Committee on Finance. - Vote 43 — Agriculture (Resumed).

Wednesday, 18 July 1962

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 196 No. 15

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. —(Deputy Dillon.)

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  Before reporting progress last evening, I had been referring to the glowing tributes paid by Deputy Moher to the agricultural policy Deputy Dillon has been advocating for some years past. Deputy Moher gave us, too, a pretty graphic picture of the prestige of the industry in his area. I made the point that, in spite of the undeveloped state of agriculture, the [2510] industry was still, and would continue to be, the foundation of our entire economy. It provides a livelihood for approximately 50 per cent. of our people and produces a very large share of the national wealth.

In his introductory statement, the Minister was able to tell us that the agricultural industry in 1961 accounted for approximately 70 per cent. of our total exports. Deputy Dillon has on many occasions stated that agricultural production is capable of being doubled. This is a view to which I subscribe wholeheartedly. What is the present position? What indication have we of the efforts that are being made at the moment in relation to this industry? As I know the attitude of the Government, it is that any increase in production would be undesirable and would, in fact, lead to further difficulties for the Government.

I regard that as a shocking indictment of Government policy at a time when every Government in Europe, with an interest in agriculture, is straining every nerve and bending all its energies to increasing agricultural production. We have problems and difficulties but these problems and difficulties did not start to-day or yesterday. They are due to the fact that we have failed to look ahead and to keep abreast of developments elsewhere. We have, in particular, difficulties in the disposal of our dairy products. They are due to many causes. They are mainly due to over-concentration on our lowest priced, home-produced product, butter. They are due also to our failure to provide incentives to our dairy farmers to produce cleaner milk, milk capable of being processed into higher-priced, more diversified and more saleable products.

They are due also to the fact that the costs of production are too high. They are too high because the milk capacity of our cows is low and we have made very little effort to increase that capacity. We have failed to provide the advisory service that would impress upon farmers the importance of good quality pastures, the importance of producing such pastures, of profitably grazing them and of conserving [2511] them, the importance of providing large quantities of high quality bulk feeding for the winter periods. We have done something to improve the milk producing quality of our cows through AI but not half enough is being done in progeny testing of bulls. Coupled with the AI service we should have a veterinary service because there are very considerable annual losses through cows failing to hold calf for the normal period.

This is very important since our cattle numbers are dropping so drastically. There has been a drop of 112,000 in our cattle population in the past year. This is a serious matter because we imported about £8,000,000 worth of animals in that year. It may fairly be said that the eradication of bovine tuberculosis has been responsible in some measure for the reduction in stocks but since this is in some way an artificial removal of cattle some artificial measure will have to be adopted in order to replace them. I am slow to suggest how it should be done but something in the nature of a grant will have to be provided for in-calf heifers if we are to get cattle stocks back to the desirable level. One of the main planks of the Programme for Economic Expansion was a big increase in cattle numbers. We have not achieved that. Since 1958 the number of cows has dropped by 18,000.

We have trouble also with the disposal of bacon and this when we have only 1,500,000 pigs in this country while Denmark, a country much smaller than ours, has 12,000,000 pigs. The Danes appear to have little difficulty in disposing of their bacon at a price very much in excess of what we are able to obtain, a price 44/- to 45/- a cwt. better than we can obtain. This, again, is due to a number of causes. It is due to the fact that the Danes have better breeding stocks, better feeding, better management, better curing and marketing processes.

The pig industry is all important to this country because of the small farm economy that exists here. We are all anxious to maintain the small or [2512] smallish farmers in this country and to give them a standard of living approaching the standards enjoyed by the other sections of our community. If we are to take pig production seriously we must realise that it is all important that we should import the best possible breeding stock wherever it may be obtainable. I understand that the best breeding stock available to us is in Sweden. One of the main difficulties with regard to carcase quality that we have here is the shoulder cut thickness. I believe that in Sweden the average is 37 millimetres. In Ireland it is 47 millimetres.

I fully realise that the importation of breeding stock is not the whole answer to our problem, but it is a quick way to get to the position that our competitors have arrived at in the years of testing. Five or six years ago, when Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture, he provided the first progeny testing station for pigs and I understand that at that time the plans were well under way for a second one. We are still waiting for that station. I believe it is now being constructed but when it will be ready for use I do not know. We should now be well on our way towards providing a third station. The idea that a stock of 1,500,000 pigs is enough for this country is ridiculous.

Our pig housing is anything but what it should be and our feeding and management generally should be improved. This is all part of the work of an intensive advisory service but there is not much point in having such a service unless we have an outlet for our production. I have indicated some of our marketing difficulties but all the talk we have had about selling difficulties has led our farmers into the frame of mind in which they believe that any extra production will lead, as it has always led, to a reduction in price. The attitude of the Minister, as far as I know it, is that while costs of production are rising and continue to rise and while the cost of living is rising the price of the farmer's produce must be kept down; that under no circumstances must he be allowed an increase in the price of his produce.

[2513] Milk production has been seriously disturbed by this business of reducing the price by 1d. per gallon and then, when the fury of the dairy farmers was let loose, restoring that penny. In the liquid milk producing area, where there is no subsidy and no difficulty in selling, no price increase is permitted. It is something I fail to understand. The price of half a pint of stout is a shilling and the farmers are expected to put on the customer's door at 7 o'clock in the morning for seven days a week, twice that quantity of milk at half the price. If this is not unfair discrimination against the farming community I am not able to recognise it.

Since the last increase in the price of milk in the Dublin district, agricultural wages have increased by approximately £2 per week and rightly so; if we do not make an effort to approximate the wages of agricultural workers to those of other similar workers we shall have no agricultural workers. I mention that as one of the costs of productions which have increased considerably. In view of the fact that there is no subsidy I would ask the Minister to explain why he will not permit an increase in the price of milk in the Dublin district. It is an end product. It is unlike the produce in the dairying areas.

There is this aspect of it as well. The dairy farmers in County Dublin can perhaps increase production slightly due to the increasing demand from the city, but it is confined to that and any farmer who decides to produce milk in excess of that quantity has no outlet. He has no outlet even at surplus price and up to the present, at any rate, wholesalers have refused to allow new people to come into milk production at any price. That is a restriction on production but there are many restrictions on production.

The price of wheat has been reduced in the past. It has been reduced by the reduction in the quantity of wheat that will be accepted at the mills. It has been reduced by the inevitable effect of the introduction of more severe standards, especially the colour standard which will result inevitably in less wheat being taken for milling. It [2514] is hard to understand that attitude also because last year we imported over £6,000,000 worth of wheat. The Minister does not accept responsibility for standards. He says it is a matter for the mills. As far as I can see the millers are allowed to do what they like and treat the farmers as they like.

Barley has been pegged down to the price at which it has been for some years and there is little justification for this either. Last year we imported £1.7 million worth of maize and a considerable amount of other feeding stuffs and grain generally. It is difficult to see how this policy can be supported. In view of the size of our imports one would think that some little extra encouragement would be given to our farmers to produce barley. Barley can now be produced in almost every part of the country because of the introduction of the lime scheme and of high-yielding varieties of feeding barley.

In an effort to see what could be done in County Dublin to improve the income of the farmers our County Committee of Agriculture got the advisory officers to make a detailed survey of the position. We may not have a first class committee of agriculture but I would not like to describe its worthiness in the terms in which Deputy Moher described the Cork County Committee last evening. We tried to make a fair assessment of the position in County Dublin and I think we did it at the Minister's suggestion. He stated that county committees were carrying on in the way they had been carrying on for the past 40 years and it was time something was done about it. We set about doing something about it. We got this detailed survey and unfortunately we found that in almost all the traditional lines in County Dublin there was no room for further expansion because of the limitations of local markets. Wheat is produced pretty extensively. The attitude there is to reduce production. Pigs and milk were produced extensively. Milk is restricted because there is only a local market and the price is pegged down.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Why not a creamery?

[2515]Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  Exactly. I agree with the Minister.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Why not more pigs? What is pegged down about sheep?

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  I shall deal with sheep in time.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Do not feel pegged down until you are really pegged down.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  We are pegged down in regard to milk. The Dublin District Milk Board has been given overriding authority. As a member of the county committee I have been bringing all the pressure I can to bear on the wholesalers in the milk trade in County Dublin to do something about a milk processing unit in order to allow some expansion. The other traditional line is vegetables. Again we are limited to the Dublin market. There is no scope for expansion. In regard to vegetable production there are many areas where valuable crops go to waste because it is not worth while bringing them into the market.

There are, however, two lines that could be profitably expanded; they are mushrooms and blackberries. In County Dublin at the present time we produce close on 700 tons of mushrooms per annum and about 500 tons of these mushrooms are exported. This is a valuable crop and it gives good and well paid employment. There is no difficulty about a market. We have a good export market and the prospects of the Common Market are excellent. During the year I asked the Minister would he be prepared to give grants for the establishment of mushroom industries comparable to the grants available for the establishment of other industries and he refused without giving any good or convincing reason. We looked for tax concessions which might make it possible to export fresh vegetables and that, too, was refused, so it is not easy to find a way to increase production.

The Minister referred to sheep. I agree entirely that not nearly enough is being done, so far as sheep are concerned, in County Dublin, and in many other counties as well. The [2516] Department should give a better lead in that respect. They should set up breeding farms for the production of the right class of breeding ewe and for the general encouragement of sheep production. The output of both sheep and wool dropped in 1961. That is a bad sign and it is something that the Minister should be able to explain.

I referred to market gardening in County Dublin. We could be the biggest market gardening area if we had the facilities for selling the vegetables. At present there is absolutely chaos in the vegetable markets and when the farmer comes in with his vegetables, he is there half the day before he can get rid of them. In the county committee of agriculture, we have been trying to organise some sort of processing unit in North Dublin where vegetable production and market gardening is a traditional line, but I cannot yet say if we will be successful. That is the type of development in which I should like to see the Minister take an interest. Very valuable work could be done through the organisation we have in the county committee of agriculture.

County committees of agriculture were criticised here yesterday and I think some criticism is justified. Some changes should and must take place in the way they are elected. It is not right that they should be elected on a completely political basis as they are at the moment. That is not the way to get the best type of people on these committees. I am not saying you do not get some very good people under the present system but there should be some way in which the organised farmers will be entitled to representation. Not only would that give us people with a wider knowledge of agriculture, but it would provide the all-important link between the advisory services and the organised farmers. The greatest platform the advisory services have, and will have in the future, is the platform provided by organisations like the National Farmers Association, Macra na Feirme, Macra na Tuaithe, the Irish Countrywomen's Association, and all the other valuable groups which have been doing first-class work for Irish agriculture over the years.

[2517] I have tried to stress the importance of having an outlet and indicating to the farmers that the outlet is there. It is the Minister's job to say to the farmers: “If you increase your production, we will assure you of a profitable market for that produce.” The Minister has told us that he is proud to say that there was a considerable increase in the amount of artificial fertiliser used by the farmers during the past year. I want to ask the Minister what did that extra application of fertiliser produce and how much has been lost? The number of cattle fed on the land has dropped considerably. There was a small increase in sheep——

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Since when did that happen? A sensible Deputy should not talk such nonsense.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  I am a sensible Deputy. There was some small increase——

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Political stupid nonsense.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  We are all politicians and that is no reflection, so far as I am concerned.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Political stupid nonsense.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  There has been an increase in——

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  In cows and in-calf heifers. Why does the Deputy not admit the truth?

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  There has been a considerable reduction in the export of mutton. The Minister finds it hard to listen, as he always finds it hard to listen to the farmers——

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  I find it hard to listen to unadulterated codology.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  When we open the papers, we see: “NFA head says farm produce prices are inadequate: appallingly low farm incomes.” They are the organised farmers. Is that more nonsense? The Minister's attitude all the time is to fight people he should be defending. We are told that the income of farmers has increased by £8 million but we know that stocks [2518] have been depleted to a considerable extent and we know that the farmers' indebtedness to the banks has increased over a period of five years from £19 million to £35 million.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  And we all want them to borrow more. What is the use of talking?

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  We all want them to borrow more, provided it is for productive development and provided they are not living on credit and on their own stocks because that is what it appears to be at the moment.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  When the Deputy gets what he wants, he does not want it.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  We want increased production and a market, and whether the Minister likes it or not, he has hopelessly failed to provide that market. He has set up marketing boards at the twelfth hour almost, and so far no results have been forthcoming.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  If the Deputy had gone on with his Parliamentary Question yesterday, he might have got results.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  I asked the Minister a civil question and he refused to answer. He told me to have a read for myself in the Library. I did have a read in the Library and it was a simple document to read. It indicated that the Minister's bargain was that he would export 5,000 tons of sugar to the United States, and he had to agree to import 50,000 tons of maize. That was really the basis of the agreement.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Which we would have imported anyhow.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  Quite wrong, if I may contradict the Minister. The quantity of maize is over and above what we normally import from that country. That is stated in the Agreement.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  We would have imported it from some country.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  Not if we gave the farmers the price for barley to which they are entitled.

[2519]Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  The Deputy would increase the cost of producing a pig.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy Clinton should be allowed to make his own statement.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  We are trying to do something to keep the small farmers on the farms. I have indicated that the price of pigs has been reduced by about 6/- a pig as a result of the introduction of more stringent standards. I know that these standards are necessary but we have reached them before making the necessary provision for securing those standards.

We want to increase the number of cattle. I do not think we are doing anything like what we should be doing to get that increase. Our veterinary service is not what it should be. We have done a first class job, in my view, in the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. I would say there has been very satisfactory progress.

We should be on our way towards providing a scheme for the eradication of contagious abortion. Northern Ireland, Britain and many other countries are either working on this problem at the moment or are preparing schemes. The present position is that we shall get into this country, across the Border, I would say, a large percentage of cows that are rejected because of contagious abortion, the same as happened when we started to eradicate bovine tuberculosis. It would be an easy matter to eradicate contagious abortion now that we have the veterinary service working on the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. We need a better veterinary service all round.

We need better marketing facilities, and we need, above all, to let our farmers see that no matter how much they produce there will be at all times a profitable market for that production. We cannot arrive at that point until we improve our processing and marketing. I am glad to see that there are some indications that one bacon factory at least in this country has started pre-packaging bacon. This has provided a valuable way in Britain for the disposal of certain types of heavy bacon, and so on. Such a method can profitably be used for any [2520] type of bacon in the near future. It is a good sign and the industry that is proposing to bring about this extension should be encouraged in every way.

I have touched on the main points that I wanted to make in regard to agriculture. All that our farmers want is encouragement through a first-class advisory service and the assurance of a market. I have no doubt in my mind that we shall get production and that we shall get quality but we have not made an effort to get a market. In that regard, we can well follow the example of the other countries who have got them. How did they secure these markets? They secured them because of the quality of their products, to begin with, but they went in and they bought their way into the wholesaling end of the business. We shall have to buy our way into the wholesaling end of the business and there is probably no other way. Get into a district, concentrate on that district and expand. We are prepared to spend a large sum of money— foolishly, I believe — on a fertiliser factory. That money could much more wisely be channelled into the provision of a wholesale outlet for our agricultural policy.

Finally, I should just like to say a word on agricultural education. As far as I can see, there is a reduction in the number of students taking agricultural degrees. In 1958, there were 492 such students and in 1960 the number was reduced to 396. That, again, is an indication of a lack of confidence in the future prospects——

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  Where were they?

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  In the universities. In University College, Dublin, and in University College, Cork. There is a reduction because of a lack of confidence.

Mr. Cunningham: Information on Liam Cunningham  Zoom on Liam Cunningham  What about the increases in the other places?

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  I shall give the House the numbers for the other places. There is no increase. They are exactly the same since 1958 — 584 and 583: that does not indicate an increase. [2521] There is no indication that people have confidence that there will be a future for them as agricultural scientists, as advisers or in any branch of agriculture. We need them and need very much more of them if we are ever to get anywhere. The sooner we get down to these main problems, the better.

Deputy Moher tried very hard yesterday evening to exonerate the Government from blame for what he described as the depressed and deplorable condition of agriculture throughout the country. How he can set out to exonerate the Government, a Government that have been in office for 24 years, from responsibility for the deplorable conditions which he so graphically described in this House yesterday is more than I am able to understand.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The picture which the Minister painted when introducing his Estimate seemed to be a pretty bright one as far as livestock was concerned but was not nearly so encouraging as regards tillage. Of course, anybody who lives in the country will appreciate that the small farmer is dependent not so much on livestock but mainly on tillage. If the price for what he grows is bad then he has a bad year. Nobody will deny that the small farmer has had a particularly bad year, a couple of particularly bad years, and that prospects do not seem to be improving for him.

One of the things in which the small farmer will be interested is the rearing of poultry — particularly turkeys — and fruit, vegetables, and so on. He would depend on that as his main source of income. The picture as regards poultry is that the export in 1959 was 87,886 cwts.; in 1960, 58,530 cwts. and, in 1961, 52,473 cwts. Take turkeys on their own. In 1959, the export was 59,039 cwts.; in 1960, 31,138 cwts.; in 1961, 29,745 cwts. The Minister will agree that there is something very seriously wrong there because, if the main cash crop of the farmer, poultry, is going down at that rate, there is definitely something wrong — and the stocks of poultry in the country are dropping. Therefore, [2522] it would appear that the Minister and his Department must do something to improve that position and do it very quickly.

Another matter which many of us find difficult to understand is the cause of the present potato shortage. Why does it happen that potatoes which have been traditionally a crop in this country and which could be grown practically everywhere should be so scarce and therefore so dear? We were told recently it was because so much potatoes were being exported. In fact, the potato position is similar to the poultry position. In 1959, the acreage under potatoes was 260,000; in 1960, it was 235,400; in 1961, it was 213,100. If we come to the export of seed potatoes, the position is again the same: in 1961, we exported 43,300 tons and in 1962, the figure was 32,000 tons.

It appears that we have here a crop that can be grown and for which there is a real market but, for some extraordinary reason, that crop is not being grown to the same extent as previously. It seems that we shall soon be seeking an alternative to the potato as we will not be able to get it even for the home market. I know the Minister cannot just wave a wand and solve all these problems but I believe that the onus is on him and the Department to see that something is done about it.

Incidentally, while the export of cattle and sheep was up last year, canned meat exports were down very considerably. Again that is something which should cause alarm because it has been the practice, I understand, for a long time to encourage the killing and canning of the meat here, so that the industry would improve.

In passing, let me comment that while we must congratulate the Minister on his efforts to conclude the bovine TB eradication scheme, we hope that every effort will be made to ensure that once the country has been finally cleared, nothing will be allowed to make the position almost as bad as it was before. I am sure the Minister is aware from evidence in other countries that after an intensive scheme, there is a tendency to ease off and that the easing-off has resulted in [2523] T.B. being brought back to herds that had been completely clear for years.

It is a fact that the incidence of TB among people handling cattle has been a factor and while, thank God, it has almost completely disappeared in this country, the recent scare about its return among the over-40s might give cause for a certain amount of alarm. It is something that should be watched because up to date over £30,500,000 has been spent on the eradication of bovine TB I understand the amount this year is £10,725,500 which is quite a sizeable sum. Nobody will grudge the spending of the money if it achieves the object intended, but we all feel the Minister must be very careful to ensure that once the country is cleared, it will be kept clear.

For many years, I have felt that vegetables and fruit represented a field for which there is a big outlet and that the Government should do everything possible to encourage the proper handling of fruit and vegetables. We know that for most of the year one can buy English, Canadian and Australian apples at 6d., 7d. or 8d. each while Irish apples, possibly because they are not handled properly or possibly for other reasons, disappear completely in the late autumn or early winter, while Irish apples could be bought at a fraction of the price which the foreign apples cost.

If the Irish consumer is prepared to pay an average of 6d. each for foreign apples, surely some arrangement could be made by which the Government would try to have Irish fruit properly handled, even if it increased the cost to the consumer over the present level for Irish fruit. I think everybody would gain as a result.

I am very glad that the Irish Sugar Company have made an attempt to do something in this direction with their fruit and vegetable scheme and I should like the Minister to comment on its progress because it is something that is being watched by all interested in fruit and vegetables in the country. Something which gives food for thought is the recent report of the [2524] British National Farmers' Union which sent a team of fruit and vegetable experts to investigate the EEC position. They reported there was a grave danger of a surplus of fruit and vegetables in EEC countries. That should be watched closely.

On numerous occasions, the Minister has said that the entry of this country into the Common Market, if it takes place, will be a great help to Irish agriculture. I hope he is right. Is the Minister going to say he did not say that?

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  I have not said so much on the subject.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  My authority is the Irish Press of 3rd May, 1961, which contains a gem from the Minister. He says that the future for Irish agriculture is one of tremendous advancement, accompanied by a great raising of standards of living of all those living on the land. That is very optimistic.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  It is happening every other day and it will continue to improve.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  But this statement was made by the Minister when referring to the Common Market. It was very optimistic and I hope he was right. Unfortunately, I do not believe there will be such a wonderful upsurge and I do not believe the standards of living will continue to rise, unless certain things happen. I know there is a scarcity in EEC countries of a certain type of beef but we also know that West Europeans do not fall for the steaks as do the people of Ireland and the neighbouring island. Something will have to be done to get them to cultivate a taste for mature Irish meat if we are to cash in on that market, or else we shall have to change our system of cattle rearing. Perhaps the Minister will say he can do nothing about that but I suggest that it is something which must be seriously considered, if we are to take advantage of the market.

The position of the dairy farmers and also of the liquid milk farmers has been discussed. In most counties, even in places like County Meath where land is very good, most small farmers [2525] depend on the cheque they get from the milk people to balance their budgets. There is no doubt about that. While everybody says milk is not paying, farmer after farmer turns over to milk production and all of them agree that the regular cheque is what keeps them going. I do not propose to decide whether that is right or wrong, but I know grave confusion has been caused by something which the Minister has explained was outside his power, the matter of An Bord Bainne putting on one penny levy and the Government restoring the penny to the farmers after a certain amount of to-do. That has caused much unrest in the farming community, particularly among those who specialise in that type of farming.

A question that has been posed on numerous occasions and to which the Minister gave the answer a few weeks ago is the cost of the transaction. What did the collecting of the penny by An Bord Bainne and the paying out again of the penny, after its collection from the smoker by the Government, actually cost? We are told it is a fantastic sum. It is one of those things that cause a lot of unrest when people believe their interests are not being properly looked after by the Department that is supposed to look after them.

The question of education for young farmers has been mentioned by Deputy Clinton who, in my opinion, made an excellent speech. Except for the little barrage at the end I thought that it was made in a completely non-controversial manner. Something has got to be done about this question of farm education. While the technical schools are doing a certain amount there is not nearly enough being done. The farmers themselves could do a great deal more.

We have heard a lot of talk about the farm apprenticeship scheme which never seems to come to anything. Perhaps the National Farmers' Association would again attempt to do something about it and try to train people for the job they have to do. It has been said that the only good farmer is [2526] the man who can learn from the bottom up. Over the years he is always learning. If we are going into the Common Market we must be able to deal with the matter in a very up to date manner. Other countries for years have been taking a deep interest in this type of education. France has gone further than anybody else and has established what is called an agricultural engineering degree. The man who acquires that degree knows everything that is to be known about farming. However, one of the things they regret is that out of the number who do the course and get the degree only about three per cent. return to practical farming. The remainder go to teach farming to other people. That might not be a bad thing and it might be adopted here.

I also want to deal with the question of farm incomes and farm wages. We are aware that small farmers are receiving pretty small incomes. Many farmers, particularly in the western portion of the country, have incomes which are less than the wages being paid to hired farm labourers in other parts of the country. It has been suggested time and again that the reason why farm workers' wages must be kept at a low level is that the small farmer is not able to pay higher wages. The small farmer does not employ hired labour except in exceptional cases. The small farmer is even anxious to hire out himself and members of his family as hired farm labourers and therefore he is as much interested in the matter of higher wages as the man employing labour. Over the country where there is good land the average number of men employed per 100 acres is about one. The average per 200 acres is less than two for 52 weeks of the year. That should be remembered. There are portions of the country where only one farmhand is hired per 1,500 acres. While some of the land may be very bad there are portions where it is reasonably good and where there is only one man on average per 400, 500 or 600 acres.

When you take that into account the amount of money which has to be paid [2527] out to farm labourers is not so great as many people would have us believe. At present in certain areas farm labour is becoming scarce. The reason is the low wage policy. As long as we have a situation in which a young girl in industry can earn £7 or £8 a week while her father, a skilled man with 20 to 40 years' experience on a farm, can earn only £6 a week, we will not have people rushing into agricultural employment. According as the use of machinery increases the number required to be employed declines. While some years ago a farmer, what they call a strong farmer, would not be seen walking up and down after a pair of horses now he, or his wife, son or daughter, will have no objection to sitting on a tractor to do the same type of work. When it comes to the heavy work, however, that is done by the farm labourer. In addition, if repairs have to be done to agricultural machinery the farm labourer is the man who carries them out.

According to the Agricultural Wages Board the amount he is entitled to is £6 per 50-hour week. The neighbouring countries, particularly Northern Ireland and England — which we have been condemning over and over again — are paying £3 per week extra for six hours per week less work. Something has got to be done about this. Somebody may say that we cannot blame the Minister but we can blame him in this way, that the Agricultural Wages Board was originally doing an excellent job but has deteriorated so much that it is not now doing the job for which it was set up. The Minister is responsible for nominating the people who represent workers and employers on the Board. Some of the people who appeared on the Board as workers' representatives are known to have worked for years as builders' labourers in Birmingham. In addition to the workers' representatives and the employers' representatives there are three neutral members. A neutral person is a person who has no interest one way or another in a particular matter. If he has a bias one way or the other he cannot be neutral. Surely it is unreasonable to ask us to accept [2528] as neutral a man who employs about 140 people in industry? In rural areas the wages being paid to agricultural workers influence the wages paid in industry. Therefore, it is a joke to call that person neutral and we have such a person on the Board. However, a Bill will be coming before the House which I hope will remedy all that. The Board has outlived its usefulness and should be given decent burial. We should deal with agricultural wages in a responsible way just as we deal with the wages of workers in any other industry.

We should always remember that agriculture, no matter what anybody may claim, is still the primary industry and whether we go into the Common Market or remain outside, Ireland will stand or fall on agriculture. There should be no doubt about that. If we keep that in mind we might be more inclined to deal reasonably with the people who are employed on the land. I would again appeal to the Department of Agriculture to remember that the small farmers of the country have got to get some assistance. The small farmer particularly has got to know that he will get a market and a price for what he produces. If he does not get that, he must go out of existence.

We hear a lot of talk at the present time about foreigners buying land in this country and how it will interfere with Irish agriculture. Statements have been made in the House that that is not being done at present on a big scale. I do not agree with those statements. I myself have pretty conclusive evidence that land is being bought all over the country, particularly in places like County Meath, by various methods, land which eventually will fall into the hands of foreigners. I should like to make this very clear. As far as the people coming into the farms are concerned, while we do not like to see good land falling into the hands of foreigners, if the foreigners are prepared to give good, well-paid employment on the land, we would have no more objection to them than we have to the people who come in to start some of the so-called factories for which they obtain hefty Government [2529] grants. A person in rural Ireland who depends for a livelihood on what he can earn working as a farm labourer does not mind whether his employer is a German, a Jew, an Irishman or an Englishman, provided he gets decent wages.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I was very interested to hear Deputy Tully speaking about the type of farmer who does not like to be seen doing any heavy manual work.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Did not work.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I can well understand the type of person who does not like to do any type of work because he is too lazy but I have never met a farmer who can possibly avoid doing every type of work on the farm and continue to survive as a farmer. Deputy Tully's proposition that the average strong farmer, as he described him, is a sort of semi-gentleman who does little or nothing is hardly tenable in modern conditions.

While Deputy Clinton was speaking this morning, it occurred to me that it was very interesting to contrast the type of speech he made with the type of speech made here yesterday by Deputy Moher. It is very easy to take the line taken by Deputy Clinton and to say, quite truly, that farm incomes are not what they ought to be and to advocate a very simple process of the Government or somebody else providing increased payment for their produce out of some source which can be conveniently left aside or unmentioned.

Every fault that besets our farming or agricultural pattern was laid at the door of the Minister for Agriculture, whether it was his responsibility or not. This is like the vexed question of the price of milk about which all the basic facts are understood by every intelligent farmer. These things are trotted out year after year by Opposition speakers, with the inference that a change of Government would produce a change in price for the farmer's betterment.

I firmly believe — it is obvious that Deputy Moher also believes — that the [2530] farmers to whom these speeches are addressed have progressed a great deal beyond this futile stupid chapel-gate kind of politics. I believe that, in this House in any case, it should be possible for us on this Estimate to talk about this all-important matter of agriculture in an objective and intelligent fashion. We can save our chapel-gate politics for the proper time.

It has been the obvious policy of the Government and the Minister over recent years to attack this question of farm incomes from the production end rather than at the top, that is to say, rather to reduce the cost of production and so increase the farmer's income than pay him more for the product he produces which may in many cases be over-produced, as it is, for instance, in the case of wheat.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  And in the case of milk.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I would not say that milk is a similar case.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  It has been described as an over-produced farm product.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I would not subscribe to that view. It is generally agreed that while we have reached very high proficiency in the production of tillage crops, our grass husbandry is probably as low as one will get in Europe. Our grass husbandry has been extremely bad. A start has been made in dealing with that problem, as is revealed by reference to the use of fertilisers in the past 10 years. In 1950, in units of P2O5. 48,300 tons of P2O5 went on the land of Ireland. It cost £10 18s. a ton. This year, that has gone up to 80,800 tons but the price has gone down to £7 14s. a ton. In 1950, 9,600 tons of K2O were used and the cost was £24 a ton. In 1962, that figure went up to 65,500 tons but the cost went down to £15 4s. 6d.

Most of the nitrogen is used in the production of early grass. In 1950, we used 6,300 tons of nitrogen at a cost of £18 10s. a ton. This year that 6,300 tons has increased to 24,600 tons and the cost has gone down to 17 guineas a ton Those figures speak more eloquently than anything I could [2531] say about the action this Government have taken since they came into office in 1957 to attack this vexed problem of grassland husbandry. Obviously, the problem is so huge that no corrective measure we can take will produce a general result in any short term of years.

Let us look at the statistics. There are 11½ million acres of pasture in this country. I have no doubt at all that the carrying capacity of those 11½ million acres could be multiplied by three. One and a half million acres are devoted to a crop called “other hay” and the volume of production which it produces could be got from one-third of the area that would be superior in quality and quantity to what we get now.

The first part of the problem that I should like to see tackled is what is known as permanent pasture. Since I myself began to farm, I have made the discovery that there is no such thing as permanent pasture. When a field is sown down to grass for some time it begins to drop in efficient production. By the end of five years, it will be past its best. At the same time, by far the biggest proportion of our pasture land is this thing called permanent pasture. If anybody examines it, he will find it is made up of bent grass, Yorkshire Fog and other inferior grasses which will produce a little wisp of green in the months of summer. The short grass season given by pasture of this kind is responsible for a graph usually printed in the Statistical Abstract every year showing the amount of milk delivered to creameries. If you look at that graph over a period of years, you will find that it is like a saw. In the months of May and June, when the old permanent pastures begin to produce the little they are able to produce, the graph rises. In December, however, it has reached a trough and production reaches almost vanishing point.

It is quite easy, by the use of new leas and, above all, by the use of fertilisers, which are pretty heavily subsidised at present, to extend the grass season, first in the spring of the year. In normal weather conditions, you can [2532] have pretty decent grass growth by St. Patrick's Day. You can extend it at the other end of the year to 1st December, depending on the first incidence of frost, and reduce the foddering period to a minimum. In my own parish in Kilkenny, there are medium-sized farmers of from 50 to 100 statute acres running herds of 30 or more cows. Those cows have green fodder under their heads for 12 months of the year. The winter gap is made up by strip grazing of kale. This is the most economic way to produce milk. I have seen it proved by my own neighbours. The Government subsidy on fertiliser is definitely an advantage.

One of the most vexed political problems here has been wheat. I have been clawed about it by Fine Gael Deputies, and from time to time I have done a bit of clawing back. But, irrespective of that, one great result is that this controversy has made ordinary working farmers, who produce their own living, break up the old leas. Since the farms were their own, and they were interested in the well-being of their farms, they seeded the leas when they were finished growing their wheat, in a careful way. Some of them discovered for the first time the fallacy that existed previously concerning perennial pasture. I mean “perennial” in the sense that they would go on for ever and I am not referring to any particular variety of grass. I have seen on the records of this House, in the discussions that took place here on compulsory tillage during the war, that very eminent Deputies of that time made most eloquent speeches in favour of the primeval pastures that had been there since the olden days. They could not be replaced; they could not be broken. That myth has been exploded, chiefly by the attractive price obtainable for wheat in the past decade. Whether it has slid up or down a little bit is not really important in this context.

There is no problem at all about multiplying the production of our grass land by three. It should follow that our production of livestock would be considerably increased. In that regard, it is necessary to consider the [2533] part that would be played by the co-operative creameries. I spoke about them on this Estimate last year, and I am afraid I incurred the displeasure of some creamery managers in my constituency. I want to point out again —I was very glad to hear Deputy Dillon speaking on roughly similar lines yesterday — that our present creamery set-up is not realistic and does not fit into the context of the competitive markets we will be entering, possibly, in the next year or two.

To begin with, the size of the unit is too small. It may consist of a parish with 200 or 300 cows in it. Next, there are in my county about 20 creameries, most of them small. While some of them have done remarkable work within their own areas, there is no coordination between them to make a general attack on the problem. Grass is the basis of production, but the creameries deal with milk and seldom concern themselves with grass. We are told by everybody that if we want to succeed in the British and European markets, we will have to have a standardised product of high quality. Our present creamery set-up will not give us that. Hundreds of creameries dotted over the south of Ireland are producing butter. Some of it is very good butter; some of it is indifferent; possibly some of it is bad, though I do not think very much of it is. The important thing is there is no standard supply of that butter. Those creameries have their own fixed, little establishments. They are not able to channel milk at appropriate times into the production of other products, such as milk powder, cheese and chocolate crumb. There is one creamery in my locality with a more realistic approach, although it is quite a small creamery in a poor area. It ploughs its profits into such things as subsidies for lime and fertiliser distributors. Those efforts, worthy though they are, will be lost because of their smallness.

There does exist an organisation which receives an annual subvention from this House, the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, whose duty should be to recognise this problem. It is staring us all square in the face, [2534] and they should see it, too. As far as I know, they have done nothing at all about it. They have done very little I can see in recent years. The spur is being applied to them in certain areas by the NFA and other groups to set up creameries, but, apart from that, the federation and centralisation of the creamery organisation has not been attempted by them or by anybody else. By virtue of the fact that this House pays this organisation a subvention every year, the Minister is in a position to tell them to put their house in order, and do so at once.

A Deputy referred to the recent payment of one penny per gallon for milk by way of compensation for the imposition of the levy upon wheat growers. That penny was welcome, of course, to most people, but I should have preferred to see a payment made for something more tangible. I should have preferred to see a substantial increase in payment to farmers in the southern area especially for milk from attested herds. That would be a profitable thing for the Minister and the country; it would pay a dividend to pay 3d. per gallon — I merely put that figure forward — on attested milk because it would have the obvious double effect of providing a very effective incentive to farmers in the southern area to get attested, and get attested fast and, at the same time, it would increase their incomes. The penny that has been paid by the Department, while it is, of course, welcome, is really something in the nature of a dole. I cannot see how it contributes to the solution of our problems in any way. God knows, our problems in the southern area are acute enough from the point of view of the production of milk and its subsequent processing.

I should like to say a few words in praise of the Department and the Minister for the work they have done in the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. When this Government took over in 1957, the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme was a ludicrous farce. In 24 counties out of the Twenty-Six it was possible for a farmer to get an annual free test and to identify his reactors, and then do with these reactors whatever he wished. If he [2535] wanted to sell them to his neighbour he could do so. As far as helping to solve the problem of bovine tuberculosis is concerned, any activity that took place in these 24 counties before 1957 was nothing except the frittering away of hundreds of thousands of pounds. There was no herd grant; there was no herd bonus; there was no identification, or earmark, on reactors; there was no defence for a farmer, except his own judgment, when he bought an animal at a fair or mart as to whether the animal was or was not a reactor. Now the picture is very different. The Department are moving into the six southern counties for what is described as the “final push” in the really bad area.

In his opening speech the Minister mentioned that he was not sure he would have the co-operation he would like to have in some of the southern counties. I am quite sure he did not mean County Kilkenny because we have been pressing him for a long time now in an effort to persuade him to make ours a clearance area and get on with the job as quickly as possible. The faster the Department work in the area the better we will be pleased. We should like, in fact, to see the greater portion of County Kilkenny, where the incidence is very low except at the extreme southern tip, cleared. The Minister can be sure of co-operation from every farmer in the county. I know he is aware of that.

With regard to the arrangement made in relation to the standardisation of wheat, this colour test mentioned is a cause of great anxiety to farmers in my constituency. Every farmer, and probably every miller too, knows that the colour of wheat varies according to the soil on which it is produced. There are areas which will produce a bright coloured wheat. There are other areas with certain types of soil which produce a darker wheat, a wheat which, though darker in colour, may be superior in quality. I hope there is nothing binding, or final, in the arrangements that have been made by the millers and, I believe, the National Farmers' Association for the determination of the value of a sample of wheat by its colour.

[2536]Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  The National Farmers' Association have not accepted these standards.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  They precipitated the arrangement. I do not want to say any more about it.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  The less said the better.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  Last year I raised a matter here but I failed to get any satisfaction from the Minister, or anybody else. I refer to this fraud called the “screens test” in wheat. I maintain this has the effect of placing a double penal imposition on the grain grower for the same fault. If one takes a sample of wheat and that sample bushels 57, the main reason probably why it bushels 57 is the presence of screenings. Screenings consist for the most part of immature wheat seeds full of moisture, bits of broken grass and weeds that go through the combine as it threshes. Because of the presence of these screenings the moisture test reads high and the bushel weight is low because of the low specific gravity of the screenings. The farmer is penalised by bushel weight and moisture content. The farmer having been so penalised, the grain merchant then comes along with his 2.25 millimetre screen. He does a test. He takes out the very same screenings for which a penalty has already been imposed. He tells the farmer there is four per cent. screenings and proceeds to dock him once more.

A couple of years ago the Irish flour millers acted as hosts to every county committee of agriculture in the country. I am sure Deputy Clinton recalls the festivities that took place. The flour millers asked for questions. I asked a question to the best of my ability based on the information I have just given the House. Perhaps I did not put it very well. The millers consulted together in a scrum in a corner. Eventually they told me they would write to me. They did write but they did not answer my question.

Mr. T. Lynch: Information on Thaddeus Lynch  Zoom on Thaddeus Lynch  They must have got the Minister for Transport and Power to help them. That is the way he answers questions.

[2537]Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I do not know how he comes into the picture, but I think the Minister for Agriculture has a function. He should answer the question. If a farmer is not doubly penalised, I will be quite prepared to accept that. But I know he is so penalised, and it is possible to demonstrate that. The screenings test is a fraud and the millers have been getting away with it for several years.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  Hear, hear.


Mr. Gibbons: Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I want to refer to the very significant increase in sheep numbers in this country in recent years. In 1957 we had 1,250,000 ewes and last year we had 2,000,000. That is an increase of three-quarters of a million. When you consider that matter in the context of the fact that last year New Zealand sold 18,000,000 lamb carcases to Britain it must be as clear as day that whether we are in or out of the Common Market there is an unlimited market for Irish lamb in Britain provided no liberties are taken by individuals in the export business by way of the substitution of inferior quality products.

I should like to see our sheep numbers multiplied as rapidly as possible. There is a very profitable market there for us. If New Zealand is able to transport economically that vast quantity of lamb across 10,000 miles of sea we are in a very advantageous position to compete. Regardless of whether we go into the Common Market or not we will continue to sell most of our stuff in Britain and the best we can hope for from entry to the Common Market is equalisation of prices.

I should also like to discuss another political perennial here in the House. That is the question of the small farmers. There have been more idiotic speeches in this House and outside it about the small farmers than on any other subject. About 90 per cent of these bad political speeches do not deceive anyone, least of all the small farmers themselves. If you have a farm of ten acres you have got to get a minimum of £40 an acre to make a [2538] living out of it. There are hundreds of thousands of holdings like that in the country and if we are concerned at all about this question it is time that the Land Commission and the Department of Agriculture got together and reallocated the responsibility for the development of the small farms along economic lines, possibly with the introduction of a new Ministry or subMinistry. There are special problems to be dealt with in regard to the small farmers.

When I speak of small farmers I have in mind the men who make their livelihood exclusively from their farms. I do not consider the people that Deputy Blowick speaks about annually as fleeing the country. I find it difficult to see how men with a valuation of £3 to £5 can ever be established in big numbers. The solution of that problem will have to be found either in afforestation or in industry. Special attention will have to be given to this whole problem, possibly by the reallocation of the responsibility between the Minister's Department and the Department of Lands. The time has come to try to do something radical about it if we are serious about the problem at all.

Mr. Leneghan: Information on Joseph R. Leneghan  Zoom on Joseph R. Leneghan  According to many Opposition speakers the agricultural industry in this country is doomed. According to them the farmer is on the threshold of the workhouse and it is only a question of whether he will knock at the door to get in or wait a few days to see if things will change. Opposition speakers say they have found a remedy to these evils. The remedy is to put them into Government and they will let loose a horde of inspectors on the farmers and as soon as they do that everything will be all right; between the farmers and the horde of inspectors agricultural produce will increase and there will be no trouble in disposing of it; there will be millions of pigs here and we can send them all to Africa. The only trouble about that is that as far as I know the Africans have not a great deal of money to pay for the purchase of pigs.

I presume it will not be necessary for them to find the money because we will establish a society for the provision [2539] of pigs to Africa; somebody will go about roasting them and will burn his fingers and then make a discovery like that made in China many years ago and the Irish farmer will be on the pig's back. The wonder to me is that when the gentlemen on the Opposition side got all their brilliant ideas about Africa they did not take in Asia as well. As far as they are concerned the future of the Irish farmer is now dependent on the whims of the blacks. I would suggest to some of these people who have these brilliant ideas that they should keep them to themselves.

It is remarkable that the most profound statements made here on the future of the farmer and of agriculture are generally made by people who have no connection with farming, armchair farmers, theoretical farmers, those who read books and then write to the papers about farming. I am rather inclined to think that if the farmers' business were left to the farmers it would be a good day's work. If they were to take up some of the ideas offered here they would not be farming for long. They would be in the county home.

There are farmers and farmers. There are some farmers who are not interested in their farms at all. They are more interested in racing, hunting and cock fighting. In my opinion that type of gentleman does not deserve much consideration. He is making no endeavour to operate his farm as it should be operated and very often he lets his land. There are people like the landlords in County Limerick who are now letting their land to the people from County Galway and going off racing and having a good time. They do not help the agricultural industry in any way. Many of the difficulties experienced by such people are the result of sheer laziness. The best proof of that is the fact that the people who went from small farms in the West to the midlands or east midlands or to any other small farms in the country made an immediate success of farming. I have not seen any of these people knocking at the door of the county home and I do not think any of them has the slightest intention of doing so, [2540] even though they have been given only small farms. I know these people and have visited them. They come back to the area they left for a holiday and they tell me they are doing quite well. If they are doing quite well on these small farms, the farmer who has a colossal acreage of land should be a semi-millionaire.

The problem in the West is that the majority of the people have not sufficient land. For that reason I believe the farming methods of many of the midland farmers should be very carefully scrutinised and where they are not making proper use of their land the land should be purchased by the Land Commission and given to people who know how to use it and very soon there would be a very different complexion put on the agricultural industry. If that were done the Minister would be relieved of a great deal of trouble because these people, instead of trying to scrounge State aid, would be quite prepared to operate their farms properly.

Some extraordinary statements have been made here about the drop in the number of cattle, pigs and so on. How do the people who make these statements know the number of cattle in the country? Everybody unless he is a fool knows that the census of cattle was taken back in the early 1920's by the original members of the Garda Síochána. The Garda would go into one house and probably estimate from that the number for half a parish. If he liked the person he visited he would put down a small number of animals and if he disliked him he would make it ten times the number in order to exclude him from obtaining some kind of State aid.

We have not the remotest notion of the number of cattle in the country and we will not have until the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme has been put into operation in every county. The same applies to sheep and pigs; we do not know what the figures are. We might know the number of cattle in counties in which the bovine TB eradication scheme has been in operation but we have not a clue as to what is the number of cattle, say, in Cork or Kerry. The chances are that [2541] the numbers of cattle in the country have substantially increased rather than reduced.

The price of all kinds of animals has greatly increased and there is a natural tendency to sell but there is no farmer such a fool as not to maintain his stock as far as possible. If we are trying to create the impression that our stocks are going down and that we are becoming an impoverished nation, while at the same time we are trying to catch up with Europe, we are only fooling ourselves. I do not believe there are many European countries whose people have as good a time as we have. It is no use for the farmers to depend on the agricultural methods which were used by their great grandfathers and which have been the same since St. Patrick came to Ireland or since Noah came out of the Ark. Tremendous advances have been made in the West of Ireland and if the midland farmers are as backward and as needful of aid as some of their representatives here want us to believe, they should go West and have a look at modern agricultural methods.

I do not think there is any need to let loose any more agricultural inspectors. I do not think farmers are as backward as we are led to believe they are. If they are, the representatives who have been speaking about them should go back to their constituencies and preach the sermons they are preaching here. There is no doubt that better organisation and better marketing facilities are necessary and that presents considerable difficulties. We are able to organise methods of marketing other commodities and there is no reason why, with a bit of co-operation and forward thinking, we should not be able to provide better marketing facilities for agricultural produce. If there is a ready market on our doorstep and we find that the New Zealanders and the Australians can send their products thousands and thousands of miles to that market, there is something seriously wrong and it is time somebody looked into it.

The use of modern processing methods should be of tremendous value to the agricultural community. If [2542] people take the attitude that they must make all their money in a day or a night these methods will not work but if they take the long-term view there is a good future in store for the agricultural community.

There are many crops which could be more extensively grown than they are. We are very backward in the growing of fruit and vegetables from which there is a considerable amount of money to be gained without any great outlay and without any great trouble in tending the crops.

Something should be done about the provision of a subsidy for the production of pigs. Other countries have found a means of dealing with this problem and there is no reason why we should not be able to find some solution. There is no use in preaching to the people about these things. The day is past when a farmer's wife or daughter engaged in the production of pigs. I suppose the dance halls are one of the greatest factors in that situation. I cannot see a young lady going to feed the pigs if a dance is being held. There is no danger that she will change her mind in the future either. If we are to have pig production we will have to make it worthwhile to keep pigs. I doubt that many people in my part of the country would consider it worth their while keeping pigs although at one time they were amongst the greatest pig producers.

A more realistic attitude must be taken towards the congested areas. When agricultural land of a reasonable standard is put up for sale it should undoubtedly be purchased and made available to improve the position of the small farmers. I have no objection to any foreigner buying land if he is prepared to give a reasonable amount of employment, but if he is a gentleman who is prepared to imitate what is going on so excessively in the Midlands he is persona non grata with me. I do not want to see him in the East, the West, the South or the Midlands.

I have no objection to a foreigner buying non-agricultural land in the West because there are hundreds of [2543] acres of land there which are not usable for agricultural production. It is absolutely vital that the purchase of good agricultural land by foreigners should cease. That land should be purchased by the Land Commission and made available to people who have already shown that they are capable of developing land. There is no point in purchasing that land and making it available to large farmers. Before any man is given good agricultural land, his past record should be carefully examined and if he can show that he has been successful as an agriculturist, the size of his farm should be used as a yardstick for giving him land. If he has five or six acres and has proved his worth, he should be given land. Only when the farms of the country are broken down and given to the people who have shown their worth will agriculture stand on its own feet. The subventions from the State which are necessary at present will not then be required. Until that happens the present happy-go-lucky method of what I might call farm bribery by the Government — by any Government — will continue.

It should not be beyond the ability of the Minister and his advisers to do something now which will show results in the near future, and put us in a position in which we can readily compete with those people who are not half as favourably placed as we are. There must be something wrong when, with our opportunities and facilities, we can be beaten by lengths. I would ask the Minister to set up some organisation which would try to rectify the matter by means other than State subventions which are dished out and which are a brake upon agricultural production rather than an incentive.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  I want to advise Deputy Clinton to keep as clear as possible of his Party and his Leader, Deputy Dillon, for the next week or so until his speech is forgotten, because if he is caught, after all the statements he made, he will be slaughtered. How he can reconcile what he said with the known and definite policy announced by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to agriculture, I do not know.

[2544] There is very little use in talking any longer about the small farmer. The small farmer has been put out of business. The days when he could get something out of wheat or feeding barley are gone. When we had to deal with the problem of too large a wheat acreage being grown we rationed the wheat acreage. The same thing should be done by the Department to the ranchers in the Midlands who produced bullocks when wheat was wanted and are now growing wheat when no one wants it.

How can the ordinary small farmer compete in grain against the man who hires an auctioneer in Dublin and takes anything from 500 to 2,000 acres and puts it all under wheat? If he gets a profit of a quarter barrel of wheat per acre it will pay him, but I should like to see the farmer, even with 40 acres and with 10 acres of wheat, who could live on a profit of a quarter barrel an acre. I suggest to the Minister that he should again examine the wheat contract system. I took those figures with a grain of salt until the proof was produced to me. I saw the stubs of cheques. I saw that a sum of over £20,000 was paid by one miller to one supposed farmer who lived in Africa. It is time all that was ended.

The small farmer must adopt an entirely new policy. He will not make a livelihood on a £20 or £30 valuation holding out of cows or dry cattle or grain. If we can bring home some sense of realism to those people we may be able to make a start. I look on this matter with a certain amount of pride. I am chairman of one organisation which set a headline for the farming community in regard to prices. We succeeded in 1948 in getting an agreement with the Sugar Company that we would set up a system of costings. On that system of costings, we have been paid from 1948 up to the present day. If anyone wishes to see the difference between that policy, as carried out between farmers and the industrial concern that was taking their produce, he need only come here and take up the White Paper on the Common Market and there he will see for himself the result of the two policies.

[2545] Our price per ton for sugar beet, at 137/11, was beaten only by Germany who paid 140/-. The rest of the Common Market countries are under that price. Take the other crops grown by the farmers and consider the difference. I wonder if Deputy Clinton, when he was talking here about Denmark a while ago, went into this position at all. The return price given here for feeding barley in this country was 37/- a barrel. Deputy Clinton complained that the Danes have hunted us out of the British market and said they are paying 48/6 a barrel for feeding barley.

I remember, away back, when we had the honour to have the late Tom Walsh here as Minister for Agriculture, the price of feeding barley during the whole of his period of office was 48/-a barrel — and pigs were fattened and money was made on it during that time. What has happened since? That is a straight question. When Deputy Clinton complains about the price of feeding barley today, he should remember that the first man to put his thumb down on the price of feeding barley was his present Leader who reduced the price of 48/6 for feeding barley to 40/-. That was followed out, very accurately, by the organisation I mentioned a while ago, the National Farmers' Association, which came along and asked the Minister for 38/- a barrel for it.

I went to see the then Minister for Agriculture, to abuse him about the matter and what he said to me was: “In the name of goodness, Corry, is he not a good man who gives what he is asked to give?” Now we have mutterings about the prices. Let us look things in the face. If we are to do anything for our small farmers it will have to be on that basis. The gross return from an acre of beet today is somewhere between £80 and £125. No wonder we have people looking for contracts. The tillage farmers would be far better off today but for the idiotic attitude of the inter-Party Government who allowed Britain to put a levy on our sugar for that market.

We come here and we put Ministers in charge of Departments. I admit [2546] that the then Minister's outlook was indicated by his statements in this House that he could double the children's allowances by importing fine sugar and doing away with the beet factory. You could not expect much from that sort of man. That man, with his colleague at that time, Deputy Norton, brought us back an agreement under which we were hamstrung in our efforts to sell sugar to Britain.

If we look at the future from the point of view of the Common Market —we must look at it from that point of view — the present levy and duty, which amounts to £26 a ton, on Irish sugar exported to Britain will have to cease when both Britain and ourselves are in the Common Market together. Then the position is at once created that unless we get crops of the same value as that, our ordinary small farmer will have to clear out.

If we cannot get into processed foods, if we cannot establish factories for the processing of vegetables, peas, and so on, which will return at least £100 to £200 an acre, there is no good in talking about the small farmers any more.

I laughed at some of the statements I heard from time to time but last week I saw one farmer with 40 good acres of land in my district who let the land and is now making from £18 to £20 a week in industrial employment— and he has far shorter hours and a softer time. There is that complete change as far as agriculture is concerned at the present time and there is no good in talking about labour on the land.

If all that can be offered at the present time is from £6 to £7 a week to an agricultural labourer, who must work on Sunday as well as on Monday because unfortunately we have not yet invented the five-day cow — if that is all that that man can get for his labour on the land and if that is all the land can offer — well, then, the question of labour on the land is finished. Nobody is idiotic enough today to work for that wage. There is no use in pretending otherwise.

Neighbours of mine around my own district, some of whom are men who spent 11, 12 and 14 years working [2547] with the one farmer, good skilled men, have asked me for letters for Haulbowline, Rushbrooke, and so on. I will not stand in any man's way. I gave them the letters. Those boys are now earning anything from £12 to £25 a week, at work which requires one-tenth of the skill they need in agriculture today. While there is that gap between agriculture and industry, so long shall we have the farmer compelled to compete with the old age pensioner and the cripple.

Deputy Tully was anxious about the Common Market. When I hear statements about prices here and when we are told that if prices were any higher other sides of the farming industry could not carry on, I wonder how the Common Market countries can afford to pay an average of 52/- a barrel for feeding barley compared with our 37/-or 38/-. If the price of milk here is 1/9 per gallon, how is it that the average price of milk in the Common Market countries is 2/7 a gallon? I am taking the figures from the White Paper that was issued and I should like those figures to be considered by the Department at their leisure. On those lines, I say there is a great future for Irish agriculture but it will have to begin on the basis of a minimum wage of £9 or £10 a week for agriculture labourers. If we try to go lower than that, we will not get them. It will not be easy to get them even at that wage. I am very glad we have succeeded in creating the situation here where people need no longer work for £6 or £7 a week.

We hear complaints about the levy on milk but that was provided for in a measure which was accepted by this House. The farmers and farming organisations went into An Bord Bainne with their eyes open. The Minister deserves every credit for stepping in and relieving the farmers of the burden when he found An Bord Bainne had to put a levy on milk. We hear a lot of tripe here and outside about who was responsible for that. The people responsible were the Deputies from the dairying areas who advised the Minister.

There are enormous opportunities [2548] at present for changing the whole outlook as regards small farmers. There is the fruit and vegetable business. There are peas, cabbage, cauliflowers, broccoli and other vegetables. Thank God, we have an organisation, the Irish Sugar Company, prepared to take advantage of this situation. I like to pay tribute when it is due and no doubt the work of the Irish Sugar Company in that respect is second to none. When I hear Deputy Clinton moaning about finding markets I remember that when we found that Britain had us crippled with regard to the export of sugar we found a market for it in America, a market that, please God, will expand and where the price is practically double what we get in Britain when the levies are taken into account.

The Minister has done a splendid job also in regard to eradication of bovine T.B. My only complaint is that he is not going fast enough as far as the six dairy counties in the south are concerned. Unfortunately, there is a section of the community that will sit on the fence until they are forced to do something. Opportunities are being provided as quickly as possible. We have four principal processing plants at present for fruit and vegetables, Tuam, for the potatoes, Thurles and Carlow and Mallow for the vegetables. We now have — just branching out, please God, in the next few months— the planting scheme in my own constituency in East Cork. Next year, please God, it will happen in Deputy Murphy's constituency in West Cork.

Only in this way can I see the agricultural community being maintained on the land. One cannot expect a man to live on £200 a year that he might get from cows or dry stock or from oats and barley. He will not do it. He will say: “I can get £5 a week out of the farm but if I had no farm I could get £12-£24 a week from Irish Steel or in some other job.” That is a complete and welcome change. It will put agriculture on its toes to find ways and means of meeting the new situation.

There is no use in Deputy Tully talking about wages here and in Great Britain. That question was fully examined by two pretty good teams of agricultural experts from Messrs. [2549] Arthur Guinness and the Beet Growers' Association. They agreed that the difference between the Irish farmer and the English farmer was roughly £4 an acre and when they put it into figures for us, they paid us 7/4 a barrel extra for the barley on that basis.

Those people are no fools. They paid 7/4 a barrel over the British price of malting barley, because, taking everything into consideration — English and Northern Ireland farmers pay no rates on agricultural land; they have better subsidies in regard to limestone and manure than the Irish farmer— that represented the difference. When everything was taken into account, it came to 7/4d. a barrel exactly. There is no use talking about the farmers in this country and the farmers in England. If we are going into that market, I suggest to the Government and to the Minister for Agriculture that the sooner that problem is tackled, and the Irish farmer put in as good a position as his competitors, the better it will be for everybody concerned. There is only one way to do that, that is, by the complete derating of agricultural land.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I propose to confine my remarks almost entirely to that branch of agriculture which is of vital concern to the people in my constituency, that is, the dairying industry. The future of this industry is not alone of great importance to the people in my constituency who depend on it for their livelihood but it will be a very vital factor in the future development of the agricultural industry as a whole. In my constituency of East Limerick, dairying is the main enterprise on the farms, but, in addition, practically the entire industrial and commercial life of that constituency is based on dairying. Even in the city of Limerick, the major industries are based either directly or indirectly on dairying.

Therefore, it is only right that I should address myself to the problems which confront this industry and start, so to speak, right down at the dairy farm. Here we find a situation which exists in no other sector of the [2550] economy. We have a section of the community trying to carry on under very grave difficulties. Dairy farmers have had no increase in income since 1953 and all along the line, they have had to try to meet increased costs of essential commodities, such as the price of machinery, etc. I know because I live on a dairy farm and among dairy farmers and I can state quite emphatically that the dairy farmers in my constituency are finding it very difficult to make ends meet. I have ample evidence that many of them are in very poor financial circumstances. Practically every week in recent months, dairy farmers have been coming to me for advice on financial problems. I have been particularly perturbed to find in a number of cases in which my assistance was sought in the filling of application forms for loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation that a considerable proportion of the amount applied for was for the purpose of meeting debts.

Two or three years ago, when the banks became more lenient and more inclined to advance money, there were many cases of dairy farmers borrowing money in order to increase or improve their herds. Now after two or three years, they find they are unable to meet their commitments except by further borrowing. I am not commenting on this in a destructive way but merely trying to present the factual case. I believe unless there is an immediate examination of the problems of the dairy farmers at farm level, we will have a complete collapse of the dairying industry. In the southern dairying areas, including my constituency, dairy farmers are now faced with the problems of eradicating bovine tuberculosis from their herds by 1964. They are also faced with the problem of having to streamline and modernise production to meet the higher standards of hygiene, cleanliness and so on, now demanded by the creameries. Therefore, I feel there is urgent need for a complete review and a thorough examination of the whole dairying industry.

I believe three steps are necessary if the dairy farmers are to be put on their feet and enabled to do what [2551] we expect of them. First of all, I am convinced that we must give our dairy farmers an economic basic price for their milk. In addition, there is a case for giving bonuses on special, high quality milk. If I were asked what is most required by the dairy farmers of my constituency, I would say they need long-term, interest-free loans to enable them to instal modern equipment and to clear their herds of reactors and so on. Thirdly, we need an adequate and specialised advisory service for dairy farmers. I would stress the need for having a re-examination carried out into the problems of dairy farmers. Unless such an examination is carried out, the system of dairy farming as at present practised in the creamery areas cannot hope to survive.

The next arm of our dairying industry is processing. Drastic changes are needed here and we will have to have a complete reorganisation of our present processing arrangements. There is a need of rationalising the processing of dairy produce. That has now been generally recognised and I was particularly glad to learn recently from the Minister, in reply to a Parliamentary Question which I tabled, that at present a survey is being carried out into the processing of dairy produce. I sincerely hope that there will be no undue delay in reporting the findings of that survey. In view of the inefficient manner in which our processing is organised at the present moment it is absolutely futile to think that we can sell our dairy produce competitively in foreign markets. We cannot do so unless we take steps to rationalise processing.

In County Limerick this inefficient type of arrangement is clearly to be seen. Most of our surplus milk going into manufacture is being transported long distances to Kerry, Cork and Waterford. From enquiries I have made, I have been reliably informed that the transport costs alone represent roughly 1.25 pence per gallon. Here is one place where costs could be reduced.

It is only common sense to suggest that the processing plants should be [2552] located as centrally as possible. The milk from County Limerick creameries should be processed at central points within the county so that transport costs would be reduced to a minimum. With a view to achieving centralisation of processing, the co-operative creameries should be encouraged more and more to establish processing plants.

I have been tremendously impressed by the progress of the Golden Vale Food Products. Here is an example of a processing plant which is handling milk from 16 shareholding co-operative creameries. The success of this enterprise points the way to a rational organisation of processing. To put it in a nutshell, what is needed is more co-operation among the co-operatives.

I would, therefore, urge upon the Minister the need for getting down to this business of considering the question of rationalisation of the processing of dairy products. It should not be beyond the bounds of possibility to organise creameries into groups for the purpose of processing milk.

The next point is, perhaps, the most important and the most difficult. It is the question of marketing. No matter how efficiently farmers produce milk and no matter how well organised processing might be, it will all be to no avail unless we find markets for dairy produce. The task facing An Bord Bainne is a formidable one. While producers in general have not, as yet, much confidence in the Board, nevertheless, there is a general realisation and appreciation of the magnitude of the task facing An Bord Bainne.

There is need for much closer co-operation between An Bord Bainne and the various interests in the dairying industry. In fact, the Dairy Produce Act of 1961 makes provision in clause 35 for such co-operation. Clause 35 states:

The Board may, if it so thinks fit, establish a regional advisory committee composed of milk producers and representatives of the dairying industry generally to advise the Board in relation to the performance of its function.

As I said, there is need for closer co-operation between all interests in the dairying industry. The suggestion in [2553] clause 35 is a very applicable one. It could easily be tied up with my suggestion regarding the reorganisation of processing. In other words, the dairying areas would be divided into regions. Each region would comprise a number of co-operative creameries who would group or federate for the purpose of processing milk at some central point. In addition, in each region there would be this advisory committee that is recommended. In that way, by co-operation between all interests, some progress could be made.

I am convinced that there is need for considerable scientific research into all aspects of the dairying industry. A start has been made already at farm level. The Agricultural Institute has established the Dairy Research Institute at Fermoy. There is also the experimental dairy farm at Herbertstown, County Limerick. While each of these units of the Agricultural Institute is doing very valuable work, there is one aspect of research in relation to dairy farming that has been completely overlooked, that is, the question of co-operation at farm level. This question of co-operation applies not merely to dairy farming but to all types of farming. The Agricultural Institute, in addition to carrying out scientific research into milk production, dairy farming management and so on, might look further and see how a group of dairy farmers could co-operate to produce more efficiently.

In addition, there is need for research in the fields of processing and marketing. The establishment of a full-scale processing and market research institute is now a matter of vital importance. I would suggest that such an institute should be established in the most central position in the dairying area and I cannot refrain from advocating or at least suggesting that the obvious location for such a research institute should be in the city of Limerick which is in the centre of the dairying areas.

Taking the dairying industry at its various levels, at dairy farming level, at processing level and at marketing level, we can see there is need, first of all, for surveys; there is need for research and for close examination of [2554] the industry in each of the branches which I have mentioned.

We have to face the fact that there is no future in butter as an economic outlet for surplus milk. Alternative outlets must be found. I have been inquiring into this matter very closely and have discussed it with people engaged in the dairying industry at all levels. I feel there are two or, possibly, three outlets on which we should concentrate. First, there is cheese. Our per capita consumption of cheese is, I think, one of the lowest in Europe. It has been suggested that, if we could double that consumption, most of our immediate problems regarding the disposal of surplus milk would be solved. The home market is ready for development and the problem is one of education, publicity and propaganda. We do not seem to realise the nutritional value of cheese. If a determined effort were made, starting at school level, to make our people more aware of the value of cheese as an item of diet, we could expand the home market quite considerably.

In addition, I am informed that there is considerable scope for the development of an export market in cheese. I understand there is a very big potential market for the more specialised types of cheeses. It is advocated in the report on the marketing of dairying produce that we should concentrate on the development of a distinctive Irish cheese. Having inquired into this at manufacturing level, I am informed that one very important factor in the production of high-quality cheese — the same applies to the production of powdered milk and other high-quality dairy products — is the quality of the milk. You need a high-quality milk.

There is only one way in which you will get high-quality milk, that is, by paying a bonus to the farmers who take the necessary steps to produce it. At present, there is no incentive for the dairy farmer to produce better quality milk. In my own area, some farmers have in the past couple of years gone to considerable expense installing milking parlours and so on. Some of them at present are producing milk of a very high standard untouched [2555] by hand. Yet that farmer gets the same price per gallon as his neighbour who produces milk by the traditional methods. I would suggest to the Minister that the payment of a bonus for high-quality milk would yield a very big dividend. It would enable us to expand the production of high-quality cheese and other dairy products.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  How can the Deputy define high-quality milk? The Deputy is talking about clean milk, not high-quality milk.

Mr. T. O'Donnell: Information on Thomas G. O'Donnell  Zoom on Thomas G. O'Donnell  I am referring to milk which comes up to the standard required. Milk being processed into powdered milk, for instance, must undergo a number of laboratory tests at the primary stage. The first is a sediment test; the second is a test for acidity; and the third is a test for flavour. Milk which does not pass each of these tests cannot be used in the manufacture of powdered milk. If it is allowed through, the defect in the primary process stage will be reflected in the final product and may lead to the marketing of an inferior product.

When I refer to quality milk, I mean milk which will pass the laboratory test. At present, in the Golden Vale food plant at Rathluirc, milk is bought from 16 shareholding creameries. These laboratory tests are carried out in the actual processing centre. I was speaking to the chief chemist in that industry the other day. He told me that the previous week he had to send back a number of consignments of milk. One big tanker brought from 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of milk from a certain creamery and it failed to pass the different tests. The whole lot had to be sent home.

It may be argued that payments on a quality basis may not be a practicable proposition and that they would create undue difficulties for the different creameries. If each creamery set up its own little laboratory, the milk could be put through the different tests there before being sent to the central processing plant. Each farmer's milk could be tested once a week for [2556] sedimentation, acidity and so on. Payment would be made each month and a special bonus given for milk reaching a high standard. I have very strong views on this. I am convinced of the need for payment on a quality basis.

This is a very involved matter. I am as conscious as anybody of the difficulties at all stages confronting the Department and the various sections of the dairying industry. I believe in the future of the dairying industry. If we have a realistic, down-to-earth, dynamic policy for dairying, we will be able to enter foreign markets competitively.

The Advisory Committee on the Marketing of Agricultural Produce in its Report on the Export of Dairy Produce states at page 3, paragraphs 8 and 9, that there is need for a long-term plan for the dairying industry.

At this stage we would like to refer to the need for a long-term plan for the dairy industry in this country. It seems to us that it is essential to evolve an overall national policy for the industry and that this should be done by the milk producers, the Irish Dairy Produce Board, recommended by us, and the State. The fundamental point to be decided is whether this country should be an exporter of whatever temporary surplus of dairy produce may arise from time to time or whether the country should be a long-term and regular exporter of dairy produce...

We consider, however, that proposals for the future marketing of Irish dairy produce should be based on the assumption that the country must have an increasing volume of such produce to export and our report must be read in that light. A significant increase in the volume of exports of dairy produce cannot be brought about rapidly and we believe that a definite long-term plan aimed at increasing milk output and providing a steady flow of dairy products for export must be evolved. In formulating such a plan it is important that the following two points should be borne in mind. [2557] In the first place, the plan should be a long-term one which will be maintained over a reasonable period irrespective of temporary developments. Secondly, the producer must be assured that any increase in efficiency and productivity resulting from his efforts will be reflected in an improvement in his standard of living.

The Minister and his Department could not do better than take another look at this report and try to formulate and implement a long-term plan for the development of the dairying industry.

There is another aspect of agriculture in which I have a particular interest. I refer to the question of the survival of the small farm. Deputy Corry referred to this earlier. Reference was made to viability, as it is now called. I think the use of words like “viability” in this connection leads only to misconceptions. We should keep our language simple. With regard to the survival of the average Irish farm, or viability, this matter was dealt with fairly thoroughly by the Minister for Lands when he introduced his Estimate here a few weeks ago. I believe the average Irish farm, under our present agricultural policy, and with the methods and systems practised on the farms, has not an earthly hope of survival in the future.

We would, I think, be getting much nearer to the problem, however, if we thought here in terms of parish viability rather than individual farm viability. If we think of these little family farms, which dot the plains and hillsides of this country, as individual units, each self-dependent, and so on, we must admit that there is not very much hope for their survival. If, however, we think of rural Ireland and these individual family farms co-operating with one another in the utilisation of the land, then we can hold out some hope for the future of the average Irish family farm.

In terms of acreage, the average farm compares very favourably with the average farm on the Continent. The figures I have here show that the average size of a farm in Belgium is 16 acres, in France 35 acres, in Holland [2558] 24 acres, in Italy 11 acres, in Luxemburg 22 acres, and in Western Germany 21 acres. In Ireland the average farm is 40 acres. From the point of view of size, our Irish farm is fairly good. From the point of view of utilisation of the land, I believe co-operation at the parish level is the only answer to viability, or the survival of the average Irish family farm.

That brings me now to a very controversial matter, a matter which engendered quite a lot of controversy and about which there was a considerable amount of argument and discussion. I refer to the parish plan for agriculture produced some years ago by that great apostle of rural Ireland, the late Canon Hayes. I am convinced that the parish plan for agriculture was the most outstanding social concept of our time. It was described by an OEEC mission as the most forward step in Europe for the development of agricultural advisory services. In 1957, we did not know much about community development in its modern connotation, but, because of the mass of literature produced over the past few years on community development, we now see the basic fundamental principle behind the parish plan in an entirely new light.

Recently we had an international seminar on community development at Gormanston College. The fundamental principle underlying the parish plan, the fundamental idea of community effort and organisation for economic advancement, ran right through the whole seminar. This idea of community co-operation has now come to be accepted throughout the world. There are numerous examples of successful experiments in the application of this idea of community effort to economic development. The late Canon Hayes sought to apply the idea of community effort to the development of agriculture and he has now been proved, beyond all doubt, as having been 100 per cent. correct in his approach.

I suggest, in all sincerity, that the Minister and his Department should now have another look at the parish plan. I am fully aware that certain difficulties arose. There was duplication [2559] between the parish agent and the agricultural advisers employed by the committee of agriculture. There was a good deal of treading on one another's corns, so to speak. With goodwill on all sides, now that we have a better realisation of the fundamental philosophy underlying the parish plan, we can, with very little difficulty, reintroduce the plan. It was said that the parish plan was the idea of Muintir na Tíre and that organisation, as a community movement, should have nothing to do with agriculture. It was said that the parish plan would take the agricultural advisers out of the control of the county committees and would lead ultimately to direct control from Merrion Street. These are all difficulties that could have been surmounted. The basic fundamental idea remains. Those are obstacles which could have been surmounted if we wanted to develop Irish agriculture and ensure that the average Irish family farm would survive. To surmount them, we must have an adequate advisory service at parish level.

I am not speaking on this matter of co-operation from the point of view of the academic approach. I will tell the House briefly of my own experience of promoting agricultural co-operation. A couple of years ago a group of farmers in my own parish came together to discuss ways and means by which they might co-operate to make their farms more efficient. They sought my assistance to obtain information as to how they might go about it. While the Minister for Agriculture will tell the House that the IAOS, the Department of Agriculture and the agricultural instructors are ready and willing to provide advice I found, two years ago, that before I could get the advice which that group of farmers was seeking I had to go to about eight different agencies. Finally we did evolve a plan of operation.

I am well aware that there is specialist advice available in the Department of Agriculture. I am acquainted with a number of senior officers in the Department who have studied community development and [2560] co-operation abroad but that is not enough. If we accept the thesis that the survival of the small family farm will depend on co-operation we must ensure that there is in each county at least one agricultural adviser who has made a specialised study of the matter and who will give the people the technique of co-operation as applied to agriculture. We have a skeleton specialist advisory service in operation at the moment but it is not enough.

I do not intend to delay the House any longer. I have tried to make a case for the parish plan and I am convinced that Canon Hayes' original idea was essentially sound and that by very little effort it can be adopted to meet current problems.

There is one question which has been agitating my mind regarding our major national industry and that is the question of what increase in output is practicable in agriculture or what scope there is for expansion. I could not better conclude than by referring to what the acting General Secretary of OEEC said in Dublin in July, 1957. He said that if we set ourselves to increase our agricultural production by one or two per cent. we could do so and that if we set ourselves to increase it by six or seven per cent. we could also increase it. In a study made two years ago Senator Professor P.M. Quinlan examined the position very thoroughly. I was very impressed by one observation he made and that was that an expansion of six per cent. in agricultural output would provide 75,000 to 85,000 jobs per annum.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Everybody agrees that agriculture is the most important industry in this country and therefore it is only natural that the agricultural Estimate would get the closest attention of the House. It is difficult to devise an agricultural policy generally applicable to this country because of the variations in agricultural conditions. A farmer in Wexford, Kildare or Tipperary has no relation to the farmer of the western seaboard and parts of the southern seaboard. On previous occasions I have expressed the viewpoint that our agricultural [2561] policy should be more varied and that the country should be divided into agricultural zones. A policy that may be applicable to the midlands would not be of any advantage to other parts of the country.

There is nothing new in the Minister's statement. It is evidenced from the trend of the debate and the contributions made not only by members of the Opposition but by members of the Government Party that if there were a reshuffle in the Government of this country such as there was in England during the past week the Minister for Agriculture would go. The Minister for Justice points to himself. He would be perfectly safe and I am not making use of that expression in any personal manner. The Minister for Justice has looked after his own people very well.

Acting Chairman (Mr. P. O'Donnell): Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  Will the Deputy look after agriculture for the moment?

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Minister for Justice has seen to it that the people for whom he caters have got their increases in income and some of them have got very substantial increases. The people for whom the Minister for Agriculture caters have not got any increases as I will try to demonstrate later on. The Minister for Justice is quite safe in any reshuffle. He is a winner in any case, unless the next general election topples him over.

Mr. Meaney: Information on Cornelius Meaney  Zoom on Cornelius Meaney  Just wait and see.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  However, there is no use in going into that point at this stage but, for Deputy Meaney's benefit, I should say that on the last occasion it was more or less a photo finish and I do not think the Government have improved their position in the country since or that agriculturists are very satisfied with the Government.

Mr. Meaney: Information on Cornelius Meaney  Zoom on Cornelius Meaney  Do not be too sure.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  We will be here to see it and he will not.

[2562]Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I am most grateful to the people of Cork South-West constituency. They always return me as their senior representative. The people have repeatedly given me their confidence and I have no doubt if there was another tussle the same position would obtain.

Acting Chairman (Mr. P. O'Donnell): Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  Having said that, would the Deputy come back to the Estimate?

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I would not have mentioned it at all were it not for what my friend and colleague said. We have had a lengthy statement from the previous speaker on the dairying industry. He confined his remarks to the industry as it flourishes in the constituency he represents in County Limerick. Most people regard Limeerick as a very wealthy county and consider that farming and industrial works flourish there. Deputy O'Donnell stated that the dairy farmers in East Limerick are in a poor way. He elaborated on that statement by telling the House of the number of farmers who come to him to complete forms for loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation and to get accommodation from other lending societies, such as banks. I have no doubt that Deputy O'Donnell's statement was an honest one. I find it very difficult to understand why the farmers in East Limerick are in that position but I must accept Deputy O'Donnell's statement as being truthful. If the farmers in East Limerick are in a poor way, in what way must the farmers be in South West Cork, South Kerry, Mayo, Donegal, Leitrim, the province of Connaught in general and the other poor parts of the country? If the farmers in East Limerick are in a poor way, to quote exactly the Deputy's words, the farmers in the other parts of the country I have named must be in a desperate way.

Dairy farming, as Deputy O'Donnell and other speakers have pointed out, is the main source of income of the general body of farmers, particularly in southern Ireland, and the main income is the monthly milk cheques, where they come. However, in my part of the country in most cases the farmers do not see any cheques because [2563] they are almost continuously indebted to the creameries who withhold payment for the milk to cover payment for other household essentials. What increase has the dairy farmer got? Some members of the Government believe that he is doing very well and that possibly there is no need for him to get an increase.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  What increase has the dairy farmer got from this Government? Was he catered for in a similar manner to that in which the judges were catered for by the Minister for Justice and that in which various other sections of public employees were catered for? Did he get an increase in his income and what was the extent of that increase? Does it compare favourably with the increases measured out to other sections of the community? I assert that it does not, that it compares most unfavourably with the increases given to other sections of the community.

First of all, we had this juggling, something like the three-card trick man would be operating at a fair or a race meeting, in relation to the withdrawal of the penny from the dairy farmer with one hand, and giving it back to him with the other hand. It was a stupid piece of juggling which has cost the country several thousands of pounds.

We were told by the Minister for Agriculture that it was imperative, having regard to the measure passed in the House a few years ago establishing Bord Bainne, to take from the dairy farmers a penny per gallon for milk supplied to creameries and hand it over to An Bord Bainne. He did that despite soundly based protests from the farmers' organisations. Then in view of representations made and in order to satisfy people he decided to give back the penny. In the meantime there was the process of extracting the penny from the taxpayer. The man who smokes got the blow this time. It gave the Minister an excuse to introduce a Supplementary Estimate. It is only right to say that a number [2564] of farmers smoke also and that, in common with other members of society, they have to make up this penny a gallon for milk. The position now is that creameries must pay this levy to Bord Bainne, submit their account to the Minister who will recoup them. I should like to know from the Minister what is the cost of that juggling.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  £30,000.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Would it not be easier and avoid the extra work involved for the Minister to say: “I have made an honest mistake. I should, in the first instance, have given that subsidy to Bord Bainne myself. I should not have interfered with the income of the dairy farmers by reducing milk by one penny a gallon at a time when every other section of the community was getting an increase.” He could have saved the unnecessary expense involved. However, that is over and done with and I hope that possibly as a result of the contributions made in this debate the unnecessary cost involved in the removal of this levy and its restoration from Government sources will be saved to the Exchequer. I hope that unnecessary work will be avoided in future.

Where does this leave us? We find that the farmer has benefited nothing. He got 1d. reduction and then the price of milk was increased by 1d. so that in terms of income, he has got no increase. Possibly the Minister is reluctant to give an increase in the price of milk, in view of the difficulty of selling milk and milk products. I appreciate that. The Minister may say that if we were to give dairy farmers increases on a par with civil servants or others, the milk yield would increase so much that it would cost the Exchequer a good deal of money to subsidise. That may be the Minister's reason but can it be sustained? Are the dairy farmers the one section of the community who are to be satisfied with their present incomes because of the difficulty of selling their surplus products?

We established An Bord Bainne a year or two ago. Their job was to act as a marketing board and find [2565] markets for surplus milk and milk products. Are they doing that? We have had no report from them since their establishment. The only thing we have had from them so far is the levy of 1d. per gallon on milk. Are they in close touch with the Minister? Does he know what is happening? Is he informed of their activities? What markets have they got abroad for our surplus butter, cheese and other milk products? Are they worth their money? I hope we shall have a statement from the Minister on the board's activities because in his introductory statement, he had very little to say about them, except to mention that they were working and that it was imperative to give them money to continue their work. My remarks are not to be taken as derogatory. I do not know whether the board are doing any good or not. The Minister should give more information as we know how difficult it is to get replies to questions addressed to Ministers regarding the activities of Statesponsored boards.

I had hoped that difficulties arising from the marketing of milk and milk products would be overcome by the board and that it would be possible to give the dairy farmers an increase. When the other Government were in power, that was done through the Exchequer. Milk products were subsidised so that the increase was not passed on to the consumers.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  They got no increase.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  They did.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  They did not.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The Deputy's mathematical calculations are not so good.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  When was it given?

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  By the inter-Party Government.

Acting Chairman (Mr. P. O'Donnell): Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  Ní ceart do Theachta cur isteach ar Theachta eile atá ag caint.

[2566]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  Agus ní gnáthach é.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The inter-Party Government was so mindful of the consuming public that instead of passing on such an increase to them, it was subsidised. Deputy Ó Briain's Government saved £9 million as a result of the withdrawal of such subsidies.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  £2½ million.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  As Gaeilge, má's é do thoil é.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Dhá mhilliúin go leith.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Tá sin níos fearr.

Donnchadh Ó Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Níl sé mí- cheart.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The expression “dairy farmer” is very wide because a dairy farmer is a man with three cows or 43. The term could be used for a wide variety of farmers in the constituency I represent. The average number of cows is possibly not more than five or six in half of it and, possibly, 11 or 12 or 13 in the other half. How will the Minister for Justice, who is now deputising for the Minister for Agriculture, deal with the man that I pass coming up here, the man who is jogging along to the creamery every morning with his churn of seven or 12, 15 or 20 gallons of milk? What increase is he getting for his work? Or what reduction in the hours of his working week? He is getting nothing, and, as a Fianna Fáil speaker from Cork told us, he is moving out. You will find him over in England. The Minister need not accept that statement from me. Deputy Corry has stated the position.

We also have observations from various other people on the economics of the small farm to the effect that the position is so bad at present that a big number of these farmers, unfortunately, are not getting married, even though of marriageable age. It is true that in the constituency of Cork South-West, as I am sure in other similarly-circumstanced constituencies, we have a big number of small farmers of marriageable age who are single [2567] and likely to remain so because their uneconomic holdings are not fit to raise a family with present day standards. It is even difficult for them to get wives because every girl knows that to marry a small farmer means a very difficult life, that she must work Sundays and Mondays and that the income is exceptionally low and not sufficient to raise a family and give them a reasonable standard of living.

Those are facts. I need not go beyond my own parish where that position obtains. It obtains also in neighbouring parishes and in the greater part of the country where small, uneconomic holdings exist. Surely there is an obligation on the Minister for Agriculture to address himself to the repeated representations on behalf of small holders, representations by members of the House, committees of agriculture and various farming and vocational organisations. These small-holders are worse off even than people working publicly or privately for £6 or £7 a week. They do not even measure up to the agricultural wage or anything like it, small as it is, that obtains in other parts of the country.

The question of agricultural workers does not arise in my area because they have gone. The people could not pay them. Why should a man work on the land for half the amount he can get in industry or in some other employment? Before leaving that question, I want to ask the Minister what he is going to do for the small farmers? We get White Papers and we get a few reports now and again about the prospects of the small farmer. I remember a long time ago the former Minister got away nicely for five or six years with the Milk Costings report. That was originated by the late Minister for Agriculture, God rest him. It was on the move for almost six years. Finally, it came to light. Deputy Smith was Minister when the report came along. It cost several thousand pounds and the Exchequer agreed that it cost more than £30,000 to compile this report but not a single member of this House got a copy of it. There were only a few extracts read as far as I know. The money went down the drain, so to speak. They kept the farmers of this country waiting five [2568] years. They were told by the Minister:

“We have a commission set up to examine your affairs. You must wait until we get the report.”

I believe that this report is a very valuable document from the information I got about it, even though it was completely discarded, thrown into the wastepaper basket or put in some place in the Department of Agriculture where it will never see the light of day. We got certain information and certain extracts from that report. The one formidable assertion in the report of the Milk Costings Commission was that the conditions of farming varied very much in this country. It even mentioned that the cost of milk production at that time varied from 5d. per gallon to 2/9 per gallon.

That was a big variation. Naturally, the Minister might say that it is very difficult to bolster up milk production in uneconomic districts. The report indicated very clearly the position of the small farmers whose cost of production is so much higher than the big farmer. It costs the small man in my part of the country going to creamery with a churn of milk just as much as if he had five churns of milk. I think it is time that we got some more definite information about these small farms.

We have here in the Minister's activities another sample which will keep us going for the next 12 months. There is a paragraph in the notes on the activities of the small farmers in relation to the small western farms to the effect that the Minister set up an informal committee to make submissions. I should like to ask the Minister whether this is something on a par with the Milk Costings Commission.

Acting Chairman:  Would the Deputy give the quotation?

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I am quoting from notes on the main activities of the Department at page 29. In fact, I did not quote; I only paraphrased. I hope this report will bear more fruit than the Milk Costings Commission but the terms of this report are somewhat similar to the terms of the Milk Costings report which was to report on the price of milk in the [2569] different parts of the country, the average costings and so on. This is a report concerning the small western farms. Having regard to the fact that portion of the report was made available quite recently, we expect some more elaborate statements later on, particularly from the Agricultural Institute and other organisations that some effort will be made to follow the trend of the report.

We had a statement from a previous speaker about the advisability of developing horticulture on the small farm. I hope that some useful work will be done in the uneconomic districts of Ireland to bolster up the economy of the areas.

Before I leave the question of small farms, I should like to refer to the remarks made by the Minister on our possible joining of the EEC. It is quite clear from the terms of the Treaty of Rome that there is little or no hope for the small farmer in the Common Market. I assume we will do nothing about joining the EEC for the next 14 or 15 months. I know from today's Press that Britain may not join until the Autumn of 1963, if she will join. I assume that our job so far as the EEC is concerned is to follow Britain's footsteps. We cannot jump ahead of Britain in case we find ourselves members while she remains outside. We will have to be cautious and keep a step behind Britain. The Minister for Justice may smile but at the last election, we had very interesting statements about the EEC, the small farmers, the big farmers and agriculture in general. It is a well-known fact that members of the Government Party during the election campaign said that once we became members of EEC the price of creamery milk would go up to 2/9 a gallon. That would be an increase somewhere in the region of 90 per cent. Deputy Corry made that assertion. Others had the same thing to say.

In many reports that have come to our notice so far as the Common Market is concerned there is nothing factual to indicate that the price of milk will increase to 2/9 per gallon. I cannot visualise what will be the position, if and when we enter the EEC. [2570] However, there will be another agriculture Estimate before that day dawns. As I have already stated, it is clear that we will not move ahead of Britain.

The Minister in his report dealing with poultry and eggs has agreed that the industry is on the decline. He more or less accepts the general viewpoint that eggs and poultry, including turkeys, are very much on the decline and that the prices of such stock are not economic. I referred to the small farmers a while ago. I had in mind that eight, nine or ten years ago, these people, particularly the womenfolk, had a fine way of making money through the poultry industry. It gave them self-employment of an economic kind. The women-folk of the family had their hens and chickens and their weekly supply of eggs as an addition to the family income. That source of income has gone. It is true some people are still holding on to poultry and eggs in the hope that prices may improve at some future date. At present, on the figures given to us by the Minister, the net return from the export of poultry and eggs last year including turkeys was less than £1,500,000. That speaks for itself. How many millions was it worth some years ago? Is that not a reduction in the income of these people? Have they not been robbed of that income?

I turn now to pigs. The first item I notice in this report of the Department's activities is that the number of breeding sows increased to 121,000 this year, an increase of almost 13,000 on last year. I should like to know from the Minister how this increase came about. Is he satisfied it is a good thing to have an increase of 13,000 in the number of breeding sows? In several parts of the country, particularly in the constituency I represent, sows are a very important item in the economy of the farmer and even of the cottier. You have small farmers with one, two, or three sows. If everything turns out well, they will have two litters of bonhams for sale from each sow annually. That is a big source of income. Many of these farmers would find it difficult to make ends meet, were it not for this source of income.

It has come to my notice that we [2571] now have people going in for keeping sows in a very big way. Before the poultry industry finished up, we had concerns keeping several thousand chickens and so on. I hear the same is happening, as far as sows are concerned. In fact, it has come to my notice that one organisation has 30 sows on one farm. If the number of sows is to appreciate because of concerns going in for the mass production of bonhams, it will have a most deleterious effect on the small man. It will mean prices will be depressed. The Minister should pay special attention to the number of sows being kept by concerns, agricultural societies or individual farmers. I am very much against limitation on or interference with the private affairs of concerns or farmers, but I believe a limit should be put on the number of sows they are allowed to keep. It is completely unfair to other people earning their livelihood, or part of it, by keeping sows for breeding to have some organisations set up sow farms and having 20 or 30 sows. In 12 months you might find——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  If they do not do better than Castlemacgarret, you need not worry.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  We find it difficult to sell the bacon we are producing at present. It is all right to talk about having more bacon for our people and having big concerns going in for pig breeding. I am sure Deputy Dillon will agree that, once the number of pigs exceeds the demand, down goes the price.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I fixed a price in 1956 which has never gone down a penny.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  That was a minimum price.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  No, it was a fixed price of 240/-. They cannot change it without six months' notice.

Mr. M.P. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Did it ever strike the Deputy that there have been many upward changes in prices in the past few years but that still remains at 240/- because the supply is quite sufficient to keep the price depressed [2572] at the fixed level? I am sure Deputy Dillon will accept that a person who got 240/- for something in 1957 should now get something more. When Deputy Dillon addressed the House, I think he calculated that £1 in 1962 is equal to 16/- in 1957. There is a 20 per cent. decline in the value of money. Yet the pig price has not improved.

I want to again stress to the Minister the advisability of having reports from his live-stock inspectors on the establishment of sow farms, whether the number of pigs there is large or small. This kind of scheme is, I think, in its infancy. It should be nipped in the bud. It should not be allowed to develop to the stage where individuals can keep an unlimited number of sows. I can visualise the adverse affects that would have on the small-holders who keep one, two or three sows.

The Minister had a good deal to say about the BTE scheme. We are all as anxious as possible to co-operate with the Minister in the implementation of that scheme and to ensure maximum success for it.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

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