Wednesday, 21 April 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Bruton: asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries the assistance,  financial and otherwise, available from his Department to farmers in an area who wish to form a group farm; and if he will consider making available additional special grants and credit assistance.
Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. J. Gibbons): Group farming projects can take a variety of forms, ranging from a joint arrangement to market a particular product, such as weaner pigs or calves, to a completely integrated system in which the group members pool their land, labour, equipment and other resources to form one farm unit.
Farm groups generally can avail of the grant schemes and services operated by my Department. In addition, the Agricultural Advisory Service and officers of my Department are always available to advise and assist farmers proposing to undertake a group project or other form of co-operative activity.
I am currently considering additional ways and means of encouraging the formation of worthwhile groups but it is apparent from experience elsewhere that a full appraisal of the circumstances, resources and potential advantages to be gained is essential before embarking on group projects.
Mr. Bruton: Would the Minister be in a position to state how the small farm incentive bonus scheme as at present constituted would apply to group farming? Further, can he say if he would consider amending this scheme in a way that would make it more attractive specifically for those who are prepared to enter into group farming?
Mr. Creed: Is the Minister aware that, for example, in milk production, if two or more farmers combine to supply milk to a creamery, they are faced with the phased increase? In other words, is not the combined effort a deterrent rather than an inducement?
Mr. J. Gibbons: This is one of the difficult aspects of the general approach to group farming. I know what Deputy Creed has in mind. It is a question of whether a man has one herd or two herds and whether one herd or two herds are catered for in a common byre. This, conceivably, could give rise to sharp practice in various forms. It would be difficult to work out a satisfactory solution to the problem but, at the same time, a satisfactory solution should be sought because this is one of the areas in which group farming could be really effective.
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