Committee on Finance. - Vote 37: Agriculture (Resumed).

Wednesday, 1 December 1971

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 257 No. 5

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.

Mr. Finn: Information on Martin Finn  Zoom on Martin Finn  Before reporting progress I had been speaking of the effect on the small farmer, particularly the small farmer in the west of Ireland, of our entry into the EEC. I would be grateful if I could find out what that position will be when he loses the subsidies, after a period of grace of a number of years. At that time the subsidies on ground limestone and on manures and other subsidies will be abolished, with consequent serious effect on the population in the West of Ireland. If some concessions similar to those applicable to southern Italy are not obtained for the West of Ireland it is difficult to see how the farmer there will be able to survive. For some time past farmers have been leaving that area. If the farmer is not put in a position to develop the marginal land, it will be difficult for him to survive. Therefore, we in the West of Ireland would like to know, before the referendum is held, what the position of the small farmer there will be.

It is quite clear that production could have been increased by one-third if sufficient money had been put into agriculture over the past five or six years so that the industry could have been geared for entry to the European Community. The cattle population could have been increased. The same would apply to pigs and sheep. Milk production could have been increased.

We welcome the increased allocation given by the Minister to dairying but that does not offset the increased costs to the farmer in respect of manures, farm machinery, and so on, and it does [1039] not bring him up to the required standard. The farmer is just as badly off today as he was five years ago. Admittedly, the price of beef has gone up considerably but the £ has been devalued. In those circumstances what will be our position in Europe? We are taking 12½ per cent less for our cattle by reason of the devaluation of the £.

There should have been rationalisation of all the creameries in the West of Ireland in order to have a viable unit, or a few viable units there, which would be able to compete in Common Market conditions. At this stage the Minister should suggest that the creameries should amalgamate and gear themselves for the years ahead.

Our entry to Europe is not yet certain. That is a matter for the people to decide. If Britain does not enter the Common Market and if we, by a majority vote of the people, opt for entry, what will be the position of the farmer?

There has been an increase in the price of pigs and pigmeat but, side by side with that, there has been an increase in the price of feeding stuffs. Transport costs have helped to increase the price of the farmers' feeding stuffs while the price of the pig has not increased in line with the increase in the price of feeding stuffs. This situation should be remedied. In my own county in the last week or two I have seen bonhams sold at a lower price than that which they commanded five years ago. We have two first-class bacon factories and a first-class pig fattening station. Both are doing very well. They are gearing themselves for Common Market conditions. They have taken steps to modernise.

In the case of sheep, the farmer is not getting the price he should get. I know this from personal experience. The farmer is not getting the price he should for his mutton and lamb. The Government should do something about this Lamb was sold this year at a shockingly low price.

It was suggested to me recently that the subsidy paid for mountain lamb should also be paid on lowland sheep, such as the Galway sheep. We would [1040] welcome this in Mayo because the southern part of our county is an extensive Galway sheep area. The farmers there go in for sheep production in a big way.

Wool prices have gone down. Why has the price gone down to such an extent? We had several small wool buyers in Mayo who had first-class storage but, because they did not comply with all the conditions laid down, they were deprived of the right to purchase wool. This was just one more attempt to put the small man out.

I am sure the Minister must be aware that the price of fertilisers increased last year by 10 per cent. It also increased the year before by 10 per cent. Next year we will have the value added tax of 25 per cent. Never in the history of the State have such large dividends been paid by the manufacturers of fertilisers as have been paid this year. The Minister should look into this because all these things come out of the pocket of the farmer. If the farmer cannot fertilise his land he will not be able to increase productivity.

Last year Erin Foods had contracts in Galway for 48,000 acres of potatoes. I hear that this is being reduced to 23,000 acres. This reduction will create grave hardship. Because of the trouble, in Tuam farmers had to hold on to their potatoes. Who will compensate them? They had contracts signed.

I understand beet production will also be cut. I would not produce potatoes for Erin Foods because I do not regard the price as satisfactory. It would be quite uneconomic for me to produce potatoes for Erin Foods.

I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Land Project men in my county. The officers are first-class. They are doing an excellent job. It would be a tragedy if this project were to cease. Wonderful work has been done in the West.

Mayo has availed in a big way of the small farm incentive bonus scheme. A great deal of the credit for this must go to the agricultural officers and to our late CAO who has been transferred to Galway. We were sorry to lose him. This is a problem where [1041] these people are concerned. An officer is appointed in a particular district and, no sooner has he become really au fait, than he is transferred to another area. It takes an officer six to 12 months to acclimatise in an area.

He is a loss to the area he has left and it will take the new man who replaces him six months to get going on the schemes that his predecessor was implementing. The Appointments Commission should ensure agricultural officers who opt to come to their own counties are considered for jobs there first. It is true that some agricultural officers will be anxious to get near universities and schools for their children but when an agricultural officer leaves an area he is a tremendous loss.

I was happy to hear the Minister say that Mayo will be declared a brucellosis-free area very soon. This will be a very good thing because we are in line with Sligo and Donegal, which have already been declared free areas. Fortunately we have not had the problems with regard to brucellosis that other counties have had. We have not had many reactors. I must congratulate the Chief Agricultural Officer in Castlebar together with his staff, who have done a really good and fast job. I can convey to the Minister that his officers have done a wonderful job in County Mayo.

So far as agricultural credit is concerned, I know of two people who had their applications for loans turned down. I wrote to the Agricultural Credit Corporation about this because I could not understand how a widow, whose son is working, who had built a piggery and wanted money to stock it was refused a loan by the ACC.

If the ACC refused to give such people credit, how can we hope to increase production? I do not know whether the ACC have a secret service crew operating, but wherever they got their information in relation to the two cases I have mentioned, it was wrong. It is a serious situation when people who are anxious to produce are denied credit.

I am sure we could produce at least one-third more cattle, beef and tillage in the West were it not for the way the unemployment assistance order is [1042] operated. If a farmer, whether he is drawing unemployment assistance or not, is prepared to work his farm, he should be allowed to produce. These people do not have the required number of stamps in the unemployment benefit section and, if they earn more than ten shillings a day, they automatically lose their unemployment assistance. This order is killing farming in the west of Ireland.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That is a matter for another Minister and another Department.

Mr. Finn: Information on Martin Finn  Zoom on Martin Finn  I am speaking of how it affects farmers.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Unemployment assistance.

Mr. Finn: Information on Martin Finn  Zoom on Martin Finn  I am speaking about the production which would be there if this regulation did not exist. I thank the Minister for the increase granted to dairy farmers. However, any increase given is automatically offset by increases in costs. I am a farmer. I know what it costs to run a farm. I know what fertilisers and machinery cost. I do not think farmers are well-off today. The expenses involved in running the farm have increased to such an extent that any increases given are automatically eaten up before the farmer gets them.

Before the small farmers in Mayo vote on the EEC we want to know what the Government's policy will be as far as the west of Ireland is concerned and how the small farmer is going to survive. Will industry be set up there so that farmers can be part-time farmers? We can never hope to hold our population in the west if industry and part-time farming are not created there.

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

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  First of all, I would like to congratulate the Minister on his fine statement and comprehensive review of the present agricultural position. The Minister is in charge of a very complex Department, a Department which embraces a great variety of items and I think these congratulations [1043] are due to the Minister. I also want to say that his Department, and indeed the agricultural community as a whole, are making steady progress. This of course is due to the sound economic planning by the Government and as a result agriculture is making steady and sound progress. This is borne out by the latest figures we have which show that agricultural output has increased by 2.6 per cent over the previous year. Agricultural prices rose in 1970 and the figure is now in the region of £343 million, or £24 million over the previous year. Total family income has risen over the 1969 figure by over £10 million, or in the region of 6 per cent. Many of our farmers can compete with any of their counterparts in Europe and indeed some of our farmers are the best in Europe and can take their place, on our accession to the Common Market, side by side with any of their counterparts in Europe.

The demand in agriculture was never greater than it is at present and indeed the Government have continually emphasised their faith in it by backing it up with practical deeds and that faith in agriculture is paying off. This is apparent in a great many places. There are definite advances and the people engaged in agriculture are aware of this. There is a more definite approach made to the production end and also the marketing end, and the increasing use of fertilisers is having the required impact on farm output, and the very generous subsidies provided by the Government are bound to have a further significant impact in the future. These aids are being backed up by facts and knowledge imparted to the farmers and the agricultural community by the advisory services. Our farmers are now doing things which they never did before. This is the sort of spirit that is around and this indeed is the sort of spirit that must be around.

The basis for these advances was education and consequently in that area there must be significant progress. Agricultural education is an immediate need and one which will play an important role in putting into effect the [1044] aims and objectives of the programme for expansion necessary for our farmers when this country becomes a member of the EEC. All our farmers must realise the importance of education in their profession so that they can become efficient with the least possible delay. Furthermore, I feel that we need to put agriculture into the minds of the whole population as our key industry, the basis of our economy, the provider of raw materials for our industries, the best hope of quick success in the years that lie ahead and indeed the very staff of our national life. We can effectively do this by concentrated programme planning on our farms and projecting the proper public image to the non-farmer sector.

We are now launched on a new era and, economically speaking, one which is likely to be a period of great significance for our country. Now more than ever before farmers must take a pride in their profession, because if pride was not considered amongst the rewards of their vocation, in the difficult years that lie ahead, perhaps the other incentive rewards may not be sufficient to encourage our young people to remain on the land. I believe, however, that the long-term prospects for agriculture are good and if we can pull through, which I feel we can by pulling together in an organised manner, the prospects are indeed worthy of the effort. Also—and this is important— the financial rewards of agriculture must be made sufficiently attractive, and at the same time, our farmers must not see their way of life merely as a resort of those who have been outstripped in the race for better callings. The farmer must regard his work not as a mere routine procedure but as giving a scope for originality and experiment and the constant application of new information.

I was glad that the Minister made reference to the co-operative movement in so far as it affects creamery rationalisation. In this respect the Minister and his Department are to be congratulated on having this matter speeded up.

I wish to say something about co-operation in farming in a much wider sense. Co-operation will have a growing [1045] influence on farm economy from now on especially in communities where holdings are small. The co-operative movement can only be really successful if it is operated by the farmers themselves for themselves. I believe that co-operation and the promotion of the co-operative spirit is essential for efficient progress in the Irish agricultural economy and, indeed, the whole economy because agriculture is its bedrock. The co-operative movement can do this and the need for it is as great today and, perhaps, more urgent than when Plunkett decided to devote his life to promoting it in rural Ireland.

Through co-operation as Dr. Knapp, the American co-operative expert said when he surveyed the co-operative movement in Ireland some years ago, “The self-reliance and self-respect of the Irish farmer will be improved. It will help to raise the income and living standards of Irish agriculture through better marketing of farm products and better purchasing of agricultural requirements. The productivity of Irish agriculture will be increased and this in turn will encourage better agricultural practices”.

Efficient and well-run co-operatives can bring about a change in productivity in an area by giving the farmer a greater stake in the advantages that come from a more productive agriculture. An example of this is that approximately 75 per cent of our farms are of 50 acres or less in size. With the gradual breakdown of international trade and transport barriers in the EEC, it is necessary, if the majority of these farms are to survive as viable economic units, that Irish agriculture should be abreast of foreign competitors in all its techniques. It is through co-operation and using the co-operative movement to the best advantage that our farmers can achieve great results for themselves in the future, more particularly when we join the EEC.

I want to refer to education and particularly the advisory services. I am glad that the Minister in referring to education, research and advisory services said:

By far the most important agricultural [1046] resource are the men and women who work on our farms. 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.

I wish to pay a well-deserved tribute to the advisory services, their personnel, the CAOs, the advisory officers in each county and to everybody associated with these services.

In this context tribute should also be paid to the farming organisations dealing with farm education such as Macra na Feirme and Macra na Tuaithe which are responsible in no small way for the progress being made in agriculture at present. I am glad the Minister sees fit each year to give a very generous grant to Macra na Feirme and I hope that when he is budgeting for the coming 12 months he will further increase the grant to Macra na Feirme which has given so much of itself to Irish agriculture. It would be remiss of me not to include the very fine work being done by our residential agricultural colleges throughout the country.

It was, indeed, a source of joy to me to read in the papers some months ago that the Minister had opened another of these colleges in his own native Kilkenny. I hope that is the forerunner of many more because the demand for this type of agricultural education far exceeds the resources which are available. I should like to see a great expansion in this type of education. No farmer's son or potential farmer should consider it beneath his dignity to spend a year or two in one of these very fine and very well-equipped colleges which are providing the information and the know-how on farming methods.

The winter farm schools and the evening classes conducted by the advisory services are keeping our farmers abreast of present-day trends and present-day advances in agriculture, and present-day advances in agricultural education.

I was also glad to see that the farm [1047] apprenticeship scheme has grown from 24 participants in 1964 to something in the region of 123 in the present year. There is room for further expansion. I should like to see this scheme extended. The financial aids which are being provided by the Department should also be extended. The operation of this scheme has proved to be an unqualified success as a method of training in farm management. The scheme came into operation in October, 1964, and since that time the numbers entering apprenticeship have increased steadily each year.

The scheme is designed to give a three to four year course in in-service apprenticeship training leading to qualification in farm management. A boy who has reached the age of 18 years on entry may sit for his first certificate examination at the end of three years. The qualification is phased over three stages. First there is a certificate in farm management on the completion of apprenticeship service. A senior certificate in farm management can be obtained a minimum of two years after taking the first certificate. Finally, there is the master farmer's certificate. This examination may be taken three years after taking the senior certificate.

After the first years of the operation of this scheme a growing awareness of its value has become noticeable. There is very little difficulty in obtaining sufficient suitable teaching farmers. We have found that these men are most co-operative. I should like to pay tribute to the farmers who are known as master farmers for taking on apprentices and training them in the rudiments of agriculture and good farming husbandry.

The standard of the academic education of the apprentices entering this scheme has been rising every year. The boys who have qualified through this scheme so far have remained in the country and they are all commanding a good living. It is obvious that the management training and the skills which these boys have acquired through the scheme are highly valued. There is no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities [1048] in our agricultural industry for young men with the training which this scheme provides. If these opportunities were not evident in the past it was because the young men were not there. The Farm Apprenticeship Board are aware of the fact that, after the experience of the past few years, a review of the scheme is now necessary further to improve the standard of training. I understand this is under consideration at present with the co-operation of the Minister's Department. I hope that the improvement sought will be well within the compass of the board.

The board have enjoyed the co-operation of the Minister's Department from the outset. Since 1967, three years after the inception of the scheme, the Minister's Department have provided a basic grant of £2,600 per annum to the board for administrative purposes plus a further £ for £ on income received by the board from non-State sources. I would urgently ask the Minister to consider the very valid argument for increasing the grants to this board to ensure the further expansion of this very vital section of agricultural education.

A reorganisation of the advisory services has been talked about quite a lot over the past 12 months or so. Submissions have been made to the Minister by the different farming organisations, by the advisory services, by the organisations themselves and by the General Council of Committees of Agriculture. I hope that in considering these submissions the personnel of the Department and the Minister will give a thorough and deep study to this important section in agriculture.

The county committees of agriculture are providing a very fine service. Much reference has been made to the composition of these committees, but by and large their services in each county are expanding and progressing and, also, there are an increasing number of instructors being appointed. Therefore, any decision as to the future of these committees, should be reached only after all considerations in the context of their services down through the years have been taken into account. The men on these committees are well aware of the particular problems in their respective counties so that at [1049] their monthly meetings they are in a position to reach the decisions that are best suited to solving the problems of the farmers in their areas. I urge the Minister to consider very carefully any suggestion that may be put to him regarding the diminishing of any of the powers of these committees. The importance of an efficient advisory service as an aid to agricultural development cannot be over-emphasised.

In regard to the recruitment of staff, the present system should be changed and advisors should be appointed on the basis of interview, whether it be at national or county level. I refer, of course, to the appointment of temporary advisors. These people should be made permanent as soon as possible. Perhaps they could be made permanent after a 12 month probationary period. Also, their conditions of employment should be comparable to those obtaining in any other service because it is important that men of outstanding ability in the sphere of agriculture are attracted to these posts. I would ask the Minister to have published a White Paper on the whole aspect of the re-organisation of the advisory service so that there could be comprehensive consultation with all the parties concerned. Already, we know the views of the various parties, but so far we have had no indication of the Department's thinking on the matter. I look forward to hearing their ideas and suggestions in this respect.

I welcome the statement by the Minister telling us that the Minister for Finance has authorised the Agricultural Credit Corporation to lend to farmers a further £4.5 million in this current year. Our farmers have the ability to utilise this money to the best advantage. It is good to know that any farmer who can produce a worthwhile scheme will not be refused a loan by the corporation.

May I refer again briefly to the question of re-organisation and make the suggestion that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should be under the control of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and not under [1050] the control of the Department of Finance.

The subject of agriculture is so wide that one could spend many hours discussing it, but on an Estimate such as this we can talk only on certain aspects of the industry. In conclusion, I want to say a few words in regard to our entry into the EEC in so far as it will affect agriculture. Many of the economic benefits that are likely to accrue from membership of the Community will be to the benefit of the agricultural sector. The Community's agricultural policy and the implications of that policy for Irish agriculture are of the greatest importance not only to the agricultural industry itself but to the economic development of our country as a whole. Clearly the effects of membership of the EEC will be very much to the advantage of agriculture, especially in our main sectors of livestock and livestock products. While we will meet the keenest competition in an enlarged Community, I have the fullest confidence in the ability of farmers, processors and export interests to meet this competition successfully and to make the most of the opportunities that will arise when Irish agricultural products will be placed on all the markets of the Community on an equal footing with the products of the other member States.

A prosperous agriculture is vital to Ireland's economic well-being and advancement. Membership of the EEC will open for us the opportunity to compete on fair terms in a market of 250 million people. Between 1966 and 1969 the value of total agricultural output rose by almost 30 per cent in this country. This was achieved by a smaller labour force as it is well known that fewer people are now remaining on the land. This is not just happening in this country, it is a world-wide trend. The value of output per man in farming rose by almost 10 per cent in that same period. Many of our industries use raw materials from agriculture. Indeed, industries based on agriculture are responsible for about 45 per cent of industrial output. Therefore, the value of our agricultural exports has risen from about £125 million in 1966 [1051] to £167 million in 1969. The total value of exports of agricultural products and commodities derived from agriculture in 1969 was £207 million which is about 60 per cent of our total exports. This high contribution provides cash for the importation of equipment and raw materials necessary for industry. Without it perhaps industry would have to fold up or would not be able to keep moving.

While we are proud of the contribution made by agriculture to the national economy we realise that this contribution could be far greater. In 1959 a competition in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the committees of agriculture was launched by Macra na Feirme. It was a national farm management competition. In that year the gross output per acre of the first prize winner was three times the national average. The gross output of the winner in 1969, the most recent competition for which results are available, was six times the national average. Therefore, output, with consequent increase in family income, is increased by adopting the most modern techniques. For example, in dairying this would include paddock grazing, heavy use of fertiliser, heavy stocking and modern farmbuildings. The adoption of modern methods entails extra costs. Farmers generally are not afraid of increased costs if they get a greater award for their produce. We know that there are more progressive dairy farmers in creamery areas where a good milk price is paid. We know that if the creamery is efficient and if it has good marketing “know-how” it will be able to pay a better price than any neighbouring creamery with inefficient techniques. When we enter the Common Market the payment of better prices will instil confidence and encourage further progress in farming. The same can be said about enterprises other than dairying, for example, beet and vegetable growing and pig production. When the market is assured and a reasonably good price guaranteed the farmer increases his output.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  Is the price of beet not to go down?

[1052]Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  That is not correct.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  That is what we have been told in the official documents.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  The Deputy would need to get his facts right.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  The Deputy said: “When we go into the Common Market” about ten times this evening. I have not interrupted him so far but when he talks about the price of beet I must interrupt him.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  If the Deputy wants any advice I shall be delighted to give it to him at any time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  Normally a Deputy making his initial speech is given a hearing.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  I welcome any interruption from the Deputy and if I can impart any information to him I will be delighted.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I do not think the Deputy can on the price of beet.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  We will agree to differ then.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  There is no question of differing. I know my facts.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. Fahey): Information on John Fahey  Zoom on John Fahey  Deputy O'Donovan should listen. He might learn a little bit about farming from a practical farmer.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  Heretofore, we depended on the British market, with about 50 million people to whom to sell our products, a market on which at times world produce was haphazardly dumped. In the EEC we will have a market of about 250 million people to whom to sell our products and to whom they can and will be sold in an orderly marketing fashion. With our mild climate, adequate rainfall spread over the year, it would be difficult for Europe to compete with us in grass production. Deputies will appreciate what I mean as they see grass growing in the mild conditions obtaining this winter. When Mansholt was here [1053] recently and also when he was present at a Macra na Feirme gathering in October, 1969, he was amazed to find the grass so green and that our winters were so short and so mild.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  What amazed the rest of us was what he said last week.

Mr. Fahey: Information on John Fahey  Zoom on John Fahey  Deputy O'Donovan would not know what he said last week.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  What the papers said he said.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I take it the papers were correct in the absence of the Government repudiating it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  When a Deputy is making his maiden speech he is normally allowed to do so without interruption.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I will not interrupt the Deputy.

Mr. Fahey: Information on John Fahey  Zoom on John Fahey  The Deputy has a lot to learn.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  What about the Christmas cards?

Mr. Fahey: Information on John Fahey  Zoom on John Fahey  I might send the Deputy one.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  Deputy O'Donovan seems to be in bad form this evening.

Mr. Fahey: Information on John Fahey  Zoom on John Fahey  He is very cross about something.

Dr. O'Donovan: Information on John O'Donovan  Zoom on John O'Donovan  I will listen in silence. I did not know it was the Deputy's first contribution but, if the Parliamentary Secretary does not shut up, I will break the rules of the House and interrupt continuously.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  The Deputy is learning all the time. The problem of securing export outlets at remunerative prices is a continuing one. Outside the EEC there is no prospect of an early improvement. Britain is and probably will continue to be the main market for our agricultural exports. We sell 75 per cent of our agricultural exports there. No realistic case has been made for any alternative to EEC membership. Britain in and Ireland out would have disastrous consequences for the economy, particularly for agriculture. Almost one-half of the output of Irish [1054] farms is exported, of which livestock and livestock products account for over 90 per cent. The main effect of membership for our agricultural exports would be access to a large market at remunerative prices thus enabling our products to compete on equal terms with similar products of other member States. This would mean a considerably higher return for our main exports, cattle and beef, dairy products, lamb and pigmeat. Exports to non-member countries would, of course, qualify for aid from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund. Because of our geographical situation, the bulk of our export trade would probably continue to be with the UK, where existing import arrangements for dairy products, bacon, sugar and ware potatoes would have to be terminated. Agricultural products would, however, have to meet increased competition on the British market. Exports of cattle and beef, lamb and, perhaps, pigmeat, to Continental countries of the Community would probably increase but the prospects of developing exports of dairy products or of sugar to these countries would be limited until such time as the current surplus problems there would be solved. Our agricultural production pattern, predominantly grass based, livestock and livestock products, is ideally suited to reap full advantage from EEC membership.

No discussion of agriculture and the Common Market would be complete without reference to the Mansholt Plan. There are misconceptions about it and the voluntary aspect is completely overlooked. We all realise that movement out of agriculture is a worldwide trend and will continue to take place here whether we join the Common Market or not.

A memorandum on the reform of agriculture in the European Economic Community was submitted to the Council of the EEC in December, 1968. This document, which is now known as the Mansholt Plan, outlined a set of economic and social measures which are intended to bring about major structural changes in agricultural production. Agricultural production in Europe increased by 33 per [1055] cent annually from 1957 to 1965. Manpower, on the other hand, has been moving out of agriculture. The number employed in agriculture has decreased from 16 million in 1955 to 12 million in 1965. Therefore, productivity per person in agriculture—I am speaking in the European context—has been rising by 7 per cent per year. The average size of a farm in Common Market countries is about 24 acres and it is stated that about two-thirds of all farm holdings are less than 22 acres. More than 80 per cent of dairy farmers own, at most, 10 cows and of more than four million dairy farmers only about 75,000 keep more than 20 cows.

In the Mansholt Report it is stated that the history of the last ten years has proved beyond doubt that the industrial revolution is bringing in its wake a greater increase in prosperity. In the last ten years the overwhelming majority of rural families have fallen behind in both living and income conditions while those who work in industry and the services have been advancing and can look forward to yet further improvements so long as economic conditions remain. A farm which gives a farmer and his family neither enough work nor a proper income and which does not give good access to a reasonable social position and living conditions is no longer what the family farm should be. The only way to provide our farmers with an equitable income and better living conditions and, at the same time, ensure an indispensable balance between output and sales outlet is by re-shaping the structure of production. Certain measures are proposed to help persons withdraw from farming and measures to help persons remain in modernised agriculture are also proposed.

These proposals of Mansholt have, of course, received widespread discussion throughout Europe. Not all farmers in the Common Market countries accept these proposals. Present day thinking in certain quarters aims at larger production units so that modern technology can be availed of to the fullest extent. I emphasise this and I also emphasise the value being placed on industrial employment.

[1056] It is difficult to estimate the extent to which Irish agricultural output would increase on the basis of the full application here of the EEC agricultural programme. A tentative estimate suggests that the volume of gross agricultural output might be expected to increase in the latter half of this decade by 30 to 40 per cent over the present level. The increase in the value of gross output could, of course, be considerably more because of the change to the higher level of producer prices. Membership of the EEC offers Irish agriculture an opportunity of exploiting its fullest potential. There will be keen competition both at home and on the export market from our fellow-farmers in the Community. However, our natural resources, plus the skill of our farmers, will ensure that the Irish farming community will reap the full benefit of membership of the EEC which will bring increased prosperity to our farmers and to the nation as a whole.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I should like to start where Deputy Murphy, leading for the Labour Party, left off. He called for the setting-up of an all-party committee of this House to consider the problems of agriculture. I had the privilege recently of meeting two members of two Common Market Parliaments—the Belgian Parliament and the Luxemburg Parliament—and they told me that in both these Parliaments they have committees studying agriculture. They have committees dealing with other aspects as well. They have found these committees necessary to assimilate the very large volume of material coming before them for consideration both from the national administration and from the EEC. This is particularly important in the field of agriculture because it is in this field the EEC have developed to the greatest extent and have achieved the greatest degree of integration. The material coming from the Community, the decisions and directives, is much greater in relation to this subject. There is, therefore, a greater burden on agricultural members of particular Parliaments in assimilating a very large volume of detailed matter. There is, of course, on the Continent a much wider variety of both agricultural and horticultural [1057] produce. We must, however, take an interest in the systems adopted for the marketing and price support of these products because, if precedents are established in wine production or in fruit production along the Mediterranean, quite possibly these could be applied by us in other fields. It is vital, therefore, that we should interest ourselves in every aspect of agricultural legislation enacted by the Community to see if precedents are established which can be applied by us to our own benefit and in regard to which we can agitate in relation to the commodities in which we are particularly interested. It is because of this vast volume of matter coming before us as members of the Community that I would urge the setting up of an all-party committee of this House to consider our agricultural problems.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


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