is. What  sometimes distresses me is that I hear perfectly rational men working themselves into a passion in the belief that nobody agrees with them and nobody listens to them. There is very little Deputy Moher said with which I do not agree.
The scope of the debate brought out a very clear picture of the differences of opinion as to the utility of different breeds of cattle. Now you have got to reconcile yourself to the fact that there are two purposes for which milk is produced; one is the liquid milk market and the other is the creamery. You have to remember that the man who is producing milk for the liquid milk market is aiming to produce it at a level rate all round the 12 months of the year, and he gets a price nearly twice as high as that paid to the man who produces it for the creamery. True, the creamery supplier gets back his skim milk and the liquid milk man does not; but it is quite possible that it will pay the man who is producing milk for the liquid milk market to keep a breed of cattle which will produce great quantities of milk, given that sufficient concentrates are fed to them.
It is quite possible they would be an economic proposition for that man and I would not argue very strongly against that man if he used Friesian cattle. Maybe he is right. To him the calf is of relatively little significance. His great aim is to get high level liquid milk production all the year round, even if he must pump concentrates into the cow, because he knows the more milk he gets, even though it is at the price of feeding concentrates, the better profit he can make out of it.
Take the man who is bringing milk to the creamery. The whole creamery industry in this country is built on the proposition that you can cold store butter. Now there is no question whatever that the cheapest food you can get for a cow in Ireland is grass growing, ensiled and in hay. But there is no cow that will produce 1,200 gallons of milk a year from grass, growing, ensiled and in hay. If she is producing between 1,000 and 1,200  gallons she will want an addition to that in the way of concentrates.
My submission is that milk for conversion into dairy products will not pay for the concentrates and, therefore, what we want to get is a cow for the farmer who is bringing milk to the creamery which, fed on grass growing, ensiled and in hay, will produce a given yield of milk, plus a calf which he can sell for a good price leaving him free of the obligation then to purchase any concentrates at all. If the farmer manures his land, cuts it early for silage, cuts it then for hay and strip grazes it or rotationally grazes it, he will be able to feed a good Shorthorn cow winter and summer and turn her out in the best of feather on early grass in the latter half of March or the first half of April and keep her on growing grass until the first week of December or certainly until the middle of November; he can then feed her on silage and hay in the winter and again turn her out in the spring in good form. If he can get 600 to 800 gallons from that cow without purchasing any feeding stuffs at all and he can get a calf from her—a good Aberdeen Angus Shorthorn cross dropped calf— stop and think what that means! Suppose he gets £15 for his calf: £15 is 300/- and it is 3,600d.
Mr. Dillon: There is no need for that. Think what that means on a 600-gallon lactation. It is nearly the equivalent of 6d. per gallon for milk. If it is an 800-gallon cow it is nearly the equivalent of 4d. per gallon for the milk. Suppose the farmer rears a Jersey cow or an Ayrshire cow, the calf is worth nothing. Why should we not try to get out of our live stock the maximum return in whatever form it comes for the man who must tend them? That is the case for the Shorthorn.
There is a case for the Friesian cow. One can make a case for the Jersey cow. But pause a moment! Suppose we had accepted the advice that was pressed upon us 15 years ago to abolish the Shorthorn cow because she was an inefficient fodder converter and to go  over, as the Danes had gone and the New Zealanders had gone, to the Jerseys and Friesians—suppose we had taken that advice 15 years ago, where would we be to-day? We would be faced with an immediate economic crisis of an insoluble character. We would have lashings and leavings of butter which nobody would buy. We cannot get in any market in the world to-day within 40/- a cwt. of the price at which our farmers are prepared to produce butter. I think it is costing about 50/- per cwt. to export butter at the present time.
But, because we did not take that advice, we are exporting at the present time the number of cattle to which I have already referred. Which policy is right? Which policy is sound? I think the policy that we followed and I think that, if we had not followed it, we would be in a very deplorable condition at the present time. If we had gone over, as was suggested to us, to Jerseys and Friesians 15 years ago— mark you, there were many Deputies who took the view strongly that we should and that the Shorthorn was a blight and ought to be wiped out—we would find that our exports of beef and cattle, which were worth £45,870,000 in the year 1954, would not be there at all.
Therefore, I would say to Deputy Moher, instead of getting vexed with himself about this whole business, he should try to appreciate that there are two points of view and that probably wisdom lies in a middle course. He should not think that the only place in the world that people are trying out the possible value of the Friesian versus the Shorthorn, or any other breed, as a beef producer is England. That is going on here. My interest is not whether the Friesian or the Shorthorn will produce good beef because I do not believe either is the best beef producer. I believe in the hybrid vigour of the first cross between the Hereford and the Shorthorn or the Aberdeen Angus and the Shorthorn; and I intend to try out the relative value of the first cross Aberdeen Angus-Shorthorn and the first cross Hereford-Shorthorn as against the  first cross Friesian-Hereford and the first cross Friesian-Aberdeen Angus and see how they compare.
In spite of Deputy Madden's dislike of figures, I think it is worth while considering this fact. I warn Deputies that I am speaking now in terms of figures, and figures without volume can be an illusion, but they have their significance. The gross value of the total agricultural output at current prices in 1948 was £120,000,000. The gross output for the agricultural industry in 1954 was £180,000,000, an increase of £60,000,000. Is not that something for which we have reason to be grateful?
I want to say a word about the parish plan. Somebody—I think it was Deputy Childers—spoke about the desirability of providing in every part of Ireland a pilot farm. I want to make this clear: I do not give a fiddle-de-dee for any pilot farm run by the Department of Agriculture and I think all my neighbours feel as I do. If I were to set up a farm in the parish of Ballaghaderreen with a Department of Agriculture technical adviser in charge of it, all my neighbours would say: “It is small credit to him. Any time he is short of a £5 note all he has to do is to send up to the Department of Agriculture for it, or if he wants £100 he can get it. The Board of Works will build him a barn.” I believe that what the average countryman wants is to know what he can do with the resources at his disposal and not with the resources of the Department of Agriculture.
If a group of farmers in this country get together and say to the Minister for Agriculture: “We want to improve methods of husbandry in our parish. Will you help us?” does the House think it is wrong for the Minister for Agriculture to be in a position to say: “Yes, I will. I shall be glad to send a man down to help you to do just that, and his job will be to help you to do what you want to do in the most efficient way in which it can be done. His job will be to go into that parish and see if he can find four or five farmers there who will say: “Listen, you are always talking about what the Department of Agriculture can teach  people to do. We will run our farms in accordance with your advice for a year, or two, or three years if we earn more by running them that way than we can by running them as we have been running them.” If the parish agent can get four or five farmers to apply that test and say: “We will judge you by that simple test—if we run the farm the way you want it run, will we be earning more money this day 12 months than we are earning now?”
Is not that the right kind of pilot farm? Is it not the right thing to have in the parish somebody to help these farmers, or shall we have to say to such farmers: “No, we will not help you?” I could not do it and remain Minister for Agriculture.
I do not want to interfere with any country committee of agriculture. I am delighted to see them doing their jobs and any parish agent who goes out from the Department of Agriculture, or who will go out will make his first call on the chief agricultural officer of the committee of agriculture in the county to seek that official's co-operation. There is no desire to trespass on anybody else's prerogatives or interfere with anybody else's work, but there is this desire: that if any group of farmers come to the Minister for Agriculture looking for help they will not be sent empty-handed away. I think that is a reasonable attitude and a desirable thing.
We had talk about boys having to emigrate but if they were trained as scientific agricultural advisers would it not be better than to have them going away to build an oil refinery in the Isle of Grain? We shall want approximately 800 agricultural instructors between the county committees of agriculture and the parish agents. Would it not be an eminently desirable thing if we had them and employed them? I believe the parish plan is an eminently desirable development and it is a very gratifying thing to me that I am getting applications far in excess of my ability to meet them to provide parish agents.
Let us see how it works. I think it will achieve many of the objectives that Deputies speak of in this House  and I think we should let it go ahead and see how it works and if it works out as I believe it will I believe no parish in Ireland will fail to get the same facilities as about 26 groups of parishes are looking for at the present time.
There has been some talk of the appalling revolution that has been precipitated by the administrative decision to transfer the administration of loans from the Department to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. The total amount of loans actually transferred is about £20,000 a year. All the other loans administered by the Department of Agriculture have been handled by the Agricultural Credit Corporation for years and it is not going to make the slightest difference. No condition relating to the loan scheme has been altered in any particular and I think a good lesson might be learned from Deputy Madden to-day. He was obliged to testify that, by and large, the Agricultural Credit Corporation gives fairly good service. I do not say there was not a time when their approach to these matters was a shade too conservative. I think there has been an improvement and I think Deputies should give the Agricultural Credit Corporation an opportunity to show its paces under the new régime. I think the new régime is doing pretty well.
It is very easy to be urging people like the Agricultural Credit Corporation to lash out everybody's money. It is not their money. They have to take certain fundamental precautions, and circumstances change. Sometimes a farmer looks for a loan for things that any sensible adviser would say he would be better advised not to borrow for. There are other times when to be able to borrow is a very good thing and of great value. But I want to remind Deputies that there never was a time when cattle went up to £9 a cwt. that you did not get individual small farmers wanting to borrow £100 or £200 to rush out and buy cattle at that time. I want to say very deliberately that nobody but a lunatic would borrow money to buy cattle at the present time, but one would be  astonished at the number of applications that will go into the Agricultural Credit Corporation now from small farmers, dazzled by the prices they see paid at fairs, to let them get in on this.
The trouble is that if they all got the financial accommodation which they want, they would go in but when they came to get out they might find that half the money they borrowed would be lost and the business of paying it back would then be a painful operation. They would not be one bit grateful to whoever got them the loan. They would rather be inclined to say: “What did you give me that money for? Sure I lost the half of it on the beasts I bought. Were you not a fool? Why did you not tell me what would happen?” You cannot arrange everybody's business, but at the same time the Agricultural Credit Corporation has to exercise a certain prudence, and I want to go on record now as saying that anybody who borrows money in the present circumstances to purchase cattle is a lunatic. And I think a good many of the loans the Agricultural Credit Corporation are being sticky about are probably applications from people who want to buy cattle at the present time.
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