Tuesday, 9 June 1959
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £1,378,950 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st day of March, 1960, for Salaries  and Expenses in connection with Forestry (No. 13 of 1946 and No. 6 of 1956) including a Grant-in-Aid for Acquisition of Land.
In view of the great importance which I attach to securing the success of the campaign launched last year to bring about an increase in private planting, I have been very strongly tempted, in introducing the Forestry Estimate to the House today, to devote the greater part of my speech to this question of private planting. I must, however, resist that temptation since the bulk of the moneys being provided in this Estimate will in fact be devoted to State forestry activity and there is in fact much progress and development in that field also of which the House should be made aware.
The net Estimate for 1959/60 at £1,989,950 is higher by £85,400 than the net sum voted for 1958/59—— £1,904,550. The gross Estimate shows an increase of £94,900 but this is offset by an allowance for Appropriation in Aid higher by £9,500 than that included in the 1958/59 Forestry Estimate.
In introducing the 1958/59 Estimate to the House, I pointed out that net expenditure on forestry including expenditure on private forestry was growing each year but that the rate of growth in net total expenditure was decreasing under the impact of various factors including an increase on the revenue side and various measures on the expenditure side calculated to promote greater efficiency and keener production costings. I explained to the House that, while net expenditure might be expected to continue to rise for some further period, we would, inside a few years, enter into a new stage in which a more rapid increase in revenue would bring about a steady decline in the demands which it was necessary to make upon the Exchequer with the ultimate prospect that in 15 years time revenue should equate expenditure and that thereafter forestry should be a source of net revenue to the Exchequer. That picture and the economic implications of the steps being taken to gear State forestry to a high level of efficiency and productivity,  giving an ultimate possibility of a financial yield from Irish State Forestry as high as 5%, has since been embodied in the Government's White Paper on the Programme for Economic Expansion and set out in more elaborate form in the publication Economic Development.
The out turn of net expenditure on forestry in 1958/59 was consistent with the pattern of declining increase in total net outgoings which I presented to the House last year. Actual net expenditure figures for the past five years have been as follows: 1954-55, £1.25 millions; 1955-56, £1.47 millions; 1956-57, £1.65 millions; 1957-58, £1.76 millions; 1958-59, £1.77 millions.
The increase in net expenditure in 1958/59 was approximately £19,000, the actual net expenditure figure for the year being £1,774,196. Revenue in the year totalled £316,134. Gross expenditure in the year was £2,090,330, slightly higher than in 1957/58 and, of course, the highest for any year to date.
The Estimate which is now before the House for 1959/60 allows for an increase of £230,120 in gross expenditure. Allowance is being made, however, for an increase of £14,366 in revenue over the actual figure for 1958/59 and the net Estimate for 1959/60 exceeds actual net expenditure in 1958/59 by £215,754.
Subheads A and B show increases of £30,950 and £9,000 respectively. The increase in Subhead A is necessitated by normal incremental increases and by additional staff needed for expanding operations under all heads.
Subhead E. 1—Forestry Education —shows a small increase, and covers a 50 per cent. increase in the recruitment of forestry trainees to be continued in future years. More extensive accommodation is being made available at Shelton and Kinnitty.
While on this subject of forestry education, I should mention that the State Grant to the Faculty of General  Agriculture in University College, Dublin, which is borne on the Vote for Agriculture, has been enlarged following consultation with the College authorities to enable the College to replace the Lectureship in Forestry by a Chair in Forestry and to cover provision of an assistant for the new Professor of Forestry. This step will, I hope, be of material assistance to the College in its plans for improving Forestry education on the University level and it will also, of course, be of benefit to my Department, which will employ the majority of the graduates in Forestry who come from the University. More graduates are required than are at present forthcoming.
Subhead D—Grants for Afforestation Purposes—has been doubled in the 1959/60 Estimate as compared with the 1958/59 provision. The increase is ample, to meet any immediate impact from the introduction of higher grants for private planting and the intensive, campaign to secure a higher planting rate which was launched last year. I shall come back to this Subhead later.
The total allowance for appropriations in aid at £330,500 shows an increase of £9,500. The increase is in the allowance for receipts from sales of timber. The increase in total allowance for appropriations in aid over the actual level of receipts in 1958/59 is £14,366.
Despite the shortfall in revenue in 1958/59, allowance is being made in the 1959/60 Estimate for an increase in revenue from sales of timber to £280,000. There has been some fall-off early this year in imported timber prices arising from the reaction of Russian prices on Scandinavian quotations, but it is difficult to see how the market in sawlog timber will develop during the remainder of the year. There is, however, a prospect of improved market capacity for small-size thinnings with the entry of the Scariff  chipboard factory into the timber market.
It has been possible to take into account also the developing market in transmission and telegraph poles. Discussions have been going on during the year with the Electricity Supply Board directed towards securing a greater share of this market for Irish-grown timber. The Board is anxious to buy home-grown timber and progress is being made with the resolution of problems of continuity and timing of supply to meet the Board's requirements. There was an increase in revenue from sale of transmission and telegraph poles in 1958/59 and the upward trend is likely to continue.
In relation to long-term market trends, I mentioned in introducing last year's Estimate that the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards had taken up the question of establishing standards for home grown timber. A few months ago, the Institute published Moisture Content Standards applicable to both home-grown and imported timber. This is, I think, a valuable step forward towards putting Irish timber in fair competition with the imported material, as it will provide engineers and architects with the means by which they can specify a suitable standard of moisture content for any particular purpose rather than relying, as in the past, on the unsafe assumption that by specifying imported timber they would be sure of obtaining timber which had been well seasoned. We have sought the co-operation of other Government Departments and public bodies in giving a lead by excising the terms “imported” and “native” from their vocabularies in preparing contract specifications for timber. Our appeals have met with a ready response and the Department of Local Government has also circularised local authorities in the matter to secure their co-operation also. The lead which will henceforward be given by all those public bodies will, I hope, be followed by engineers and architects in private practice thus bringing us nearer to the day when the old shibboleth that native timber was inferior can be finally buried and when Irish-grown timber will be able to compete on its merits and price with the imported product.
 As to future markets for small size timbers, I have already mentioned the Scariff chipboard factory, which I understand hopes to commence production this autumn and has already made a start on the purchase of initial timber stocks. There are various other projects for industrial development based on the use of thinning produce under active discussion. In relation to long-term development in this field, we have recently had the benefit of a report from a firm of consultants of world wide repute, employed under the E.P.A. Small Pulp Mills Project, in which this country participated. The report which contained much valuable information is at present being studied by the various interests concerned. We have intimated to the European Productivity Agency that we would be in favour of its release for general publication.
The amount provided in the grant-in-aid for the acquisition of land-subhead C (1)—in 1958-59 was £160,000. The new provision in 1959-60 has been increased to £170,000. Allowing for unexpended carryover, there is a total of over £268,000 available this year, more than ample to meet land purchase progress in the year.
A greater area of land was acquired in 1958/59 than in any previous year. The gross area acquired totalled 28,436 acres in 339 transactions, compared with 26,344 acres in 374 transactions in 1957/58 and 18,731 acres in 247 transactions in 1956/57. Final figures for the productive area acquired in 1958/59 are not yet available but it is expected to approximate 25,000 acres or some 2,000 acres above the record figure of achievement in 1957/58.
It is encouraging to have acquired last year for the first time as much land as it is hoped to plant in fulfilment from this year on of the 25,000 acres per annum planting target established some years ago. The rate of acquisition of land is, however, still far from satisfactory, when regard is had to the extreme inadequacy of the reserve of plantable land held by the Department.
I explained to the House 12 months  ago that last year's planting programme of 22,500 acres and the still larger programme of 25,000 acres scheduled for the current and succeeding years could only be accomplished with considerable difficulty and that some loss of management efficiency would result at individual forest centres unless the acquisition of land increased markedly all over the country. During the year, the acquisition staff has been increased with a view to speeding up the progress of acquisition and a continuous campaign of publicity has been undertaken to increase the number of offers of land.
The present net reserve of plantable land is quite inadequate for proper management. The Department should be in a position to plan work programmes for individual forests in such a way as to provide a steady flow of work in the years ahead. We are now forced to arrange unduly large planting programmes at newly established forests in western counties. This will cause spasmodic irregular employment in the years to come unless we can acquire more land. Even if the available plantable reserve were spread ideally over all our forest centres it would be too small for proper planning and efficient management.
An immediate and rapid improvement in the reserve position is the most critical problem facing the forestry service to-day. To secure an immediate alleviation of the position, I have told my Department that it should aim at securing an aggregate of 75,000 to 80,000 acres in the next two years and staff for this purpose is being sought. Any higher target would be quite incapable of achievement and even that target is an extremely ambitious one.
The new regulations made recently to enable effect to be given to the provisions of the 1956 Forestry Act, concerning title difficulty cases and commonage areas, will be of some help; but an extension of acquisition progress from the handling of cases under these Regulations must in the nature of things be slow. It would be quite improper to use the new powers available under these Regulations in title difficulty cases as an alternative to securing a clear title by normal  process where that is reasonably feasible. The 1956 Act provided for these title difficulty cases by enabling the Department to agree with the occupier of the land that title should be transferred by resources to compulsory acquisition procedure, with the qualification that the Minister would have power to pay out the purchase money instead of lodging it in Court, as is the normal practice under compulsory procedure where title of the previous occupier is defective. The extension of the 1946 Act provisions by the powers given in the 1956 Act to deal with defective title cases does not provide a means of stepping up immediately and rapidly the rate of intake of land.
New powers in relation to commonages which have become effectively available under the new Regulations will in the long term, I hope, make a more decisive contribution towards the rate of intake of land. These commonage cases are, however, usually quite involved and the first step necessary will be to try out the new machinery in a small number of test cases to ensure that all the legal difficulties have been fully met.
The ambitious acquisition target which I have set for these two years can, therefore, only be attained by a rapid acceleration of progress under the normal proces of offer, examination as to suitability, negotiation and title clearance. Staff needs have been further reviewed to ensure that no question of staff inadequacy will delay progress with the handling of cases, but we must also secure and maintain an increased flow of offers of suitable land if the rate of acquisition is to be sufficiently accelerated. I would appeal to Deputies in all parts of the House to give us their active assistance by encouraging people in their constituencies who have land which could with benefit be developed for State Forestry purposes to offer that land to us. The need is imperative if we are to maintain forestry employment and to manage our afforestation programme in the best economic and financial interests of the tax-paying community.
 Forestry development provides with Turf Development almost the sole permanent employment in rural areas. All other sources of employment are diminishing, such as rural electrification and housing. Arterial drainage affects particular areas. The heavy rate burden is rapidly mechanising road work.
May I stress the hard fact that unregulated grazing, wind and rain have caused continuous erosion on many now marginal sheep lands and on many areas the regular income from forestry employment will far exceed the value from sheep.
On the operational side provision under Subhead C.2—Forest Development and Management—at £1,718,650 shows an increase of £36,000 on the 1958/59 provision. The actual level of expenditure in 1958/59 fell appreciably short of the Estimate provision and the provision in the Estimate now before the House is adequate to permit of an increase of over £164,000 on operational expenditure as compared with last year.
Though the volume of nursery work has been growing steadily with the increase in planting programme the cost of nursery operations has not been increasing at the same rate. The total provision for the year for nurseries has been fixed at £151,800, about the same as last year's expenditure. This includes a provision of £125,000 for labour.
Pursuing the policy of establishing larger nurseries, two have already been opened at Clonegal and Shelton. The Clonegal Nursery has been fully mechanised and the results have included greater efficiency and a reduction in cost of producing plants. The Shelton Nursery is still in course of mechanisation. Another large area suitable for nursery purposes is in course of purchase at Camolin and negotiations are proceeding elsewhere. It will be some years, of course, before we can complete the reorganisation of the nursery establishment.
I also mentioned in connection with last year's Estimate that we were  examining the possibility of improved seed purchasing arrangements. We have gone ahead with this and have tried out this year the appointment of a reputable firm in the United States as sole agents for the supply of the bulk of the Forestry Division's requirements of forest tree seeds of foreign origin, with a view to ensuring good timber yields. We are undertaking with the British Forestry Commission a joint survey of pinus contorta stands in the two countries to determine those best suited for selection as home sources of contorta seed, with a view to meeting our needs to the greatest possible extent from home-collected seed of proven suitability.
Moving on to the actual planting head, that entitled Establishment of Plantations in Subhead C. 2, it will be noted that the financial provision has been increased by £11,000 over last year's provision, although the Estimate this year provides for an increase in the planting programme from 22,500 acres to 25,000 acres. The limitation in the additional financial need is largely attributable to a greater incidence of planting on ploughed ground. Planting after ploughing involves a much lower cost level and is affecting the incidence of total charge. The increase in the percentage of planting on ploughed ground in 1958/59 limited actual expenditure in that year to £400,000 and the Estimate provision proposed in the current year is suitably proportioned by reference to that actual expenditure last year when the increase in planting programme is taken into account. The provision includes a sum of £385,000 for labour as against an actual expenditure on labour in 1958/59 of £359,000.
It is expected that 40 per cent. of this year's planting programme will lie in the counties along the Western seaboard as compared with 37 per cent. in 1958/59 and 34 per cent. in 1957/58. The actual acreage figures for these western counties for the three years are as follows:—
|1959-60—||10,000 ,, (approximately)|
 The planting of 25,000 acres this year will fulfil the plans laid down some years ago for an annual stepping-up of planting by 2,500 acres until a figure of 25,000 acres was reached in 1959/60. In the last ten years the total area of State plantations has been more than doubled from 124,000 acres at the end of 1948/49 to 269,500 acres at the end of of 1958/59. Maintenance of a 25,000 acre annual planting programme will add a second quarter million acres to this area in the next 10 years. That is an attractive prospect but let me again remind the House that its accomplishment will depend on a satisfactory solution of the problems presented by an inadequate rate of acquisition of land for forestry purposes.
Moving on now to the next item under Subhead C. 2, the provision for the Construction of New Roads and Buildings, the bulk of which relates of course to roads, it will be noted that the Estimate provision at £344,000 shows a reduction of £26,000 from last year's provision. The actual outturn of expenditure in 1958/59 was £258,000 and even the reduced provision for the current year, therefore, allows for an increase in expenditure of £86,000 over last year's level. The outturn of expenditure in 1958/59 at a figure appreciably below the Estimate figure was in part attributable to a reduction in the per mile cost of road construction and this downward trend in per mile costs is likely to continue in 1959/60. The Estimate provision now before the House will, therefore, permit of an expansion in the road construction programme as compared with last year to an even greater extent than is reflected by the comparative figures I have quoted.
Before dealing further with this question of road costs I should say, however, that our road construction programme in 1958/59 was also severely limited in many areas due to bad weather during the summer months. It is during the summer period that the greater volume of road work is put in hands. The very wet summer last year completely upset our programme which had provided for a  considerable extension of progress over the 1957/58 level. Nevertheless, the total mileage of roads either constructed or partially constructed in the year (according to preliminary work returns which are subject to some final adjustment) was 276 miles, nearly two and a half times the 1955/56 mileage.
We have still a great deal of arrears to make up in road construction and it is hoped that, provided weather conditions in the summer are not as unfavourable as they were last year, last year's total accomplishment will be considerably exceeded in the current year.
On the organisational side it became evident some years ago that the road construction programme was assuming such significant proportions as to require that a special civil engineering and surveying staff be made available to deal with road planning, lay-out and construction. The staff are in course of recruitment. This new staff cadre will be of very considerable benefit in ensuring that roads are planned to the best advantage and that construction costs are kept to the minimum necessary to provide efficiently for management and timber extraction purposes.
On the costs side, I mentioned in last year's Estimate debate that we had had the benefit of a most useful examination and report by a consultant who had been responsible for reducing road construction costs in forests in Great Britain and that his recommendations were being put into operation on an experimental basis with the certainty that costs could be reduced by as much as 15 per cent. Some of the consultant's recommendations have already been widely applied and others have been the subject of successful experimental application. The consultant has recently been re-engaged for a further investigation.
On the General Forest Management side the provision under this head in 1959/60 estimated at £512,200 is slightly less than the provision in 1958/59. Actual expenditure in 1958/59 was somewhat in excess of the provision but the volume of work for 1959/60 will be only slightly higher  than in 1958/59 and its cost will reflect the gains in productivity under the Incentive Bonus Scheme to which I will refer later. This is the only head on which the productivity gains under the Scheme are not being overshadowed in the Estimate by significant increases in work volume.
There is a small increase in the Estimate provision under the head of Timber Conversion. The provision of £94,500 includes £85,500 for labour compared with an actual expenditure on labour of £77,000 in 1958/59. The trend in recent years towards standing sale of thinnings rather than direct labour thinnings continued in 1958/59, the produce of some 4,400 acres being sold standing. The overall area thinned in 1958/59—from provisional returns —was about 7,600 acres with a yield estimated at 2.4 million cubic feet compared with 7,492 acres with a yield of 2 million cubic feet in 1957/58. The output trend shows a gradual recovery from the interruption of normal thinning activity in 1957/58 by the extensive windblow in the Spring of 1957.
There are substantial increases in the provision for mechanical equipment for forest development and management. A sum of £76,600 is being provided for Purchase and Hire of Machinery as compared with £30,000 in 1958/59 and the provision for Operation, Maintenance and Repair is being increased from £54,600 to £93,800. The heavy investment in additional plant contemplated is necessary in connection with the expansion of road construction operations and the increased scope for the use of ploughs in ground preparation preliminary to planting.
Actual total expenditure on labour over the entire operational field in 1958/59 at £1,298,000 was slightly higher than 1957/58 but the number of men employed showed a small  decrease. Peak employment for the year at 4,990 was lower by 29 men than the 1957-58 peak and the average employment level for the full year at 4,673 was lower by 162 than the 1957-58 average. The increase in sales of standing thinnings, of course, increased indirect employment and limited direct State employment. This growth in indirect employment for which statistics are not readily available, is making it increasingly difficult to measure total forestry employment.
The fall-off in direct employment in 1958-59 was due mainly to the lower per acre employment potential of the planting programme consequent upon the enlarged percentage of planting on ploughed ground and the interruption of road construction programmes by the wet summer. Summarising the employment position it is true to say that in spite of bad weather and the incidence of ploughing the total direct and indirect employment was higher than in the previous year. An increase in direct employment in the current year is likely if the planned programme of road construction does not suffer the same interference from weather conditions as in 1958-59.
The aggregate of provisions for labour in Subhead C (2) for 1959-60 is £1,352,114. To date this year the average level of employment has exceeded that for the corresponding period last year by 150. The Forestry Incentive Bonus Scheme has been gaining momentum over the past four or five months. There are now 41 forests operating under the scheme, accounting for over one-fifth of the total labour force. By the end of this month it is hoped to have a total of 47 forests, representing nearly a quarter of the labour force, operating under the scheme. By the end of the financial year it is hoped to have the scheme extended to about 90 per cent. of the entire labour force.
It is very gratifying that we have been able to plan our operations on a basis which will permit of securing the gains from the scheme—to both the worker and the taxpayer—without interfering with the overall level of employment. I have expressed the  hope that up to 90 per cent. of the forest labour force will be operating under the Scheme by March, 1960. That ambitious target is contingent on good progress being maintained in the preparation of an exhaustive Standard Catalogue of Work Values—an absolute pre-requisite to administration of the scheme over such a wide labour front. The Catalogue, when it is completed, will give a minute range of work weightings for all the operations normally required in all the variations of ground conditions and specification details likely to be encountered. Good progress has been made in this work. A voluminous Code of Standard Specifications has been prepared and the scientific settlement of work values for the various specifications is proceeding smoothly. Until the Catalogue is completed, the Department cannot respond to the many pleas from workers in all regions in the country for early application of the scheme in their forests.
In those forests where it has been applied already, the scheme has proved an unqualified success. Put simply, the Scheme provides that each work-gang will be paid a bonus at an appropriate level for productivity, or effort, above an agreed level. At or below that level, time-rate alone operates. Time during which actual work is held up by weather conditions, waiting for materials, movement from one worksite to another or any other cause is noted separately and paid for at time rate only. The records of such lost time are carefully analysed and give all concerned—the workers, the local Forester and the higher administration —an opportunity of getting to grips with the extent and causes of such stoppages.
The bonus paid for effective time is scientifically controlled by the productivity of the gang measured by reference to the work values assigned to the jobs in hands. The index of productivity has risen steadily since the scheme started—bringing a steady increase in bonus earnings for the worker and a gain to the Department (and therefore the taxpayer) in lower production costings. For the first six weeks of 1959/60 the productivity  index for the forests then operating under the Scheme reached an average level higher by 49 per cent. than the level which was disclosed in the course of preliminary studies of time-rate working.
What does this mean in hard cash to the workers and to the community? For the workers it meant average bonus earnings per hour of approximately 6d. in the last quarter of 1958/59 (even taking into account periods of work stoppage when no bonus was earned) giving an addition to income of 24/- per week for a week in which the worker gave a full attendance. A further rise in productivity in the first 6 weeks of the current quarter reflects a rise in bonus earnings to about 6½d. per hour or 26/- for a full week's attendance.
For the community it has enabled a larger programme of work to be undertaken in the current year at a cost less by some £112,000 than would have been needed to cover the same volume of work entirely on time rate. In other words, even after paying the incentive bonus, the taxpayer will this year have got the benefit of an increase in production worth over £100,000. The production gain with the scheme fully in operation is likely to be of the order of £200,000 per annum.
I have devoted rather a lot of time to the progress of the Incentive Bonus Scheme but I feel that the House was entitled to a fairly full statement of what is being achieved by the scheme. It is a tribute to the Civil Service that the Forestry Division in co-operation with the firm of industrial consultants employed on this undertaking, has been able to achieve such excellent progress. It is by such means that we can hope to find a better future for this country not merely in more prosperous national and private enterprise but in raising also the living standards of the working community. The increased workers' wages in turn employ other workers who make goods and provide services for the forestry workers' requirements. This in turn produces still more employment.
The taxpayer has more money to spend in employing Irish workers or  he can invest his savings in some enterprise giving more employment. This is how every country has grown in prosperity and we are proud to set the example of how to produce more at lower cost—a vital necessity for our future.
Before passing from the scheme, I want to repeat the tribute I paid twelve months ago to the trade unions for their ready co-operation in making a success of the scheme. May I also appeal to them to curb the impatience of those of their members who have not yet been brought under the scheme?
It is pleasing to be able to couple with this picture of steady progress in State forestry the news that at last we are making some progress towards getting the co-operation of private landowners in the way of a substantial increase in private planting. I indicated to the House when speaking on last year's Forestry Estimate that it was my intention to follow up the Government's decision to double the grants paid for private planting— a rise from £10 to £20 per acre—with an intensive propaganda campaign and to enlist the aid of the various rural organisations representative of the farming community—the National Farmers' Association, Macra na Feirme, Muintir na Tire and the Irish Country-women's Association as well as such specialised bodies as the Trees for Ireland Society—in a concerted effort to encourage the Irish farmer to complete his holding by providing his own wood lot somewhere on the farm.
Last autumn we initiated an intensive campaign of advertising in the provincial papers and especially in two counties—Wexford and Kilkenny. New publicity folders giving details of the grant scheme were prepared and widely disseminated and propaganda material was supplied to farming journals and other publications likely to find their way into the hands of the farming community. Following discussions which had taken place with the executives of the rural organisations during the summer a meeting to launch a special campaign last winter attended by all the interested organisations was  held in Dublin, in September. This was followed by similar meetings in Wexford and in Kilkenny. Thirty-five well attended lectures were given over the winter months at points strategically scattered throughout the Counties Wexford and Kilkenny so as to ensure that every farmer would have an opportunity to attend a lecture. Outside the two counties chosen for an intensive campaign there were quite a number of spontaneous requests for lectures from interested groups and all of those requests were fulfilled. The rural bodies also afforded us an opportunity of using such occasions as annual general meetings, Rural Weeks, etc., to help publicise the grant scheme and the benefits which private planting could bring to the individual farmer. Forestry exhibits were arranged at a total of 13 provincial agricultural shows, the emphasis being put, of course, on private planting. Similarly the Forestry Division's exhibit at the recent R.D.S. spring show in Dublin was entirely directed towards securing more private planting. Special circular letters were addressed to big landowners and others who might be in a position to plant significant blocks of land on their estates or holdings.
While the campaign was launched a little late last year to enable its full fruits to be reaped in last winter's planting season, there is already much evidence that it is bringing results. Since the initiation of the campaign we have received 770 requests for inspections under the free technical advisory service which has been placed at the disposal of prospective planters. Advisory inspections carried out cover a total area of 2,369 acres. Some of these areas of course may not ultimately be planted and many of the requests for inspection came too late in the season for any planting to be done last winter. Nonetheless, that figure in itself is indicative of the correctness of my belief that, given proper encouragement, our farming community would do much more than has been done in the past in the way of private planting.
We do not yet know how many acres were in fact planted last winter  but preliminary indications are that the total will lie in the region of 1,000 to 1,200 acres. Over the previous 5 years the average annual area planted was about 450 acres and the maximum in any year not much in excess of 600 acres. We may say, therefore, that even in this first year of intensive propaganda the planting rate has been more than doubled. It is safe to assume that in the coming year when the campaign has had more time to get under way even better results will be achieved. It is the intention this year to pick some additional counties for intensive propaganda on the lines of that carried out last winter in Kilkenny and Wexford. A final decision on the choice of counties, which must take into account, inter alia, the degree of interest shown by the local rural organisations, has not yet been taken. The campaign of newspaper advertising, etc., will be repeated and extended and to that end the provision for publicity under Subhead G. of the Estimate has been increased. In the coming season the propaganda campaign under the General Planting Grant Scheme will, of course, be coupled with one related to the new special scheme of Poplar Grants which I announced recently.
This special poplar scheme is in two parts—for planting in compact blocks a grant of £15 per acre will be paid in two instalments, £10 on the satisfactory establishment of the plantation and £5 after 5 years, with a separate row planting grant for poplar planted in rows or lines at the rate of 3/- per tree, 2/- of which is payable after satisfactory planting and 1/- after five years. As with the general planting grant, the minimum area which will qualify for block planting of poplar is one acre consisting of one or more compact blocks. Under the row planting grant a minimum of 50 trees must be planted.
Poplar differs from the species which can be planted under the general planting grant in that the plants are rooted sets obtained from cuttings rather than transplanted seedlings. It is a light-demanding species and must be planted at wide spacings. The limits of spacing laid down under the scheme are that the trees must be not  less than 20 feet and not more than 26 feet apart according to the variety used. The row-planting scheme will permit of planting along boundaries and margins which would otherwise be put to little productive use.
Poplar is the fastest growing species producing commercial timber in Ireland and it will produce a mature crop commanding a lucrative market in 30 years. Fertile soil with plenty of moisture combined with good drainage will give the best results. It is ideal for sheltered alluvial areas along the margins of rivers and streams not subject to constant flooding and I believe that now that special grants are payable for poplar it will be possible to secure extensive planting of the species with benefits from the points of view of farm economy, national productivity and amenity. Free technical advice on the planting of poplar will be provided by the Forestry Division. Since the species differs appreciably from the spruces, pines, etc., it is very desirable that this technical advisory scheme should be used to the full by landowners contemplating poplar planting who have no previous experience of the cultivation of the species. The advisory officer will advise on the suitability of the land for poplar cultivation, the preparatory work required and so on.
In relation to private planting generally I should say that some private planters experienced difficulty in getting supplies of the species they required last winter. There were also some complaints made to me of excessive charges made for plants. Any complaints which I or my Department received in relation to excessive charges were thoroughly investigated and were ill-founded. At the same time I want it to be clearly understood by all concerned that I will not allow the success of this private planting scheme to be jeopardised by any unreasonably high prices for plants. If at any time it should become apparent that plants cannot be obtained from commercial sources at reasonable figures my Department will be forced to consider the alternative of making plants  available from the State forest nurseries.
To make it easier for prospective planters to fulfil their plant requirements this winter it is intended to seek the co-operation of the nursery trade in the compilation at the beginning of the season of a catalogue indicating the species which each firm is in a position to supply and to undertake a revision of this catalogue half way through the season. I hope that these new arrangements will make it easier for prospective planters to secure their requirements.
I have emphasised the valuable investment which the farmer can secure from a very small financial outlay in private planting. The grant of £20 per acre will in many cases cover the full actual outgoings especially where it is possible to meet the labour requirement by taking up existing slack in a period when other farm work is at a low ebb. In those cases where with extensive planting the farmer finds it necessary to put an appreciable sum into the undertaking over and above the level of the State grant there is now available to him the possibility of a loan from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. The Corporation went into this matter this year in consultation with my Department and in its recent policy announcement made it clear that it would be willing to make loans to cover capital investment in afforestation. That is, incidentally, a proof of the creditworthiness of private forestry.
Nearly all improvements in land operations take years and years to show full results and the first major thinnings in a forest bring income to the farmer enabling him to assist his family in the early years of marriage. The income from one acre of forestry land—varying from £800 to £1000 an acre—provides a very significant endowment to the children and grandchildren. In addition there will be a wood lot to cover domestic needs. Compared with the average hardwon savings in any medium-sized farm it certainly adds a significant amount. The market for timber is as certain as anything in the world. Our whole future depends on using every acre of  land, every hour of sunlight and of rain to the best advantage. Private planting is a symbol of faith in the future of each family on the land and consequently of faith in the nation itself. Every acre, every ten, every hundred acres of land planted with trees will reveal the emergence of hope and belief in national progress.
May I conclude by suggesting that those who cannot manage large acreages of forest land could keep an acre or two on handing over the major part to the Department and thus provide just the small acreage that will bring an endowment in the years to come.
I know I have had encouraging support from all sides of the House in this  campaign. I believe I can look forward to a continuance and even a furtherance of that support in this coming winter. I sincerely appreciate too, the ready help which has been forthcoming from the farming organisations in securing the success of the campaign. It is a further proof of the way in which these organisations are cooperating with the Government and other authorities in building a better Ireland.
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