Committee on Finance. - Vote 37: Agriculture.

Tuesday, 30 November 1971

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 257 No. 4

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Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. J. Gibbons): Information on James M. Gibbons  Zoom on James M. Gibbons  I move:

That a sum not exceeding £72,772,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1972, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies and sundry grants-in-aid.

[757] The 1971 Budget provided for increases in milk prices and pig prices, increased levels of support for beef exports and improved rates of grant under the hogget ewe scheme, the small farm incentive bonus scheme and for certain farm buildings and equipment. In addition, the Minister for Finance announced in October that he was providing further funds mainly for disease eradication schemes. I will be introducing a Supplementary Estimate at a later stage to take account of these and other items which are not included in the Estimate total of £72.8 million. That total is £3.3 million higher than the final provision for 1970-71. It includes almost £36 million for price support, £22 million for agricultural production and development aids, £4 million for livestock improvement and disease eradication and almost £7 million for agricultural education, research and advisory services.

Deputies will have already received notes on the main activities of my Department which will be of help to them in the debate on the Estimate.

In 1970 the volume of agricultural output was an all-time high being 2.6 per cent more than in the previous year. The rise in cattle output in 1970 made the greatest contribution to the overall output increase. Although more cattle were sold than in 1969 there was an increase of 176,000 on farms at the end of 1970 so that the number available for marketing and breeding this year is much greater. There was a small decline in the volume of milk output due to the diversion of milk from creameries to feeding on farms. The output of pigs exceeded the record level of 1969. Poultry output was also up but the output of sheep declined. Barley output rose by about 4 per cent and there were marginal increases in the output of wheat and oats. Sugar beet output also increased marginally but potato output continued to decline. Agricultural prices also rose in 1970 and the combined effect of the rise in prices and volume was a new record output figure of £343 million, or £24 million higher than in 1969. With increases in the usage and prices of fertilisers and [758] feeding stuffs and in other expenses, operating costs rose substantially during the year but, in spite of this, total family farm income was £10 million or 6 per cent higher than in 1969. Allowing for the decline in the numbers engaged the income increase per person was, of course, more than 6 per cent.

Farmers, like everybody else, are affected by the inflationary trends in the economy and as Deputies are aware the Government intervened on two occasions in 1970 and again in the 1971 Budget with a series of measures designed to raise farm incomes. Total Exchequer provision in relation to agriculture is now running at a very high level—it is estimated that it will amount to about £105 million in the current financial year. For reasons which are well known and which I need not explain the level of farm incomes is highly dependent on Government policy and action. Farmers have very little scope for passing on increased costs to consumers and prices obtainable on export markets for several important agricultural commodities are often below cost of production, a situation which we hope EEC membership will remedy. On a wider plane, this expenditure is justified by the very important contribution made by agriculture to the national economy, its impact on the balance of payments—agricultural exports are likely to be well in excess of £200 million this year—and its basic position in relation to the large sector of industry which is servicing it and dependent on it.

I should now like to review briefly the main trends on a commodity basis beginning with cattle and beef. The cattle trade was buoyant during 1970 and has continued so during the current year. Our exports of store cattle to the UK so far this year show a marked increase on the figures for the same period in 1970. The upward trend in export slaughterings of bullocks and heifers which has been evident in recent years was again maintained, although in recent months the high prices obtaining in Britain led to a greater proportion of our heavy cattle being exported live. Up to the [759] end of October this year it is estimated that we have exported 550,000 live cattle as compared with 473,000 in the same period in 1970. Slaughterings of cattle at export premises in the ten month period were 576,000 as compared with 530,000 in the same period in 1970.

Cattle prices throughout this year have been averaging about £1 per live cwt. over 1970 prices, which themselves were regarded as satisfactory. In the short term the prospects of firm cattle prices are reasonably good. In the longer term we can look forward to a higher level of prices on accession to the EEC. The latest census returns show cattle numbers at record levels.

Thanks to good market conditions in Britain, export subsidy costs on beef this year will be substantially less than in 1970-71.

Quota restrictions on beef imports into the US continued during 1971. Ireland's quota for the current year was 31,116 tons, an increase of 670 tons on the previous year. Our beef exports to the US consist almost entirely of frozen boneless beef for manufacturing purposes.

All in all, we have the very satisfactory situation in the cattle industry this year of an increased national herd, increased cattle and beef exports and a profitable level of prices.

Following the improved rates of grant introduced in 1970 there was a big increase in participation in the beef cattle incentive scheme in all counties and in the year to March, 1971, over £4.8 million was paid to about 51,000 herdowners. In 1971 there was a further significant increase in the number of participating herdowners and in the Estimate now before the House funds totalling £5.3 million, or an increase of £500,000 on the amount paid out in grants last year, are being provided. However, with over 61,000 herdowners now participating and the average herd size tending to increase, the £5.3 million will not be adequate and additional funds will have to be provided.

Over 1,000,000 cows or 61 per cent of the total were artificially inseminated in 1970, Hereford and Friesian being the breeds mainly in demand. There is [760] no indication of any significant change in this pattern in 1971.

In pursuance of the policy of trying out new breeds under Irish conditions, 12 bulls and 122 heifers of the Fleckvieh, or Simmental, dual-purpose breed were imported from Austria last May. The bulls have been located at AI stations to enable a comprehensive progeny test to be carried out, while the heifers are with pedigree herdowners who are participating with my Department in an assessment programme to evaluate the breed under Irish conditions. Two further importations currently under way will bring the total imports of this breed to 450.

In view of the importance of Friesians in the national breeding pattern, an experimental import of 11 bulls and 11 heifers of the German Friesian breed was also arranged in 1971 to investigate the potential contribution which this breed can make to our native stocks. The bulls have gone to AI stations to be progeny tested for milk and beef characteristics while the heifers have been used to establish an experimental herd at Clonakilty Agricultural College where they will take part in comparison trials with a herd of Irish Friesians.

Turning to milk, the slight fall in intake at creameries last year has been reversed and it is estimated that intake this year will reach the record total of 530 million gallons, about 16 million gallons over the 1970 figure.

A world shortage in supplies has resulted in prices for our dairy produce, particularly in the UK, reaching very high levels. However, notwithstanding the increase in the volume of milk available here for processing, we were unable to take full advantage of the suspension, owing to the supply situation, of the British butter and cheese quota arrangements.

The £30 million in the printed Estimate for creamery milk support does not include provision for the increases in the milk price allowances or the adjustment of the multi-tiered system of payment announced in the Budget. It now appears likely that, because of the improved export market prices, the additional expenditure on production allowances will be counterbalanced [761] by savings in the grant to An Bord Bainne. I might add that creamery milk producers, in addition to benefiting from the Budget increases, have also benefited directly from the favourable market situation through a reduction in the levy payable by them to the board.

This has not been an easy year for the sheep industry. Since April last sheep and lamb prices have been lower than in 1970 but in recent weeks factory prices for lamb have hardened and are now about the same as they were at this time last year. The reasons for the lower prices this year were poorer market conditions, especially on the French market where import levies were increased and where stronger competition was met from increased British exports. Increased earlier marketings of lamb arising from mild weather conditions in the spring also added to the problem.

There has been substantial help from the State for sheep production this year. The rate of subsidy on hogget ewes has been increased from £1.50 to £2 per head and total payments under the sheep subsidy schemes will be about £1.75 million, an increase of about £400,000 over 1970. The guaranteed price for lamb was increased, in line with the British increase, by 2.2p per lb. To assist the industry we extended the period during which the upward seasonal adjustment to our rates of subsidy applied and we abandoned the autumn deduction. As a result of these measures and of having to send increased supplies to Britain rather than the Continent, export subsidy payments on mutton and lamb since last April have amounted to about £400,000 as compared with about £30,000 in the same period in 1970 and payments for the full year 1971-72 are expected to amount to £850,000 as compared with £56,000 for 1970-71.

Even with heavier slaughterings throughout the year we have an increased sheep flock. A rise of 76,000 in June, 1970, has been followed by a further increase of 84,000 in June, 1971. I am hopeful that the rising trend will continue and [762] accelerate. In the mountain areas, the number of sheep presented for subsidy this year is expected to show an increase of about 10 per cent. The hogget ewe subsidy introduced last year in the lowland areas appears to be having the desired effect in encouraging more hoggets to be retained for breeding and the number presented for subsidy is likely to be up by more than 10 per cent.

This year I took further steps to improve the efficiency and operation of the wool marketing arrangements. On 1st April the register of buyers of wool was set up with the result that only registered buyers could operate from that date. Over 250 buyers have been registered and all those have premises which meet the standards laid down in regulations. Also in April this year, on the basis of recomendations by An Chomhairle Olla, I made regulations providing for the purchase of wool on a graded basis and the display by buyers of purchase prices. Buyers are also required to furnish to producers statements of wool purchased. Our thanks are due to wool buyers and producers for the manner in which they co-operated with my Department and with an Chomhairle Olla in the introduction and implementation of these requirements. The courses in wool grading provided by An Chomhairle Olla for wool buyers and their staffs proved particularly useful.

As regards horses, the most important development was the setting up of Bord na gCapall under the Horse industry Act, 1970. The board have a wide range of functions, including the establishment and operation of a national equitation centre, giving advice on breeding, and promoting the sale and export of non-thoroughbred horses. I am looking forward to this body playing a most useful role in the development of the horse industry.

Pig production continues at the high levels of recent years. So far this year deliveries of pigs to bacon factories are well ahead of 1970 and the total for the year will exceed 2,000,000.

Pigmeat was in surplus supply on European markets this year and marketing conditions were difficult [763] with subsidy costs high. There is now some slowing down in European production and the market is expected to improve over the coming months. In order to meet higher costs of production the guaranteed minimum prices for pigs were increased in May and again in September.

The rationalisation of our bacon curing industry has become a matter of urgency in the context of prospective EEC membership. It has been apparent for a long time that, in relation to total production, we had too many factories, a low average throughput and excessive overhead costs. Furthermore a number of our factories no longer meet the very high standards of plant and equipment required by importing countries. Fewer plants and higher all round standards are essential if we are to safeguard the interests of pig producers and the industry in the competitive conditions which will have to be faced on home and export markets in the years ahead.

A rationalisation scheme has now been put in hand. Individual processors are being invited to surrender their licences on a compensation basis. Factories which will continue in operation will be encouraged to modernise and extend their plants where this is considered necessary. The administration of the scheme, the cost of which will be financed by a levy on pigs slaughtered at the factories, has been assigned to the Pigs and Bacon Commission. The commission will be assisted in their task by a consultative group representing the Industrial Development Authority, the Fair Trade Commission, the Federated Union of Employers, the Confederation of Irish Industry, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Department of Labour and my Department. The commission will keep in close touch with the IDA, AnCO and the Department of Labour in the course of the rationalisation programme so as to ensure that there will be a reasonable opportunity of arranging for alternative employment in the area of closures and also for special training courses for any new industries with which it might be possible to replace the factories being closed.

[764] Turning to poultry, broiler consumption continues to increase. Production of broilers in 1970 amounted to 15 million birds and is expected to be about 17 million in 1971.

In the case of turkeys, increasing use of day-old poults from licensed turkey hatcheries has led to an improvement in the quality generally of turkeys marketed. Supplies of fresh turkeys for the Christmas trade are likely to be about 5 per cent greater than last year and, together with increased stocks in cold store, will be fully adequate to meet the demand.

As regards livestock diseases, while there is no appreciable change in the incidence of bovine tuberculosis its persistence in some areas, even at a slightly lower rate, is a cause of concern. Testing on an area basis is at present being done in counties Waterford and Kilkenny and it is proposed to extend such testing to the remaining southern counties next year. The purpose of the change from a county basis to an area basis is to ensure that all the cattle in each area are tested and all reactors removed over a very short period.

There are five counties in the brucellosis free area—Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim and Sligo. Herd testing must continue there to guard against any resurgence of the disease.

In the light of the introduction of brucellosis eradication on an area basis in Britain, and our prospective accession to the European Economic Community, the early clearance of brucellosis from the midland counties, from which most of our live cattle are exported, is very important. With this in mind, and also to safeguard the counties already cleared, full scale eradication measures were started in Counties Louth, Longford, Mayo, Roscommon, Westmeath, Meath and part of county Offaly in 1970. The level of the disease in County Mayo was low and clearance was rapid so that I hope to add that county to the brucellosis free area within the next few months. In County Meath, on the other hand, the disease incidence, as had been expected, was high, particularly in the dairy herds. The numbers of reactors and the high prices paid for them have made a heavy drain on the available [765] funds and I am aware that some dairymen have met with difficulty, even hardship, because of the persistence of the disease in their herds. I have the eradication procedures under examination at present to see whether these difficulties can be abated. The scheme is proceeding very satisfactorily in the other counties mentioned and I am confident that, even in County Meath, the second round of testing will show a substantial reduction of the disease.

In the remaining counties the Voluntary Brucellosis Scheme and the Brucellosis (Certified) Herds Scheme are available to herdowners who wish to clear their herds in advance of general eradication. In these counties also two rounds of milk ring tests of all creamery herds were carried out this year to identify the clear herds. Discussions have taken place with mart organisations to promote special sales of animals from herds which were twice clear to the milk ring test.

The Heifer Vaccination Scheme operating in the 11 main dairying counties of the south and east is, I am glad to say, proving attractive to farmers and over 300,000 heifers have so far been vaccinated. Vaccination will not, of course, cure or eradicate the disease but it will give protection to many herds in the dairying area until the eradication programme reaches there.

The work of the expert group formed to study the problem of liver fluke has already produced some useful results. Bodies co-operating with my Department in this group are An Foras Talúntais, the veterinary faculties of the universities and the Irish Veterinary Association. Shell Research Ltd. is also making a valuable contribution. I wish to take this opportunity of thanking these bodies for their help.

When the provision for general disease control and eradication was being estimated it was expected that the cost of free treatment of warble infested animals this year would be much the same as in 1969-70. In the event it was decided to suspend free treatment and to allocate part of the provision towards meeting the cost of providing supervision of the national warble dressing [766] programme this autumn. This programme has gone very well and, while final figures of the number of cattle dressed are not yet available, it is clear that well over 5,000,000 cattle have been dealt with. I am grateful to the farming organisations who co-operated fully in the scheme and to the vast majority of herdowners whose ready participation helped to make it a success. A special word of thanks is due to the artificial insemination bodies for their excellent work in organising and executing the dressing programme in their respective areas.

A serious and widespread epidemic of fowl pest occurred in Britain last year. The disease spread rapidly through most of England and Wales and some areas in Scotland. Special precautionary measures were taken to guard against the introduction of the infection into this country. Although the situation in Britain has been progressively improving for some months past continued vigilance is necessary in the interests of our valuable poultry industry.

Before leaving the subject of animal diseases I would like to stress the importance to the agricultural economy of our eradication and control measures. By raising the standard of health of our livestock these measures not only improve efficiency in production but also ensure a better return from sales on export markets of the resultant higher and better quality output.

As regards tillage the area under cereal crops in 1971 showed an increase over 1970 and is now close to 1,000,000 acres. Harvesting was completed quickly in favourable weather conditions with relatively few intake or storage problems.

The wheat acreage was 226,000 compared with 234,000 in 1970. Yields varied considerably but, on the overall, the average yield is likely to compare favourably with the levels of recent years.

Under the stimulus of a floor price increase of £2.50 per ton to the grower, the acreage under feeding barley increased by almost 12 per cent over 1970 to a new record of 452.000 acres in 1971. Malting barley at 139,000 [767] acres was up by about 10 per cent. The average yields of both feeding and malting barley were higher than in 1970. The return to growers should be very satisfactory and the increased production of home-grown feeding grain will help our balance of payments position. Barley growing is one of the areas where producers will benefit on this country's entry to the EEC and the steadily increasing acreage of feeding barley is a healthy trend.

Despite an increase of £2.50 per ton in the guaranteed floor price for oats grown in the western counties in 1971 the overall acreage of oats continues to fall. The area sown in 1971 was 151,000 acres compared with 168,000 acres in 1970. In general the quality was reasonably good and the average yield was higher than last year. Owing to insufficiency of home supplies, some imports of high quality oats will again be required for oatmeal milling and for feeding to bloodstock. It is my policy, however, to ensure that such imports are kept to an absolute minimum and that they will not interfere with the market for home-grown oats.

The production and use of compound feeding stuffs is continuing to increase and reflects the growing preference of farmers for properly balanced livestock foods. The output figure for 1970 was slightly over 1,000,000 tons. I have been concerned to ensure that only good quality compound feeding stuffs are offered for sale and that proper standards are observed by manufacturers. Although it was necessary to take legal proceedings during the past year against a number of compounders whose products were found, on analysis, to be deficient in relation to their statement of guaranteed contents, I am glad to say that the position generally has considerably improved.

While the number of applications received in 1970-71 under the Land Project was less than in the previous year, there is still a high level of demand for the facilities of the project.

During the year the Farm Buildings Scheme was rationalised and improved to bring it more into line with modern agricultural requirements. A number [768] of new grants were introduced and existing grants revised. In the case of the Water Supplies Scheme the maximum grant for the provision of piped water to farmyards and fields was increased.

These schemes for modernising farm buildings, improving land and water supplies have greatly increased the potential of Irish agriculture for efficient competitive production.

Ground limestone consumption for the year ended March, 1971, at 1.6 million tons was only slightly less than the record figure for the previous year. Consumption of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash continued to increase. The total amount being provided for lime and fertilisers in the current year is £7.1 million, an increase of £230,000 on the amount provided last year.

The total provision for horticulture in the Estimate is £518,000 of which £450,000 is for grants for glasshouses. The latter sum would be sufficient to provide for the erection of over 50 acres of modern fully equipped glass, but, in fact, a large number of grants this year have been for the installation of heating and ancillary equipment in houses already erected, rather than for completely new houses.

Applications for grants are still substantial, but the backlog of applications which awaited attention in previous years has largely been eliminated. Since the introduction of the scheme in 1967, over £1.6 million has been paid in grants, with an investment of about twice this sum by growers. Although the home market for tomatoes during the cold month of June was somewhat depressed, returns over the full 1971 season have been satisfactory. Up to the end of September, almost 3,500 tons of tomatoes valued at £728,000 had been exported compared with 3,100 tons valued at £600,000 in the corresponding period of 1970.

The Estimate provision includes £50,000 in respect of grants for the erection of mushroom units. These grants offer growers an incentive to enter an expanding sector of horticultural production. With approaching entry to the EEC, it is necessary that provision for statutory grading of horticultural produce should be made and [769] preparation of the necessary enabling legislation is at present being undertaken.

I should now like to deal with our education, research and advisory services. By far the most important of our agricultural resources are the men and women who work on our farms and my Department is very much concerned with improving their management and technical efficiency. This involves a continuing process of education and advice and the provision and application of new information and techniques.

Full-time residential courses are provided at 11 agricultural colleges and in 1970-71 total attendance at these courses was approximately 600. This year Kildalton Agriculture and Horticultural College at Piltown, County Kilkenny, was opened as a new residential college with accommodation for over 100 students. In addition to full-time courses, residential short courses are provided at the Department's colleges at Athenry and Clonakilty. Winter agricultural classes and farm schools are conducted at numerous centres throughout the country. Full-time education in commercial horticulture, poultry-keeping, dairying and farm home management is also provided at several centres.

The farm apprenticeship scheme, which has grown from the original 24 participants in 1964 to 123 in 1970-71, also plays an important part in agricultural education and training. Educational facilities in agriculture, horticulture and dairy science at university level have been expanded and the number of students taking degree courses has steadily increased. Proposals for further development of the university faculties are being examined by the Government Departments concerned in consultation with the universities. It will be evident that very substantial progress has been made in providing the educational basis for a modern, sophisticated agricultural industry.

There has been rapid expansion also in the advisory services. The number of instructors has increased from 355 ten years ago to 608 at present. During [770] the past year I have had a series of consultations with the various interested organisations on the proposals for the reorganisation of these advisory services. The discussions are not finally completed but I hope that the stage will soon be reached when decisions can be taken on an organisational structure for the services which will best suit our needs in the challenging times ahead.

One of the most important tasks of the advisory services is to keep in touch with research and technological advances at home and abroad. Research in this country, undertaken by An Foras Talúntais, the universities and my Department, has been considerably stepped up in recent years and has given some useful results. A substantial allocation of State funds is now involved.

On the subject of small farms, I am glad to say that the Small Farm (Incentive) Bonus Scheme continues to make steady progress and is very attractive for smaller farmers planning expansion. New applications are being received at the rate of about 2,500 per year and more than 2,000 new participants were launched on farm development plans during the past year, bringing the total of active participants to nearly 10,000. The scheme continues to have most impact in the western counties which account for two-thirds of the participants.

Under a pilot scheme introduced earlier this year certain types of group farming projects will be eligible to qualify for special grant assistance. The scheme is directed mainly towards encouraging groups which aim to increase their efficiency in the production and marketing of their produce. The grants offered are intended to be of a “priming” nature to help worthwhile groups in the early stages of development. The scheme is essentially experimental at this stage and it is proposed to review its scope and general operation in due course in the light of experience. A limited number of applications have already been received and these are being processed in consultation with the local advisory services.

A report entitled “Agriculture in [771] the West of Ireland: A Review of the Low Income Problem in Farming” prepared by my Department's western regional officer is due to be published shortly. The report presents a general examination of the factors contributing to the low income problem in western farming as well as an appraisal of the pilot area development programme covering its first five years of operation and an assessment of the factors which contributed to or inhibited progress in the pilot area during that period. I look forward to constructive public discussion of this report and to receiving comments on it from interested persons and organisations.

On the subject of pollution, which is a matter of serious concern, my Department is represented on an inter-departmental working group set up by the Minister for Local Government to examine the problem. At the same time my Department has been pursuing its own investigations on problems arising or likely to arise in the agricultural sector, for example in relation to silage effluent, farmyard waste and effluent from creameries and meat and poultry processing factories. The results of these investigations have been transmitted to the inter-departmental working group for consideration in connection with its work on the overall problem which is one that calls for increasing attention if we are to succeed in overcoming this danger to our environment.

I should now like to say a brief word about the general agricultural position in 1971. This has been an excellent year for farming and it is already clear that both output and income will be substantially higher than in 1970. Our estimate is that the volume of output will be up by around 5 per cent and aggregate family farm income by about 10 per cent. The most encouraging feature is the strengthening of the cattle sector where numbers have now topped the 6,000,000 mark and, with the breeding herd in excess of 2,000,000 for the first time, future prospects are very promising. Milk production is above last year's level, pig production is expanding and the declining trend in sheep numbers has been reversed. The tillage acreage is up, with significant [772] increases in the case of barley and sugar beet. The increase in output has already added £30 million to our agricultural export earnings this year.

We have now had four years of sustained expansion in farm output, income and prices In this period output has increased by over 15 per cent; agricultural prices have risen by 26 per cent and incomes by almost 40 per cent. This evidence of continuing progress and prosperity is a tribute to the skill and hard work of our farmers and reflects the soundness of the Government's policy in relation to agriculture. It also clearly demonstrates that the farming community is now well equipped to exploit the opportunities which membership of the EEC will provide.

I do not propose on this occasion to go into detail on the terms of accession to the Community for Irish agriculture. This will be spelled out in the Government White Paper which it is planned to publish early in the new year. Following publication, the House will have the opportunity to discuss the terms and the prospects in depth.

Broadly speaking, the terms of accession for Irish agriculture provide for the gradual harmonisation of our agricultural prices with the common price levels of the Community, the gradual removal of obstacles to trade within the enlarged Community and the adoption of a common trade policy vis-à-vis non-member countries. For our major products, price harmonisation means a gradual levelling up of our prices to the Common Market level; in the case of cattle and milk it means something in the region of a 50 per cent increase on 1970 prices.

One could not over-emphasise the significance to Irish farming of our move into Europe. Irish farmers will be participating in a common agricultural policy which has among its specific objectives the aims of ensuring market stability and the provision of a fair and reasonable standard of living for the agricultural population.

Membership of the EEC will place Irish agriculture on the threshold of a new era of challenge and opportunity. What it means is that our farmers will be getting the chance, hitherto denied [773] them, of competing on fair and equal terms with their fellow farmers in the Community in a great and growing market. Fair and equal terms means that obstacles we have had to contend with up to now will be removed and it will be up to ourselves, through the efficient production, processing and marketing of top quality farm products, to compete successfully and reap the full advantages of membership.

Here I might mention that one of the points that keep coming up in discussions about our membership of the EEC is the position of the small farmer. It should be said straight away that the small farmer who works his land efficiently will be better off under EEC than he is to-day. He will get better prices for what he has to sell and it will be up to himself to get the most out of his land. Aids and incentives which can be operated under Common Market regulations will be oriented towards less favoured areas and smaller farmers, the basic purpose being to increase their efficiency and earning capacity. While it is not possible to say at this stage precisely what changes will have to be made in various schemes and services of my Department to align them to Common Market regulations, I feel I can say that the general principle on which my thinking is based is that the effort of the State will, in future, be more and more concentrated on the smaller but potentially viable farmers to help them make the most of their resources in order to take the fullest advantage of what the Common Market has to offer. For the bigger farmers operating on a fully commercial basis, their rewards will come increasingly from the market, and their dependence on Exchequer assistance should progressively decline.

At the same time, I must stress the urgency of adapting our processing and marketing organisations to take full advantage of the opportunities the Common Market will offer. This is particularly true in the case of milk processing. The rationalisation of the creamery industry has made some progress, but it is still far from complete and, in some areas at least, there seem to be lingering hopes that everything can go on as before and that talk [774] about rationalisation is so much hot air. Under the Common Market system, there can be a big difference to the producer between the best price and the worst price, and that difference will depend largely on the efficiency of the processing unit and its ability to use its milk supply to the best advantage. This means utilising all parts of the milk, including in particular the skim milk. At present, some areas lack facilities for processing skim milk. This is a serious drawback to those areas and one which the owners of creameries there must tackle with drive and energy immediately.

From time to time, it has been stated that the position of the Dairy Disposal Company has been an inhibiting factor in the process of rationalisation. This is certainly not the case. I have stated repeatedly that the Dairy Disposal Company will be happy to co-operate in schemes of rationalisation or to sell units to co-operative groups as part of the rationalisation process. In the past few months, subject to settlement of details, agreement has been reached on terms for the transfer of three of the company's creamery groups to co-operative societies, and negotiations for the transfer of a further group are at present taking place. This is considerable progress and will make a positive contribution to creamery rationalisation in the areas concerned. In other areas—for example, Kerry— the Dairy Disposal Company is participating with co-operative and private interests in setting up diversification facilities. In County Clare the Dairy Disposal Company has been authorised to create new processing facilities. There is no intention of closing the door to co-operative development in County Clare, and I would suggest to the IAOS and to the farmers in that county that, if they want to put the milk industry in County Clare on a co-operative basis, they should develop a programme to buy out the Dairy Disposal Company for an agreed price over a number of years. This, however, is a matter entirely for themselves. Co-operation cannot be forced on them nor indeed on anybody else by any kind of Government order.

As regards marketing, the monopoly [775] export position which An Bord Bainne now enjoys is not in conformity with EEC regulations. Under EEC the maximum co-operation in processing and marketing between the dairy cooperatives will be essential for success. Pigmeat exports which are at present centralised through the Pigs and Bacon Commission will face a similar situation. Ireland is not a big country and our entire exports of dairy products or pigmeat are not large by world standards. It will certainly not be in our interests to have these exports handled by individual exporters selling relatively small quantities with variations in quality and seasonal irregularity in supplies. In our circumstances, co-ordinated exporting by central agencies using modern techniques will be indispensable. I am glad that, in the case of dairy products, the farmers' organisations and others concerned are, in fact, actively considering the type of marketing arrangements which they should have in EEC conditions.

I should like to add a brief word about foreign participation in the dairying industry. Under Common Market regulations, this cannot be prevented by Government action, but it will take place only to the extent that milk producers and their co-operatives want it to take place. If the cooperatives, through lack of enterprise or skill, or through an inability to work together for the good of their members, leave a vacuum in the marketing process, somebody is bound to fill it. Shortage of capital is often referred to as the cause. I accept that sometimes it has been a problem, but I believe it is often the smallest problem and one which the steps now being taken to expand credit facilities will help to overcome.

This is one of the major questions which I have been discussing recently with farmers' organisations. Another is the restructuring of our creamery milk prices in anticipation of EEC membership. I shall deal with creamery milk first.

The Government have reviewed the creamery milk situation particularly with regard to the need to gear the milk price structure more closely to the conditions that will obtain under [776] an enlarged EEC. The greatly improved export demand for dairy products and the increase in production and processing costs have also been carefully considered. The improvement in the export markets for dairy products in the past 12 months is expected to be maintained in 1972, and the further outlook for beef cattle also appears to be good. Farm and creamery costs, both wages and materials, have however also been increasing appreciably. In these circumstances and to strengthen further the position of the dairying and cattle sectors of our economy in anticipation of future export opportunities, the Government have decided to raise creamery milk prices. I am announcing this decision now rather than waiting until Budget time next spring so that farmers can plan their next year's farm programme with the knowledge of these significant changes.

The structure of the creamery milk pricing system will be remodelled on a basis that would be appropriate in an EEC context and at the same time the average return per gallon will be increased. This will be brought about by increasing from 1st December, 1971, the prices paid by An Bord Bainne for butter and other dairy products, including a system of support for skim milk powder; by introducing a subsidy on liquid skim returned to suppliers and by removing the liability on farmers to meet one-third of any increased losses incurred on exports of dairy products arising from these changes. The higher prices payable by Bord Bainne will incorporate the existing Exchequer milk price and quality allowances and this change will mean that the arrangement under which a tiered system of milk price allowances was paid to producers supplying over 10,000 gallons per annum to creameries will no longer operate. It is estimated that in 1972 the average price of creamery milk will be 2p per gallon higher than the average price in 1971.

The ex-creamery price of butter for sale on the home market will be increased by £52 a ton; this will represent an increase of approximately 2½p per lb. in the retail price. The home butter price, which for the first time [777] in many years is now below the export price, has remained at the same level since 1966, despite a number of increases since then in milk prices and, indeed, in food prices generally, including margarine. Even allowing for this price increase, butter consumed on the home market will still carry an Exchequer subsidy of nearly 8p a lb. Home market prices of cheese and other milk products will also be increased correspondingly. The price of milk used in these products has not been increased since before 1962.

To give effect to these changes, the following detailed arrangements will apply on and from 1st December and will continue unchanged during the 1972 season.

(1) The price payable by An Bord Bainne to creameries for butter as from 1st December, 1971, will be increased from £469 per ton by £256 to £725 per ton. This increase will be equivalent to 5p per gallon of the present milk price and quality allowances. The payment of the present milk price and quality allowances by my Department direct to creameries will cease at the same time. New arrangements will be made with creameries to ensure that quality standards for milk are maintained.

(2) The price for skim milk powder will be supported at a level of £160 per ton equivalent to a price of about 5p per gallon of skim milk. As facilities for the production of skim milk powder are not available in some areas, a subsidy of 2½p per gallon will be paid on skim milk returned by creameries to their suppliers. This subsidy will be equivalent to 2p per gallon of the present milk price allowance on whole milk.

(3) The support prices of other dairy products will be increased to bring them into line with those of butter and skim milk powder.

(4) These changes will mean that Bord Bainne will be involved in substantial export losses and it will be necessary to ensure that this does not reduce the return to producers. It is proposed therefore to amend the Dairy Produce (Marketing) Act, [778] 1961, to enable the whole of any increased export losses that arise as a result of these proposals to be met by the Exchequer.

(5) The retail price of creamery butter on the home market will be increased by approximately 2½p per lb. This will still leave an Exchequer subsidy of £176 per ton on creamery butter supplied to the home market, making the price for that market £549 per ton against the new Bord Bainne purchasing price of £725 per ton.

To encourage smaller producers, especially those in creamery milk production, to expand their enterprises on a more intensive basis, the Government have also decided to increase to £500, from the present level of £325, the total bonus grant that may be earned by new participants under the Small Farm (Incentive Bonus) Scheme. The increased rate will apply to farmers accepted into the scheme on and after 1st January, 1972. This scheme which is giving very useful results, will be revised and kept under review in the light of evolving EEC structural policy.

The Government have also reviewed the present capital position of agriculture and the agricultural processing industries, and the capital requirements which will have to be met in the light of prospective entry to the EEC. It is estimated that the level of total capital investment in farming is now running at around £60 million a year. Of this, over £40 million comes from investment by farmers, financed both from reinvestment out of farm incomes and from banks and other normal credit institutions, and the rest is provided by the Exchequer as part of the public capital programme. Farmers can be expected to increase their rate of investment still further in the coming years in view of the excellent prospects for agriculture. Extra investment will be needed to finance both a higher rate of farm output and the rationalisation and modernisation of production and processing facilities. It is expected that much of this extra investment will be financed from the substantially higher farm incomes arising from entry [779] into EEC as well as from the usual commercial credit sources. There are, however, some areas of agricultural investment which might not be met in full by these sources. The Government have, therefore, decided to increase the availability of credit for agriculture through the Agricultural Credit Corporation in the following ways:

In the case of credit for farmers the amount which the corporation may lend in 1971-72 for the purpose of expanding efficient production will be increased. This year the amount in the public capital programme for lending by the corporation was £6.3 million, and, as recently announced by the Minister for Finance, this has been increased to £9 million. The Minister for Finance has now authorised the corporation to lend a further £4.5 million in the current year. The corporation expect that this level of lending will enable them to meet the full demand for productive credit by farmers this year.

Credit for processing industries will be available as required from the Agricultural Credit Corporation to help finance approved projects and to supplement capital raised from State grants, farmers' investment, and borrowing from other sources. Priority will be given to the milk processing and pigmeat processing industries, but this does not preclude consideration of applications from other processing industries. In the case of the milk processing sector, it is estimated that the extra borrowing required may be of the order of £4 million. Of this, the Dairy Disposal Company may require up to £1 million to cover the construction by the company of processing facilities in County Clare and the participation by them in processing plants in other areas. For the bacon industry, after making allowance for grants, and for capital to be provided from non-Exchequer sources, an additional sum of the order of £1 million may be required to help finance improvement of factories as part of the bacon industry rationalisation scheme.

These decisions will result in total lendings by the corporation being increased to an estimated £13.5 million in 1971-72 with further substantial increases [780] likely in the following year. Moreover credit availability through the corporation will be kept under review in the light of the demands for credit and the resources available. The Central Bank are currently reviewing the overall credit situation and in that context will be discussing with the commercial banks the particular needs of agriculture. The extra facilities to be provided by the Agricultural Credit Corporation taken in conjunction with the public capital programme, farmers' own investment funds and normal commercial credit facilities, in particular from the commercial banks, are expected to meet in full the capital needs of Irish agriculture in the years immediately ahead.

These developments on milk and capital will give farmers added incentives and opportunities to plan ahead in the knowledge of the full support they will receive from my Department. Farming to-day is prospering and there is all round confidence in the country that this prosperity will increase further. We have followed policies that have generated this prosperity and we will continue to give farmers the support they need to develop the full potential of our agriculture.

In conclusion may I say that I look forward to a useful debate on this Estimate and I shall welcome any comments and suggestions Deputies may wish to make.

Mr. Creed: Information on Donal Creed  Zoom on Donal Creed  I move: “That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.”

My comments on the Minister's speech shall be brief because it is very difficult to go into any detail or to assess the increases given to the farming community when one received a copy of the brief only as the Minister stood up to speak. However, I am sure that other members of this party will be more detailed than I in their assessment of the Estimate.

At the outset I wish to say that what has astounded me is the complacency of the Minister regarding the prosperity of the agricultural community. We have been subjected to this sort of complacency for far too long. I welcome wholeheartedly the increases given to the farming community and I welcome also the change in the milk [781] price structure. This change is long overdue. It might be said of it that it is too little and too late. From this side of the House we have long been advocating a change in the milk price structure because we believed that the structure, as it was, was doing untold damage to the dairying industry and that it was militating against efficiency and quality production, which are so important.

At this stage, too, I should like to say that, in so far as the Minister himself is concerned, I concede that, when he was appointed Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries as a result of the re-shuffle or the turmoil within his own party, he was favourably accepted by the farming community, particularly in the south of Ireland. The reason for this was that, unlike his predecessors who had no idea whatsoever of the problems of the farming community, he had a practical knowledge of agriculture and its problems, and such knowledge is necessary in order that one would understand the problems associated with agriculture. However, it must be said that people who were pleased when he was appointed have been critical of him of late because up to now he has not achieved anything.

In my opinion and in the opinion of my party the present is a very important time in the history of agriculture in this country. If we are to derive the fullest possible benefits from our membership of EEC it is important that there be the necessary alterations and preparations. Very valuable time has been lost. The Minister must be aware of the necessity for gearing our farmers to meet the challenge of the competition that they will encounter within the EEC.

I shall deal first with the dairying industry because I believe this branch of agriculture to be the basis of the entire industry, because from it stem all other farming activities. Those engaged in the dairying industry have got a raw deal. This can be said, in particular, of those engaged in milk production. What is needed now to help these people to modernise their farmyards and equipment is an injection of capital. I am glad that a change in [782] milk prices has been announced today. I have pointed out to the Minister on various occasions that it is necessary to fix the price for milk early in autumn because it is at that stage that farmers are planning their programmes for the year ahead.

Because of the uneconomic price that was paid for milk last year and because of the multitier price system which almost bankrupted some farmers, many farmers in my area were contemplating changing over to the beef subsidy scheme. I could see a distinct danger in this respect, that is that because of the amount of slavery that is attached to milk production, people who change over to beef production will find it very difficult to change back to milk production. The young farmer of today is not attracted to the seven-day week that is demanded of those who keep herds of cows.

I still say, particularly as far as the south is concerned, that we are better geared and more suitable for milk production than we are for beef. The young farmer coming up today wants to have a modern farmyard and modern equipment and realises that we have never succeeded in getting the full potential out of the land of this country. As is stated in the Minister's speech, the production of milk and beef has gone up and production in other lines of farming as well, but the problem is that there is not a sufficient amount of capital to get the maximum production from the land of this country.

The Minister has said that there will be extra money available to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I have had considerable dealings with the ACC and I am at a loss to know what is necessary in order to qualify for a loan from them. Out of a large number of applicants who have written to me, I think I have succeeded in getting a loan for only one. If we are to succeed we must have an injection of capital and not the figure of £9 million mentioned by the Minister. This is only a drop in the ocean. Let us take the case of the son of a farmer who is about to take over. He will want to get the maximum production from that farm. In order to do that he will [783] need to have a full stock on that farm. The price of cattle is pretty high to-day. Without the capital he cannot get the maximum out of his farm.

This is something which has not been attended to by the present Government and the present Minister for Agriculture. He must meet the problem as a Deputy in his constituency as we all do. Take the case of a farmer with a young family who is not in a position to invest in his farm because of the scarcity of capital. His family are growing up and it will be found that they will have to emigrate because he cannot keep afloat since he has not got the wherewithal to invest in his farm. If the Minister is serious about gearing our farmers to competition in the EEC there will have to be far more capital provided for the farming community.

I was glad that the Minister mentioned the rationalisation of the creamery industry. When the Minister was first appointed as Minister for Agriculture and was interviewed by some pressmen he said that one of his top priorities would be the amalgamation and rationalisation of the creamery industry. I am with the Minister all the way in this activity but I am very disappointed with the progress that has been made. In our area we have the Dairy Disposal Board creameries—he knows what I am referring to because we were on a deputation to him—and the Ballyclough group of co-operative creameries are taking over two groups of Dairy Disposal Board creameries. This has gone on for a considerable time with meetings of the farming community, meetings with the Minister, meetings with the committee in Ballyclough and meetings with representatives of the Dairy Disposal Board. Unfortunately, to date, there has not been much progress and, even if there has been progress—and I understand that it is progressing very, very slowly —it takes too long. The delay is too long and farmers are uneasy. The difference in the price of milk to the farmer supplying milk to Ballyclough and to the farmer supplying milk to a Dairy Disposal Board creamery for the past three years is approximately £8 2s 5d per cow per year. The Minister will realise that for the farmer with, [784] say, 20 or 30 cows this will mean a considerable sum in a year. While this is happening the Minister and his Department and the directors of the Dairy Disposal Board are dragging their heels. Is it not ludicrous that the Dairy Disposal Board should start haggling about the price of the creameries when, when we are members of the EEC, the farmers will have free access to any creamery of their choice and the Dairy Disposal Board or the creameries who are not paying the price for milk will go by the board anyway?

I would appeal to the Minister to take action at this late stage. If action is not taken on this there will be many disappointed farmers who are supplying milk to the Dairy Disposal Board creameries. I would say, in fairness, that their day is gone. They have no longer any useful purpose to serve. I should like to see in every area the Minister using his influence to try to get them to hand the creameries over. I disagree—I put down a question about this some time ago—with the price that is being charged for the Dairy Disposal Board creameries because they were modernised. They were improved; new machinery and lorries were purchased from the profit that was made from the milk supplied by the farming community to those creameries. Now, when the farmers are taking them over, they will still have to pay an outlandish price for these creameries. Here is something in which the Minister could interest himself and make sure that vested interests —and I want to emphasise vested interests—within the board are not dragging their heels in order to keep some of them in good jobs at the expense of the farming community. I have no doubt about this. I have seen this in operation. What grieves me more than anything else is that when I was approached by the producers in an area—the Minister knows where I am talking about—the workers there in the creameries had no complaint or had no objection to the creameries being taken over by the Ballyclough Co-op. They felt that this would mean an increase in the income of the farming community.

Nobody knows better than I do, [785] because I have spent many years in dairy farming, the amount of work that the farmer, his wife and very often his family have to put into milk production and the late hours worked on a dairy farm while other sections of the community talk in terms of a five-day week. What is annoying and frustrating milk producers in Dairy Disposal Board creamery areas is that this situation continues. We talk about rationalisation and amalgamation. If we behave like this in the Common Market some day we will wake up and we will not know what struck us. In 1962 there was a report on the need to rationalise the creamery industry. There were four reports between 1962 and 1968. Yet very little progress has been made. In the context of the EEC, when we are competing with people who are far more sophisticated than we are, the small unit with inflated overheads, with irregular supplies, will have no hope of existence. I cannot understand the attitude of the Minister and of the Dairy Disposal Board. Should we become a member of the EEC, farmers will be able to leave creameries and they certainly will leave them and will move to the creamery that will pay the highest price.

I am quoting the difference in price in respect of an economic unit of the Dairy Disposal Board but there are areas in west Cork and west Clare where the difference is far greater. Yet we continue to drag along in the same old way, afraid of change and there is no encouragement given by the Minister or by the board. I repeat that there are vested interests at work here and that is one of the factors that have prevented amalgamation and the rationalisation of the creamery industry. There are some people—a very tiny minority—in every area who, for some reason best known to themselves, will object to rationalisation, who will go to any extreme to try to embarrass and to obstruct the members and the suppliers in their efforts to bring about rationalisation of the creameries. Some of these people are exploited by those who have a vested interest. The Minister should be strong enough to say to the board at this stage that there must be rationalisation of creameries and [786] that nothing should stand in the way of this development. We could continue along the same old road, making no progress in this very important matter and it is the farming community who will have to pay the price if we refuse to do something about this matter. I feel very strongly about this matter. Last year and the year before I referred to the fact that I am not satisfied with the progress being made. The Minister talked about prosperity within the agricultural community and his speech indicates complacency. There is increased prosperity but costs have also increased out of all proportion and prices have not kept abreast of the rising costs in agriculture. Rates, labour, cost of machinery, all the overheads, are going up year in year out.

I want to deal with the question of availability of credit. The Minister knows that in the past year or two and this year there has been an increase in the number of farmers who have changed from dairying to beef production. This is a classic example of where credit is necessary and where it is not available. Because of the uneconomic price for milk last year and because of the multi-tier system a farmer, after a bad year in milk production, may change to beef. He may have a herd of 30 or 40 cows. When the cows calve in the spring, he will have to buy calves, in order to have double suckling. That costs a considerable amount of money. Calves are making a good price because of the demand under the beef subsidy scheme. In addition to having to invest in the calves, he has to invest in fertilisers and lime, and he has to pay rates. For that year he will have no income at all. There will be no cheque coming in. He will have no income from his herd because if the farmer wants to make the maximum amount out of the cattle under the beef subsidy scheme he will have to keep them for at least two years, in which he has no income. Here the Agricultural Credit Corporation can play a very important role. The amount of the loan extended would be safe and secure. It would be merely a bridging loan.

I have been talking for a long time about the uneconomic price for milk. Were it not for the factor that I have [787] referred to, many more farmers would change over to beef. The Agricultural Credit Corporation are great people for giving loans to people who do not want them. I do not mind quoting a case that came to my notice last night. A farmer with 120 acres, limed and manured and with sufficient feeding to carry over a good number of cattle for the winter but who did not have the wherewithal to buy them applied to the Agricultural Credit Corporation and because he owed about £1,000 or £1,500 on a 120-acre farm he could not be considered for a short-term loan. I have seen several cases turned down of applications for a loan to increase the herd so as to extract the maximum amount out of a farm and increase family income, where they would sign an agreement that the creamery would pay over to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I should like the Minister to take particular note of that matter because it is playing havoc with the farming community.

Take, for instance, the case of a farmer's son who is getting married and who is buying a farm. Does anybody realise what it costs to stock and equip the farm? Production on that farm will be retarded for a number of years until that man is able to overcome his financial difficulty. In 99 per cent of cases the loan would be quite safe. The people are hard working and they have the resources which will permit them to repay the loan. They find it impossible to get credit. I would ask the Minister to interest himself in this matter.

Recently, the Minister for Finance announced that he had £20 million extra to distribute and that he was giving £2.7 million to the farming community. I felt that this was an opportunity for me to renew my claim for the people who approach me. I find that that was not a contribution made by the Government from the Exchequer to the Agricultural Credit Corporation but that it arose out of the ACC's loan system, and that they were allowed to lend an extra £2.7 million. People in the country reading the announcement understood that the Exchequer was giving £2.7 million more to the farming community, [788] whereas it was, in fact, money that other farmers had invested in the ACC. Something will have to be done about this question of credit. We have never got half of the potential from the land that we could get if there were sufficient capital invested in it. We have the farming community; we have the labour force. We are fortunate in this country to have a hard-working farming community who, if they got a fair price, would produce the goods. That has been proved time and again.

The system has been ludicrous. Let us go back as far as the in-calf heifer subsidy scheme. We were encouraging the farmers to produce more calves. We were encouraging them to produce milk for which we had no market. We were subsidising butter to the tune of 11d. per 1b. so that the British would eat it. Only a few years ago there was a huge surplus of dairy products all over Europe. Mark my words, in the next few years there will be a scarcity of dairy products in Europe. The young farmer today is changing from the traditional type of farming carried on by his father and I believe we should have encouraged our farmers to continue in milk production. Our land is very suitable. Our grass is excellent. We have a temperate climate and, therefore, a short winter. Our costs of production are less than they are in other less salubrious areas. We would do better. I believe, by encouraging the farming community to stay in milk.

The Minister referred to pig production. Not so many years ago pig production was a valuable source of income for the small farmer. In the congested areas the pig was a valuable asset to the farming community. The trend is changing. The big pig producing co-operative is becoming fashionable. A number of pig fattening co-operatives are being set up with the aid of generous grants. Might I here say a word of commendation about the notes on the main activities of the Department? I compliment the officials on these notes. We have at the moment a certain number of pigfattening co-operatives. These are taking on well in the south in particular. The danger is that these co-operatives [789] might be run on a professional basis to the detriment of the farming community as a whole. The co-operatives might take on the rearing and fattening of their own pigs. Should they do so the farmers would cease to reap any benefit. This is a definite danger and the Minister will want to be wary of this trend. I am in favour of these co-operatives if they are run by the farming community.

There are complaints that the profit in pig production is too small. The price of feeding stuffs is too high and the margin of profit is too low. If the farming community run the pig-fattening co-operatives that will ensure that the benefits will be evenly spread. It will also result in an increased income to the farmers.

Rationalisation of bacon factories is very necessary. One of the disadvantages at the moment is the fluctuation in pig numbers delivered to the factories; in one week there may be 1,000 pigs offered and the next week there may be only 100. There is need for more liaison between the producer and the factories. If there were a proper liaison a great number of the difficulties that exist could be overcome. As the Minister said, we probably have too many bacon factories. Rationalisation is imperative. We are very slow about rationalising and, in the absence of rationalisation, the producer will not get the price he should get.

Last year there was an increase in the subsidy in relation to sheep and lambs. That was very welcome. There is, however, the problem that the price of mutton and lamb this year was never lower. It is very much down on last year's price. An increase in the subsidy would encourage farmers to increase sheep numbers. There is a potential market in the EEC. Farmers have not been encouraged to fertilise mountainous land and improve sheep pasturage.

The price of wool is rockbottom. There is very little the Minister can do about it, but it does mean that the income to the producer is reduced. I believe there is a market for mutton and lamb in the Common Market countries.

[790] There are farmers who are not complying with the regulations with regard to sheep scab. More stringent measures would want to be taken because this is a very contagious and a very dangerous disease. If it is not checked it can result in severe losses to the farming community. It is not an easy thing to do but we should intensify our efforts to make sure that all sheep are dipped for sheep scab.

The Minister referred to Bord na gCapall. I am glad the board was set up and I wish it every success. The chairman, who is a constituent of mine, has a great knowledge of the industry. I hope there will be no interference in the board and that they will be given sufficient funds to build up this industry which could be so valuable to the farming community if properly handled. Irish horses are famous throughout the world and for that reason Bord na gCapall could do a good job. There is a falling-off in the Irish draught breed which is the foundation stock for all our horses. The Minister should examine this in order to improve the breed and increase the numbers of Irish draught mares.

I am disappointed the Minister did not deal more fully with our proposed entry to the EEC. Since the Minister was appointed political head of this Department he has done very little to enlighten the farming community about what is involved in and what the full implications are of membership of the EEC and I condemn him for this. Quite a few people, particularly small farmers, have reservations about entry because they believe every small farmer will go to the wall in the EEC. A good deal of literature has emanated from the Department of Agriculture but it has not got through to the farming community. A group of anti-marketers have toured the country and advised small farmers that entry means the end for such farmers. It is far easier to advocate non-entry than entry to our farming community because they are slow to change. If there was a referendum tomorrow morning a number of people would not vote at all and a number would [791] vote against entry because they are afraid of the implications.

I saw a programme on television last night about the value added tax. The Department should use the television media to get through to the people and explain what entry to the EEC means. Fine Gael is committed to entry and it is people like Deputy FitzGerald, Deputy Ryan and Deputy Keating who are creating a basis for debate. The Minister has a duty to get across to the farming community the implications of membership and what in fact membership will mean to each individual farmer.

The Minister should have referred to the Mansholt Plan. It is not known whether the Minister and the Government accept it. A booklet has been issued by the Department but the onus is on the Minister to say whether he is accepting or rejecting the Mansholt Plan. The Mansholt Plan has been revised and modified as a result of knowledge gained during many debates. Mansholt has moved away from his original idea that a farm cannot be viable unless it has 100 acres and 60 cows, but he has not indicated what he now believes a viable farm to be. In fact, it is very difficult to say what a viable farm is as its viability will depend on the area, the population and many other factors. With intensive farming methods I believe a 50 acre dairy farm could be regarded as viable within the context of EEC. I believe small farmers will do better inside the EEC than outside it and for that reason the Minister should spell out more clearly what he thinks of the Mansholt Plan and whether or not he accepts it. I have been to a number of seminars on this subject where the Minister's party was not even represented. If the Minister himself is not able to attend he should send a representative along so that they can give the Government's view on entry into the EEC.

There are many complaints from the non-farming sector of the community about the amount of tax they have to pay in order to subsidise the farming community. This occurs because time and time again the Government announce that the Department of Agriculture are contributing £105 [792] million or £106 million a year in subsidies. This of course is completely untrue. A committee was set up some time ago to investigate the subsidies paid by the Department to the agricultural community. Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. State expenditure in relation to agriculture is listed as follows:— education, research and advisory service, livestock improvement and eradication of disease, production and development aids, marketing support and aids, land annuities, relief of rates, agricultural grants, rural electrification, capital for Agricultural Credit Corporation et cetera. Let us take rural electrification at random: if electricity is extended to a doctor's residence should this be included in the subsidy in relation to agriculture? Is it not ridiculous? Rates relief costs approximately £20 million a year. Rates relief is a tax concession or relief given to the small farming community. From time to time we are all given tax reliefs but they are not given as a subsidy. There are a number of people who are misinformed about the subsidies paid to the farming community. People do not seem to realise the amount that the farming community are doing for the economy. Agricultural employees form about 28 per cent of our total labour force. Our manufacturing industries indirectly employ about 45 per cent. Agriculture is playing a vital part in our export markets and it is our greatest earner of foreign currency.

So far as industry is concerned, for every £100 million we export, we import approximately £40 million worth of raw materials. However, for every £100 million of agricultural produce we export, we import approximately £7 million or £8 million worth of raw materials. We should not talk in terms of £100 million being paid to agriculture as this figure is completely inflated. In my opinion agriculture is the only industry that will stand up to competition in Europe; therefore, we should do everything in our power to increase the income of the farming community and try to modernise the industry. If we have a prosperous farming community, automatically it will follow that people in the villages will benefit because more money will [793] be in circulation. Our farmers can compete with any farmers in Europe. By giving them the credit that is necessary to make their farms more efficient we will be doing good work for them and for this country.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  As a person who has been 20 years in this House, I should like to say a few words about procedure and this is an appropriate time to do so. The system used by the House to transact business is deplorable. We have under discussion this evening one of the most important Estimates. As happens in other debates, the Minister has read out a statement and we are supposed to make an appraisal not only of that statement but of all aspects of agriculture.

The present system may suit Ministers and Government Deputies because they have the Civil Service to supply them with the information that is necessary to make a constructive contribution to a debate such as this. As a rural Deputy I must travel to Dublin from the south of Ireland. I am not in a position financially to pay anyone to do research work for me; I must depend on the Library and the General Office here for information. As a Member of this House I consider I am entitled to help from public funds in my research on this or any other subject. The State should provide this kind of assistance to Opposition members as well as to members of the Government Party.

If the Minister requires information with regard to any aspect of agricultural policy it will be obtained for him but the same does not apply to Opposition members. Because of this lack of facilities I am unable to make a constructive contribution and I do not hesitate to say so. It may be said that Deputies living in areas near Dublin have an advantage because they are here each day and travelling does not take up much time. However, for many rural Deputies it takes practically one day to come to Leinster House and another day to return home. In addition, we must do our own correspondence, we must make representations on a personal basis, or we must telephone the various Departments—all time-consuming tasks.

[794] It is right that the public should know what is happening because they are the people who pay us. At the moment when we are discussing such an important matter as agriculture there is only one member of the Government party present—the Minister —and there is only a small number of other Deputies here. I do not blame them because I know the rural Deputies are exceptionally busy trying to answer correspondence. I know some of them are anxious to contribute to this debate but they cannot do so because they have not got facilities for research or have not time to carry out this work. It can be accepted that a Member of this House with an income of £2,350 per year is not in a position to pay half of that amount to employ a junior clerk to work for him. I can speak for the rural Deputies of the Labour Party when I say we are not in a position to pay for this kind of service. I maintain we should not be asked to pay for it; the public service should be at our disposal just as it is at the disposal of the Government. In other countries this facility is provided. What happens here? The Leader of the main Opposition party and the Leader of the second Opposition party get an allowance. This allowance is more or less to cover their own personal requirements. Naturally they must have staff but that allowance does not extend to Deputies such as myself and others.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  I am sure the Deputy has made his point.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  It is no harm to drive that point home. There are a number of Deputies whose financial circumstances enable them to do this from their own resources. This applies to every Estimate. I have said this outside the House so often that it is about time, for a change, that I said it here and made our position clear. How can Deputies make a proper contribution when no facilities are provided for them? I hope that, as a Member of the Government, the Minister will bear that in mind.

There should be an all-party effort to change this system which has been [795] too long with us in regard to the provision of essential facilities. It is no harm to make that point. I have to go on the statement of the Minister and on the document issued by him dealing with the main Estimates of the Department. I have not got the time—and this applies to other discussions as well —to apply myself to the task of getting the many valuable books, memoranda and leaflets which are available and which would be exceptionally useful in a debate of this kind.

That is my preamble. At the end of his speech today the Minister said:

Farming today is prospering and there is all round confidence in the country that this prosperity will increase further.

We are all very pleased to hear a statement like that and we all hope that it will be borne out. The reason for that is to be found earlier in the Minister's speech. It is good market conditions in Britain. This is the fortunate position that obtains here today. Cattle prices are good and our economy is helped by virtue of the increased returns from cattle exports whether on the hoof or as carcase beef. I do not want to criticise the Minister or his Department unless my criticism is justifiable. We must accept that this position is not of our own making. The fact that cattle prices are good is outside our control. What happens abroad reacts here so far as the prosperity or otherwise of agriculture is concerned. In past years when prices were bad—say, in the 1930s and in other years—farmers suffered heavily because of the poor returns from the export market. I will not go back on what the Government party used to say then because that would serve no purpose.

Having listened to the Minister's statement, and having listened to statements made throughout the country by different spokesmen, the question which enters my mind is: is this one of the last debates we will have on agriculture? Is it one of the last debates during which this Parliament will be in control of that industry? On the assumption [796] that we will become a member of the European Economic Community, is that not the position? I am sure that before the next Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is discussed in this House we will be either in or out. On the assumption that we will be in, our agricultural industry to a large extent will not be controlled from Dáil Éireann but from the Commission's headquarters in Brussels.

The booklets, leaflets, memoranda, call them what you will, that have emanated from Government sources have given some people the idea, and particularly the farming community, that for them moving into Europe will be something similar to the assessment of a religious person of moving into Heaven, that so far as farmers are concerned moving into Europe will be a kind of Heaven upon earth. I am looking for some more information. The Minister tells us that we will get a 50 per cent increase in milk prices and a 50 per cent increase in the price of beef and veal with the result we will be much better off.

Accepting the Government's assessment, if we go into Europe the price of beef will increase and I presume that our exports of beef will increase, too, because I cannot visualise the average housewife in this city, or, indeed, in any country town or village being able to buy steak or beef when the cost has increased by 50 per cent. Naturally, therefore, consumption on the home market will decrease. That is a reasonable assumption. As a result we should become richer because we shall have more cattle to sell in Europe.

We were told by the Minister in this statement that milk prices are being restructured to bring us into line with what will happen; when we fly across St. George's Channel and land in Brittany we shall be getting so much more money for our milk. Everybody likes to see more money coming, whether from beef or milk, and I am quite sure that the same position will apply to our butter and milk exports, because so far as my limited knowledge of the system at the present time is concerned, I do not think it is the [797] Government's intention to subsidise milk and milk products here at home. If that is so, the housewife will be paying more than 50 per cent extra for her pint of milk and for her pound of butter.

The position must be examined also from the point of view of the consumer. In my perusal of the number of documents I could read through, I did not find, so far as other commodities are concerned, that there was a likelihood of a golden harvest. This is a question that will be referred to the people, and what I am trying to do in the course of this discussion is to appraise the position as practically as I can. We can all learn a great deal more about Europe. To my mind, the literature from the Commission is reasonably practical and objective, but I would not say the same about what we get from Government sources. I think that is slanted and not a fair appraisal of the actual position.

The job of a Deputy here in this debate is to try and get more information. I am asking that information of the Minister and the Government. Granted their foresight is very limited, and they are not able to project themselves very far into the future, as witness, there were mountains of butter around Ireland and mountains of butter around Europe. The Government brought in the beef incentive scheme to get people away from the creameries. Too many farmers were supplying milk to the creameries, and, as the Taoiseach himself stated here in the Dáil, the cost to the Exchequer was enormous and unbearable. When he made that statement about four years ago he indicated that the cost was 13d.

More than 50,000 farmers were removed from supplying milk to the creameries, and, from what I can gather in this document, we would like to have them back again. Market prices abroad changed, but the Government were unable to see that change. We are told in the Minister's statement:

The greatly improved export demand for dairy products and the increase in production and processing costs have also been carefully considered. The improvement in the export markets for dairy products [798] in the past 12 months is expected to be maintained in 1972, and the further outlook for beef cattle also appears to be good.

How is it that the Government had not sufficient foresight to see this a few years ago? That speaks for itself and if you were to take this document here you would find at the present level of prices that obtains the milk price support is drastically reduced. However, I shall be moving to that at a later stage. At present I am most interested in getting more information about Europe and it is not for myself I want that information. Like every other Member of the House I want it for the public. It is all right handing in scripts for the television and the newspapers telling what is happening, but we want it debated across the House here. It is rarely that I bring much documentation to a debate or start arguments by quoting what this person or that person said, but I believe I did so in an agricultural debate some time ago. I do not want to repeat what I said then, but the questions I want answered are about Mr. Mansholt. Everyone knows the position he holds so far as the Community is concerned. He says viable farms are essential. Arguments were put forward by Deputy Creed that Mr. Mansholt's statements were misinterpreted. His viable farm is to contain a minimum of 100 acres and a minimum of 60 cows. That kind of farm, with few exceptions, does not exist in our part of the country.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  It does not exist in west Cork.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Nor in Cavan either. Such farms are exceptionally scarce. I read two years ago that the Community were very anxious to cut down on agricultural products. They considered then that they were overstocked in so far as agricultural products were concerned. The Community were more than self-sufficient then. I have particulars of their scheme here. I do not think it is necessary to read out the actual wording of the case, but the Community were most anxious to get rid of milk and to reduce its production. People on the Continent use lemon with their tea, not milk.

[799]Mr. O'Donnell:  They were selling powdered milk at £39 a ton in Holland a couple of years ago.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  They think the fattening qualities of milk are not suitable. There was a subvention to farmers of £80 per cow. Two years ago the official policy was to get rid of at least three million cows within five years. Looking a little ahead, are we to assume that they will pay subventions to farmers within the present Community to kill off cows and reduce milk production? We, in Ireland, can increase our stocks to avail of the big prices obtaining for milk products. I doubt whether there is anything in the Treaty of Rome or in any other treaty which defines that as the position. I am not arguing against entering the Common Market but endeavouring to give the picture as I see it.

The Labour Party delegation were in Brussels a year ago, just before the farmers' protest march there. The position then was that agricultural prices had not increased over a number of years. We had been in Brussels 3½ years before that. In the 3½ years between our visits, and for much longer, the prices of agricultural products had not increased nor, from the information given to us, did we understand that it was intended to increase such prices. The ceiling was regarded as too high and it was felt that the only way to bring prices down was to let them stand still. While prices were allowed to stand still the costs of production were increasing. The incomes of those engaged in agriculture within the Six were falling sharply. We all know that agriculture within the Six is in a weaker position than agriculture here. When I speak about strength I could say voting strength just as well, because of the small percentage —it was only 8 per cent—of the people within the Six who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

We read about the huge march in Brussels. It was composed of farmers of the Six demanding a change in the agricultural policy. There were similar protest marches in parts of France. As a result of these marches some changes occurred. I am not in a position to give the actual details. It suffices to [800] say that the amounts involved were not large. My purpose in bringing these matters to the notice of the House is to question whether this policy could continue. We know about the situation in Europe. Everyone we met on our visits, from the top man to the humblest official, gave us information which was factual and objective. The officials were truthful and straightforward. They were not endeavouring to mislead us in any way but on examining the information given to us we felt that the farming community may not fare nearly as well as they think they will. There is a movement away from small farms, as indicated by the Minister's speech, with the exception of the Small Farm (Incentive Bonus) Scheme. The tiered price for milk has gone. The preference given to the small farmer has gone. I am personally interested in a substantial body of farmers living on the western coast of this country from Malin Head to Kinsale. It is clearly set out in Government legislation and it is an accepted fact that such farmers, by virtue of the inadequacies and the uneconomic nature of their holdings, cannot derive a reasonable livelihood from their farming activities. A policy was formulated here, which I supported, and which it is possibly regrettable to have. However, although regrettable it was essential. The policy to which I am referring is that which allows for the direct payment of weekly subventions to small farmers along the west coast. As a result of these subventions, the standard of living of these farmers has been improved. Of course, no credit for this is due to Fianna Fáil who, with the exception of six years, have been in office since 1932. It would not be to the credit of any Government that such a policy was necessary.

Another question to which I want a reply is: What is to become of small farmers after we join the EEC? Deputy Burke looks at me in surprise. He may say that farmers will get much more for their produce after we join.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I have been listening very attentively to the Deputy. I am trying to learn from him.

[801]Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I thought he was concentrating on his lesson.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  No doubt when I stand up the professor will help me out.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  On the occasion of the visit I have mentioned I asked an Italian member of the Commission who deals with such questions whether the system of weekly subventions would be allowed in Common Market conditions. His answer was a definite “no.” Therefore, as soon as the transitional period has expired, so too will the payments to the farming community have expired. I then asked this gentleman whether, apart altogether from the Community's funds, the Irish State would be allowed to continue the payment of such subventions from their own funds and, again, the answer was “no”. The people must be apprised of the disadvantages as well as of the advantages of membership but of course it is possible to have only a small number of the questions that arise discussed here.

I have here some books that were published by the Commission and the central theme in these books is an acceleration of the drive from the land. They say that there are too many people living on the land. Whatever aids may be available, they certainly will not be available to farmers unless they measure up to the conditions specified in the literature issued by the Commission. In this regard my opinion is that very few of our farmers would measure up to the requirements laid down for qualification for special aid. Where, then, are the farmers to go? Earlier I mentioned the lack of facilities here in so far as Deputies are concerned and, if I could, I would give a priceless quotation from the Commission's Report.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Hear, hear.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  The statement I have in mind says that the West of Ireland is relatively too heavily populated.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): That is why Deputy Burke left.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  That, then, is the viewpoint of the Commission. I believe the Minister for Foreign Affairs is cooking [802] the whole thing before he hands it out and that the burnt dishes are not being given out at all.

On the question of redundant farmers or farmers' sons or daughters, we have not, according to the responsible commissioner, so far devised a regional industrial policy but they believe it would be quite easy to establish industries in a place like Ireland. They think it would be quite feasible to establish industries in towns to take the redundant agricultural population. I thought that was an excellent piece of information until my informant told me that his definition of a town is a place with a population of more than 50,000. According to that definition, we have only two towns in this part of the country—Dublin and Cork. Bantry, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Cahir or Carrick-on-Suir are only——

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Hamlets.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  —hamlets. That is a very bleak position so far as obtaining alternative employment for the many small men—I mean small in resources so far as farming is concerned; they are possibly some of our biggesthearted men—is concerned. Have we not been discussing in this House since the establishment of the State the idea of trying to put industry into the 12 western counties with a view to keeping the people at home? Despite all the efforts and all the moneys put into such areas, even special moneys put into Gaeltacht areas by Roinn na Gaeltachta, the population is dwindling. Most of those who are left have to suffer the odium of going to employment exchanges or Garda stations every Tuesday or Wednesday to sign for the pittance they are getting. Is that not the position of our agricultural folk in the 12 western counties? This Government, who are supposed to have done so much for this country and particularly for the West and the small farmers, have imposed this infamous obligation on these people in order to qualify for their allowances.

I have great confidence in the Parliamentary Secretary. I think he is— I should not use the term “one of ourselves”—a man who understands [803] rural life, maybe better than people with handles before their names and letters after them. As a practical man the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that that imposition should be removed and some other system devised. I do not like it. I do not like to see our farmers, with a tradition behind them, having to crawl on their knees to get this money. For God's sake do away with that. While this is a matter for the Department of Social Welfare, the reason I emphasised it here is that the people involved are agriculturalists and the Minister for Agriculture is obliged to help them and to see to their interests.

What are we to do with the West of Ireland? Should we address ourselves to what we will do with it on the assumption that we will become a member of the EEC? If we do so, we are assured, and there is no way of changing it—I have documentary proof of it here if necessary—that those small farmers will lose this income. What are we going to do? In addition, we have the European assurance that the establishment of industries for them is more or less confined to towns with a population in excess of 50,000. We have not got that kind of population in our towns. Are we going to do anything about finding jobs for agriculturalists, even part-time jobs? I see nothing wrong in a farmer having a part-time job. If his income is insufficient, as is the case with most small farmers, I think it is a great thing if he has a part-time job. I see it working in Skibbereen. There are a number of farmers employed in the processing plant there and the two incomes give them a reasonable standard of living. There is no use in waiting until the transitional period has expired to find out what is going to happen. Does the Parliamentary Secretary think they should go to Holland, France or Italy? Does he think that they, too, should move into Europe? If he does, or if the Minister or the Government do, they are making a big mistake. I believe the language is sufficient barrier to keep us physically out of Europe, or at least most of us, and certainly the type of people we are speaking about here. They will not [804] be in a position to move into Europe. They will not be in a position to go to Germany, France or anywhere else except to where they are going at present, to Britain, to get employment if it is not available for them at home. I believe the barriers are too formidable for the ordinary working person and they will not bridged in the foreseeable future. As well as that traditions and customs there differ very much from ours.

Speaking of land, if Irish people move out of small, uneconomic holdings, who is likely to move in? There will be no Land Commission then to provide safeguards. I have had discussions with a number of Germans. Language is no hindrance to their coming to Ireland. It is a hindrance to our going to Germany. My personal opinion is that, possibly more than the inhabitants of any other country, they will buy up a big portion of Ireland. According to the Treaty of Rome and all the articles of the EEC they are quite entitled to do so. They will be bidding for holdings on the same basis as the man next door or any Irishman will be bidding.

In a television programme recently, a well-known personality said that was not so. In my view his information was incorrect. I do not say he was deliberately misstating facts. These people can come over here and will come. Some people may say it would be a good thing to mix the blood a bit. Anyway, it is something that must be borne in mind. There is no need to dwell on this. As indicated, the people will have an opportunity of saying whether or not they want Ireland to become a part of Europe. Of course, in becoming part of Europe, the major question is political unity. Political unity is mentioned in these leaflets issued by the Commission. There may be advantages in that but the debate on the Estimate for Agriculture is not the appropriate time to discuss what may happen in Ireland or to assess what may happen so far as our existing industries are concerned. Personally, I see advantages in becoming a member of the Community but I see grave disadvantages as we are at present.

I referred earlier to our exports and [805] their value. Ireland is fortunate to have good markets for its exports of cattle and beef. The Minister used the term “good” and I follow him in that but we have developed an inferiority complex in regard to our trade with other countries. On page 1 of the memorandum, “Main Activities of the Department,” figures are given in regard to exports and imports. Accepting the figures as factual, the total exports of all classes of goods in 1970 were valued at £416 million as compared with £358.5 million in 1969. We sold £416 million worth of goods, of which agricultural exports accounted for £179.5 million as against £162.9 million in 1969. I assume, then, that we sold about the same amount of cattle and beef because the price increase would almost cover the increase in the value of the exports. There is one question to which some of us cannot supply the answer. We must ask one of the economists to give us the explanation. How is it that we could sell only £416 million worth last year and could buy £653 million worth? It is not too easy for some people to understand that, particularly when the trend is a continuing one. I know that we are borrowing, borrowing, borrowing and that it costs almost £100 million to service our borrowings. I know that we moved out to Europe in order to borrow. There may be a case to be made for borrowing in some circumstances but this Government borrow anywhere they can get the money.

My point is that we do not owe anything to anybody. We buy more from other countries than we sell to them. Last year we sold to Britain £275.8 million worth, or 66 per cent of our total exports, which included £139.9 million worth of agricultural products, and we bought from Britain the staggering total of £349.6 million worth of goods. So, I should like it to be known and to be emphasised that when we send a bullock to Britain, we do not get £X for the bullock or when we send carcase meat there, we do not get £X for it; we get equipment that Britain is selling, a washing machine, a fridge or whatever it may be. We have cattle to sell. Other countries have other goods to sell. We are [806] not getting money for our cattle. Far from it. I mention Britain now as our best customer. I do not know how we managed it but we were £74 million in the red last year in our trade with Britain. One would need a senior economist to explain that.

It is suggested that, on the assumption that we do not move into Europe, markets will be closed to us, that we will meet all kinds of obstacles, that barbed wire fences will be erected against us, that member countries will not trade with us, that there will be tariff fences that will have to be surmounted, and so on, that we cannot have any kind of association with them because they do not want that. As the figures prove, we buy more from almost every foreign customer of ours than they buy from us. They buy our bullocks and carcase meat because they want them and because we buy their washing machines and other equipment that they do not want and that they are able to export. Therefore there is no need for us to have an inferiority complex and to exclaim that they are great, that but for them we would not survive and that prices for our cattle would not be so good. We are good customers of theirs.

There used be, as an appendix to the memorandum, “Main Activities of the Department”, a special leaflet showing our exports to and imports from the Six. Now we get the exports but we do not get the imports. Therefore it is difficult to make a comparison. In previous years, for every £1 worth of goods the Six bought from us we bought £2 worth from them. I hope that trend has changed. The information is not in this document and so it is not possible to make a comparison. I am sure that this was an oversight. I would never think it was deliberate. Maybe these tables would not be good for our digestion and so whoever compiled the document left these figures out, for some reason.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  The Deputy is not doing too badly without the figures.

[807]Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  I know. For whatever reason, the appendix is missing. Small country though we are, and with our very limited population, we are not bad customers at all for a number of countries all over the world. We had the recent return from China. We did not do so well there in our trading. Did we, I wonder, send any agricultural exports there? We did not do so well with China.

Tomorrow the cry will be that the Minister has increased the price of milk: “I am a great fellow, Fianna Fáil are bringing this into line with Europe.” We are living in an inflationary age and I got this Book of Estimates for the current year which gives the total on the cover at £493,213,000. That is the sum required this year. Last year the sum required was £418,085,000. The Estimates have increased by £75 million this year. I think the increase last year was round about £54 million. Last year, as I say, the total required was £418,085,000. The year before that it was £354,180,000 and the year before that again it was £302,000,000. In that bad old year, according to Fianna Fáil, in which we had the last inter-Party Government the total sum required was £109,123,280. Mark you, during their present span in office Fianna Fáil have managed to multiply the figure in the Book of Estimates by almost five.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  What has the Minister for Agriculture got to do with all this?

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Of course, he has to do with it.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  He is spending it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  We cannot discuss the entire Book of Estimates on the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Is the Minister not part of the Government? We have this talk about twopence a gallon on milk. That is the calculation at least. This is couched in such terms that it is not quite clear. I think the Minister is allowing fivepence but he is doing away with some of the present supports and, between adding and subtracting, the net [808] figure is around twopence. Whether or not this is correct I do not know.

Everything is going mad in this country moneywise. The inflationary trend is gathering momentum. The increase announced by the Minister does not compare relatively with the increase in the Book of Estimates. I agree with Deputy Creed that the man who works in the field in a self-employed capacity is as much entitled to his increase as the man who works in the comfortable surroundings of the Department of Agriculture, if I may say so.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I thought the Deputy was going to say poor Dáil Deputies.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  In southern Ireland the milk cheque is the main income.

Mr. Creed: Information on Donal Creed  Zoom on Donal Creed  Hear, hear.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  It is also true that in many of our farms the milk cheque is never seen. So far as the farmers are concerned it is invisible because goods purchased during the winter months, when the milk cheques are absent, are debited to the milk cheques the farmers should receive during the summer. The lean period is an extended one. It runs from the end of October until the following April. The farmers are so much in the red that it takes the summer period to make up the deficiency. It is true to say, and I know this from my own personal knowledge, that many farmers never see a milk cheque because they have a continuous debit balance with the creamery.

As I have said on previous occasions, there is a great variation in farming and, small as the country is, it is very hard to apply a general policy. The land in Kilkenny is good. It is possibly better in Carlow. The farming carried on in these counties is very different from the type of farming in my locality and in the west of Ireland, where Deputy Burke comes from. It is not possible to relate a system of farming in Kilkenny, Tipperary, the midland counties, even Louth and north Dublin with farming in other parts of the country. The productivity content in these areas is much, much higher. When the land is nourished the productivity becomes [809] higher still. In the poorer parts a farmer may get a grant under the land rehabilitation scheme but, having got the grant and done the work, he must go on nursing the land all the time. One could almost say that he has to breast feed it because it is weak and undernourished. Now this nourishment is very costly indeed. It runs at round about £35 per ton. There is very little profit in that kind of farming. Where the land is good the yield will be higher and of a better quality without any nourishment than the yield will be from land which needs continuous nourishment. No matter what grant is paid for land under the land rehabilitation or reclamation scheme unless the land is continuously nourished the money spent is largely wasted. I am satisfied the Department is justified in reviewing closely applications from people who do not measure up to the necessary requirements so far as previous applications were concerned.

I live in the Mizen Head peninsula. If the Minister, during the course of his political rounds, were to visit that area he would see the hardship that has to be endured and the work and industry that has to be put into the land there. I am sure people in the centre of the country where, fortunately, good land exists—we are not jealous people, if we do not have good land we do not mind others having good land—cannot visualise how people can live off such farms. They live in the main by hard work. The man with bad land has to work much harder than the man with good land. They have to do many things such as draining which people on good land do not have to do. This type of farmer is not doing well at the present time and were it not for the help given by the Department of Social Welfare in the form of weekly subventions such farmers would find it very difficult to exist with steadily increasing prices and no increase in their incomes.

As statistics show, many farmers earn an average of between £400 and £500 a year, apart from the subvention to which I have already referred. Many farmers are living on incomes well below the last increase [810] granted to our public servants. Some people, who have had the opportunity of being educated, are earning £7,000 a year, but it must be remembered that a stone of potatoes, a pound of butter and a loaf of bread costs such a man exactly the same as it costs the small farmer, the housewife, the widow or the old age pensioner. With a population of 2.8 million I do not think it is justifiable that some people can earn £100 for a 40 hour week while small farmers are earning on average £8 or £9 a week. I am referring particularly to the agricultural community as this is an Agricultural Estimate. The gap is far too wide. Whatever party is in Government in the future it must try to close the gap.

The percentage increase should be wiped out. The gap is already wide enough. The man earning £6,000 a year who gets a 10 per cent increase is receiving an extra £600, whereas the man who earns £1,000 a year will only receive £100. The gap is widened immediately by £500. We are then told that they both get the same increase. It is true they both got 10 per cent, but there is a big difference between 10 per cent of £6,000 and 10 per cent of £1,000.

The dairying industry is extremely important for this country and, having regard to the marked improvement in the price level on the export market, the increase in this case is justified. Like Deputy Creed, I am convinced it was overdue. It appears to be in keeping with EEC policy that no matter how many cows we have or what the state of the market in the future will be, the price has levelled off.

When the late Deputy Walshe was Minister for Agriculture, I was the first person to advocate special help for the small farmer. At that time support money was scarce and something similar to the two-tier system was what I had in mind. The claim was made that there was only a limited amount of money available to do this. The question then arose whether the man with 100 cows should benefit equally with the man with ten cows but to my mind that is debatable. Last year we were told that the number of farmers with a production of 30 [811] gallons of milk and over was only 2½ per cent but I am doubtful if this figure is correct.

I have frequently stated that money does not come from heaven; it has to be found to pay any supports that are necessary. The system announced today does not differentiate between the large and small farmer, with the result that the small man will lose. A special effort should be made to help the person producing 10,000 gallons or less; even if it were only 1p per gallon on that 10,000 gallons it would be a considerable help. I can understand that the Minister is associated with big farmers; as a big farmer himself he knows more about them, possibly he is more sympathetically disposed to them and naturally he may not be in favour of a differential, as has obtained until now.

The Minister referred to pig production. He stated that it has continued at the high levels of recent years, that so far this year deliveries of pigs to bacon factories are well ahead of 1970, and that the total for the year will exceed 2,000,000. He stated that pigmeat was in surplus supply on European markets this year and marketing conditions were difficult with subsidy costs high. Are we to assume from this that so far as Europe is concerned the future for this branch of the industry is not rosy?

The Minister referred to the rationalisation of our processing plant and stated that individual processors are being invited to surrender their licences on a compensation basis. He told us that factories which will continue in operation will be encouraged to modernise and extend their plants where this is considered necessary. I have mentioned time and again the case for a processing plant for west Cork. In fact, I thought we had secured such a plant because Deputy Crowley in March, 1970, announced that everything was in order in regard to the site and the building was to commence.

Mr. Creed: Information on Donal Creed  Zoom on Donal Creed  Did he not give you a new factory in Bantry instead?

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Where was the factory to go?

[812]Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Dunmanway. That was the official announcement. There was nothing wrong with it. I accepted that the statement was factual. Now the Minister is worried about having too many bacon factories and it is no wonder that he would be. He is locating bacon factories where pigs are unheard of. Imagine having four bacon factories in and around Cork city. If you kept a pig in Cork city or within miles of those bacon factories you would have the health inspectors and the police and everyone down on you. Why not shift the bacon factories down to where the pigs are?

That is the case we are making for west Cork. We produce the pigs and we will produce more. The figure two years ago—and I am sure it has not changed very much in the meantime —was 11 per cent so that one pig in nine produced in this State is produced in west Cork. We still have people emigrating continuously from west Cork. Our claim is a simple one. We provide the raw materials and the raw materials should be processed where they are provided. Imagine giving a huge grant—and I suppose there may be what is called “pull” in getting it—to a city factory even quite recently.

A farmer likes to be near his factory. He likes to see his pigs being weighed and graded. That can only happen if you locate a factory where the pigs are produced. The Minister referred to the need to rationalise bacon factories and to the need for paying compensation to some factory owners with a view to getting the factories closed down. That in no way interferes with our case for a processing factory in west Cork. The Minister may not be there all the time. That case was put to his predecessor.

I am very disappointed to learn that the Minister and his Department are not favourably disposed to us. We have to make our case and stand on our own feet. I do not want to erect any more borders in this country but I represent people from south-west Cork, people who have suffered greatly so far as industrial development is concerned. This is the raw material they have in their own area and they want the opportunity to process it in their [813] own district. There is nothing unfair or unjust about that demand.

If this should bring about redundancy in other factories the plain fact is that there are better and brighter prospects for alternative jobs in other areas than there are in south-west Cork. I am not being in any way parochial when I make that assertion. We will keep hammering in the hope that some time there will be a Minister and a Government who will be interested enough to examine the justice of our claim and to see that it is approved.

I am deeply disappointed in our pig numbers and at the fact that more pigs are not being produced in the farmsteads and in the cottage holdings. I believe that pig production could be a valuable supplementary asset to any farmer. I remember—and times have changed a great deal since then—when I was a young fellow and when pigs and bonhams were not very profitable and we had to stay up at night minding the young piglets or bonhams for as long as a fortnight at a time. That happened all round the country. We had more pigs and more sows at a time when there was not much income from them. We must assume that the income from them is not sufficient today. Otherwise it would not be necessary—and I dislike to see this—to have big fattening units erected around the country.

I am in favour of co-operation and co-operative effort but I would much prefer to see the individual farmer or the individual cottier increasing the number of his sows from two, say, to three or four and the number of pigs kept at the one time from ten to 20. This would be more healthy. I said here before—and I said it down the country and I know that many pig breeders and others do not agree with this assertion, but my limited capacity tells me—that what happened in relation to the hens will happen in relation to the pigs. We have only a relatively small number of broiler stations around the country with a very small employment content gaining anything from the poultry industry. I believe the same thing will happen in relation to pigs if we encourage the erection of [814] pig fattening units either by publicly-owned or privately-owned combines, I do not care which.

I should hate to see the small producer disappearing. I have said previously, and I will say here again now, that for the life of me I cannot see why the Department are unable to get across to the producer the advisability of increasing his herd. Is it because they are satisfied that the margins set down by the Minister are inadequate and uneconomic and they are ashamed to do so? There should be a reappraisal of this matter.

I am well acquainted with pig production at all levels. I am satisfied that, if prices were reasonable and fair, sows and pigs could be a very valuable sideline for any farmer. I am hopeful that the small people, the individual owners, the cottiers and small farmers will be encouraged to increase their pig numbers and that they will do so and keep out the combines. Once those people come along they will take over. I do not accept the case made by some of our big national farmers. They tell us about the advantages of pig-fattening stations; that in fattening 5,000 pigs together there is regularity of supply to the bacon factory, that the bacon factory will know in advance that so many pigs will be coming in today and so many pigs tomorrow; that there are lower transport costs and lower incidental expenses in dealing with a combine keeping thousands of pigs rather than dealing with the individual farmer keeping ten, 12 or 20. However, the way things are subsidised here, that is false economy. I believe it is essential to encourage the small pig producer and that it is imperative for the Minister for Agriculture of the day and, indeed, for any Government, to address themselves to that question. I am saying all this at a time when we are told that our European friends do not welcome pigs or pigmeat, that they have enough themselves. Why then go ahead with these big piggeries? The small producer should get the preference all the time. Sheep, mutton, lamb, wool and horses are items which were covered by the previous speaker, Deputy Creed, and I am somewhat of the same mind so [815] far as the statements he made on them are concerned.

With regard to grain crops, one grain crop I should like to mention in particular is oats. The acreage of oats has declined a great deal. Many people gave up growing oats; some of them used to grow a quantity of oats for the sake of the straw, but the price for the 1971 crop was increased to £26.50 a ton for clean oats of good feeding quality grown in the western counties comprising Cavan, Clare and Cork (West) and I shall say a little about that in a moment. £26.50 is a small price. Oats used to be a popular crop with small farmers and it was a valuable crop. The price did not matter much because most of it would be retained for home consumption. While we hear a great deal from Deputies about the price of wheat and barley, and rightly so, the question of the price of oats is overlooked and that should not be the case. Anyway, in relation to oats, the 12 western counties are named and “west” is put in brackets after “Cork”. I think it is an injustice in every field of public activity that parts of west Cork which should be included in the 12 western counties are not included. There is a map in the development team office in Cork that I sent along to the Minister for Social Welfare, as apparently he was not conversant with the boundary of that part of County Cork which should be within the boundary of the 12 western counties.

I have raised the matter here on a number of occasions. I am satisfied to let it go to independent advice that some man in an office in Dublin, whether in Social Welfare or elsewhere, made a mistake. The best of clerks make mistakes, but it is about time this mistake was rectified. There is this kind of feeling in the House that when representations come from the Opposition: “We will do nothing about them in case he may get any kudos from them.” Some of our Ministers are very narrowminded and, unfortunately, we had it in previous Governments as well. I will give credit where credit is due there are people who are broadminded enough to judge representations on their merits irrespective of where they [816] come from, but, of course, there is the other mentality as well, for example, the fellow who will not even answer you.

I want to emphasise this point about the boundary of Cork (West), because it affects a number of farmers who would qualify for the small farmers' allowance from the Department of Social Welfare but who are deprived of it because they are deemed to be outside the boundary when, in fact, they are within the boundary. I hope that the Minister, Deputy Gibbons, who I presume is over his own personal difficulties, will look into this important question when he has a little time to himself.

In regard to the Department's agricultural grant schemes, I think complaints are few. The main complaint is the inadequacy of the allocation of grant for land project work. People are quite pleased with the other schemes and they do a world of good: the land project, farm buildings, water supply, small farms. The incentive bonus scheme got off to a slow start but, as indicated in the statements made by the Minister, it is gathering momentum. These grants are a great help to the farmers.

We have to consider now animal health, veterinary research, brucellosis eradication and bovine tuberculosis eradication. The BTE scheme cost millions of pounds. I was a member of the Cork animal health committee for a long time. We were told by the experts that, once one got one's farm clear of TB and kept it so for two years, the likelihood of recurrence was remote. This disease is recurring now with unusual frequency. In 1971, £2,901,000 was set aside. This was an exceptionally high sum of money. It would be of great advantage to all concerned if more effective measures could be taken to eradicate TB altogether.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  TB occurs in human beings also. It is a big problem.

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  It is a big problem. The herd of a farmer is locked up. I know that people have to go to hospital. It is a great handicap. It is amazing that the prognostications of years ago have not materialised.

[817] The brucellosis scheme is not as advanced as it should be. On previous occasions, I emphasised that people who are co-operating with the Department and reporting the incidence of this disease in their herds do not get much sympathy.

Mention was made of the pilot scheme. We have 12 pilot areas in the country. The scheme is a good one. We have received representations from many areas to have the pilot scheme areas changed and extended. We are becoming more affluent now and this matter should be considered. Some years ago when Deputy Blaney was Minister for Agriculture he said in reply to a question that he would be agreeable to applying the farm building grants applicable in the pilot areas to the 12 western counties. It is essential for farmers, big or small, to have modern farm buildings. Building costs are increasing steadily. I realise it would cost a great deal of money to increase the grants, but a start should be made to improve the farm building grants in the 12 western counties. They should be increased by 50 per cent. This would give a great incentive and would result in a marked difference in our countryside in so far as farm buildings are concerned. I must emphasise the importance of good farm buildings.

The Minister's distinguished predecessor, Deputy Haughey, said that animal diseases cost us £25 million annually. Deputy Creed has referred to this. There is also the question of sheep scab and associated ailments. The committee in Cork has not been functioning very well recently because of lack of co-operation from the Department. There is the question of tagging sheep. From the correspondence it would appear that the attitude of the Department is one of indifference. It is a problem and an embarrassment for a farmer who dips his sheep regularly and efficiently to find that his neighbour is careless and does not do so. The law seems to be non-existent in such cases. Surely sheep are important and while the law is there it should be implemented if people are unwilling to comply with reasonable demands.

The Department should pay more [818] attention to the men from the grassroots who know all about the problems. We are told that, where sheep are dipped and properly attended to over a two-year period, sheep scab disappears for good. In other countries like Britain, that has happened. In Cork and Kerry we have a committee for the last ten years who have discussed this problem and the position about sheep scab has not changed, and the scab is not wiped out. The number of outbreaks is few and the Department should be more co-operative.

I am sorry for having delayed the House so long. There are many other items to which one could refer under this Estimate, because agriculture is not only important to the people engaged directly in the industry, but it is important to every citizen in the country, whether he be living in Dublin or elsewhere, and the prosperity or otherwise of agriculture reacts on the population as a whole. When people in other spheres are seeking a reduction in their 40-hour week and when they are making claims which they consider to be justified, the farmers, with the exception perhaps of a small number who are in a position to make certain arrangements, are working practically round the clock, week after week. Most farmers now have not got the help of farm labourers, as very few people are prepared to work in this sphere because of the low wages paid. The farmers claim that they cannot afford to pay them a just wage. Theirs must have been the worst paid job in the country. I am hoping that some system will be devised, through co-operative effort, whereby these long hours of work for farmers will not be necessary in the years ahead. I do not believe that young farmers will be satisfied in the future with the conditions that have prevailed up to now and, undoubtedly, in the future they will come together and organise themselves in such a way that they can have a five-day week.

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

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  In this respect a good deal rests with the farmers themselves. I believe in the State giving them help [819] and advice but, after that, they must look after themselves and make their own contributions to the economy. We are now in an era when all sections are looking for more. In some cases they may be looking for something to which they are not entitled, but it is difficult for Governments to satisfy everybody, and, in particular, it is difficult to facilitate those who look for a larger slice of the cake than they are entitled to and no matter what Government are in power, they cannot give out any more than they get in. At any rate, I agree with Deputy Creed when he says that the farmers deserve any help they get. There may be some big farmers who are able to look after themselves but these are few in number.

I am disappointed that the Government have not put forward a regional policy of some kind but of course the only regional policies that would be welcome in Europe would be those drawn up by the Community. Before the next Estimate for Agriculture and Fisheries, I hope that the people will have had an opportunity of deciding whether we should change our system or whether we should remain as we are. Under our Constitution it is the right of the people to determine this question and my advice to the people is to consider this question on an individual basis. It would not be good enough for a Fianna Fáil supporter to vouch for change simply because he was a Fianna Fáil supporter and neither would it be good enough for a Labour supporter to oppose membership because some of the members of this party oppose it. Each person should be able to make up his own mind and we can only hope that a decision will be reached democratically.

I appreciate that the Minister has had a tough year and to that extent I have a great deal of sympathy with him. It was a year, too, during which he could not give his undivided attention to the Department under his control. Consequently, I did not offer any personal criticisms of him. In the circumstances, I do not think that such criticism would be justified. In a country such as ours, and which has [820] a population of only 3,000,000 people, I would suggest that there should be a closing of the ranks. By that I mean that there should not be such divisions between the different parties. This state of affairs is not helpful to the country as a whole. In this regard, I am putting forward again a suggestion that I made here on another occasion. That suggestion is that there be set up an all-party committee of the House on agriculture.

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

Mr. Murphy: Information on Michael Pat Murphy  Zoom on Michael Pat Murphy  Such a committee could discuss the pros and cons of the various policies. The public may say that they are entitled to know what goes on, but very often, at committee level, there can be a more conclusive and more intelligent exchange of views. On such committees you would have the advisers, the technical and administrative people. I would ask the Minister to consider that suggestion. It could apply to other Departments of State as well. There is no use in the Minister saying there are party committees. That is no good. There should be committees of 11 or 12 Deputies from the three parties who could sit down with the Minister and his Deputy and with the executive officers of the Department. It would be a great idea even if they held a meeting only every other month. They could possibly do more good than we can by our debate. I would ask the Minister to give special consideration to my suggestion.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I was glad to hear Deputy Murphy say that he is anxious to put the interests of Ireland before the interests of his own party on the question of going into the EEC. This is a serious step for all of us. I would agree with Deputy Murphy that everybody should know where they are going and what they are doing and that before people vote on this they should ask questions about it and weigh up the pros and cons.

There are two points of view. The Labour Party say many people will lose their jobs. On the other hand, if we, as a small country stay outside, like a dead branch on a tree, I am personally convinced that we will have a lower standard of living.

[821] All countries depend on their exports for their balance of payments, even the socialist or communist states. If we are to be completely isolated what will be our position then? I would ask the Labour Party to consider that very seriously. My view is that there will be thousands more people unemployed and we will have a lower standard of living. The Minister and the Department of Agriculture are trying to get the very best bargain they can for us. I should like the people to ask themselves what will happen to us if the other applicant countries go in and we stay out.

We are told that agricultural produce will be dearer for the people in urban areas. There are people going around telling people they will have to pay more for their meat and other products but the countries which are already in the Common Market are carrying on all right. Wages and standards of living have risen considerably, especially in places like Southern Italy where there was always emigration just as in the West of Ireland. These are very serious considerations for our country and for all of us. This is not a Fianna Fáil or a Fine Gael political gag. I would ask those people who say that if we go in we will have hundreds unemployed what will happen to our standard of living if we do not go in? The Government are trying to get the best bargain they can on fisheries as we can see from today's newspaper.

I was a member of the Council of Europe and I attended some of the EEC meetings that were held in Strasbourg. They were rather instructive. One thing that pleased me was the individuality of each country. I was glad to see that the French were as nationalistic as ever and also the Germans and Italians. There was no such thing as selling their sovereign rights. Each country still had its own language. Of course, in these countries they had concentrated more on the teaching of languages than we had here. I think the time is coming when we will have a number of our people able to speak a number of European languages. I was amazed that Malta, which was held down for hundreds of years and the British were there for [822] over 100 years, still had its own language and the people spoke other languages as well. I was in Holland recently, one of The Six, and I found the Dutch as nationalistic as ever they were. They speak their own language and also German, French and English. These languages are part of the secondary school curriculum. I should like to hear people asking questions about these things. I have been in France many times and I was in Germany recently and the people are as nationalistic as they ever were. We have to make Europe into an economic unit. As time goes on people of goodwill will help each other in every field, from education to economics, and we all learn. When Deputies of all parties go abroad they learn something. Coming from an island country we feel we can learn from people in other countries. When one ceases to learn from others one has lost interest.

In relation to our entry to the EEC it will be the task of Deputies in the coming months to advise our people about the position. People should be asking questions and making up their mind about the position. If they do that they will not be able to say in years to come that Deputies painted a rosy picture of our prospects in the EEC but that the reality did not reach expectations. The question of our position in the Community should be debated by the people so that there will be an intelligent approach to the matter.

The county committees of agriculture and their staffs, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the officials of the Department, have contributed a good deal to the prosperity of the country and to an improvement in the standard of living of our people. In 1944 the then Minister for Agriculture, the late Dr. Ryan, suggested that we should encourage people in County Dublin to grow tomatoes. There are some of the best farmers and market gardeners in Europe in north Dublin. Great advances have been made in horticulture. The war forced us into this. It took a great deal of persuasion with the help of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the county committees [823] of agriculture and of those Deputies who were interested, to get people to develop this production. Now the tomato growers of County Dublin are asking me questions about their position in the Common Market. They are fair questions and they are welcome in a democracy.

At one time in this country flowers were not available in the winter season and had to be imported. Now, our own people are growing hot-house flowers and are able to compete with foreign producers. Tomato growing in County Dublin has improved by 300 per cent over the past 26 years. Initially the growers had small glasshouses but they expanded and have now acres of heated glasshouses. I should like the Minister to indicate what their position will be in the Common Market.

I have every confidence in our people and in their ability to survive in adversity. In the 18th century thousands of people lost their employment in Dublin and for 40 years the people endured poverty. Then the famine occurred, which was the greatest tragedy that could befall a nation. A nation subdued by the gun would have the spirit to fight again but a country that suffers famine is inert and it takes a considerable time to revive.

I was born on a small farm. My father was a very good manager. There were nine of us and he gave each one of us a chance to get on in life. He was anxious that we should have secondary education. The school was not too far away. My mother was able to provide for the household out of the fowl, butter and eggs produced on the farm. There was no creamery in that part of the country. My father had milch cows. At that time butter was 6d and 7d a lb. There was no house in the district that did not rear pigs. Bonhams were sold for 10s each. The people were able to exist. There was a great ritual about killing a pig in those days and dividing it with the neighbour. There was no £105 million subsidy in those days. As I have often said, great things have happened in our time. There was no such thing as [824] a subsidy in those days but there was a certain pride amongst the small farmers and the middle-class farmers. They did not want to owe anything to anybody. They wanted to be independent and they worked very hard.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

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