Thursday, 27 June 1957
Dáil Éireann Debate
 That a sum not exceeding £4,042,950 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1958, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, including certain Services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain Subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.—(Minister for Agriculture).
Mr. Wycherley: I will preface my remarks to-day by saying that the dairying industry is the most important industry in the country. From it springs practically the whole of the nation's income. From exports of dairy produce alone, for the year ended 31st December, 1956, we received £6,910,945. The exports consisted of chocolate crumb, cream in bulk, cream in sealed tins, condensed milk, dried milk, infant and invalid foods made mainly from milk or milk powder, cheese, creamery butter, non-creamery butter and other milk products.
Our cattle exports depend on the dairying industry and on the number of cows maintained by the dairy farmer. It is absolutely essential that the dairy farmer should be given every possible incentive so as to ensure that that line of production will be maintained.
We often hear talk of plans for this and plans for that, but no plan is as essential as a plan for agriculture. The farmer must always plan for many years ahead. He must plan for the time his dairy cow is mated. The time that must elapse until the produce of that cow appears on the open market is about three and a half years. It is absolutely essential that farmers be well versed in whatever plan is in the mind of the Minister and the Government as regards the dairying industry and the other branches of farming. Take tillage, for instance. A tillage farmer must plan ahead because of the various rotations.
This may be the wrong time to speak about pigs and poultry, but I cannot let the occasion pass without saying how vital these two sidelines are to  the economy of the small farmer. If the pig and poultry industry goes—and there is a grave danger of that at the present time—it will be very difficult indeed for the small farmers to exist. Their means of livelihood will practically be taken from them, since it is in those two subsidiary industries to the dairy cow, that they make their livelihood.
Those small farmers should know, at the outset and in advance, what they should do in connection with the development of those two industries. They should know in advance if they are to produce table poultry and turkeys for the export market. It is all very fine for people who are not farmers to say: “Increase production and we will have more for export and thereby reduce our trade balance.” The farmer and the farmer's wife, who go to the trouble and expense of producing more and more for export and find that as a result they lose more than they gain, that they are worse off at the end of the period than when they started producing, are being given a very poor incentive to continue in these industries. It is important that those small farmers producing pigs, poultry, milk and other commodities should know well in advance what they are to get for them, so that they can plan ahead and invest their money in something from which they may expect to reap a reward.
If we are to keep abreast of modern times, we must use modern methods. With the advent of mechanisation, in a good many farms now it is much easier to produce than it was in the past Machinery is to a great extent taking the place of manual labour. However, the capital outlay on this machinery is so great that very often it takes years and years before a farmer can make what he has paid for the machinery. It is necessary, therefore, that farmers with tractors should till as much of the land as possible. The importation of maize and wheat should be almost unnecessary. With modern mechanisation, we should be self-sufficient in providing the necessaries for man and beast. Wheat, oats and barley can be grown very successfully, but the farmer should know in  advance what he is to get for those commodities. I know we imported barley from France and imported wheat; but I think we are nearing the time when we should not require either one or the other, when we should grow our own for our own requirements.
In regard to the compounding of this food which is produced at home, it would be very desirable that the farmers who have to buy these compounds should know what they are buying. In the past, during the last war, anything that was ground up fine enough and put into a sack could be sold at about 35/- or even £2 a cwt. and it was a compliment to get it. No one knew the ingredients in that sack. The only intimation one got was that it contained albuminoids, oils and carbohydrates. Even that same tag is on the bags to-day. I really think it is not sufficient for the farmer to buy a bag of compound ration to-day and see a label on it that it contains albuminoids, oils and carbohydrates, without knowing exactly the ingredients which went into the compounding of that ration. It would ease the mind and clear the air very much if the producer could know the ingredients. It is very easy now for compounders to put in a percentage of filling or a substance which will make weight. There is a vast difference between the various types of fat. To point out one—there is a big difference between the fat in a pound of butter and the fat in a pound of margarine, because no amount of fats in margarine would be a real substitute for the fat in a pound of butter.
Similarly, with regard to the analysis of some of the animal feeding stuffs we buy, while they may seem all right on the tag, that the bag contains all the necessary albuminoids, oils and carbohydrates, it would be far better that we should know also what it contains in barley, oats, wheat, meat and bone meal, fish meal or any other ingredient which goes to make up that compound. It would clear the air for the farmer and he would know for what he is paying his money.
In rearing cattle, pigs or other animals it is absolutely necessary that  they be fed on a balanced ration. I have no hesitation in saying that if the farmers were assured they could buy that balanced ration at a reasonable price, leaving a reasonable margin of profit for the compounder, a good deal more of the grain grown in this country would be sold and bought back in the from of this ration. However, there is a great amount of suspicion, when a farmer sells his oats and barley in the harvest time, that there will be a grave gap indeed in the price at which he will have to buy that back from the merchant a few months afterwards. That is a matter which will require very close study. The Minister should ensure that that big gap would not exist between the price which the farmer gets for his grain and the price at which he can buy it back afterwards in the form of a suitable ration.
In this country for the past 40 years, we are dabbling in cow testing. The present system, which has been in operation down the years, is so out-dated now that it is obsolete in the whole system of administration and the whole system of its working. The result is that farmers do not go into cow testing now with the same enthusiasm as they did 40 years ago. There was an interest taken in it for a few years when a farmer tested every cow in his herd, but once he had got to know the test of his herd, the same necessity would not arise to test these cows year in, year out.
While I am a great believer in cow testing, I think the whole system should be revised and nationalised to such a degree that the supervisors would visit every farmer in the country who has a dairy herd and who is interested in getting his heifers tested.
There is a duplication of services at the present time between the cow-testing associations and the Department of Agriculture whereby cow-testing supervisors test the herds and the inspectors in the Department of Agriculture go in testing the progeny of A.I. bulls. I feel that there is a certain amount of duplication of service there. It is a necessary thing that all first calf heifers and possibly second calf heifers should be tested, but, after that, the farmer knows what his heifers  are doing. He can compare the various heifers and the progeny of the various bulls and he will be in a very good position to know the bulls that are breeding good milkers and the bulls that are breeding bad milkers. It is with that outlook in view that I recommend to the Department a drastic overhaul of the present out-dated system of cow testing, so that every farmer will be in a position to have his heifers tested and to judge the development of his future herd on the good quality of his heifers.
It is time that some step was taken in that regard because the present system of cow testing no longer holds the same attraction as it did some years ago. Moreover, it would give the farmers a chance of comparing the progeny of the A.I. bulls imported into this country with the progeny of our native-bred bulls. From my experience in the country, our native-bred bulls are breeding far superior animals, both from the point of view of milk and stores, to the progeny of the imported bulls which came into this country and are located in the A.I. stations that I know.
I think, then, that the development of our own dairy shorthorns is a matter that should not be neglected for the sake of the imported breed of shorthorn about which we heard so much some years ago. I know that Deputy Moher is very interested in the Friesians. I have no objection to any farmer having whatever breed of cow he thinks best suited to his own requirements. From my experience, I feel that in West Cork the dairy shorthorn is the most suitable to the conditions obtaining there. Living in East Cork, perhaps Deputy Moher may be more anxious to retain the good Friesian, but as a foundation stock for breeding with Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford, I still hold that the shorthorn is the most suited to my part of the country.
A certain part of my constituency is congested district and I have been asked by many farmers if I could get more Aberdeen-Angus bulls located in their area. The cross of the Aberdeen-Angus bull with the dairy  shorthorns which we have in our part of the country is an excellent cross for the development of our store export trade, but, unfortunately, we have not got enough of that good right type of Aberdeen-Angus bulls in the congested districts. I would ask the Minister to consider very seriously the granting of more of the good Aberdeen-Angus bulls under the C.D. scheme to farmers who require them for themselves and their neighbours to cross with their dairy shorthorn cows.
It is not always an economic proposition to breed all shorthorns, but it is certainly a good thing to have a few—and a good few—Aberdeen-Angus bulls in the constituency from which I come so that the trade in stores will improve and the income of the farmers increase as a result of that policy. I know the Hereford is an ideal cross for cows in the better part of the area, but you want a better class of cow and a better fed cow to produce the Hereford calf. The area of which I speak is chiefly a congested district. I understand that they are anxious to get the Aberdeen-Angus bull and I firmly believe it would be a great asset to them if they had more of these Aberdeen-Angus bulls to produce good stores.
In County Cork, we have gone in extensively for advisory services under the county committee of agriculture and there is no doubt that there has been a great development in rural science. The farmers are getting to know more about what the soil contains and what it requires for the production of good crops. The establishment at Johnstown Castle is certainly of great benefit to Irish farming. There the farmers can get their soil tested and get to know what the soil requirements are for the growing of the various crops. With the extension of the advisory services in County Cork, I have no doubt that we will be able to produce a lot more from the soil of Ireland than was produced in the past.
With ground limestone, fertilisers, the putting in of good seed, the land reclamation scheme, reseeding, improvement in the breed of cattle, modern scientific methods and the  advisory services which are now being given to practically every farmer in the country, we will be in a better position to produce more. It is very desirable that the Minister should make his plan known so that farmers who have invested so much capital in their land, in machinery, in increasing production generally, will know where they stand. They should be given some idea of how to proceed, whether they should increase production further, whether they should put more labour and more effort into their economy.
Micheál Ó Ceit: Ní mian liom mórán a rá ar an Meastacháu seo. Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom traoslú leis an Aire nua insan post atá aige. Má dheineann sé chomh maith ins an Aireacht seo agus a rinne sé nuair a bhí sé i bhfeidhil an Roinn Oideachais, beidh sé ag déanamh go maith don tír.
I intend to refer to one point only because Deputies who are more competent to speak on the various aspects of agriculture than I am will discuss the whole field. My reference will be to the incidence of swine fever. Since last Tuesday, I understand that the movement of pigs all over the country has been stopped, except in the case of sows for mating and pigs for slaughter in the factories. In my constituency of North Galway, we have a monthly pig fair in Mountbellew and other small towns.
That monthly market is a great source of income. The principal trade carried on is the sale of pigs from farmer to farmer. Occasionally a few jobbers from 50, 60 or 100 miles away attend in lorries with bonhams. Although we are in an unaffected area, this embargo on the movement of pigs, which is general, will stop the small farmers in the area from bringing their pigs to the monthly market. That will have a great upset in the economy of both the shopkeepers in the towns concerned and the farmers who live in the immediate vicinity.
I would ask, therefore, that if possible, the Order should be amended so that it will affect only the jobbers who come in from outside areas. Some of these may come from affected areas and all would agree that their attendance  at the monthly market in Mount-bellow and other small towns in North Galway should be stopped. In this respect, I should like to bring one important point to the notice of the House. While there are some bacon factories in adjoining counties like Mayo, there are none in Galway, so that very few pigs for immediate slaughter change hands at our monthly market. Transactions at that market are mostly limited to the sale of pigs by one farmer to another.
It would be in the interest of the small towns and of the farmers who live nearby that the Minister would reconsider the general Order he has made with a view to stopping only the movement of jobbers into that area. In that way, the Order would not affect the economy of the local farmers and shopkeepers.
Mr. T. Lynch: I was glad that the Minister, in introducing his Estimate, displayed a certain amount of optimism. However, I was disappointed at the way the debate went afterwards when Deputies from the Fianna Fáil benches, particularly Deputy Corry, as usual dragged politics into it. Afterwards, during the debate on the Diseases of Animals (Bovine Tuberculosis) Bill, it was good to see that Deputies confined themselves to making practical suggestions.
In this Estimate there is an item of £250,000 for market research. I have no fault to find with that. The most important task to be done is to sell our products and to sell them well. Although the Minister seemed optimistic—we all have great hopes for the future—I know he has great problems in front of him. Sometimes when I ask parliamentary questions I have the greatest difficulty in getting satisfactory answers. Twice recently I asked the Minister for Finance questions in relation to agriculture. He gave us his  usual piece:—“Increase production and all will be well”.
I do not think all is well. The Minister for Agriculture has now got problems on his doorstep for which he was not responsible. He was not in this House when the butter subsidy was withdrawn. At the moment milk is pouring into the creameries as never before, with the result that butter production has increased. We all know that the most profitable way of selling milk is as liquid. Recently I asked the Minister a question to which I did not get a reply that satisfied me. I asked him for comparative figures for milk consumption here and in other countries per head of the population.
I believe that milk consumption per head is fairly high here. I would recommend to the Minister that an investigation be carried out into that question and that an effort be made to increase the consumption here of liquid milk. The manufacture of chocolate crumb was begun during the period of office of the previous Minister. That has been a great benefit to those concerned and I feel sure it would be worth the Minister's while to look in other directions and see if there are any other channels through which milk could be put other than the manufacture of butter which is obviously not the best medium for selling milk.
I respectfully ask the Minister this question: do we want increased production in butter or in milk? The same thing, more or less, applies to bread. No matter what anybody says, the withdrawal of the subsidy on flour and bread will reduce consumption of bread. The question then arises as to whether we need as much wheat. The Minister for Finance stated that we had too much wheat. He gave us to understand that there are enormous stocks of wheat throughout the country. We must, therefore, ask ourselves whether we should produce more wheat. If we increase our production of wheat beyond our own requirements we will have to export wheat. We will then be in the position where we will have to subsidise wheat for export since that is the only way in which we could export it.
 There is a certain amount of uneasiness among farmers that the barley crop will come in so heavy that some of it may be left on their hands. There might be a storage problem and many farmers who could not store it might be stampeded into selling it at a very low price. I draw the Minister's attention to that because I think it is well worth while watching. Co-operative societies have done a very good job in the storage of grain all over the country, and the Minister's Department is prepared to provide the millers with loans and subsidies for storage. Even though there is not much time between now and the harvest, the matter should be investigated with a view to erecting more silos, if possible. They are not buildings which take years to erect. Fifteen or 20 years ago I saw an enormous silo being erected in Enniscorthy in a matter of weeks. Recently, a huge concrete silo was built in Waterford and it is now in operation.
In relation to pigs, I know that nearly every Deputy has been approached by farmers or other people in the pig trade complaining about these restrictions the Minister has imposed. I believe the Minister could not do anything else and we should support him in this. This outbreak of swine fever could lead to a very dangerous situation and it is important that it should be stamped out and stamped out once and for all. Some people cannot help asking the question: was it a coincidence that with the illegal importation of the Landrace pig into this State, we had an outbreak of swine fever?
This question of wheat is continually being dragged into the political field. We have been hounded and shouted at because of these penal taxes. If Deputy Corry is ground down under these penal taxes, it is well to remind him that he and many of his colleagues over there assured the electorate that the minute they were returned, those taxes would be removed. As far as the penal tax on feeding stuffs is concerned, it would be only a matter of an Order from the Minister for Industry and Commerce to remove it. We should  try to get away from this idea of going down to the hustings and shouting about these things and bringing agriculture to the base uses of vote catching and coaxing people to vote in a way that they might not vote.
The Minister has difficulties, and he has the support of the whole House in regard to the growing of wheat. When he has offals from it, he must protect those offals. He cannot just sell them at any old price at all. They were bought dear. They were paid for with money from the people buying dear bread to keep wheat growing going in this country. The only way you could dispose of those by-products of wheat cheaply is by raising the price of bread. I know the Minister has that difficulty and I bear with him, even though I would lean a lot towards the pig feeder and the type of pig feeder who has to buy his meal, and so on. I might mention that an extraordinary situation arose here. The Government refused to subsidise the price of bread, to subsidise wheat, for human consumption, but the House had to grant a subsidy of £150,000 for wheat for animal consumption. That, somehow or other, does not fit in.
There is a very important matter which did not get the publicity in the national papers which it should have got. When the Minister for Industry and Commerce was speaking on the Budget in regard to the subsidies, he said that the matter of the subsidies brought the question of the price being paid for milk to the farmer and the price being paid for Irish wheat on to a false plane. It created the illusion amongst those who were concerned with the production of these things that increases could be made without consequences.
I want to draw the Minister's attention to that statement because my summing up of the Minister for Industry and Commerce is that he is a forceful and a strong man as far as his Department is concerned and during the years he has been there he has put industry first and foremost in the whole country. When the inter-Party Government came in, they regarded agriculture as the primary activity in Ireland. I know the Minister  for Agriculture is a forceful man himself, thank God, and I would say to him: do not let the Minister for Industry and Commerce make the farmers pay the piper, if it comes to the question of the prices of milk and wheat.
I was present in the House when there was talk of a levy on the export of salmon. That has nothing to do with this Vote, but we should be very careful about putting levies on the export of any commodity. The commodities with which the Minister is concerned are commodities that were always capable of being exported. The farmers did not get any subsidies; they got very little help, but they were able to produce commodities that were capable of being sold on the markets of the world. The Minister, as well as Deputies, should always be watchful about this matter of putting levies on anything for export for any purpose whatever. It is a very dangerous precedent and Deputies from agricultural districts should be alert to ensure that no Department would be able to put up a proposition to the Minister for Agriculture to put a tax or a levy on agricultural produce that is being sold outside.
When Deputy Dillon was speaking yesterday he said that he made mistakes but that he did not make the same mistake twice. The Minister will probably make mistakes and, if he does, we shall not make political capital or propaganda out of them. At least—I will speak for myself—I will not be one that would do so. I am sure the Minister will see to it that where mistakes were made either by his predecessor or predecessors the same mistakes will not be made again.
Deputy Dillon yesterday did not say as much as he should have said, in my opinion, about the cattle pact of 1948 and the revolution that it caused in agriculture and agricultural income. I was looking at some figures to-day which showed we had 40,000 to 70,000 or 90,000 calves killed every year up to 1947. We had 49,000 in 1947 and only 97 in 1948, thank God, and the reason for that was not a ministerial order but the fact that the cattle trade became so good in 1948 that it would be  foolish for people to kill calves which went to the unheard-of price, as I can remember at my local fair, some time after the pact, of £8 each, and it was considered wonderful. I hope we shall not have that slaughter of calves again. That is a mistake that should not be repeated.
I join with Deputy Dillon in hoping the Minister will continue the land reclamation scheme in spite of what has been said against it. Mistakes were made in that also, but if mistakes were made in one or two or ten or even in 100 farms, mistakes were not made in all of them. Tens of thousands of farmers benefited by the scheme, which changed the whole face of the countryside in many districts. I think we should adopt the line here that if a Minister introduces a scheme and it is beginning to show signs of success, we should not come here either to damn it with faint praise or undermine it by innuendo. Many people say, of course, that it would be good politics to take advantage of the Minister if he did make a mistake but we should take the politics out of agriculture and agricultural debates and be more constructive in our speeches here.
There was a great deal of comment on the Minister's appointment but I was glad he was appointed out of all the people on the Fianna Fáil Benches because I think he will be able to make a good job of it. I congratulate him and wish him every good luck. I hope his term of office will be most successful for the country. As a matter of fact I hope the farmers' incomes will be increased as much as they were increased by his predecessor.
Mr. T. Lynch: Go and look at the figures. The Deputy should have been here to-day and he would have been shown a good example. That kind of stuff is no good and the sooner it is cut out the better. If the Deputy thinks it is doing him any good, he is sitting on those benches over there for  the last 30 years shouting about the farmers and the Taoiseach never heard of him. If he did, he would have put him where Senator Moylan is now.
Mr. T. Lynch: I was congratulating the Minister and wishing him a successful term of office and probably Deputy Allen did not like that. But I think I can convince the Minister of my sincerity. I have been sent here mainly by a farmers' vote. I shall represent the farmers and come into this House and complain to the Minister if I consider the Minister is not doing what he should do, but I am not going to make political capital out of it.
I think we should all try to make a fresh start here to-day with the new Minister for Agriculture and that we should be constructive. We should forget this old stuff about “the poor farmer”. I could give a lot of that if I wanted to play the dirty political games the Deputy opposite has been playing here for years.
Mr. T. Lynch: Regarding water supplies, we were told by Deputies on the far side last night that the country was “bust”. The amount of money allotted for the water supply scheme last year was snapped up by the farmers because they could see the benefit of it. I should be glad to hear from the Minister when he is replying if he could say when they will be ready to resume that scheme.
Lastly, as regards sheds, Deputy Moher mentioned something that I think is well worth investigating. This is a matter where we should put our heads together and try to do some good for the people. Many new sheds have been erected all over the country, but there is grave need for some kind of consultation and planning in relation to these sheds. The question of space and ventilation needs to be investigated. Ill-constructed sheds are one of the contributory causes to lower resistance to disease.
In conclusion, I want the Minister to tell us if he wants increased production in wheat? Does he want increased production in milk? Does he want increased production in barley? As well as answering those questions, I want him to make a statement about the water supply scheme and deal with the points I made about the erection of sheds under the various schemes operated by his Department.
Mr. Faulkner: I do not think there is any need for me to stress that, from an economic standpoint, the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture is by far the most important Estimate which comes before the House. Some time ago, the Minister for Lands said that patriotism is as necessary for our economic well-being to-day as it was in the past for our political well-being. That is true. The outlook of the patriotic farmer is to husband his land, to increase its fertility and not to do anything which might have the effect of impoverishing the land for future generations.
Good husbandry, arising out of labour and study, leaves as a natural birthright one pronounced feature, good grasses and therein lies the success of our whole farming programme.  With better attention to our grass, we can double our earnings from beef, mutton, lamb and milk. Those are our main exports and our main sources of income and, if we increase those, we increase simultaneously our agricultural and our national income. This has been proved complementary to a good tillage programme. I would stress that I am not advocating more acres under grass; I am advocating rather an improvement in our grasslands.
Just as agriculture is recognised as our principal industry, so, among the farming community, is grass recognised as our most important and, paradoxically, our most neglected crop. As a help towards improving this rather serious situation, I would suggest a scheme of prizes for new lea. That scheme could be instituted on a county or, better still, on a parish basis. I have no doubt that such a scheme would bring an improvement in our grasslands, thereby increasing our agricultural and our national income.
Increased production has been discussed so often and talked about so much that it is inclined to lose its effectiveness by constant repetition. At the same time, it is no harm to stress that our whole economic life and our present standard of living, and any hope we have for a better standard of living, is completely dependent on higher agricultural production. One of the essentials to bring about such increased production is a greater use of lime and fertilisers. Because fertilisers are so dear, our small farmers are prevented from making the use they should make of them and, further, our farmers find it impossible to compete in foreign markets. I suggest that a method of subsidisation should be devised in order to make fertilisers cheaper, especially for the small farmer. With increased use of fertilisers, we will enter a cycle of increasing production and I am convinced that that cycle will continue after a certain time without any further increased subsidisation.
More agricultural instructors and advisers would help to increase agricultural production. The system of appointing temporary instructors for long periods is a bad one and should  be discontinued. I agree there should be a probationary period, but, on the termination of that period, the instructors should be made permanent. I know difficulties arise with relation to the point on the scale at which these instructors would come in, but, at the same time, it is not good sense to think that an instructor can have a proper interest in the continuity work if he knows that, after a few months, he may no longer be in the employment of the local authority.
Agricultural instructors should be trained in farm management and should also be trained in live-stock management so that they can advise the farmer, if the farmer asks for advice. At the moment farmers complain that, while the instructors are excellent in their own sphere, they are not anxious to give an opinion on matters concerning farm management and live stock.
We should concentrate on growing our own feeding stuffs. We are importing far to much and very often what we import is inferior to what we produce at home. When on this matter I suggest that the Minister should give special attention to the provision of modern piggeries and should give larger grants towards such a project.
While it is important to improve production on our farms and, while it must be admitted that very good work has been done in that direction, it must be agreed that increased production will be wholly meaningless, unless we simultaneously improve our marketing and our distributing facilities. We have fallen down very badly on this marketing question. Farmers are sick and tired of being asked to increase production, only to find, when they increase production, that prices fall so much that the overall income falls also. If the farmer increases production, he does not automatically look for a higher price; he looks for a better overall income. He is entitled to that to compensate for the extra work and expense he puts into increased production. For a number of years the farmer has been advised to increase this, that and the other, to find, when he does so, that his overall income falls. When  that happens, he simply goes out of production. Unless we have a reasoned attitude in this matter we shall not make any progress.
We have, as I said, devoted a very considerable amount of money towards training personnel for increased production. Nothing like the same amount of work has been done with regard to marketing. There is no need to stress the importance of proper marketing facilities to the Minister because he has already allocated £250,000 for this purpose and there is bound to be an improvement. We must have experts in marketing methods, just as there are experts in production methods. We are competing in a very competitive world with our agricultural produce and it is vitally important that we should have experts on this type of work who will try to find markets.
The Minister mentioned in his opening speech a matter which is very sound and about which action must be taken, that is, that, as we are one of Britain's best customers, we should have some agreement whereby we will be able to sell more of our produce, such as eggs, milk and pig meat to Britain. It does not seem sensible that we should buy such an enormous amount from Britain while Britain takes comparatively little of these commodities from us. I know, of course, that Britain buys a very considerable amount of our cattle, and so on, from us, but there should be some agreement along those lines.
With regard to markets, we should concentrate to a certain extent on countries that are now obtaining their political freedom. Many countries are obtaining freedom from Britain and others from France and there is a fund of goodwill towards this country in those countries, many of which gained their political freedom by following our example. About a year ago, I understand, we lost a very good market for dried milk in India. If we had secured that market, it would have been a great help in utilising our surplus milk.
I would suggest that the Potato Marketing Board should be reorganised and that its function should be to look for markets at all times. At  present it looks for markets when there is a glut. If the board were utilised as I suggest, we would be in a position to grow and sell increased quantities of potatoes.
We should also aim at expanding vegetable and flower growing and try to get into the British market with those products. Britain imports about £30,000,000 worth of vegetables annually and our contribution to that market is infinitesimal — a few thousand pounds worth.
The small farmer should be encouraged and assisted to grow fruit. Fruit-growing could be an important sideline for the small farmer and we should concentrate on the small farmer in that regard. Again, of course, it is important to have an assured market.
At the present time, we have a certain trade in fat cattle and lambs with the countries which are about to join the Free Trade Area. This matter will need very serious study. We cannot afford to stay out of the Free Trade Area. There is no doubt about that but, at the moment, we are inclined to consider the question from the point of view that most of the countries which are about to join are mainly industrial countries. But although they are industrial countries, they have an agricultural surplus similar to our agricultural surplus, and we must compete with those countries in that produce. In order to do that, we must gear our agricultural system to suit that type of market.
There is no need for me to stress the importance of lime. It is estimated that our soil needs about 20,000,000 tons to bring it up to the necessary standard. That is another matter that the Minister should investigate.
Where possible, we should encourage factories to use native agricultural produce as raw material. It is becoming obvious that where we have to import the main part of the raw material for factories, we are adding very little to the production drive and we are unable to compete successfully with the mass production of similar articles in large industrial countries. It is worth remembering that before 1800, during the time of Grattan's Parliament, this country had a very great reputation  industrially and was able to compete with Britain and continental countries in continental markets simply because the factories used native raw materials, such as wool, flax, and so on.
I should like to join with those Deputies who wished the Minister the best of luck in his Department. From my knowledge of the Minister, I have no doubt he will make an excellent job of agriculture. I concur in what Deputy Kitt said, that if the Minister makes as good a Minister for Agriculture as he was a Minister for Education, agriculture will flourish.
Mr. Hughes: I am afraid Deputy Faulkner has not been very consistent. He started off by saying that farmers should produce more for patriotic reasons. I am afraid there are not very many such farmers in the country. He went on from there to point out that the problem with which the farmer is often faced is the problem of over-production. Surely Deputy Faulkner does not expect the farmers to produce more for patriotic reasons, only to find that there is over-production. I am afraid there are no farmers patriotic enough to produce more, only to find that the market is disappearing. That is the position that we have seen in some respects.
Mr. Faulkner: What I did say was that the outlook of the patriotic farmer to-day would be to improve the fertility of his land and not to look for anything from it that would impoverish it for future generations. I think that would be a patriotic outlook.
Mr. Hughes: Does Deputy Faulkner think that nobody but patriotic farmers use those methods? I think that any good farmer to-day knows from a business point of view that it is most necessary to maintain the fertility of his land. He does so, not from any patriotic reason, but because he is running his farm as a business. His whole lifeline depends on the fertility of his farm. If he cashes in on the fertility — and he can easily do so — he may have one or two very good years but after that he will find a very serious reaction.
I am quite in agreement with Deputy Faulkner when he says that the problem facing the farmer is over-production, that when you have increased production you get over-production in certain lines. That has been one of the very serious problems facing our farmers down through the years. It is not a recent complaint. It has been happening throughout the history of the country. When we go into any particular line and increase production, the next thing we find is that over-production takes place and the price collapses. That is the one thing which prevents our getting increased production. The average farmer is inclined to be conservative and is afraid to gamble on these things.
At present, such a situation is inclined to arise in regard to milk and wheat. There is a responsibility on the Minister to come out and make some statement regarding those two articles. They play a big part in our economy to-day. The wheat crop has become a very important cash crop for the tillage farmer, and of course milk is the thing in the dairy districts. The farmers in those areas are worried  about what the future holds for them. It is bad policy — I am not saying this for any political reason whatever — to wait until something happens and the crisis develops. The farmer is entitled to know in advance what is coming and he should get some indication as far as policy is concerned.
Regarding milk, the cut in the butter subsidy has brought about a substantial reduction in home production. There is no question about that. I am not blaming the Minister for that. That is something for which the Minister for Finance is responsible. The Minister for Agriculture was not in office when that happened. It is having a very serious effect on an existing problem. You will have more butter to export and it costs a lot of money to sell this butter on the only market we have, the British market. Whether we can continue to do that indefinitely I do not know.
People not familiar with the problems of agriculture, such as the city man, are inclined to say the farmers of this country must be no good and to ask why they are not able to compete with Denmark and the other countries supplying butter to the British market. If you look back over the history of the country you will realise what has happened. As far as dairying and other agricultural lines are concerned, we got a very bad start. We got our freedom in 1922 and we had a great deal of trouble down the years. There was no stability and no go-ahead.
I say that the first attempt to get stability and to get money invested in agriculture here began in 1948. Since then we have made progress, very good progress. Those other people with whom we have to compete in the sale of butter were all those years, from 1922 to 1948, ahead of us. It was a great start. Back in those years they were using the techniques we are developing to-day——
Mr. Hughes: Yes. What development in agriculture had we during those years? From 1922 until 1932 we had the Civil War. Agriculture did not progress during those years. From 1932 to 1936 we had the economic war. Anyone who lived  through that knows what development took place in agriculture in those years. I happened to be farming myself at that time and I know the progress made. At that time farmers were glad to get rid of land because it was so valueless. When some little stability came in 1938, we had the second World War. We had no fertilisers and we were faced with several other problems because of the war.
I say that it was after the second World War we made any progress in agriculture and I mention the year 1948. I do not do so for any political reasons. I am just saying that was about the time that development began. The Minister and the House must accept that. The land reclamation scheme, the ground limestone scheme and soil testing started at that time. All those schemes have paid big dividends and have played a big part in our increased production. Previous to that we had none of them.
At present we have the Minister for Lands going around the country speaking about increasing agricultural production. He is quite right in urging that, but he has said that the trouble here is that there has been no investment in the land. The Government of which he is a member were in office for 19 years and during that time they put no money into the land of this country. The money has been put in since then.
Milk is certainly a problem. I would appeal to the Minister to give some hope to the creamery milk suppliers. They are worried about what the future holds and I think they are entitled to get some guidance. The same thing applies to wheat. I come from a wheat-growing area myself and I was shocked to hear the Minister for Finance state in his Budget statement or during the Budget debate that we had over-production in wheat. There is a problem there which the Minister for Agriculture must face and fight.
There has been a great deal of discussion here as to whether we can produce our total requirements of wheat and whether we can produce an all-Irish loaf. Some tests and experiments have been carried out. Those people now state that a 100 per cent.  Irish loaf is a success. I am afraid the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, is not inclined to accept that. The Minister for Industry and Commerce plays a big part in the decision, and I think the Minister for Agriculture will have to fight strongly on this issue. I am quite sure he is well fitted to do that.
Personally, I believe we should aim at producing all our own wheat requirements. If it is feasible, it should be done. The market for agricultural produce is becoming more difficult every year. Competition is becoming more serious and we should not import anything we can produce ourselves.
I would fully agree with arrangements for getting over the problem of importing wheat. We should produce all our own wheat here and that is something upon which we should have a decision. That decision should not have to wait until next autumn or coming round to sowing time. I am not going to go into the political issues of wheat growing, or into what has taken place as regards the price, or into what was promised in regard to the price if the Fianna Fáil Party were returned to office. That is not going to help in this debate in which I think our aim should be to give all the help and all the advice we can, because sometimes that can be very valuable. Different Deputies have different views and they can often be very useful. This idea of trying to gain political kudos is of no advantage.
This harvest, I believe, we will also have a problem in regard to feeding barley. There is no doubt that there is a very big increase in the production of feeding barley this year and it is going to be a problem to handle that. It is a very good thing to see this increased acreage under barley, and, possibly after this year, we can arrange to have no imports of coarse grain at all. There is the danger of a problem arising during the coming harvest period because each year we are changing over more and more to the use of combine harvesters and practically all barley is put on the market at the same time. The growers cannot hold over this grain. There was an  arrangement last year, and I understand there is an arrangement this year, whereby an undertaking was given by the people in the trade to give a price of £2 a barrel for barley. Where you have a substantial increase in acreage, this can lead to great difficulties, because any man in the trade can come along, if he is getting too much barley, and say that he does not want any more.
If that arises throughout the grain growing districts, it will be a very serious problem. The grain will have been harvested, the bulk of it by combine, and it will have to be dried and stored. The average grower is not in a position, either from the financial point of view or from the point of view of storage, to hold that grain and I would appeal to the Minister to look into that matter now and satisfy himself that the position, as far as handling goes, is safe for this harvest. It is a move in the right direction to have this increased barley production. We have been importing quite a lot of maize, and even of barley, and we are arriving this year at the position where, by reason of the increased acreage under barley, we may not require to import any. It would be a very bad thing and would have the effect of putting people out of production, in the tillage line, if they met a serious setback in regard to the marketing of barley.
Regarding agricultural policy generally, things are moving so fast in the world to-day that we should aim at giving a good deal of thought to what we should produce. We have found that various items which we have been producing are being over-produced and there are other countries in a much more serious position than we are in that respect. Places like Denmark, who were producing bacon, butter and dairy produce, find that they are in a very serious position because there has been a very big drop in prices, due to keen competition. We happen to be in the fortunate position that our main export is live stock. The cattle trade has been very good over the past year. It suffered a setback about 18 months ago, and has revived again; but we  will still have to do a good deal of planning and give the matter a good deal of thought.
There is a sum in the Budget this year of £250,000 for marketing. I would like some statement from the Minister as to how it is proposed to spend that money. Is it to be spent on finding new markets, or is it for the purpose of developing the proper marketing of our live stock in existing markets and trying to improve those markets? There is quite a lot of scope for improvement in that direction and we have not developed there to the extent we should have because no guidance was afforded. We have had very little guidance from the Department in regard to live-stock markets. A good deal could be done in that regard.
If the money is to be spent on those lines, I welcome it, but I hope that it will not be a case of having this figure down in the Estimate and then hearing no more about it. I hope that the Minister will see that the money is spent wisely.
Mr. Hughes: Is there any danger that it will not be spent at all? As far as increased production is concerned, there is great scope for the improvement of our grasslands. Our tillage areas are very up-to-date and we are getting as high yields from them as any of the other countries with which we have to compete, but our grasslands have not kept pace with development. I think we have fallen down there. Very few farmers give sufficient thought or care to the production of grass and, except for a very progressive man, most of them look on grass as something that is there all the time.
The man who has paid attention to his grass, has put fertiliser on it and perhaps re-seeded it and has not tried to grow grass where there was no possibility of growing it, has made progress, and has his grasslands yielding double or treble what the grasslands which received no attention are now yielding. The Minister could give serious thought to that matter and see if some scheme could be devised to encourage the development of our  grasslands. If one visits some of our best land, one will be very disappointed with the type of grass grown on it. I have seen some lands which had the name of being wonderful, but I have been very disappointed when I saw them. In a part of the country, however, that might not be nearly as fertile, there will be grass coming at the end of March and beginning of April, while some of the glorious lands of Meath will be white and, when it does come, it will be covered all over with buttercups.
Mr. Hughes: Maybe that was the old idea and it may have been true. There is also the problem of the small farmer. The number of smallholdings is very considerable and the definition of a small farmer may mean a man who is not in a position to keep up with progress. The small farmers are, however, the backbone of Irish agriculture, and they make up the greater number of farmers. Because the small farmer has not sufficient capital, he cannot invest in mechanisation, though he sees the big farmer beside him able to go ahead with mechanisation. The small farmer has still to harvest grain with a couple of horses and, as a result, his production drops. The bigger farmer has doubled production with mechanisation and, by reason of financial difficulties, the small farmer has not made the same progress.
The overall picture is reasonably good, but it would be much better if there were some way of helping the small farmer. He needs help to mechanise and to fertilise his land, and also to alter the type of economy he carries on. Generally, he is inclined to copy the bigger farmer. He may have a few acres of grain; he may produce some stock; and, possibly, in the dairying districts, may go in for the production of milk. That is where the mistake is. It would be far better if he became a specialist in some branch of agriculture. His farm would be more economically run and he would get a better return from it.
Some years ago, the small farmer  had his own labour, but in recent years that is not the case. His family, when they grow up, have to leave the land because his income does not enable them to stay on it, and the inducement is to go across to England to seek other employment there. The result is that the production of the small farmer has generally dropped. It is very easy to get up and talk about it here, but it is not easy to find the solution. The Minister has a big staff. Maybe some of them are not working too hard and perhaps they could start thinking in that direction to relieve the small farmer's problems. The small farmer's problem is one of the big problems as far as increased production is concerned, because he plays a big part in the central production scheme.
The land reclamation scheme has been very successful and has done useful work. It is gratifying to see land that was practically valueless in different parts of the country going back into grass and tillage again. It was a very good scheme for the farmer and for the nation.
I conclude by wishing the Minister every success in the office of Minister for Agriculture, and I hope that agricultural production will continue to increase as the whole wealth of the nation depends on increasing production. While the Minister plays a vital part in the direction of policy, the farmers have to do the producing. I would ask the Minister to let us have some indication as to the future of milk production and of wheat growing. It is a matter in which the farmers engaged in those two branches of agriculture are interested and they are entitled to know from the Minister what their prospects are in these spheres.
Mr. Moher: In the early part of the speech made by Deputy Hughes, I thought we were going to have a rehash of the economic war. He was very much on the plane of somebody who said something, was asked to withdraw it and then added: “I cannot unsay it.”
Mr. Moher: I was amused when I heard Deputy Wycherley refer to the Shorthorn as the native Irish cow. I did interject and say that if she had any claims to Irish nationality, it was only as a naturalised citizen. If we were to try to discover what is the native Irish cow, I am afraid we would have a difficult job. I do know that Berkeley, when he wrote 200 years ago, did refer to our wonderful black cattle and I have yet to find a black Shorthorn. I am not going to go into the merits or demerits of any breed. I spent many hours in this House trying to lay the ghost of the native Irish Shorthorn. I produced a considerable amount of comparative data which, I think, was not produced in this House until I assembled it here in previous debates, and I will not now weary the House by repeating the comparative facts and figures which I have already given.
We are all interested in a foundation stock, but there is no compulsion whatever. We are quite free in that regard. Most of the cattle-breeding stations house bulls of various breeds, Shorthorn, Friesian, Hereford and Aberdeen-Angus. That is probably a revolution when we think back to what the position was here 15 or 20 years ago. The figures can bear me out that there has been a substantial increase in the number of Friesian cows in the country. I once warned a previous Minister for Agriculture that butter would become in a short time a radioactive substance. I think, as far as the present Minister and his Department are concerned, they now regard butter as something that is radioactive.
What I am concerned about, no matter what the foundation stock may be, is that we produce the right type of store, the type of store acceptable to our main customers, the British. In Britain, for the past eight or ten years there has been considerable development in animal reseach. My case is that, with the enormous amount of research work being done, not alone in dairying but in beef, probably within the next ten years we shall face a very substantial increase in the home output of beef in Great Britain. While  the slope of the curve is not now very steep, I believe the amount of research work which they have been doing will lead to a considerable increase in the home production of beef, with a consequent diminution in the amount of beef that will be imported into that country.
I think our beef economy is an insane one. Deputy Hughes referred to grass. Grass is the cheapest form of food for the production of beef, but a very strange development is apparent here. Side by side with tillage goes the development of an improved grass husbandry. The plough and an improvement in grass go side by side. We know that in the flatlands and the grazing lands that development does not take place. We also know, and that is where I say our beef economy is insane, that if the trends which I believe are about to take place in England occur within the next five or ten years, we have got to readjust our entire beef economy. As it now exists, we unload on the British market almost the bulk of our fresh beef at a time when the British home producer is pouring beef cattle into the market. If we are to develop any kind of a sane beef economy, we must go in, if we are to look for stability, during the off-season. That will entail a revolution in our present methods. It will entail on the flatlands a proper grass husbandry and a preservation and ensiling of grass for the production of beef in the off-season.
I know there are many prejudices. Prejudices existed until recently and probably among some prominent people associated with cattle production in this country. How often have we had it parroted by various Ministers for Agriculture that the dual-purpose Shorthorn is the best in the world? We had it echoed here by Deputy Wycherley.
Last year, with the Cork County Committee of Agriculture, I visited the departmental farm at Darrara, Clonakilty, West Cork. I saw something so striking there that one needed no figures to demonstrate the very marked difference between two sets of store cattle. The experiment was started by Dr. Gannon. He went out  and bought Friesian bull calves. Side by side, he put out — and on the same plan of nutrition — the output of the herd at Clonakilty. When we visited the farm at Clonakilty, side by side were calves which were of the same weight or approximately the same weight at birth, which were given the same treatment in the weaning stage and which were, I believe, then around 13 months old. The carcase weight and development there was staggering. I want the Minister to refer to the final result of that experiment. The Friesian bullocks were in carcase weight and in every way far ahead of the Shorthorn bullocks grazing side by side, to which the same treatment in the way of nutrition and feeding had been given.
Mr. Moher: Probably at that stage, these animals were about to be moved to another departmental farm for finishing. If the figures are available, I should like the Minister to give them to us for the purpose of comparison. There is a wealth of data available on the comparative beefing qualities of various crosses and various breeds. On one occasion during a debate on an Estimate for the Department of Agriculture, I gave those figures. The figures were assembled at an animal research station in England. The figures were so striking that a number of Deputies refused to accept them.
When we were out in the field in Clonakilty amongst the cattle on that occasion, one member of the committee said: “Do not publish the figures. They will ruin the native breed.” That is the kind of rot and prejudice that has gone on here. What we want is objective information. We do not want propaganda for one breed as against another. Our dairying economy is such that our beef economy is dependent on it. The number of store cattle which we produce and the number of beef cattle which we export will have a direct relation to the number of cows we carry in the national herd. What we want to decide and make out and do is to place facts and figures in an intelligent way before the people and  let them decide what they can best do — not to try to boost one breed as against another, not to try to wrap the green flag around what they call the native Irish Shorthorn, despite the fact that he is steeped in good Scotch blood. I will not go any further in regard to that now.
I am sure every Deputy who has an interest in our agricultural economy and an interest in farming is worried and upset about the trend of things There are people who do not as a rule know what they are talking about and whenever we have a crisis or a near-crisis, they scream for increased agricultural production. Now we know what has happened. We had an increased output in eggs and in poultry. We were hoping that the British market would be there for our poultry and our egg products. Now we find that the British themselves have become an egg-exporting country. We know the catastrophe which overtook the poultry producers last Christmas. The farmers' wives bought very few fur coats out of the price they got for turkeys last year.
We must look to the main market and see what is happening there. As long as the British continue to spend something in the region of £300,000,000 in subsidies on their home production, so long will you have spectacular increases in all forms of British production. We might say that that enormous expenditure is a tariff against the export of Irish produce to that country.
While we might like to score off the Minister, we must all sympathise with him in the problems which face him. He has a surplus of a certain form of produce which it is hard to sell. That was bound to occur. We cannot blame the farmers for that. We will have an enormous surplus of butter this year. We cannot blame the dairy farmers in the South. It was something which was bound to occur. As everyone is aware, we had reached the appalling low level of a national milk average of 400 gallons per cow. Now, with improvement in breeding, through the introduction of artificial insemination and with the introduction of better bulls and a better form of grass husbandry, we are moving up. Our  average per cow is slowly going up. With a favourable grass season, that accounts for the surplus of butter which we have.
When we began to move upwards from that very low level of output we were bound to have a problem. Because we are not yet — nor will we be for a considerable time — at the level of output per cow of the people against whom we must compete, that is the problem which we have to face. Do not blame the dairy farmer. There is a much more intelligent approach. Farmers now are inclined to eliminate low yielding cows. They are inclined to switch from scrub Shorthorns and introduce crosses from milking breeds. In my belief there is a slow upward trend in the output per cow.
The Department of Agriculture and the presiding Minister will have a serious problem until our farmers reach the stage when they are at a competitive level in output per cow per acre per man with the people against whom they have to sell. Let us not get away from that fact. We can go back and blame the dairy farmers in the South, but we know and are well aware of what went on. We know that the Livestock Breeding Act was a big factor in the present milk yields. We know what happened. Bulls were brought to the crossroads and unfortunately they are still being brought there. They were brought to the fair green and they were passed, not on any milk potential, but purely on contour. That, repeated since 1926, gave us not a milk Shorthorn or a dairy Shorthorn but a beef Shorthorn.
We know that the Department of Agriculture for a long time—and I do not know whether they continue to do so — have been introducing Scotch beef Shorthorn bulls into this country. I have said over and over again that the greatest crime committed against the dairyman in the South has been the introduction of these Scotch beef bulls, without controlling the movement of their progeny into the dairying areas. I said here before that the finest looking cows, the progeny of these bulls, would milk about as much as an  Angora goat. That is the problem we have to face.
There is no use in someone saying: “Why export butter to the foreigner at a cheaper rate than we charge our own people?” Our butter consumption per head of the population is the second highest in the world. The Danes are much bigger butter producers than we are, but they are also much higher consumers of margarine—and let no one suggest that in this dairying country I want our farmers to abandon the consumption of cow butter and switch to margarine.
It is a funny thing — and I think the Minister should give this some examination — that there are about 14 different blends of margarine now being produced. It is unfair to the dairy farmer and to the dairy industry that we have on sale now margarine blended with cow butter — in other words, a product produced by the dairying industry is being used to sell a product competing against the sale of butter. I believe there is on sale margarine which has a cow butter blend of 10 per cent.
Let us take the trends all over the world. The New Zealanders at the moment are saying: “We will challenge the production of margarine; we will challenge it with cow butter and we will drive margarine off the tables of the consumers in favour of cow butter at a competitive price.” That will give some idea as to how trends are moving in those highly developed dairying countries. Despite the fact that there is some progress here, remember that the leeway to be made up is staggering. We have this continued problem of the interim period between our low output per cow per acre per man and the time when we shall reach a competitive level with our competitors in the British market.
I want to say a few words about trends in dairying production as far as this country is concerned. I have said over and over again that if you fail to compete in one milk product you are out for the whole lot; if you cannot compete as a butter producer, you are out as a competitor in any milk product. Let us examine the position as it has been here since the war.  Everyone will remember we were not able to produce our own requirements in butter during the war. Immediately after the war we went in for the sale of cheese. When normal competition returned, our creameries had to gather up their impedimenta and clear out. They could not face competition in cheese.
We went in for a short time for milk powder and we had to come out again. Within the past two or three years we went in for chocolate crumb. A considerable amount of capital and energy was wasted by our dairying industry in the development of chocolate crumb. We remained in for two or three years but we are now virtually pushed out of that market again. There was considerable investment in plant, machinery and buildings. Now what do we find? We find that the people who were the main producers of chocolate crumb have now abandoned it and we have a switch again and machinery worth thousands of pounds, which was used heretofore for the manufacture of chocolate crumb, is now being thrown on the scrap heap. Hundreds and thousands of pounds are at the moment being invested in the production of spray powder.
When we went in for cheese, at least it relieved our butter problem. When we went in for chocolate crumb, which is made up of whole milk, it relieved our butter problem also but if there is to be development in spray powder to the abandonment of those two forms of production, chocolate crumb and cheese, we will aggravate the butter problem, because spray powder is made exclusively from skim milk.
This business of popping in and out and this enormous waste of energy and capital by the dairying industry demand close examination. I am rather surprised that, when that development was about to take place, the Department of Agriculture did not go to the creameries concerned and try to find out what sum of money would keep them in competition in that particular product. I know that the sum would be far less than it would be for butter but you have this hopping in and out and the underlying cause is the fact that if you cannot compete in one  product you are out for the whole lot.
I do not want to speculate on how long the creameries which are now expending hundreds and thousands of pounds on the installation of plant for the manufacture of spray powder are going to remain in the British market but I hazard a guess. Two years before the chocolate crumb business collapsed I had been warning what was about to take place. My warning went unheeded. I am afraid that this development will be only a short-term one also. I sincerely hope that the creameries now engaged on this switch will be able to recoup the capital they have invested before they are again forced out.
These are the trends which I want to mention in relation to the dairying industry. The problem is not a simple one. It is a complex one and the underlying cause is that movement from our low production upwards, that interim, however long it is going to take, until we reach the position in which we are competitive with the main exporting countries. So much for dairying and so much as a passing reference to beef and beef production. I already spoke this morning on the problem of the elimination of bovine tuberculosis.
I now come to the very vexed question of barley and the price of barley. I want to discuss this matter objectively. Coming from a county that produces 50 per cent. of our total out put in barley, if I wanted to be on a good political wicket I would talk about an increase in the price of barley but I am not going to do that. There is a controversy raging in the grain-growing areas. We have the most lopsided economy in that direction of any country in the world because it is a funny thing that the grain-growing areas are not the pig-producing areas. Beet, wheat and barley are described in certain areas as cash crops but they are only the primary products and the producers of barley are only the primary producers.
You cannot think of barley without thinking of pigs, because the finished product in the production of barley is the pig. If we had a sane and sensible economy in that direction, the bulk of the pigs would be produced in the  areas where the barley is produced. I could not for a minute argue that my constituency is a pig-producing constituency. It is a big grain-producing constituency and a big barley-producing constituency, and we have part of the Minister's constituency thrown in with my constituency of East Cork, producing 50 per cent. of the total output in barley. If I wanted to be on a good political wicket, I would advocate, of course, an increase in the price of barley, but I do not want to use this House for that purpose.
I want to try to contribute something constructive. We are well aware of the violent clash of interests between the producers of barley and the producers of pigs. In my constituency of East Cork, where barley is produced, it would be a good political wicket to advocate an increased price for barley, but in the constituency of West Cork, which is the main pig-producing constituency in the South, they do not produce barley. If you want to produce barley and if you do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, you will have to fix the price of barley at a figure that will give to the pig feeders a reasonable profit, because if you increase the price of barley for the barley producer to a ceiling figure, you will drive the pig producer out of production and there will be nothing to consume the barley, and then bang goes the barley with the pig as well.
The very vexed question is to get a price that will give the barley producer a fair return and at the same time leave to the pig producer a reasonable profit. People who talk about ceiling prices for barley without considering the pig feeder are reckless and are not realists. If they were sensible, they would try to figure out what would be a reasonable price which would give them a reasonable return and at the same time leave something for the pig producer. We have reached a stage in this country in barley production where we can compare favourably with any producers elsewhere.
The risks of barley production are not so great. We may meet a bad season but with machinery, new techniques and short strawed varieties of  barley the production of barley is a simple job. Very high yields per acre can be obtained and the crop is a remunerative one. Let us turn to the other side. The production of pigs is not nearly so simple a job. Pig production is a highly-skilled occupation. It is a job that requires thorough knowledge. There are many more hazards attached to pig producing than to the production of barley. There is no comparison between the risks taken by the producers of, say, 200 pigs and the risks taken in the growing of ten to 15 acres of barley.
The Minister and the Department, however, are being continually assailed to fix a price for barley. You must remember that when you fix a price for barley, you must go the whole road. If you give the farmer a price of, say, 40/- or 43/- per barrel for his barley, you must follow that action right along and include the pig producer who will then be entitled to a fixed price for his pig. The problem is one to which I referred earlier — the pigs being produced in non-barley growing areas. The barley is produced in other areas as a cash crop and transported to the pig-producing areas.
Last season, a price was fixed for barley. The cost of transport and of storage mounted up until, towards the end of the year, the price of barley had rocketed to a height that made it uneconomic as pig feed. I have always advocated that we should try, as far as possible, to locate our barley-growing areas near our pig-producing districts. There are certain counties in the North, along the Border, which do not produce barley. It would be lunacy to try to transport barley from the southern growing areas to, say, Louth. The whole problem requires the most minute examination.
One farmer may raise a pig on 8½ cwts. of barley, while another might require more. We must ensure that a fair return is given to the pig producer, because, if you kill pig production, you also kill barley growing. In passing, I spoke of the hazards attached to pig production. Every Deputy is deeply concerned about the  position in regard to swine fever. I am alarmed myself that the outbreak has become so widespread. Some mistake must have been made. When the disease was discovered in the Dublin area at the beginning, I thought the area would be zoned.
Mr. Moher: But some mistake must have been made. The disease was not spread by the birds. It is now widespread, has become a very serious problem, and I hope the dislocation and inconvenience caused by the standstill Order on the movement of pigs will be of short duration. I am afraid it will be a costly business before the disease is eliminated.
There are other hazards in the pig production industry. Anybody with experience of pig raising will come up against problems of deaths from diseases, deaths from oedema and from virus pneumonia. Virus pneumonia is not a killer; it is a chronic disease. There was a hell of a row here last year about the Landrace pig. I want to say now that the Department's attitude on that subject is not a sound one. You cannot prevent the smuggling of Landrace pigs where you have a land border. We are all aware that a considerable number of Landrace pigs are produced in the Six Counties and that considerable numbers of them have been smuggled across the Border and are now thriving in the Republic. Deputy Dillon last year waxed eloquent about myxomatosis.
Mr. Moher: He said he had been advised of the danger attached to the introduction of a new virus disease. He waxed eloquent on that danger and while he was issuing that warning, Deputy Hughes' constituency, as well as every other constituency in the South, were ravaged by myxomatosis. Were it not for myxomatosis we would not be growing barley now, because the rabbit pest had begun to threaten all growth above ground. Myxomatosis has ravaged that pest. We were warned about the calamities that would overtake us as a result of that disease. I know that in some counties farmers  will, in a short time, be looking for a new and more virulent form of disease to wipe out the remainder of the rabbit pest.
Why raise the bogey of atrophic rhinitis? We talk about atrophic rhinitis being endemic in the Landrace pig. Let us examine the results of the feeding tests that have been carried out in Denmark, the home of the Landrace pig. You will find there one striking feature—the very low mortality rate between weaning and finishing. If, as we are led to believe, atrophic rhinitis was endemic in the breed, one would expect a much higher casualty rate. However, I am not concerned with that aspect of it, because I believe that the boars which have been imported from the south of Sweden were boars smuggled over the Danish-Swedish border and that we might not get anything nearly as good as the Danish Landrace pig. I believe that the Danes have reared that pig at considerable expense and they are very wise in not allowing that pig into the hands of people who might compete against them.
In any event, I do not want our Department to take a dog in the manger attitude and raise the bogey of atrophic rhinitis. That bogey was raised in England and a Swedish veterinary commission proved beyond yea or nay that atrophic rhinitis was rampant in large whites in England in areas into which no Landrace pig had been imported. If we are to have an examination of the comparative merits of the two breeds or of crosses from the breeds, let us be sensible about it. One of the things the Department cannot do is to prevent the smuggling of crosses, and maybe bad crosses, of these breeds over our land border.
We have had much discussion on the tragedy of swine fever, but let us examine the position of the more chronic disease, virus pneumonia. This disease is rampant here. If you were in any of the big pig fattening units, you would wonder what was making all the row. It is the continual coughing of pigs infected with virus pneumonia. Experiments have been carried out on pigs affected by this disease and these experiments are of  vital interest to pig feeders. Professor Beveridge, who has carried out experiments, says that it takes 24 per cent. more food and 27 days longer to bring a pig suffering from virus pneumonia to finishing weight. This should bring home the seriousness of such a disease. If you have a herd of pigs infected with virus pneumonia and it takes 27 days longer and 24 per cent. more food than normally, then surely you will lose and be put out of business. Our veterinary department should try to make some estimate of the extent of this disease and our veterinary research people should try to find some vaccine that will prevent it.
We have been told, and probably it is true, that there is in Great Britain a market for bacon and pork products of something in the region of £80,000,000. Being a dairying country, and pigs being a by-product of dairying, we should be in that market in a much bigger way than we are. I referred a while ago to the matter of cash crops. Our pig economy is based mainly on small farms and on poor holdings such as those west of the Shannon. Parts of West Cork are as poor as you will get anywhere, but these people did try to develop an economy which would ensure their survival. Poultry and pig production are part of that economy.
Pigs are produced on small holdings, but there is a significant change in the pattern of pig production in Ireland. Times have improved generally, so far as Irish agriculture is concerned. The pattern of Irish agriculture is more varied. Farmers can now have a cash crop of wheat, beet or barley and they have swung away from pig production. There is also a change in the general pattern of the employment of labour. Gone are the days when the servant girl, as she was then known, wrapped herself in a canvas bag, put on a pair of hobnailed boots, went out to the boiler house, boiled the potatoes and fed the pigs. Oftentimes the money was wanted for the June rent or the December rent.
Mr. Moher: ——is now probably in the uniform of a nurse in one of our hospitals. Are we not very glad that at last conditions have improved and that the chasm which existed between the rich and the poor has been considerably narrowed? If we are to develop pig production, particularly in dairying areas, as a by-product of skim-milk, we will have to organise it on the basis of the pig-fattening units. If the co-operative society is the buyer of the barley, I can see no reason why the co-operative society should not be the producer of the pig. That does not mean that I want the farmer in the hinterland to abandon pig production. He can serve a very useful purpose in the production of store pigs for the fattening units.
The difference between profit and loss in pig production, as anybody who has anything to do with the business is aware, is a knowledge of the business and an attention to detail. The margin of profit is small. If you have a good knowledge of pig husbandry, of feeding, of such things as the elimination of parasites, and a knowledge sufficient to enable you to identify the common diseases of pigs, then you might make a success of the job. If you do not know the job, keep out of it. It is a very risky one.
Apart from the problem of pig production, there is also the very big problem of marketing the finished product. I was in England last harvest and one of the things that struck me was the complete absence of any reasonable marketing system for our farm produce there. The Danes, through the Danish Wholesale Company, have something like 42 huge selling centres for Danish farm produce, either in or adjacent to the big built-up areas in England. They also have on English soil two huge smoking plants. Bacon is something that you can store only green. It deteriorates if you  put it into cold storage when smoked. There is a selling organisation there capable of directing the smoking of the bacon and the transporting of the product to the smallest and remotest villages in England, Scotland and Wales.
That is the kind of competition we have to face. We have no comparable selling organisation. I would advise the Minister to examine the whole problem and our whole marketing setup there. When I made inquiries over there as to the figures of bacon supplied to the retail trade in England, for a particular week, I was stunned and staggered. The Danish director told me that for the previous week, they had retailed in the British market 38,000 tons of bacon. The British home producer had retailed 3,000 tons and down along the scale we found finally, second or third last near the bottom of the list, the Irish Republic, with 260 tons.
How can you create a taste for a product when you can go into that market only in such a small way? How can you create a market for a product which you can supply only in such a small quantity on a seasonal basis? These people are able to keep their products on the retail counters and on the tables of the British consumers for the full 12 months. Until we are able to increase our output in any particular farm product, the best thing we can do is to select an area and try to keep that area supplied and in that way create a market and taste for our pro duct and as we extend production we can expand that area.
We must remember that we have an advantage over any foreigner in Great Britain because, unfortunately, we have our own people over there to eat our products. Other countries are not in that position. A very big section of our people are in Britain and I am sure that in the largely Irish quarters such as Wandsworth, Arlington Road and Camden Town there are enough Irish to consume far in excess of anything we can export in the line of bacon, cheese or milk products. As we increase out output, we can extend the area. We cannot do that with the  present marketing system because the agents or wholesalers who handle our products over there will sell to-day in the area which is most advantageous to them and in a month's time will switch to another area, if it suits them. There is no advantage in increasing our output, if we have not got a proper market system to sell it on the other side.
Another thing I noticed while going around and making comparisons was that the Danes were “tops.” The continuity of Danish products was assured to the British consumer and the British consumer had no option but to acquire a taste for Danish butter, bacon and other farm produce. When I got the price lists for bacon for a particular week, I saw that the Irish grade A bacon was making 6/- a cwt. less than Danish grade B. That gives one an idea of what we are up against, notwithstanding all the talk we hear about Irish grade A bacon. That was the position during that week I spent there.
We must first of all consider the type of pig we are producing, and breeding is a factor in the production of the right type of pig. Feeding also enters into the picture. Have we been doing that? We are now considering a pig-testing station for the Munster Institute in Cork, but the Danes opened the first pig-testing station in 1906. That gives an idea of the leeway we have to make up. The same sort of thing applies in relation to the selection of boars for breeding as in the case of bulls for milk production. I say it is rot and nonsense to think that you can select a bull at a beauty contest—that is what they are—at the crossroads, that will ensure a given gallonage of milk. That bull must be tested before we know. Neither can you produce a boar from the same type of beauty contest. Visual selection is worth nothing; the progeny of any boar must be examined on the slaughter dock before judgment can be soundly made.
A very neat little ring has developed here around the production of the large white boar and as far as I know most of the selection is visual, with very much of the beauty contest element  about it, and we have done very little about getting down to the job as it should be done.
There are people in this country who are always ready to scalp the farmer and to talk a lot of nonsense, but none of them will ever examine our position or give serious thought to it until we have a balance of payments problem. Then they howl at the farmers to produce more. As far as a market for agricultural produce is concerned, we seem to be the only section of the community that is expected to go into a market that has become more and more competitive and we are expected to sell our produce on a competitive basis.
I would remind those who are so quick to criticise the farmer that the bulk of our exportable produce comes off the farm in one form or another. The bulk of the raw materials, the machinery and, in many instances, the technical personnel and the replacements in industry must be paid for by the produce of Irish farms. Farming is the basis of our whole economy and no one, who has any sense of proportion, will deny that everything we have comes from God's brown earth. I often wonder if some of those who are so critical of our alleged failure ever consider the price impact of other industries on agriculture.
To a very great extent Irish agriculture carries on its back non-competitive industry. The time has come when there must be a minute and serious examination into some of the industries which are battening to-day on Irish agriculture. The time has come when somebody must tell these people to get out from behind the tariff barrier. Some of them have sheltered behind that barrier for the last 20 years. Once an industry is established, the pattern seems to be that if the tariff is reduced the first reaction is for that industry to give notice to 50 or 100 workers. Then the Minister for Industry and Commerce is immediately in a position in which he finds himself blackmailed.
Many of these industries have been long enough in existence to make some attempt at competition. They impact  seriously on the cost structure of Irish agriculture. I could name many simple everyday implements in use in the average house and in the farm which are only a spurious imitation of the genuine article. If we have given these people protection for 15 or 20 years the time has come when there must be a very serious examination into the output of these industries on the basis of competitive price and quality.
Can we, as an agricultural community, go on carrying the burden of home-protected industries? It is about time someone told these people to export at least a sufficient quantity of their finished products to pay for the machinery and raw material they require. They must not continue to pack-mule Irish agriculture, and if the present position is allowed to continue we shall live for ever in the shadow of a balance of payments problem because so long as our main market is subsidised to the tune of £300,000,000-odd so long shall we be faced with a tariff against the export of Irish products. That is what we are up against. Any industrial development from now on must be based on export. Otherwise we will live in the shadow of a permanent balance of payments problem.
Last year we had a very serious agitation here directed against the Minister for Agriculture, mainly by those people who buy cream for their cats. That agitation related to the export of horses and the alleged cruelty associated with that export. I am one of those who would at no time and under no circumstances condone wanton cruelty. I am convinced that there were cases of cruelty, but I wish that those people who concentrated exclusively on the export of horses had also turned their attention to the export of cattle. We did not have morbid brochures and photographs of cattle dead on deck or on the quays of importing countries. Every Deputy found in his letter-rack a brochure on the export of horses. One has a certain sympathy with people who try to prevent wanton cruelty but turning the matter into a public agitation against the Minister for Agriculture of the day is something of which I could not approve.
 With relation to the elimination of the horse, has it ever struck upon anyone what the consequences may be? In the area from which I come one wonders what has happened. Horses are being ruthlessly eliminated. The threat of another war was brought home to us pretty forcibly during the Suez crisis and, if we have another war, our dependence on the importation of oil and petrol will be brought home even more forcibly. What would be the position to-morrow if we had another Suez crisis? Our horse population has almost disappeared. We have not now a sufficient number of horses to provide us with the food we require. At a serious juncture of our history from 1939 onwards we had enough horses and cattle to produce from the land our total requirements in both human and animal food.
To-day the horse has disappeared. He has been completely eliminated from our farming economy and the plough and other machinery with which he produced our total food requirements during the war are now on the scrapheap or covered by scutch and bent on the headlands of our small farms. Worse still, we have amongst us a generation of farmers' sons and farm workers who are incapable of handling a horse, who could not go out and stand between the handles of a plough, who can do nothing except sit on an oil-driven tractor or some other mechanically propelled vehicle. That is the parlous position in which we find ourselves and that is the most serious aspect of the elimination of our horse population.
Side by side with that elimination goes an enormous capital investment in machinery. I reckon that in ten years our farmers and contractors have invested something like £28,000,000 in farm machinery. That represents an enormous capital investment. There is the underlying problem that the replacements must come from abroad; the spare parts and the fuel oil on which they move must come from abroad. That is a big factor in aggravating our balance of payments problem.
Our system of mechanisation is lunatic. It is extremely wasteful. How  will the farmer with 60 or 70 acres, who invests £1,400 or £1,500 in complete mechanisation, recoup his capital? What is he doing? He will either convert his small farm into a dust bowl or he will abandon it and go out in cut-throat competition as a hire contractor. That is what is happening all over the country.
The tragedy is that we as a nation are rather individualistic, very slow to co-operate, and many small farms in the South are now pledged to Bow-makers and to other hire-purchase companies. The problem could have been solved if we had a sane form of the co-operative use of machinery. It is a very serious problem. The serious implications of that particular aspect of our development cannot be ignored.
Of course, I always fought from the other side of the House with the former Minister for Agriculture. We always fought and argued as to the physical volume of the increase in agricultural production. One can always get an inflated figure by selecting a low base year. The former Minister always selected the worst weather year in a century and from that he got varying increases of from 24 to 30 per cent. We should take a normal year in assessing that increase and not trick and fight or misuse statistics. We should grow up in regard to these problems.
No member of the Opposition will disagree with me when I say that when I was on the opposite side of the House I tried to be constructive in my contributions to debates. If I was critical, I was constructively critical. I did not get up to score politically over the former Minister or any member on the other side of the House. Speaking from this side of the House now, I am not afraid. If we are to have any value as debaters, we must try to be honest; we must try to put the case objectively; we must try to examine problems as they face us. We must try also to grow up politically.
It is a grand thing to come into the House and to see people on opposite sides of the House agreeing as to how best we can solve a major issue. That happened in the earlier part of the  day. We must have co-operation in this House. When it comes to the political score-off, let us wait until we go to the fair green, the chapel gate and the crossroads but when we are in this House let us not waste time; let us not be in the position of Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned. Whether they are on the Government side of the House or on the Opposition side of the House, Deputies have a duty to this country. We have a duty to the people who elected us. We have a duty to the constituencies which we represent.
I have referred to the peculiar development in farm mechanisation. I shall now pose a question for Deputies to consider and to analyse. Consider how small the physical volume of the increase in Irish agriculture has been and compare that with the enormous capital investment of roughly £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 in agricultural machinery, £20,000,000 in rural electrification and, accepting the figure of the former Minister, £12,000,000 in land reclamation. These three items represent an enormous capital investment and they cover items which should certainly give a more substantial increase in agricultural output. These three figures have been agitating my mind. Can any Deputy get up and argue that for that huge expenditure there has been any commensurate increase in agricultural output?
Mr. Moher: I have spoken at length but I cannot sit down without referring to another aspect of our economy about which we hear very little in this House. I am rather worried about certain developments which are now taking place. I refer to this only in passing. I cannot deal with the point I want to raise without a reference to the Land Commission. It has been the practice of the Land Commission to acquire certain hill lands for afforestation. I am not against the development of forests but many of the hillside lands that are acquired for afforestation carry considerable fringes of land which is capable of being reclaimed  and returned to useful agricultural production. There is a certain development in that direction.
I feel that we do not think of the development of our foothills and, indeed, our hills in terms of production, except now, for afforestation. We do not consider them from the point of view of the development of sheep carcases and wool. When one considers the developments that have taken place elsewhere, one wonders if we are travelling in the right direction. At one time in New Zealand the breeding sheep were kept in the hills and the lambs were returned as followers to the south and the lowlands to be fattened and turned into mutton. There have been enormous exports of mutton carcases from New Zealand. A few years ago the figure was in the region of 12,000,000 carcases. That figure has been increased in a matter of a couple of years by something like 2,000,000 carcases. With the developments now taking place, it looks as if there will be a substantial and spectacular increase in the output of mutton and wool from those hills. The Irish hills are green, so the poet wrote; but what have we been doing to develop the hills for the production of mutton and wool? We have been doing very little. We have small breeding schemes here and there, operated by county committees of agriculture. We have a very big market at our door for the export of carcase mutton, and it is strange that very little has been done to avail of it. Very little has been done in the primary development and re-examination of what we should do to increase output on our foothills and hillsides.
New Zealand is an example. We know there have been spectacular developments there. We know of the tests they have carried out on their hills and that they have introduced to a great extent the system of aerial manuring, whereby manure is sprayed from the sky by specially developed aircraft to further the production of wool and mutton. Ten or 15 years ago, young lambs were returned to the lowlands for finishing. Now, not alone are the lambs produced on the hills, but they are also finished on the hills. That is an aspect of our economy  which invites examination and attention by the Minister.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Deputy Moher's contribution to the annual debate on agriculture always covers a wide range of agricultural topics and is always well worth listening to. He speaks in a practical manner of agriculture in the area he represents. I feel that his speech this afternoon and his speech on the debate last year were well worthy of note and well worthy of being read by those interested in agriculture.
I say that because of the important topics discussed by Deputy Moher. If I may, I want to develop what I feel is one of the most important of them. Reference was made to the fact that, when discussing agriculture, we should endeavour to keep it above Party politics. So far as agriculture is concerned Party politics has been the order of the day here since we have had native Government. I think it is most regrettable. Deputies on all sides will probably subscribe to the view that the farmer is too important a person to be the plaything of every political Party. If agriculture is of such great importance and if the farmer is to be accorded his place as the principal citizen, it is only right that every Party in the country should contribute of their best towards improving the standard of living of our people on the land and should see that agriculture is given its rightful and proper place.
For many years past it has been stated that it was with great regret that one political Party endeavoured to score off the other, using the farmers as a political dodge-ball. The first practical step to remove agriculture from Party politics was taken by the inter-Party Government, with the setting up of the Agricultural Production Council. The council consisted of representatives of the Agricultural Association of Ireland, the General Council of Committees of Agriculture, the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, Ltd., the Irish Country-women's Association, the Creamery  Milk Suppliers' Association, the Irish Sugar Beet Growers' Association, Macra na Feirme, Muintir na Tíre, the National Executive of the Irish Livestock Traders and the National Farmers' Association.
I am sure the bodies interested in that council are quite capable, through their representatives, of putting agriculture where it should be. I feel that a very genuine effort has been made in the past 12 months with regard to keeping agriculture completely out of politics. This system of one Minister for Agriculture accusing his successor, or his predecessor, as the case may be, of not doing this or that, is not in the best interests either of the agricultural economy or of the men who have to live on the land. The step that has been taken will produce sound and concrete results only in years ahead. We cannot expect good results to be achieved overnight and we will have to give it a fair trial. I feel that the organisations comprising the Agricultural Production Council will give responsible recommendations and advice to the Minister for Agriculture.
The important point is that sound judgment must be exercised by the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture in the inter-Party Government, Deputy Dillon, was one who was prepared to, and did, cooperate fully by listening to advice and where the advice was practical it was accepted and acted on. The present Minister for Agriculture has a very difficult job. It is quite easy for Deputies to criticise, quite easy for the man in the country to criticise. Usually the Minister for Agriculture is the cock-shot of every farmer, big or small, rich or poor, simple or intelligent. No Minister for Agriculture, no matter how energetic or enthusiastic he may be, will succeed 100 per cent. in satisfying all sections of the farmers. The last Minister did not do it; the Minister previous to him did not do it, and the one who will succeed the present Minister will not do it. It is not that the farmer is a difficult man to please. I suppose it is because our country is so small and that we have so many different branches of agriculture. We have to please the tillage farmer, the  dairy farmer and the farmer who raises live stock. That is not an easy task and instead of endeavouring to avail of every opportunity to criticise the Minister and make his job more difficult, Deputies would be more helpful to the State, and the community in general, if they made constructive suggestions which would enable the Minister to discharge his duties to the best of his ability and, goodness knows, his job will be hard enough even with the co-operation of everyone.
Every year the editorials of provincial newspapers, and probably of the farmers' own journal, and various magazines, endeavour to discredit the Department of Agriculture and to belittle their work and assert that as far as the farmers are concerned they are the best judges of their own business. Whilst that may be true and while we may agree with it, when Deputy Dillon was speaking in this debate, as on previous occasions, he paid tribute to the manner in which the Department of Agriculture is administered. During the term of office of the inter-Party Government, when I occupied the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, I came into very close contact with the various sections of the Department. I may say that it is only a Deputy in close contact with the administration of the Department of Agriculture who would realise the amount of hard work and the amount of sincerity which the officers of every section of the Department devote to their duties. While there may be complaints and dissatisfaction expressed that at least is not for the want of hard work on the part of those officers.
If you consider the administrative end of the Department of Agriculture, so far as speed, efficiency and service are concerned, I venture to say that it will emerge more favourably than any similar Department in any other State. That has been my experience in the short term I was connected with those responsible for carrying out the administrative end of the Department. They are practical men, men who use their judgment, common sense and intelligence in their approach to the  farmer. When we realise that that is the position we must ask ourselves what is really wrong and what is really the root cause of the flight from the land, why our people are discontented on the land, why we do not seem to be increasing production, even though we have fertilisers, rural electrification and the land rehabilitation scheme available. The land rehabilitation scheme has been responsible for the rehabilitation of nearly 1,000,000 acres of land which was either bogland or marsh land covered with rocks, stones, scrub, furze and bushes, a short few years ago.
When one asks oneself those questions, one is inclined to pause and await a reply. Is it true that our people are not working on the land as hard as they used to do? I cannot agree it is so. It was my experience that the man who was the most useful to this country was the small farmer and, when I say the small farmer, I have to admit he was what was known as the struggling farmer. He was the most important, the most hardworking, using his skill and industry from sunrise to nightfall. He was not afraid to rise early in the morning, to stand between the handles of his plough and follow the hooves of his horse from sunrise to nightfall. He was not afraid to work hard; his sons and his wife were not afraid to work hard; but still they seemed to be always struggling and it was not a question of bad management in the household.
I have always found there was very great difficulty in the small farmer starting off on a solid financial foundation. That is a problem upon which the Minister, as well as his predecessor and his predecessor's predecessor, have not focussed sufficient attention. I hope it is true that the Agricultural Production Council will probe very closely into this question of financing the small, struggling farmer. There is very little use in saying that the resources of the Agricultural Credit Corporation and of the banks are at his disposal to assist him. Everybody knows quite well, particularly in recent years, that any small farmer who goes into a bank for a loan will be met with the same welcome as if he were a  burglar going in with a six-shooter in his hands.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I do not see where the banks have been overgenerous in assisting small farmers, nor have I seen any great evidence that the Agricultural Credit Corporation is assisting them with additional capital to increase production because there are too many hard knots to be unravelled.
The scheme for the provision of short-term credit facilities for farmers was entirely defeated because of one clause inserted in it. It provided that the Land Commission annuity would have to be paid on or before the gale day. There is no man on the land in rural Ireland carrying a diary in his pocket and watching the calendar to see exactly on what day his rent will become due, so that he may have a cheque to submit to the bank or send to the Land Commission before the requisite date. The bulk of the small farmers do not pay until they get a seven days' notice. A lot of them, when they get that notice, do not bother paying until a note comes out from the sheriff's office and then they do not have any difficulty in raising the money. It is not that they do not want to pay; it is not that they have not got the money; it is just the habit of carelessness that has crept in.
Let no one say that this was not an important and valuable scheme. It defeated its own purpose because I feel the officers of the Department, and the officers of the Department of Finance who may have advised the officers of the Department of Agriculture who were responsible for putting the clauses of that scheme together, failed to take into acount the amount of carelessness existing when it comes to the question of paying the rent on the day it becomes due. No small farmer ever attempted to fail in the payment of his rent. Even though the money might not have been paid on the appointed day, or until the seven days' notice arrived, or the note from the sheriff's office, it was always paid, and in any cases where it was not paid, it was due to the lack of consideration of time.
 Every Deputy knows quite well that punctuality is a thing of the past for the small farmer. If you have an appointment with a small farmer for two o'clock, he will probably arrive at 4.30 and say he was held up. There is not the same punctuality throughout the country as prevails in the city where all must be on time. There may be a “take it easy” system devised by most of our small farmers and they cannot be blamed for that. I suppose it is the old custom of country life.
The real problem is the shortage of working capital for small farmers and there seems to be a discussion on this topic annually. Questions upon it have been raised in Parliament from time to time, but there seems to be no solution of the problem. I remember discussing the matter at great length with the former Minister for Agriculture. When I was discussing the Agricultural Credit Corporation with him, I remember that he said: “Do you know of any farmer, who is a hard worker, and who cannot get a loan?” I remember discussing the pros and cons of various cases. I remember a comment to the effect: would I trust the same farmers with loans myself?
I fail to see why there should be all this great suspicion cast over the small farmer—that he will not pay and will not meet his obligations and that he would be better without the loops of debt hanging out of him. There may have been a good deal to be said for that, but you must give the man a start. The start must come by seeing he has at his disposal working capital to assist him to break up more land, to assist him in buying more stock, and to assist him in bringing his land up to date as much as possible.
The small farmer cannot do that without the assistance of a good start. When he has sown the seeds in the ground in springtime, there is a very lean financial period between that time and the arrival of the harvest. In the meantime, there is the haymaking season, and the turf-cutting season and the farmer has to provide the necessaries of life for his family and himself all through that lean period, during the summer months. When the harvest arrives, if he has not paid for  his seeds, manures, and so on, he has to do so. The various household accounts have to be met and he will find that even when he reaps the benefit of his harvest, he will not have sufficient money left over to purchase one extra beast, or break up one extra acre in the following spring.
That is why I feel there should be a greater distribution of working capital to the small farming community. The lack of capital is hampering increased production. If you ask the struggling farmer why he does not increase production and why he does not carry more stock, he will say that his holding is too small or that there are financial difficulties in his way which will not allow him to do so. That is where, I think, at some stage the Agricultural Production Council or some other council will have to examine very closely the question of credit facilities for small farmers.
With great respect, the Agricultural Credit Corporation has not served that purpose. Whilst it may be said that there is a greater flow of money from the banks at present, what security is land with the bank to-day? The greatest security one could have should be the land and the greatest security that could be offered should be the land. Is it right that the title deeds of a holding should be held in pawn by the bank or by any other financial institution which comes to the aid of the farmer who wants to eke out an existence or to increase production?
All down through the years since this State was founded, a serious question has remained unsolved, namely, by what means will we pump money into the small farms to enable the small farmers to increase production and improve their holdings? The Minister for Agriculture is now faced with that difficulty and, so far, the remedy is as far from him as it was from any other Minister for Agriculture. However, I assure him that the problem is there. There is a shortage of funds available for the small farmers. They are the people who count. During the emergency, the small farmers produced the food for man and beast and they are  really the backbone of our country. Government policy should be completely focussed on the small farmer with a view to improving his lot. There is only one practical way in which that can be done, namely, by placing funds at his disposal.
It ought to be possible to ascertain the financial requirements of small farmers. That can easily be done in certain areas because of the operation of the parish plan. At the moment, the parish plan is operating in, I think, something like 40 parishes. A start could be made in those areas where the parish plan is in operation. The parish agent can get information, even of a confidential character, from the small farmers and can probe closely and deeply the credit requirements in his area. I feel that, apart from the many other great advantages flowing from the parish plan, the complete and entire investigation of the necessity for financial assistance to small farmers can very ably be investigated by the parish agent.
In those areas in which the parish plan has been in operation for some time, it has definitely produced good results. Only by the closest possible co-operation between the parish agent and the farmer can good results be achieved. Some committees of agriculture strongly and determinedly opposed the parish plan in various counties. They thought the officer of the Department of Agriculture would take over the work of the local agricultural instructor who was responsible to the committee of agriculture.
In counties where the parish plan is in operation, the county committees of agriculture must now realise that that is not and never was the intention. I know areas where, when the parish plan was commenced and when the parish agent was appointed by the Department, the county committee of agriculture immediately set about cutting down on its own advisory staff. I am glad the Department of Agriculture took a very serious view of any such instances brought to their attention, as the appointment by the Department of a parish agent did not mean that the committee of agriculture was in any way to reduce its advisory staff.
 There were cases of efforts by committees of agriculture to knock off an agricultural instructor or to say: “We shall give the same services, now that we have the parish agent.” The whole purpose of the parish plan and the parish agent would be defeated if the committees adopted that attitude. In the event of the parish plan being extended to other counties, if there are any county committees of agriculture who may look with disfavour on the parish plan or who may be so niggardly in their administration as to knock off an agricultural instructor because of the appointment of a parish agent, I hope it will be resisted strongly by the Minister. It was not the policy of the inter-Party Government; it was not the policy of the former Minister; and I feel it is not the policy of the present Minister that the benefits of the parish plan should in any way be diminished because of a niggardly attitude by a committee of agriculture in reducing their staff by reason of the additional services which can be rendered by the advent to a county of a parish agent.
A parish plan is in operation in part of my constituency. The area in question is one which I feel requires very special care. The parish agent in that part of County Laois has rendered valuable and important services. I venture to say that when statistics are taken by the Garda authorities in the area, it will be found that, as a result of the operation of the parish plan, there has been an increase in live stock, an improvement in the quality of the land and a general increase in production because the farmers there listened to advice.
No one is more conservative in his opinions than the farmer, and rightly so. However, when he is approached in the proper way and when his interests are discussed with him, he is always prepared to listen and learn. That is particularly so since the Young Farmers' Clubs were set up. There has been a vast change in the outlook of the farmer in so far as seeking new ways and means of improving his land and his holding is concerned. He is interested in talks on the use of ground limestone, on the importance  of the eradication of bovine tuberculosis and in the discussions that generally take place on the improvement of grasslands.
The fact that the farmer of to-day has a very broad and intelligent outlook on these topics compared with ten years ago is clear and ample evidence of the importance of the parish plan and of the valuable work which can be undertaken by parish agents in their respective districts. Is it not true to say that, in areas where the parish plan is in operation and where there was grassland of the poorest quality, where an ounce of ground limestone had not appeared, as a result of the inauguration of the parish plan and the new outlook on agriculture which the parish agent brought into the particular area, the importance of grass as a crop was made known to the small farmers in that district?
There were many in the area and in many other areas who did not realise that grass was a crop. They looked upon grass as something which just grew and was eaten by a beast and that was all there was to it. Things have changed and the change for the better has been a welcome one. They look upon grass in those areas to-day not only as a crop but as a profitable and an important crop. Our grasslands have been improved by careful attention, by the advice given by the Department and by making available sufficient quantities of ground limestone.
I recall the opening of a ground limestone plant in County Tipperary, when Deputy Fanning, who is in the House now, was present. Before 1948 there was no ground limestone in use, but because our farmers were taught its importance plant sprang up in many centres. I was present at the official opening of two of them. It was due to the lectures, the talks and commonsense reasoning that the importance of ground limestone was realised. As a result, there is a very great improvement in the grasslands of this country to-day, more particularly in the areas where parish agents have been in charge. The value of special attention to grassland was stressed as well as the fact that if live stock are to consume  grass of a nourishing nature it is important that it should be of that quality.
Results over the past few years, particularly since the advent of the parish plan, have been astounding in certain areas. Deputies who represent constituencies where the parish plan is working will realise that, from every aspect of improved conditions on the land, particularly for the small farmer, the parish plan, when in operation throughout the length and breadth of the country, will certainly assist the Department and make a difficult job easier and lighter for whatever Minister is in charge.
If the parish plan is extended to all areas—as I am sure it will be as time goes on—the work of the parish agent can be increased. By that I mean he can venture into new fields, by assisting in various additional schemes which may be commenced and by endeavouring to modernise the ideas of the older type of farmer. That has been the big job and the difficult job. On looking back over the progress which has been made, it cannot be said but that the progress has been great; it has been good and it has been steady. That has not happened without hard work and determination. I am glad to say there has been a fine spirit of co-operation in that respect between the farming community and others. Some county committees of agriculture could have done more in so far as the parish plan is concerned. However, time has proved the importance of the plan and has shown that good and beneficial results can flow from it.
Sometimes people claim that production on the land does not seem to be rising to our expectations. We see the vast sums of money which have been spent on rural electrification, which has added considerably to speed and efficiency on the land. It has added also to the cleanliness in country homesteads. We see lights now in various out-offices. We see electric grinding apparatus and other agricultural machinery using electric power. That has lightened the burden on the farmer.  It has relieved the great strain of unnecessary and hard work.
When we realise the value of rural electrification to the farmers, when we consider the output as a result of the benefits it has bestowed on him and when we see that there are close on 1,000,000 acres of land reclaimed and rehabilitated in this country to-day which were not in production, say, ten years ago, we must pause and ask ourselves certain questions. We must ask ourselves why so many people, agricultural workers and others, are anxious to leave the countryside, to move into villages, to go from villages to towns and from towns to cities.
I think the movement of people from the land is to a great extent the responsibility of local authorities. They have built houses in terraces and streets and have invited agricultural workers to come in from the country to live in the towns. It is the responsibility of local authorities to see that cottages and houses are provided for agricultural workers as convenient as possible to their work in remote areas. If one travels through various parts of the country, one notices the apparent shortage of workers' cottages. There are substantial farmers to-day who have to drive into towns, take out the agricultural worker, drive him to work and, after he has worked all day, drive him home in the evening.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I was about to suggest that the Minister for Agriculture should endeavour to use his good offices with his colleague, the Minister for Local Government, to ensure that the agricultural worker—I speak only of the agricultural worker—is provided with housing accommodation through the local authority on sites to be given by the farmer for the farmer's own workmen.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I am inclined to agree with the Chair. I bow to your ruling, Sir, but I am sure the Chair will appreciate—as I am certain the Minister will appreciate—my anxiety to see that the worker stays on the land, and he cannot stay on the land if he has not some place in which to shelter himself, his wife and family at night time. Perhaps, I will send a memorandum to the Minister with suggestions I should like to make. I should like also to submit a similar memorandum to the Minister for Local Government for his consideration in an effort to keep the agricultural worker where he ought to be—on the land with the farmers.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I hope the Minister will share the Chair's delight in that regard. With regard to keeping people on the land, small farmers find it increasingly difficult to secure labour and that certainly handicaps them considerably. The land rehabilitation scheme is looked upon throughout the country as being the most important and the most revolutionary scheme that has been undertaken in this country since we achieved native government. We do not seem to boast enough about it and, indeed, we have something to boast about.
If anyone took up the morning newspapers and read the headlines that in Holland or elsewhere the Government had reclaimed close on 1,000,000 acres of land, would we not all take off our hats to that Government and say what wonderful people they were to reclaim and put into a state of cultivation 1,000,000 acres of land which were not already available for cultivation? That is where we should take pride in our work instead of criticising or endeavouring to criticise. It does not matter who was in office; it is an achievement, and a great achievement, to be responsible for making available close upon 1,000,000 acres of land. I understand that is what the figure will be in so far as the land rehabilitation scheme is concerned. That will include work done and land in process of reclamation. One million acres of land is  no mean amount, but there is still great work to be done in that respect.
The land rehabilitation scheme in every one of the 26 counties has a long waiting list and an effort should be made by the Department to see that the greatest possible work is undertaken each year. During the general election campaign, I distinctly heard various candidates speak on the land rehabilitation scheme. It is no harm to remind the Minister that many of his own Party, when speaking during that election, referred to the land rehabilitation scheme as a scheme that was doomed, finished and winding up, if there was not a change of Government.
The scheme was brought into operation by the inter-Party Government and this side of the House will encourage, foster and assist the Minister in promoting to the fullest possible extent the terms of that scheme until such time as the last acre of land to be reclaimed will have been reclaimed, for the biggest farmer in Ireland as well as for the smallest and the poorest farmer. When we have reached the stage where there will be no more land to be reclaimed, it will be a very great achievement in itself for native Government.
The scheme not alone provides employment but has made waste land good land. There are farmers enjoying the benefits of that scheme who were at one time paying rent, rates and taxes for waterlogged land or land covered with shrubs and furze. To-day they are paying rent, rates and taxes for something which they can at least use and work and get some return from. Let us give the Minister hope and courage for the future. There are farmers who have yet to avail of that scheme and there are many farmers anxious to carry out further rehabilitation. In parts of rural Ireland, the scheme is looked upon as the greatest achievement of native Government, as I personally think it is. I am proud of the work that was undertaken and I am glad to have been associated as a member of this House, with promoting it in my own constituency and elsewhere.
It would be a pity to let an occasion  like this pass without referring to the price of wheat. I am not anxious to introduce politics in any type or form into the debate. The present Government used, in every wheat growing constituency during the last election, the heavy hand, so to speak, at every fair, every church gate and from every platform, and suggested that the inter-Party Government tried to kill wheat growing, endeavoured to sabotage wheat growing and were not anxious to encourage wheat growing and that they, without thought or reason, reduced considerably the price per barrel for wheat. They said we had no regard, no respect, no thought and no consideration for wheat growing and that if there was a change of Government, the Fianna Fáil Government would see to it that there would be a change in so far as wheat production was concerned; that the cut in the price of wheat would be restored and that the restoration of the wheat subsidy would benefit every farmer who grew wheat.
It was said at the time that we were anxious to import foreign wheat. The amount of wheat we were anxious to import was exaggerated to suit the audiences, whether intelligent or otherwise. There are areas where you have careless farmers who do not worry too much about figures or statistics. These farmers were told that we intended to import the produce of the wheat fields of the Ukraine, that our purpose was to put a nail in the farmer's coffin, that the inter-Party Government would continue to import wheat until the farmers reached the position where they would be growing wheat for nothing.
I do not accuse the Minister of being a party to that campaign. He does not represent a wheat growing constituency. He was probably concentrating all his attention on the Milk Costings Commission. My constituency is a very good wheat growing area with the exception of part of West Offaly, about which I shall have something to say in a few moments in relation to the Shannon flooding and how it affects agricultural output.
The picture that was painted in that area a few months ago left doubts in  the minds of farmers who were interested in wheat growing. The Fianna Fáil Party did not stop with speeches at church gates and at fairs. They had their organisers to discuss the matter at the firesides at night. In these discussions they were able to produce for farmers billheads on which were printed figures of the vast quantities of wheat we intended to import. There it was in black and white. These figures made queer impressions on the mind of the type of farmer who doubts what he hears but who believes what he sees or reads. That type of farmer swallows this propaganda, which was well organised and which achieved its purpose. There is no question about that at all. However, I should like to impress on the Fianna Fáil Party that there is another day. It may be a long way off; it may be two years, three years or four years, but the speeches that were made still live on.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Yes, but the increase in the price of wheat did not come. Fianna Fáil painted pictures which had a disturbing effect on the minds of wheat growing farmers. They had such an effect that some of the farmers did not get a wink of sleep for 14 nights before the election.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: They read these figures in the Irish Press or in these printed handbills: they read about the quantities of wheat we were to import. These farmers said to themselves: “If all this wheat is to be imported we will not be allowed to grow wheat any more. If Fianna Fáil get back we will get 12/6 extra per barrel and will make our money.” I heard Fianna Fáil Deputies, who were going to do away with the bushelling of wheat, speak during the election campaign. They  told farmers they were being robbed by the moisture content clause. How, the farmers were asked, could they know anything about the manner in which the bushelling was carried out? They were told they would get a substantial increase in the price of their wheat and that this increase would not be held up until next Christmas or January. They were to get the increase on the spot.
All this misled the farmers. Is it not a decent thing to get up on a platform and speak the truth? Perhaps Fianna Fáil were telling the truth, but that they were a little out in their prophecies. Whatever happened, the price of wheat has not been increased. That is the question that is most worrying the wheat growers. Deputy Rooney asked the acting Minister for Agriculture a question recently and I think Deputy Corry had a voice in the subsequent discussion.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: The acting Minister was asked what he intended doing about wheat prices and he said that the crop was not in yet. Of course it was in. His final answer was that the matter would be reviewed next year. Recently the Minister for Finance said there was too much wheat being grown. Another Fianna Fáil spokesman said in the West, miles from any wheat-growing district, that the greatest difficulty at the moment was that wheat yields were becoming too great, that we had too much of it. I should like to know what is the Government's wheat policy. I feel sure the wheat growers who were misled during the last general election campaign are anxious to know what it is.
They were deceived on the question of price. They were deceived on the question of bushelling. They were told that the question of holding wheat over for a proper price until January was to be wiped out immediately if there was a change of Government. They were told that the small man who had no storage accommodation could not hold the wheat, that the backbone of wheat-growing of this country was based upon the man who was producing  wheat and who wanted to dispose of the wheat to the mill immediately the threshing was over. They were crying bitter tears over the unfortunate man who could not hold the wheat until later on in the year. They said they were concerned only with the man who wanted to dispose of the crop the moment the wheat was threshed.
Deputy Egan went a step further than anybody else when dealing with wheat in Offaly. I do not raise this question for the purpose of misquoting Deputy Egan. He and I are as friendly as twin brothers in so far as the administration of our constituency is concerned but I merely wish to refresh his memory. When Deputy Egan was speaking not alone did he say that they would pay back the amount by which the price was cut by the inter-Party Government but that they would even increase that still further, because wheat was the backbone of the country. Flour depended on wheat. Bread depended on wheat. The people depended on wheat, and the moment they were returned to office the sky was the limit in respect of the price of wheat.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I am a very good listener at a political meeting. Again in the constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny I can remember the question of wheat arising, and I can remember that it was said, in the various speeches that were made during the election campaign, that the poor man with the acre of wheat would be the only farmer in which the Department of Agriculture would be interested. I heard that definitely in Carlow-Kilkenny. Furthermore, I remember a Fianna Fáil councillor meeting me one day in an hotel in Kilkenny and saying: “Did you ever get out points for speakers?”
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: With great respect, Sir, I submit the Minister for Agriculture should try to implement the policy expounded by the speakers of his own Party throughout the country. I am not blaming the Minister for Agriculture but I want to refer to the “points for speakers” in connection with wheat which were let loose to Fianna Fáil speakers. This Fianna Fáil councillor said to me: “I got a hell of a telling-off for speaking about wheat in an area where there was no wheat-growing. I was told only to speak about what was marked with a red pencil. I was told at the church gate when I was about to make a speech, whether there was wheat-growing in the area or not. If it was a wheat-growing area I was to say that if we got back we were to increase substantially the price of wheat in the wheat-growing areas.”
It was probably the most successful political trick that was undertaken for a long time. It worked well. I will not say any more about wheat beyond asking, first of all, what is the Fianna Fáil Party's wheat policy? Secondly, they said before the election that they would restore the cut per barrel on wheat. We want to know will they do it, and when? We also want to know what they intend to do about the question of importing wheat. The Minister for Lands says we should import no wheat at all, that we should be capable of producing all the wheat we require. He made reference to some tests in Sweden, I think, in regard to Irish grown wheat for the manufacture of flour. During the election campaign he also made reference to the question of importing wheat and he prophesied that the most wholesome and the most delicious loaf we could have would be the loaf made from Irish wheat. He went on to say that the tests taking place in Sweden were most successful and that our wheat was sure of producing a good loaf without any mixture of foreign wheat.
Let us hear from the Minister what  is his policy on that. Does it mean there will be no more imports of wheat, that our flour will be made up entirely of home-grown wheat when our imports are cut out? Fianna Fáil said during the general election campaign: “The whole question of bushelling of wheat will go by the wayside”, and, believe it or not, there was tremendous applause.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I will not accuse Deputy Kieran Egan of making that promise because all his promises were centred around the Shannon, and I shall be dealing with those in a few moments. He left the whole question of wheat to his colleague, Deputy Nicholas Egan——
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: ——who dealt with it most effectively. I want to pay that tribute to him, that he dealt most convincingly with it; so convincingly that there were people who said: “If we could only get a ballot paper now to vote.”
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: It will not give us very much trouble to trace the relationship. In the course of those promises on wheat-growing during the election campaign there were extracts quoted from speeches made by Deputy  Dillon where he advised people to hold over their wheat. Fianna Fáil said if they were in office the farmers would not have to hold over their wheat but, if they had, there would be special grants provided in the wheat-growing districts. Where are those grants to-day?
The present Government has a big majority, the biggest majority they ever had. There is nothing to stop them, even at this late stage, from introducing some system of payments in connection with wheat. If they repented now we would forgive them and we would overlook the reply that was given by Deputy Aiken, acting-Minister for Agriculture, on this question, and we would overlook the anxiety of Deputy Corry, who added his voice plainly and bluntly in an appeal for an increase in the price of wheat. We would forgive them even at this late stage if they would say: “We are now going to honour our commitments to the electorate and to the farmers in wheat-growing areas. We are going to see to it that the savage attack,” as it was described, “by the inter-Party Government on the wheat grower, will be counteracted and an increase in the price per barrel will be given.”
Is it too late for a Deputy representing a wheat growing constituency, as I do, to ask the Minister for Agriculture what he is going to do about it? Or am I to take it that nothing will be done to honour this commitment, that the commitment was not serious but was ill-conceived and used maliciously for the purpose of discrediting opponents and blackening the inter-Party Government's agricultural policy and in particular their wheat policy? Am I to understand that promise has served its purpose now, that the farmer has been used, that he can be used again as the political dodge-ball that can be let up or down according to the political winds blowing at the time? Is it the attitude that we have now got all we can get out of the wheat growers, that we used them in the right place and we are not going to give them an increased price for wheat?
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: We know quite well that in the case of such an extensive wheat grower as Deputy Galvin of Cork City, his contribution to the debate would be of great benefit to the wheat growers, and perhaps the Deputy for Cork City, when speaking on wheat growing, will be able to cooperate with Deputy Corry of East Cork in trying to influence the Minister for Agriculture and the Government in general to honour their promise to the farmers. That is all I want them to do, to be men, to have the courage to keep their promises and not to belittle and deceive the farmers.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I accept your ruling, but that will not relieve my anxiety to sit patiently and listen attentively to the Minister's reply in regard to what he proposes to do about this very important question, which affects the livelihood of so many industrious, hardworking, energetic and enthusiastic farmers who were deceived.
I want to ask the Minister some questions in regard to milk. When I was speaking at meetings during the West Limerick by-election, I remember having to await my turn for the use of a platform from the Fianna Fáil Party,  and during every speech made dealing with milk in a creamery district—and that was practically all West Limerick and parts of North Kerry—the Fianna Fáil speakers said loudly and determinedly that the then Minister had upset the workings of the Milk Costings Commission and that he was deliberately delaying the report so that the benefit of that report would not operate by way of an increase to the milk producers of the South of Ireland. Of course the position really was, as everybody now knows, that there were certain delays for which the commission was itself responsible. It is also known that when the commission asked the Minister for additional staff, on every occasion that staff was made available within 24 hours of the request even though it meant that important officials of the Department of Agriculture had to be switched over to the commission in order to speed up its work.
Even though the Fianna Fáil Party knew that was the position and knew quite well the report was not available, I heard Fianna Fáil speakers in West Limerick say that the Minister had the report and was keeping it secret because he did not want to disclose it. I saw farmers being deliberately deceived and misled by speeches of that kind. I heard a crowd of people being addressed in one of the most important creamery districts of West Limerick and the whole subject of the speech was that the inter-Party Government did not want to increase the price of milk to the dairy farmers. In other words, the case was made that the inter-Party Government looked with contempt on the dairy farmers and wanted to sabotage their efforts to obtain the increased price to which I feel they are entitled.
The same trick worked in those areas as in the wheat-growing districts. The people were led to believe that the granting of an increase in the price of milk was being held up, that the Minister had received the report but for some reason was not publishing it. The strange part of it all was that the same Deputies who made those speeches in the creamery districts appeared in the  cities about the same time for by-elections—Deputy Galvin's by-election —and declared: “We will not allow the price of milk to be increased.” That was like Mohammed's coffin, in the air, neither up nor down, or like Mother Machree's dog that went a bit of the road with everybody and the whole of the road with nobody.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: This may be very funny for Fianna Fáil Deputies, but it is not very funny for the milk producer in Limerick, in Cork, in Tipperary or in Kilkenny. It is by no means funny for the milk producer in Kilkenny and Limerick and other areas.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: This may be disturbing hearing because, if one has an evil past, one destests the evil points being brought to the surface, and so it is now; the consciences of these Deputies is very strongly roused.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: They know quite well that they went out in the country districts and told the people: “You are entitled to an increase in the price of the gallon of milk. The Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, is keeping it from you. He is keeping the costings from you. He has hidden them and he will not allow them to be seen.” The next night the same people appeared in Cork City, and at an election meeting there they said: “The poor children drink plenty of milk. We will not allow it to be increased in price. No one will get away with increasing the price of milk on the poor in Cork City.” Deputy Galvin was there.
I want to ask the Minister and the one-time acting Minister for Agriculture,  who is present at the moment, are the milk producers of Kerry, Tipperary, Kilkenny and North Cork any better off to-day in so far as the price of milk is concerned, despite all the promises of Fianna Fáil, all their tears and all their anxieties to improve the standard of living of the dairy farmer? That is the question I ask and that is the question to which we want an answer.
Deputy Dillon was accused of having the report of the Milk Costings Commission. The Minister for Agriculture to-day knows that that report is not yet available, even to him. Blame was imputed to Deputy Dillon for delaying publication of that report and the same blame must now be laid at the door of the present Minister. Where is the report now? Is it not only right that the dairy farmers should ask what is holding it up now? Is it a shortage of staff, because, if it is a shortage of staff, if the chairman of the commission makes application for additional staff to speed up the report, I am sure he will be met in the same spirit of friendliness and with the same spirit of generosity as that with which he was met by Deputy Dillon when he assigned staff and met his full requirements 24 hours after the request was made.
Is the Minister going to give the dairy farmers an increased price per gallon for milk? That is No. 1. Is he going to give it? Will it be retrospective? These promises were made and all we want to do—it is the job of an Opposition—is endeavour to guide the Government on the straight road. It is a difficult task for us and our burden is very great in that respect; but it is our job as an Opposition. It is our job to make the Government keep their promises, honour their obligations, fulfil their commitments or, alternatively, give satisfactory explanations. That is all we are asking for. Are we not reasonable? Are we not very reasonable in our request?
Remembering the violent and vicious attacks that were made by Fianna Fáil on the previous Minister, on the Department and on the Milk Costings Commission, it is only right now that we should expect, with Fianna Fáil in office, that they should be able to give  us all the reports about which they were so anxious when in opposition. Mark you, even though questions were asked about the delay in publishing the report, the Minister did not give us any explanations. He did not explain why he made a speech or two in North Cork. He did not tell us what he was going to do about the dairy farmers. He did not tell us what his policy was for the future of the dairying industry. There was utter and complete silence. There was gloom. There was darkness. There was a shadow of despair lying over the speeches made with reference to the dairying industry.
One can expect a Minister in a Government with an overall majority behind it to do what he likes. Fine Gael cannot stop him; the Labour Party cannot stop him; Clann na Talmhan cannot stop him. The Government has a free hand. There is nothing to do, only do it. Say the word, and it will be done. Move, and all moves with them. They are the Government; there is no one to hinder them. But there is no report from the Milk Costing Commission. There is no excuse, no reason given for the delay. Last, but not least, there is no question of an increase for the dairy farmer. He has been deceived like the wheat grower but, unlike the wheat grower, he is a wiser man, a more intelligent man, and he is better off to-day.
There are none so blind as those who do not want to see. Probably the position was that the people did not want to see before the elections, but they are very eager to-day to have the fullest possible power of vision in relation to the Government's policy with regard to dairying and wheat production. In plain language, the people have been let down. In plain language, they asked for it and they got it. In still plainer language, as I pointed out on another occasion, if you sow nettles, you cannot expect roses to grow: they sowed nettles and the nettles are stinging, and stinging very sharply.
We can see the way in which the present Government are working in so far as what has been described as our main industry, our principal industry, agriculture, is concerned and the way  in which they are anxious to fill the pockets of the man-of-the-day, the farmer. We have seen what we have seen. May we expect any more? There may be little use in our talking of the past, even the recent past. What of the future? If there are promises, they will not be believed, because promises were made before and were not kept. The first promise was made on the other side of the House over 20 years ago. We are still awaiting its fulfilment.
Not alone are promises no longer respected by the dairying farmers and, indeed, ill-received by them, but promises are no longer believed and will not be believed, until some positive and practical action is taken. Let us hope that the silence of the Minister will be broken with regard to wheat and milk, and that it will be broken as quickly as possible. Let us hope that he makes some statement of benefit, considerable benefit, to the farmers as quickly as possible.
Having disposed of wheat and milk, I want to refer to onions. I was particularly interested in the production of onions in the Castlegregory district of North Kerry. I addressed a meeting in Castlegregory Hall which was presided over by the parish priest and was attended by Deputies of North Kerry from all Parties at which the question of affording facilities for onion growers in that area was discussed. Our imports of onions are exceedingly great. The ordinary housewife asks for what is commonly known as a good clean Spanish onion. Owing to the appearance of eelworm in the Maharees and Castlegregory districts and later at Kilmore Quay, County Wexford, farmers were advised that, as they could not grow other crops profitably, they should concentrate their energies on the production of onions. The districts were particularly suitable for that because of the sandy quality of the soil. The farmers did so.
On my first visit to Castlegregory, I asked the officer of the Department if I could see the onions that were grown in the area. I was brought out to a number of huge fields where I saw wet sack half-full of onions. The sacks  were the ordinary heavy jute sacks. They were wet. Onions, ungraded, large and small, good and bad, had been put into the sacks. I saw about 50 such sacks. I asked the officer of the Department how the onions could dry in the wet sacks. I asked him where were the drying, grading and storing facilities. His reply was that they had not got such facilities.
Anyone with common sense and intelligence would know that, before onions are put on the market, they should be graded, cleaned and dried. Owing to the special interest displayed by Deputy Dillon, facilities for grading, storing, packing and cleaning onions were provided for the first time at Castlegregory. The onions that had been produced prior to the introduction of those facilities could not be marketed, as the housewife wants a large type onion, well dried, clean and in fit condition for use.
I am glad to say that as a result of the special interest displayed by the Department of Agriculture during the inter-Party Government's term of office, those facilities were provided. I was anxious, as I am sure every Deputy would be anxious, that we should produce onions equal to the most superior type of Spanish onions that are imported. The Irish housewife is indifferent as to whether the onion she buys is a Spanish onion or an Irish-grown onion, so long as she gets value.
I could never understand why we could not produce onions on a larger and better scale so as to reduce imports to the lowest possible amount. It cannot be said that the soil is not suitable. There is suitable soil for onion growing in many parts of the country. It was only when the beet crop failed at Kilmore Quay that energies were concentrated on onion production. I am glad that it has been an astounding success.
I remember inquiring at that time if there was any type of bag into which onions could be packed, which would allow the air to circulate and assist in drying the opions. Suitably prepared bags were made available. I would ask the Minister for Agriculture to take a keen interest in the work that has been  done in that area and to sponsor the growing of onions and to see that onion growers are protected. If Irish onions of good quality and high standard can be put on the market, there is no reason why any other type of onion should be offered for sale.
I speak very sincerely about this matter because I have had more than a special and particular interest in the onion growers of Castlegregory and Kilmore Quay. I would ask the Minister to consult with the officers of his Department as to what other areas are suitable for onion production so that such production can be encouraged and so that we may reach the stage at which we can eliminate imports completely. I have seen the onions produced in this country and I have eaten them. I am very fond of an onion, and I think the Castlegregory onions are second to none and are better than any that can be imported into this country. I praise the growers and the Department, particularly the officers responsible for the great success at Castlegregory and Kilmore Quay, and I hope that new areas will be opened up.
Reference has been made to the attacks made on the former Minister in connection with the export of horses. Every other morning there were letters in the papers, addressed to Deputies, Senators and councillors, about the great cruelty in the export of horses from this country. Deputy Moher was right when he said that such attacks should not have been directed against the then Minister. The groups concerned were moved to tears and sympathy for the sufferings of the retired horses which were being exported. They were anxious to have those horses slaughtered at home and have the dead meat exported abroad.
Surely the Minister will subscribe wholeheartedly to the view taken by Deputy Dillon that this should not be done? I believe we should not set up an industry to slaughter these horses and export them in canned form. No matter what label you put on the box and no matter what you put on the tin, what you put into it still is horsemeat. Such action could have a serious damaging effect on the export of our  good meat abroad. I do not want our beef, lamb, or any other meats we export compared with the horsemeat we could export from this country.
I should like to warn the Minister. I was informed that within the past few weeks a certain group have been endeavouring to bring every pressure to bear on the Department of Agriculture to give in on this question of exporting horsemeat. I oppose its export in any form whatever. Our greatest boast is the quality of the meat we can export. I venture to say we can export the best meat in the world and the day we put horsemeat into cans and export it in competition with our other meat, the standard of our valuable meat exports will be greatly lowered. I hope the Department will never agree to the export of horsemeat in any form whatever.
We are proud of the quality of our meat exports. We have exported tinned meat for human consumption to the Continent, to the American forces in Germany and elsewhere and it has met with the highest praise. If any attempt is made to draw a comparison between that and horsemeat, it will have a most damaging effect. I hope every effort will be made by the Minister to see there is no question of the export of horsemeat.
A very thorough investigation has been made into the allegations of cruelty in the export of horses. Inquiries were made at Antwerp and elsewhere. I am quite satisfied with the results of those inquiries. I think the case made was slightly exaggerated. While we are all enthusiastic to see to it that, as far as possible, there should be no cruelty of any kind in the export of live horses or any other animals from this country, there are times when there may be overcrowding in the boats. However, I understand there are some regulations that they cannot be overcrowded. In addition, illness may be caused by rough seas and there may be other reasons. I am quite satisfied, however, that the Department have carried out a fair and impartial inquiry and that they will do so again, if there are any further allegations about cruelty to animals being exported.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: I did, Sir. I only wanted the Minister to see to it that the Forestry Division keep away from lands suitable for sheep rearing, because of the value of our wool exports and because of the importance of sheep rearing. There is nobody more familiar with sheep rearing and its importance than yourself, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I remember reading not so long ago very gratifying figures concerning the amount of dollars which this country earned as a result of the export of clean wool. I was glad to note also that when the Minister spoke recently at the sheep shearing competitions in County Wicklow, his speech was practically identical with the speech I made at the sheep shearing championships in Tuam this time last year. Sound and valuable advice was given to those responsible for sheep rearing, sheep breeding and sheep shearing.
Dirty wool, or marked wool, will yield a lesser benefit to the seller and I am glad of the stand taken by the Department of Agriculture and of the leaflet that was published in that respect. I am glad the Minister stressed the importance of clean wool in County Wicklow recently because there are people who like to brand and stripe their sheep. There is nothing so distasteful or disgusting as to see sheep  striped or branded with tar. I have seen it myself and it destroys the wool. It takes from its quality and from its standard when it is being graded. A little care exercised in that respect would yield a better return to the farmer.
In the West of Ireland, around Tuam and other parts of County Galway, South Mayo and practically all of South Roscommon, the farmers who go in for sheep rearing should get some form of special recognition in order to increase the numbers in their flocks. We ask for increases in our cattle population and our pig population and I think that, after these, there is no more valuable beast population than sheep, because of the importance of sheep rearing in the West of Ireland. There should be some kind of bounty paid on each dozen sheep in order to encourage further sheep rearing and encourage further exports of wool, and in order that a greater financial return may result to the owners of sheep. That might be a drain on the Exchequer and I do not know if the Minister could get over the difficulties with the Minister for Finance.
I have been very much impressed by sheep owners whom I have met. They are hard-working, conscientious and industrious people who depend entirely on sheep raising. From time to time, I have inspected wool in many stores and the finest sight that I saw was the fine collection of clean wool available at Cahill's extensive wool stores in Tuam. I feel this is a branch of agricultural industry which is well worth special care and a greater expenditure, because what we spend in one way will come back to us in another.
There are certain lands in the West and in parts of Roscommon and else-where—I know that, immediately I refer to this matter, the Chair will say that it is a matter for the Forestry Division and for the Minister for Lands—which are suitable for sheep rearing and which have been taken over by the Forestry Division. I would ask the Minister to have his Department enter into consultations with the Forestry Division and request them to keep away from such lands. I value afforestation greatly, but I value much  more our exports of wool and the importance of our sheep-rearing industry. For that reason I hope there will be less interference by the Forestry Division with hilly land which is suitable for sheep rearing.
Agricultural education is a very wide field into which I do not propose to trespass. Our agricultural colleges have been a very great credit to us, and may I avail of this opportunity to express appreciation of the valuable contribution given to agricultural education by the Salesian Fathers at their two centres, Pallaskenry and Warrenstown? They have done an immense amount of valuable work and they deserve praise and not criticism. They deserve support and co-operation. Farmers' sons who are anxious to avail of agricultural education would be glad and willing to do so, if more space were available in our agricultural colleges.
The Minister should ask parents in rural Ireland to see that, when their children leave the local school, they are sent for a term or two to one of these agricultural colleges to obtain the necessary agricultural education. The Minister has done so, but how are we to stress the importance of this sufficiently? In very recent years, a certain amount of stress has been laid upon it, but there are a great number of young men who could do with a term in these colleges, provided the accommodation was available. In that respect, I feel the Department of Agriculture has done valuable work in helping to have such accommodation made available in the colleges, but there is still need for greater expansion and still work to be done in that direction.
What percentage of farmers' sons have received education in any agricultural college? There may be quite a number who cannot afford it. If there is a poor farmer who is anxious to send his son to an agricultural college, I feel a duty rests upon the State to see that, because of the lack of funds, no young boy is deprived of going to such a college. If every farmer's son was anxious to enter an agricultural college to-morrow morning, there probably would not be accommodation or  space available for them, but as far as possible agricultural education should be encouraged. Something should be done to ensure that shortage of money in the homestead will not deprive a farmer's son of a proper agricultural education.
Deputy Moher wisely spoke of pigs and pig production. I remember when I was going to school, and that is not very many years ago, in practically every second house in Laois there was a pig or two. Two or three pigs were kept in every labourer's cottage, and every agricultural labourer kept pigs. That was entirely apart from the number kept by the farmers who went into pig rearing and raising in a big way. They looked on pigs as a good and easy means of bringing in a few pounds every four months when the pigs reached 15½ or 16 stone weight. Why have all those people given up the keeping of pigs? One reason is probably that the local health authorities condemned a number of the piggeries. Some health authorities would not allow a pig to be reared within striking distance of a shotgun from a council cottage; some prevented pigs from being reared even in suitable piggeries in towns.
The older women took great pride in boiling and mixing the meal for pigs. In every house there was what was called the pig-pounder and I am sure the Minister can recall seeing some of them. It was a block of timber about three feet long and six inches in diameter. It was called the pot stick in some districts. Girls of to-day——
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: ——would not go anywhere near a piggery. I suppose it is no blame to them for not wanting to do so, but if there was the same return to be had to-day from pig production as there was ten, 15 or 20 years ago they would be very happy to boil and mix for the pigs and despatch the mixture to the piggery. Most of the younger farmers' wives of to-day do not want to have anything to do with boiling for pigs, with electric appliances, in boiler houses or otherwise. I am not referring now to the farmers  who go into the rearing of pigs in a big way; I am talking about the man who kept a pig or two. Six of them together reared 12 pigs and that is what brought the pig population up considerably.
I do not think there can be any complaints at the present time with regard to the price paid for the proper type of pig and with the grading system. It was very necessary to have such grading, and I am glad the Department and the Minister took steps to operate it. I suppose, like the rest of the world, our taste in bacon has changed. There used to be a time in this country when one could ask for nothing better than to sit down to a big feed of fat bacon and cabbage, but we will not have fat bacon bought to-day for human consumption. If there are four or five people in a household, Mary Ann will not eat bacon, Jimmie wants chops, Willie wants steak, Julia will want properly cooked ham, and there will be various other calls on the house menu.
Everyone who buys bacon to-day wants only one type, the back bacon as it is called, with an equal mixture of lean and fat. There is no demand for fat bacon and very little for streaky bacon. The pig's head is a thing of the past and nobody will sit in the same house where there are pig's feet. Pigs' heads and pigs' feet put muscle on a lot of good men, but we have reached a stage now when everyone wants the choice cuts. When a pig is killed and put up for sale, somebody has to buy the pig's head and feet and what is called the streaky end of the pig.
It is of the greatest possible importance that our pig producers should be taught and encouraged. I am sure the Minister has read the leaflet circulated by the Pigs and Bacon Commission dealing with the type of pig to produce, the quality and type of bacon for the market, the various types of bacon of importance and the value to the producer of the right and proper type of pig that will pay him best. I want to pay a tribute in respect of that leaflet. Not alone is it attractive but it is a source of valuable information to the pig breeder.
 I think county committees of agriculture should arrange with the agricultural instructors to find out every pig breeder in their respective areas and ensure that that useful information which is available free from the Pigs and Bacon Commission, will be put into the hands of every person, if that has not already been done, who requires valuable, and helpful information in that respect. Encouraging the keeping of more pigs is of the greatest importance. Every step should be taken in that direction and I have no doubt but that it is being done and will be done.
May I refer to the great importance of the farm buildings scheme? That scheme has been responsible for making farm homesteads throughout this country more attractive and of a much better quality and higher standard. It was a good scheme and I think it was fairly well availed of by the farmers. It was worthy of support, having regard to the very great benefits it bestowed on the farmers.
I would put this point to the Minister. The cost of labour, the cost of materials and the cost of other essential requirements have increased in recent years. I would ask the Department to be more generous, if possible, with grants under the farm buildings scheme for farm roadways and fencing. I understand that some sections of the scheme have temporarily been deferred. An effort should be made to provide funds for farmers who are anxious to avail of the benefits of this scheme so far as farm roadways and fencing are concerned.
With regard to the improvement of houses and out-offices, preference is given in respect of cattle attested or about to be attested under the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme. That is very sound. It is one way of encouraging the scheme and I am 100 per cent. with the Minister in that regard.
It would be regrettable if some funds at least were not made available under the farm buildings scheme for fencing. Quite a number of farmers were expecting fencing to be done as part of the land rehabilitation scheme. I understand that fences were removed  though in many cases fencing did not come within the scope of the land rehabilitation scheme. Where ditches are removed, it is difficult to keep wire fences. Barbed wire cannot be used where there are live stock; it cannot be used near or convenient to a public road and, of course, it is dangerous where there are young children. It should be possible to include fencing under the farm building scheme. If possible the scheme should be extended to cover the many farmers who are anxious to have road-making and fencing carried out.
The grant for hay sheds is generous. The amount of useful and good work done under that scheme was certainly a strain on the financial resources of the Department because of the great extent to which it was utilised. I hope that will continue. It is most important that practically every farmer— particularly small farmers should have proper out-offices and, in particular, proper hay sheds. Therefore I would ask the Department to be as generous as possible in the matter of these grants.
I doubt if any reference has been made in this debate to the damage usually caused to lands by rabbits. Due to the outbreak of myxomatosis some time ago, the rabbit population seemed to disappear. There are many parts of the country in which the rabbit is again making an appearance. To the farmer, the rabbit is a dreadful nuisance. He is a most unwelcome guest. He is an annoyance. He is responsible for damage and destruction. Nevertheless, I am entirely against any attempt to spread myxomatosis or any other disease. I know it was a good method of doing away with the rabbit and it did have that result for a time. The rabbit to the farmer is the same as a red rag to a bull. The Department were quite right in their attitude to the spreading of myxomatosis or any other kind of disease. I think it would be wrong. I would go as far as to say that whenever the Department find that a person is responsible for deliberately spreading myxomatosis, or any other disease of that character, suitable action should be taken.
 I might make this suggestion. A scheme was administered by county committees of agriculture called the fox scheme. Anybody who brought the tail of a fox into a Garda Barracks got a suitable reward. There were instances of a fox's tail being brought into the barracks, coming out, and going in again but we need not go into the question now of how the tail came out of the barracks as that would be quite irrelevant. In an effort to reduce the rabbit population, I wonder if some scheme could be introduced whereby county committees of agriculture would be enabled to pay some bounty for the suitable destruction of rabbits rather than have them destroyed by disease? I do not know whether or not that would be practicable.
I think the number of rabbits would be too enormous to devise a practical scheme for such a purpose but it is a matter well worth considering. I appeal to the Minister to seek the advice of his officers to see if a suitable scheme could be devised. It is doubtful if it could, but it is well worth considering.
The scheme of the committees of agriculture has helped considerably in keeping down the number of foxes. I do not know if there is any great destruction of poultry in parts of Ireland by foxes, but I am sure Deputy Egan will agree that in the Midlands the activities of the fox have been curtailed considerably. If there were some scheme—apart entirely from any action which would not be Christian, suitable or charitable—for the destruction of rabbits, the Department would be well advised to take it up. The rabbit is a great nuisance and the farmers hate to see them coming back. They have caused an amount of damage and I hope steps will be taken to do something about them.
There appears to be considerable delay in parts of the country with regard to soil testing. I do not know who is responsible for the delay or what length of time it takes to have a soil test carried out, but I would ask the Minister to see that the testing is done as speedily as possible. I understand such tests are conducted in  Johnstown Castle. I suppose everyone is anxious at the one time to have soil tested. In view of that, steps should be taken to see that samples are tested with the least possible delay.
With regard to the export of lamb to France and with special reference to the agreement with the French, I suppose that at the moment the less said, the better. By speaking at length or making any reference now, when the matter is so delicate, an observation might be made which would not have the desired effect. However, I would ask the Minister to stand firm in the negotiations with the French Government and to see that the contract, the obligations and the commitments entered into will be honoured. If it is possible by tactful means to expand our exports to France in that respect, there is ample scope for it. I am sure the Minister will undertake tactfully such negotiations, so that the outcome may be successful.
In regard to agricultural statistics, I do not know if true statistics are furnished to the Department. The manner in which they are taken is not as good as it could be. I was interested in this before and would ask the Minister to devise some means whereby the statistics will be taken other than by the Garda Síochána. I am not casting any reflections on the manner in which the Guards check up on the agricultural statistics, but they have sufficient other work to do and their hands are already completely filled up. The areas under various crops and the amount of live stock held by various live stock owners, may not be accurately submitted. Usually if the weather is bad or there is a busy time for the Guards, they will go into a townland and ask some reliable person to say what lands So-and-so has and So-and-so has, and so on. It is an easy and quick way, but it may not be the most accurate way. I suppose that no matter how it is done, it is an expensive job, but it would be well worth while doing it properly. It is not outside the bounds of possibility for the Department to have these statistics taken accurately and correctly, so that they can be depended upon.
 May I make reference to the investigation with regard to cutaway bogs? In my constituency, there is an enormous amount of cutaway bog. I understand that in Clonsast district there are certain experimental plots at the moment. Eventually, a very large acreage will be under cutaway bog. What are we to do about it? Cutaway bog will have to be converted to some useful purpose. The best use will depend upon the experiments being carried out by the Department. I say this to the Minister, that no matter how expensive those experiments are, he should not stop them. I always say we should spend well on research and experimental work. It may be criticised and it will be criticised, but it is “penny wise, pound foolish” not to spend on experiments. Unless you invest in experimental work, you will not have the far-reaching results afterwards.
That is where Bord na Móna, the E.S.B. and private interests can give very valuable information as to where the cutaway bogs are. I would ask that a separate section of the Department be set up to deal with the development—and investigation as to the best means of development—of cutaway bogs. This concerns practically the whole Midlands—the County of Offaly, parts of Laois, parts of South Roscommon, and around the parish of Moore. I feel these places need special attention.
May I ask the Minister to make some reference in his reply to the Shannon Valley? I see by the Order Paper that an opportunity will arise later on a motion for a discussion on the Shannon floods. The Department of Agriculture has a direct responsibility in that respect. In 1954, when very serious flooding took place there, I submitted a long and detailed report to the Minister for Agriculture which was considered at Government level. The observations which I submitted at that time were very detailed. I went to great pains—I was paid for it at the time—seeking all the information possible to find out, if I could, what the position was and if any suitable remedy could be arrived at with regard to the plight of the people in the Shannon Valley.
 The best advice available in the world was sought by the then Government. At least our conscience is clear in that whatever problem arises in the Shannon Valley, whether it be great or small, disastrous or harmless, we did our part in endeavouring to do what was humanly possible. You cannot control the weather, and goodness knows no Government can be held responsible for it. You cannot control serious flooding but at least the matter can be examined to see if a remedy can be applied.
After the serious floods in 1954 in the Shannon, when the Department of Agriculture saw the plight of the people in that area, it was decided by the Government to seek the advice of one of the most eminent engineers in the United States. He submitted his report. I feel his report should be made available for the information of the farmers in the Shannon Valley district.
I have often wondered if it would be humanly possible to seek outlets from the Shannon similar to canals or dykes but that it probably impracticable. The question of banking the Shannon is both impracticable and improbable because of the low-lying nature of the land along the Shannon. The people in the Shannon Valley were asked to take holdings in other districts but you cannot expect a man to leave land where he was born and reared. It is not fair to expect him to do so. I think the six local authorities concerned should be given permission to have special facilities which would include the entire Shannon Valley such as having their land excluded from rates.
An Ceann Comhairle: I do not want to interrupt the Deputy but he seems to be travelling very far in the Shannon Valley. I am not quite sure that the Minister for Agriculture is responsible for this matter.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: He also took action by getting the world's best advice in engineering to ascertain what could be done so that the flooding would not recur. All I ask the Minister to do is to safeguard live stock in the Shannon Valley and see that a scheme is devised whereby there will be, if possible, free fertilisers for the land in the Shannon Valley. The people are entitled to that. Sometimes those lands are flooded for eight months in the year. Those people have to live. They are farmers and the Minister has a responsibility towards farmers. I ask him to give the people free fertilisers or give them a special bounty for live stock or do something spectacular for them.
They are in a position different from any other farmers. No case can be made for farmers in a similar plight in any other part of the country. The farmers in the Shannon Valley are the worst off in the country. It is no use asking: “Why did you not do something for them when you were in office?” I did my best and I can assure the Minister that, when we left office, our efforts were not finished in trying to alleviate the position of the farmers in the Shannon Valley. On behalf of the farmers, I would express a word of grateful thanks to the Department of Agriculture for their valuable co-operation any time that there was distress or difficulties in the Shannon district.
I wish the Minister the best of good luck in the Department of Agriculture. He has a hard job and a tough job. It is difficult to please everyone. His hands are fairly well full and any man charged with such responsibility wants to be full of energy and enthusiasm and in the best of health. It is a great strain, particularly having regard to the special circumstances with which the present Minister for Agriculture is faced in view of the promises which were made in the last general election.
I hope the views I expressed will be taken by the Minister in the sincere spirit in which I pass them on to him. I wish him good luck in the Department. I hope his efforts will be crowned with a measure of success and that he will do something which will yield a greater financial return to the  individual farmer and will help to increase production on the land and build up Irish agriculture as the most important industry. Because of our position and in relation to our population, we should be capable of producing more. Our farmers should be in a much better position, particularly since we are so convenient to the British market, which is the world's best market.
Mr. Palmer: I have been listening for a long time to debates on agriculture in this House and I must say that if talk and advice could improve agriculture this would be the greatest agricultural country in the world. I believe that the less spoken in this House about agriculture the better. All that has been spoken of here by Deputies is to my mind eyewash. Even though I am not a farmer, I was born on a mountain farm, a farm around which it would take a day to walk and where 50 years ago I had to work with my parents. I know what it means to work on a farm, especially on the type of farm on which I was reared. I am proud of all the work I did in those old days. My father and the members of the family, with a workman or two occasionally, drained the land, without grants. We built outhouses and we built a farmhouse without grants. Therefore, it angers me to hear people talking to-day about all that should be done for the farmers.
The whole trouble in this country to-day is that farmers and everybody else are spoon-fed, depending too much on the State for everything they require instead of working for themselves. This country will never get anywhere until farmers, farm workers and others, realise that they must work if they are to have the standard of living which they look for and which the people of other countries enjoy. That is my idea about farming and about everything else. After all, if our farmers in the past did their work without grants or help of other types from Governments, why is it that at the present time, with all the facilties now available, our farmers cannot achieve the same volume of production?
To-day, if farmers want to drain a  field, if they want to put up pillars to erect a gate, if they want to build a barn, a cowshed or a house, they get grants for the work. Still, we are told the position of agriculture to-day is static. In fact, we had greater agricultural production in the days of the Famine than we have to-day. Accordingly, it is time we became realistic; it is time that farmers, farm workers and all other workers realised that a change must take place, that they cannot always look to the Government for support, for free grants, in order that they should produce more. I do not see why farmers, if they want to improve their lands, their houses and their farm buildings should get free grants for all these things. I would agree that they should get loans from the State, repayable afterwards. How is it that others have to erect their own houses and do their own jobs without such assistance?
Mr. Palmer: For a house, yes. That is the only type of grant people other than farmers will get. How is it that farmers get so many concessions? They get grants for all sorts of things; they get rebates of rates; and yet they grumble. I agree that the Government should do everything possible to improve the lot of farmers, to enable them to produce all we require, not only for our own market but also for the export market. After all that has been done for the agricultural community, why have they not risen to the occasion and produced abundantly for the export market?
Since the foundation of the State, Governments have pandered too much to the political side in the matter of agriculture, like everything else. I often think it would do the people of this country a lot of good if they had a test of dictatorship for five or six years. It might be a good thing if one Party got such a majority in Parliament that they would arrange that all sections of the community, farmers, workers, professional men and others, did their duty and that no longer would we have all these aids and grants. That might cure our financial trouble. Every man and woman in the State should do  their best in their various capacities to enable this country to be what it should be with the help of its beautiful soil and all the other facilities at our disposal.
This country could be one of the most prosperous in Europe, if not in the world. I should like to emphasise that I am speaking on my own behalf solely, and not on behalf of any Party. At the outset, I said I was a farmer's son who worked hard on a mountain farm. If the farmers of this country to-day worked as we worked, without any Government grants or anything else, this country would be the finest in the world.
Somebody asked why the present Minister should have been selected for this office. He was Minister for Education in the last Fianna Fáil Government. He worked very independently and did his duty well. I have an idea that he is a very independent man. While, like myself, he has not been attached to agriculture professionally, I believe that because of that, he will see everything possible is done by his Department to secure the welfare of the farmers of this country, not by spoon-feeding them but by saying that production will be encouraged by the provision of markets for the goods produced.
I believe Ministers for Agriculture down the years have done their best for the welfare of agriculture. They have not succeeded very well. I cannot say whether that was due to the Ministers or to the farmers and farm workers. One thing is certain, that is, that if this country is to prosper, it will do so only through agriculture. When we had no machinery to do the work, when we had not even got ploughs, when all the work was done with the spade, the people of this country produced more than is produced now, with all the facilities available. Surely there must be something wrong.
It is about time the Minister for Agriculture or somebody got down to the facts and did something to ensure that our agricultural production is increased considerably. Something should be done to ensure that this generation and future generations will  look to the land and not to the towns and cities. If any Minister for Agriculture succeeds in doing what has not been done during the past three decades of native Government, he will be recorded in history as having done something for the real welfare and benefit of the people of this country.
Mr. Breslin: My reason for intervening briefly in this important debate on the Department of Agriculture is to ask the Minister to consider the advisability of extending the Gaeltacht glasshouse scheme to other areas in the Gaeltacht, especially to other Irish-speaking areas in County Donegal. In 1948-49 the Government embarked on this scheme by erecting in the Gaeltacht parish of Cloughaneely 100 houses, and at the same time about 90 glass-houses were erected in Connemara. The scheme has been tried out during the last eight years and everyone will agree that it has been an admirable scheme that has gone a long way towards improving conditions in the Gaeltacht areas where other industries are so few, a scheme that has in its own way kept very many families from emigrating.
We feel that the pilot schemes in both Donegal and Galway have justified themselves and that the Minister should now consider extending the scheme to other areas. There is a market for this product. It is a productive scheme in every way, a scheme that is paying for itself and will pay for itself eventually. We feel that if that scheme were extended, the benefits to the Gaeltacht and to the country in general would be very great.
It is now well known that Irish tomatoes are much superior to the foreign product. As a matter of fact, there is no comparison whatsoever with the tomatoes that we import from other countries. The Irish tomato is out on its own, and the housewives, who are always looking for the best, realise that, even though our home-produced tomatoes are a few pence per lb. dearer, they are generally worth a good deal more. There is a market there and I cannot see any reason why the expansion that was envisaged in 1949 should not take place.
During the last two years heating  apparatuses have been installed in at least 37 of the glasshouses in Donegal and the owners of those glasshouses now see the increased benefits and the increased production they have obtained as a result of the installation of the heating apparatus. If that heating system were extended to all the other houses it would certainly pay dividends. It would enable the owners of glasshouses to put their supplies on the market a few months earlier and so cash in on a market that at the time is wide open.
The Irish people are only too glad to buy these tomatoes if they are to be had at a reasonable price and I feel that if the period for tomato growing were extended by the installation of this heating apparatus, the price would not be unusually high because the quantity would be so very much greater. The Minister generally makes an Order each year prohibiting the importation of foreign tomatoes from the 16th July to the 31st October. That Order could be made a few months earlier if there were heating plants installed in these glasshouses. I cannot see any reason why the Government should not now embark on the expansion of this productive scheme to other areas. Industries are few and far between in the Gaeltacht and this is an ideal scheme that has shown every sign of success during the last eight years.
I would ask the Minister and his Department to ensure that the sales section of this scheme is 100 per cent. efficient and that the salesmen who are appointed from year to year show clearly that they have the best interests of the tomato growing scheme and the best interests of the tomato growers at heart. Unless they co-operate with the growers it will be to the detriment of the industry in the Gaeltacht and I would ask the Minister to keep his eye on that facet of the industry.
At this stage I should like to pay a tribute to the officials of the Department who have been in charge of this scheme in the Donegal Gaeltacht for years. They have, I know, received the co-operation of the growers but a tribute must be paid to the officials who carried out their work so  efficiently as to make this scheme one of the best that we ever had in that part of Donegal.
In conclusion, I would ask the Minister to look into the possibility of extending the scheme in the near future and so give hope to the people in the Gaeltacht that something is about to be done for them. I should also like to bring this matter to the attention of the new Minister for the Gaeltacht whose responsibility it is to ensure that the Gaeltacht and its people do not disappear. In the expansion of that scheme the Minister will certainly have the good wishes of all those who have the interests of the Gaeltacht in Donegal, Galway or any other counties, at heart.
Captain Giles: I have listened to many speeches to-day while waiting to get in. Some of them were too windy and too long, but I heard one speech which was a tonic to the House, that of Deputy Palmer, who was straight and honest and everything he said was a fact. I wonder do we deserve to have a country at all? I do not believe we do. We are cringing and crying in the midst of plenty; everybody wants something for nothing. I think the time has come when we must realise that that business cannot go on for ever. What is needed is vocational education and if we have money to spend, it should be spent on educating our people so that they can fend for themselves, build their own houses and cowbyres and look after themselves instead of looking to the Government for doles or sops or grants. Such things do not come out of the sky but out of people's pockets. We are a nation of gentlemen living beyond our means and we will have to pay for it. The political play-acting of the past 25 or 30 years has brought poor results and we should be ashamed of ourselves.
The Minister who is taking office is one of the few people who can stand up to the difficult task of getting a nation to mend its ways and get on to the straight road again. During the war years, we had money to burn, but we are now in an era of competitive world markets and if we cannot stand up to it, we are lost. Haphazard farming  will not do any more. We must be up and doing because competitive prices are on the way. At the same time, we have rushed into a mechanical age which has brought great benefits to the few and great misery to the many. We in the country realise the great things mechanical outfits have done for the farmers, but we also see the small farmers being squeezed out, their places sold, and their sons and daughters emigrating. If we want that Ireland that Pearse and Connolly and the others fought for to survive, we must realise that we should reverse our steps.
We should realise that our hopes for the future of the country depend on the small men. We know what Cromwell did in this country and we are approaching the same stage now. I come from a county which had experience of the clearances and then the Land Commission did great work there for 20 or 30 years, but unfortunately for the past five or ten years a new trend is evident and the small man, as I said, is unable to live and the stronger farmers are buying him out. We have the ranching trend, and it does not matter whether it is cattle, wheat or beet ranching. It is going on, and the people are being squeezed out.
The Minister has a complex problem which he will hardly be able to solve, but I ask him, in God's name, as one of the old comrades of the vanguard who did so much for the country, to try to do something for the small farmers who are forgotten and left by the wayside. I feel sad when I look around and see scores of homes I knew 20 or 30 years ago that have been sold and bought out. The good men who worked there and their sons and daughters have gone across the waters never to come back. I feel sad about it and so does any man who fought in the War of Independence.
We must become realistic. Money does not come from the sky but from sweat and tears and worry, such as the people in the past endured. They survived and reared large families in decency, but to-day we want something for nothing, doles and sops. We have a host of officials looking after our needs. As Deputy Palmer said, our  fathers and grandfathers with their spades and shovels dug five or six feet down in the ground and drained their own lands. They put in their own stone shores: they had no fancy pipes. They did that so that the generation coming after them could live and be happy. But are we happy? We are, perhaps, the most miserable people on the face of the earth and it is all of our making. We have danced and fiddled while the nation was being destroyed, but the dancing days are gone.
I would ask the Minister to adopt a practical and real approach, to cut out the rot and the nonsense that is going on. Let the people go back to work with their coats off and their sleeves turned up; let them realise that wealth and peace and plenty can be secured only by hard work. It was political play-acting that destroyed the country. We are all the one people. Deputy Dillon is as good as Senator Moylan and Senator Moylan is as good as I am: we are all Irishmen and I believe we all love the country. We want to rear our families, not for export, but, we hope, so that they can live in our own land; but I see poor hope of them living here because we are making no future for them.
In my county, there is nothing but wealth and luxury in the hands of a few and misery and degradation for the many. Must not something be done about it? I say we should do it and get down to the bedrock of justice, honesty and fairplay for all. Let everybody who speaks here speak his mind and tell the truth, whether it is bitter or not. We have a new Minister who will worthily fill the post which was worthily held by Deputy Dillon and who will, I believe, do good work. We have a good Department and good officials, but there are too many officials in the country. Let the county committees of agriculture do their work and get the parish advisory services going. Cut out doles and subsidies of all kinds. I believe a man needs help in building a house, because a house presents a big problem, but outside of that, the doles that are going for piggeries, farmyards, cement paths through garden walks, and so on are the greatest nonsense.
 I do not see why any man should not be able to build his own walls and cowbyres, looking to nobody for anything. If that was done for the next ten years, taxation would come down and we would reach a proper level. Those are the things that should be done, but they are not spoken of. I am not afraid to say them and if the people do not want me here, I will be proud to go to my own country and make my own shores and put up my own walls, and my sons and daughters will work as hard as we did 30 or 40 years ago, when there were no doles or sops or grants. We trekked four or five miles to school often in our bare feet, but the gentry of to-day must have shoes with rubbers on them. They are too fancy and too nice. All this comes from the war years when we had money to burn. Thank God, we must now fend for ourselves, whether we like it or not, and the devil mend the whole lot of us.
Mr. Rooney: I should like to wish the new Minister every success in the very difficult task which has been assigned to him. It would be no compliment to him if I should say I hope he will do better than either Deputy Dr. Ryan or Deputy Smith who preceded him in that office as members of the Fianna Fáil Party.
Political play-acting has been deplored by the previous speaker, but I am afraid that I find it necessary to take the Fianna Fáil Party to task in regard to political play-acting, so far as agriculture is concerned. We know the main issues in the last general election, so far as farmers were concerned, were wheat and milk. We know what has happened in respect of the flour subsidy and the butter subsidy in the last Budget. No warning was given to the farmers by the Fianna Fáil Party when they were crying these crocodile tears and seeking the sympathy and support of the farmers at the time of the general election. They wailed so much about the wheat prices that the farmers were led to believe that the first move they would make if they became the Government would be to restore the scale which had been announced by Fianna Fáil late in 1953 or early in 1954.
 I should like to refer to a reply given in this House in the Official Debates of 26th March last in answer to a question from me, followed by a question from Deputy Corry, asking the new Fianna Fáil Government to adjust the price of wheat. The wording of the reply was as follows:—
“No alteration of the wheat price in these last days of March could appreciably affect the acreage of wheat this year. I can, however, assure Deputy Corry that the necessity for securing an adequate acreage of wheat is fully realised by the Government, and that an announcement regarding wheat prices will be made in good time to enable farmers to prepare for the autumn sowing season.”
Examining that reply, it will be seen that most of the wheat is sown in the spring, not during the autumn sowing season. In fact, when that question was answered on 26th March, most of the wheat was not yet sown. If the Fianna Fáil Party were in earnest in their criticism of the wheat prices imposed by the inter-Party Government, they could have adjusted the price before the wheat was sown at the end of last March. Certainly they could have adjusted the wheat price before the harvest, because it is only when the harvest comes that the question of payment arises. On that point, I should like to remind the Minister and his Department that, in August, 1951, an increase in the price of wheat was announced. Surely the wheat had been sown at that time, even if it had not been harvested. In August, 1951, an increase of 5/- a barrel was announced.
A more vigorous campaign was carried out since 1954 by the Fianna Fáil Party to have the wheat price increased. Indeed, that was made a political issue at several by-elections, particularly in the rural areas. We have not yet reached August of this year. Can we hope that, if they meant what they said and if they were in earnest in their attitude towards wheat prices, we shall have an announcement even this August, before the wheat is harvested, of an adjustment of the price to a figure which the  Fianna Fáil Party considers equitable?
The maximum price advocated by the Fianna Fáil Party was £4 2s. 6d. Farmers would be glad to have that announcement in August before the harvest begins. They were disappointed by the reply given by the Department of Agriculture to a county committee of agriculture indicating that there was no intention on the part of the Department to announce an increased price for the wheat crop of this season.
The farmers were the pawns in the very dirty political game, as far as wheat prices are concerned. Fianna Fáil were completely dishonest in this matter and they carried the campaign to such an extent that they aroused the tempers of the farmers throughout the country, particularly in the 12 counties where the major portion of the wheat crop is grown.
Until the inter-Party Government took office in 1948 the Fianna Fáil Party apparently considered 52/6 or 55/- a barrel good enough for the farmers. When they came back into office and found the farmers getting £1 per barrel more, they proceeded to put a further 5/- on top of that in August, 1951. I have read the debate carefully that took place here on the motion on wheat prices. I tried to find out what Fianna Fáil Deputies took part in that debate. The motion was proposed by Deputy Beegan, with whom I would not discuss wheat prices, and it was seconded by Deputy Moher. I looked for the names of some other Fianna Fáil Deputies who were vigorous in the agitation for an increased price. Not one of them spoke on that motion. They kept their powder dry until they got their opportunity at the various by-elections in the rural areas where they could play on the feelings of the farmers and the wheat growers. I did find one contribution from Deputy N. Egan. At column 1549 of Volume 147, Deputy Egan said:—
“They are an eminently reasonable body of men, as the Minister has so lately testified, but they know that no case has been made or can be made for the reduction. They know that the price paid for wheat  has been one of the lowest in Europe, the fourth lowest in fact.”
“They know that Turkey has raised the price from 94/6 to £5 17s. 6d. per barrel. Despite what the Minister has said about the yield in Turkey, Turkey subsidised wheat exports last year to the amount of £13,000,000.
Mr. Egan: The farmers of this country also know that the Austrians increased the wheat price from 84/- to 87/6 per barrel for wheat bushel- ling 60 lbs. Of course, they also know that the Swiss wheat growers can yodel away to the tune of £7 16s. per barrel.
It is noticeable that when Deputy Egan was quoting these prices, he chose the places where one would have to mow down a countryside to get a barrel of wheat as against the 20 barrels an acre which can be obtained here. We would like to hear Deputy Egan as to his attitude now and the attitude of his Party to wheat prices.
Mr. Rooney: It is very difficult to understand the attitude of the Fianna Fáil Party towards wheat growing. Here is a quotation from Volume 147, column 1512 of the Dáil Debates, read by the Minister for Agriculture at the time, Deputy Dillon:
‘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.’”
Remember, of course, that the inter-Party Government took office in June, 1954. There is a decision of the Fianna Fáil Party in January, 1954, to cut down wheat-growing to a maximum of 300,000 tons of wheat a year.
Deputy Egan—the only expert who contributed to the motion on wheat prices—I must give him that credit— would know how many acres of land can produce 300,000 tons of wheat. It would not be anything like the acreage for which he and his Party frequently agitate. There is the decision of his own Government and the very important words in the memoranda from the Fianna Fáil Government at the time are the words, “submitted by the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce relative to the policy of the growing of wheat” and the words “the general aim of policy in regard to the growing of wheat”.
That is very specific as far as the Fianna Fáil Government are concerned,  but, despite that, they went up and down the country, particularly in areas where there are wheat-growers and farmers who would sympathise with wheat-growers, complaining about the inter-Party Government's decision to reduce the maximum price payable for wheat. The present wheat price was declared by Order of approximately 23rd January last and the Government has had plenty of time to alter that Order, if they wished to do so, before the harvest. That Order was confirmed to-day, I believe, by publication in the newspapers.
That is one point I wanted to bring up concerning the Fianna Fáil play-acting. We hope to get it straight from them some time, first. regarding their attitude towards wheat and, secondly, were they honest in the campaign they carried out in the various constituencies, particularly during the general election campaign, when farmers were preparing the ground for wheat. We want to see were they honest in their campaign when they criticised the scale of prices payable to farmers under the previous Government Orders.
Another bit of play-acting on which I want to take the Fianna Fáil Party to task is the matter of milk prices. Milk and wheat seem to be chock-full of votes as far as the Fianna Fáil Party are concerned. When the milk producers successfully agitated for an increased price for milk, the Fianna Fáil Party gave them an increase of approximately one penny a gallon and a Milk Costings Commission. That commission functioned for approximately five years at a total cost of nearly £40,000. By the time the report was available, costing and other circumstances had changed to such an extent that milk producers were not satisfied with the report. They were not satisfied that it was a fair report in view of present day circumstances. The result was that the commission which was foisted on the farmers by the former Fianna Fáil Minister for Agriculture as a delaying process, was useless. Apparently, it was useless both to the Department and to the milk producers. We had the Fianna Fáil Party almost organising protest  marches in this city of milk producers agitating for increased prices, all for political advantage.
Mr. Rooney: The milk producers were encouraged by the Fianna Fáil Party. They were led to believe that the inter-Party Government was doing its best to prevent a report coming from the Milk Costings Commission. On several occasions deputations and telegrams were sent to the Minister for Agriculture of the time, all suggesting that it was his fault that the report had not been made available. The very comprehensive report which was eventually produced showed the very large volume of work put into it by the  various officials and investigators who were charged with the responsibility of preparing that report. While they were engaged on that huge volume of work, the Minister for Agriculture was being repeatedly blamed by the creamery milk suppliers for delay in the publication of the report.
When I was in North Kerry, the agitation had reached its height. When the creamery milk suppliers were busy putting up protest posters all over the constituency, they got no better help than the help they got from the bill-stickers of the Fianna Fáil Party. Everywhere you saw a Fianna Fáil poster, you had beside it one of these milk suppliers protest posters. This shows that Fianna Fáil tried to work hand in glove with those unfortunate milk producers, who were seeking what they considered a fair price for their produce.
What has happened since, as far as they are concerned? A subsidy of £2,000,000 towards the creamery milk industry has been withdrawn. That £2,000,000, available towards the retail price of butter, was in fact a subsidy towards the production of creamery milk. It was, if you like, a great part of the price support. It remains to be seen whether the withdrawal of that subsidy will bring very great losses to the creamery milk suppliers.
What will we do with the vast quantities of milk brought to creameries for manufacture into butter, for which the consumer here has to pay 4/3 or 4/4 per lb.? Not alone are the taxpayers and consumers paying that, but they are being asked to pay for thousands of tons of butter they will never eat, but which it is hoped will be eaten either in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. I understand we have to sell that butter to Northern Ireland or Great Britain at a price of around 3/- per lb. in order to get the people to eat it. How long will this country continue paying 4/3 or 4/4 per lb. for creamery butter to enable it to be sold at 3/- per lb. across the Border, in England or any other place we may send it?
I do not believe the taxpayers will stand for that. This year there were approximately 20,000 tons of surplus  butter—20,000 tons of butter that our people cannot possibly eat. While that butter remains fit to be eaten, we will have to find somebody who will eat it at a price of 3/- per lb. or less, while our own people are paying 4/3 or 4/4. Can anybody imagine what the hungry families of our unemployed feel when they see Irish creamery butter, for which they pay 4/3 or 4/4 per lb., being sent to Northern Ireland or Great Britain to be eaten at 3/- per lb.?
There are other people besides the unemployed. There are the people on limited incomes, the widows and orphans, the old age pensioners and the other people on very limited means. They see Irish creamery butter being exported at 3/- per lb., while they have to pay 4/3 or 4/4 for it. This is all because the Government decided to take the £2,000,000 subsidy from butter. That is the subsidy which enabled butter to be sold in this country at 3/9 per lb., a subsidy which indeed helped to sell Irish creamery butter to the Irish consumer.
Those are the two points in regard to which, I believe, Fianna Fáil, with their playacting, have done very serious damage. For that, they deserve to be criticised in every possible way by anybody who has a contribution to make to this debate, and not alone on this side but on the other side also. What I have said concerning milk and butter prices is well known and well appreciated in the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party.
We may ask the question: where will the creamery milk suppliers sell their milk next year or the year after, when it is found that the present arrangement regarding payment for milk supplied to creameries breaks down by reason of the shaky situation brought about now by the withdrawal of the £2,000,000 subsidy? The creamery milk suppliers will be facing a crisis. They will be facing that crisis sooner than the wheatgrowers, who were also deceived by the Fianna Fáil Party before the election and during the by-elections which took place during the inter-Party Government's term.
I want to refer now to another  matter in regard to which I feel the Department are not being fair to the farmers. I refer to the large number of Northern Ireland cattle being presented at our markets and fairs. I raised this matter by question in the Dáil a couple of weeks ago and the terms of the reply were that the numbers were of no consequence and did not affect the trade to any great extent. I met some cattlemen yesterday and I asked them what was the market like. They said “Terrible,” that it was full of Northern Ireland cattle, hundreds of them, with their ears punched. That affects the cattle trade to a very great extent. It was argued earlier by the last speaker on another matter, that you cannot expect people to be continually meeting losses. The cattle trade suffers losses or gains good profits, according to the rise and fall of the market. Here we have a situation in which effective action is not being taken by the Department to prevent the illegal sale of Northern Ireland cattle at our markets and fairs.
Not alone are these cattle getting into our markets and fairs, but they are also getting into the meat-packing plants and the butchers' stalls. The cattle feeders and cattle salesmen have to compete with that. They have to compete with beasts subsidised to the extent of approximately £22 per hand. You can imagine two beasts, both of equal weight and, according to our prices, worth £70 each. On one of those beasts, a subsidy of £22 has already been paid by the Northern Ireland Government, but on the other beast, no subsidy whatever has been paid.
Anybody can understand the difficulty of the owner of the non-subsidised beast who wants to sell it for £70, when he is faced with the man who has already got £22 subsidy on his beast, which means that the non-subsidised animal stands him only £48. There are two animals standing in the stall, one stands its owner £48 and the other stands its owner £70. That is the sort of competition the live-stock salesmen have to face at present; it was as bad yesterday as it has been for a very long time.
I understand too, that these cattle  with the certified mark can be discovered by anybody who goes down to the boats. It is not so easy to get them across on the boats and they are used mainly within the country. However, it is the trick of the £22 all the time, back and across the Border. I heard one man say that things have gone so far that the flesh which is punched out of the ear of the beast is being put back again and allowed to knit. That brings the racket very far. I ask the Department of Agriculture not to close their eyes to this abuse. It is harmful to the cattle trade and the importance of that trade is so great that we cannot afford to close our eyes to this matter. It is a position which might result in such heavy losses to the cattle feeders that live-stock exports would be damaged to an appreciable extent.
I was surprised to hear a previous speaker talk about the farmers and their efforts on the land. He seemed to overlook the fact that in the long run every person depends on agriculture and particularly on the volume of our live-stock exports in the form of beef or dressed meat. I wonder would it be possible for the Department to send their inspectors to the various places where cattle are sold to ensure that our breeders will not be faced with the unfair competition which has affected the trade so greatly in recent times. I think this was the third week in which the cattle trade showed a substantial decline in the Dublin Cattle Market, a decline which is usually reflected throughout the country. We have the situation too, where the butchers can get these punched cattle at a lower price than cattle of equal size and quality from our farmers. The question arises, however, are the consumers getting the benefit of the lower price for which such cattle are purchased?
I heard a Deputy refer to the volume of farm production and suggest that the farmers did not sweat enough, that if they used the spade and shovel as the farmers did in olden times there would be an equal volume of production. The main thing to point out is that there is only a fraction of the population now working manually on the land compared with the number who worked  manually in the olden times. Of course, a larger number of people were employed manually but they did not have the advantage of mechanisation, and mechanisation explains why only a fraction of the people now, compared with large numbers before, are producing just as much, and possibly a little more, than was produced in olden times by the old methods.
The main problem arising from production is the marketing of the produce. In this fertile land we are capable of producing a vast surplus of any commodity one likes to think of. We can produce too much milk, too much butter, too many eggs, too many hens, too many pigs and, if you like, too much wheat. When we do produce we must ensure that there is a market for that surplus and that is where the problem lies.
In relation to the cost of production, we find it very difficult to compete in the world market for the sale of any of our products from the land, with the possible exception of meat. Almost everything else which we are capable of producing from the land can be produced more cheaply elsewhere and consequently we are unable to find a market for a surplus of many of the commodities we produce and can produce with our tradition, the suitability of our land and our skill. Before we decide on producing a surplus of any particular commodity, let us look to our own production costs and our own prices and also at the market to see if we can find there a place for that surplus. In 90 per cent. of the cases we cannot, and I believe that one of the problems which will confront the new Minister and the Government, will be to try to get surpluses produced at prices which will enable them to be sold on the market economically, even if they are not sold at a profit. If we can sell them at cost price on other markets we will at least have had the advantage of providing work for those engaged in their production.
Since 1947 our cattle population has been showing a uniform increase and I hope that the decision to withdraw the £2,000,000 butter subsidy will not have the effect of reducing our cattle population again. On the question of the  butter subsidy, there was one matter which I omitted to mention and it should be mentioned. The Minister is aware of it and I hope his Department will do something about it. It is that quite an amount of butter which is being sent across the Border in the proper way is coming back illegally to this part of the country. We have had cases in the courts recently where it was alleged that butter exported from  this country had found its way back again and had been sold at cut prices to the detriment of the grocery trade.
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