Tuesday, 25 November 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the  charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December 1980, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies and sundry grants-in-aid.
Mr. Deasy: The primary reason for the depression in agriculture is inflation. Until such time as the Government face the fact that their inflationary policies are extremely damaging to agriculture the troubles besetting the farming community will not just continue but will increase. I cannot understand why some measures have not been taken to reduce the rate of inflation. Any measures taken in recent years by the Government in relation to employment and agriculture generally have only helped to generate increased inflation. The biggest problem is that, whereas farm incomes have remained at a standstill, the price of inputs to agriculture have increased so much that farmers are no longer able to afford the inputs at the desired rate and, as a result, agricultural production is becoming stagnant and in some spheres it has reduced.
If we are to progress industrially and agriculturally we must increase productivity in the agricultural sector. Nowhere more than in the milk sector is an increase in production needed. So far this year we have had a reduction in our milk output whereas other members of the EEC have had an increase. For example, France had a 7 per cent increase. The cause of this is largely due to the fact that farmers are cutting down on feedstuffs for cows and so on because they cannot afford them. They find it extremely difficult to make ends meet. We cannot tolerate a cut-back in this sector. If we are to have an expansion in the economy and improve our balance of payments situation there must be an increase in milk production above all else.
There must be equity in agricultural prices. We do not have that at present.  How is it that farmers can expect only approximately 54p per gallon for milk here while their counterparts in Europe can expect 70p? There should be an equal system so that our farmers would compete on the same basis as their counterparts, whether British, French or Dutch. There is an article in The Irish Times by Paddy O'Keeffe, editor of the Farmers' Journal, in which it is stated that the prices obtained by farmers in this country are only 78 per cent or 79 per cent of the EEC target whereas farmers in other EEC countries can expect 100 per cent of the target. In Germany they are receiving in excess of 100 per cent of the target. We receive only 60% of the target price for our beef. We are due an explanation for the lower price level obtained by farmers here. Until such time as our farmers are put on an equal footing as regards prices with their European counterparts there will be depression, lack of confidence and lower output. It is the lack of initiative to increase production which is the most upsetting feature of the present crisis in agriculture. Until such time as an initiative is taken and confidence restored the outlook is very bleak. Harold Macmillan said in 1958 to the British public that they never had it so good but the farming community would be justified in saying they never had it so bad.
As was stated in the article I referred to, the primary cause for the present recession is the result of Irish Government inadequacy and as such the responsibility for a solution must be a government one. So far we have not seen this response.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair would remind the Deputy that we are still on the Supplementary Estimate and are not having a general Estimate debate. We must keep within the headings of the Supplementary Estimate.
Mr. Deasy: The Minister made constant reference to herd numbers and was concerned at the reduction. What is happening is that many cows have been slaughtered because farmers cannot make ends meet. It is obvious that the subsidies in this area, whether for milk or dairy produce in general, need to be increased. We should not have cows slaughtered at a time when we should be aiming to increase production.
Another aspect causing great concern and hardship are interest rates charged to farmers. The unequal competition I referred to is largely due to the fact that the farmers' counterparts in Europe can get loans for as low as 5 or 6 per cent. The Irish farmer pays 17 or 18 per cent and at one time earlier this year it was 21 per cent. A lot of the money was originally borrowed at 9 or 10 per cent. People are repaying at twice the rate that was in existence when they got the loans. The Government have an obligation to provide money to ease the burden of these repayments on the farming community.
I referred to the cost of feedstuffs which resulted in a cut-back in milk production. There is also a cut-back in the use of fertiliser because of the increase in prices. These items have gone up by almost 40 per cent in the last two years whereas prices have remained stagnant. The Government should take some initiative whether it is through a diversion of resources within the State or seeking aid from the EEC in some form or other. That would not be unprecedented. It is badly needed at present.
I should like the Minister to give us some hope for the future and tell us what financial aid, if any, will be forthcoming. The recent measures announced by the Minister are not sufficient to restore confidence and are not doing anything to improve the income of the farming community. Reference was made in the Estimate to agricultural exports and various agencies connected with food production. I should like to ask the Minister what will be done to stop the flood of food imports, in particular processed foods. For a country which should be a huge net exporter of processed foods I imagine we must be a net importer.  Instead of an expansion of this sector, as was promised in the 1977 manifesto, there has been a decrease in the number of people employed and we have seen a number of industries close, for example, the Erin Foods project in Carlow and the Fastnet food processing plant in west Cork. Never before has there been such a volume of imported foods — vegetables in processed or unprocessed form, potatoes, apples and so on. These are products we could produce ourselves but they are being dumped on the market and people here cannot produce them on an economic basis. As regards the potato, which was such a staple part of our diet for many centuries, the situation is that the importation of foreign potatoes is wiping out traditional potato growers here. We import vast quantities either early varieties from Cyprus and other mid-eastern countries or in processed form. This situation should not be tolerated.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has given the Deputy every latitude but most of the matters he has raised do not come under this Supplementary Estimate. As far as I know there is not a word in it about potatoes.
Mr. Deasy: The Minister might make a move to show his understanding of the present day problems and his goodwill towards the farming community by removing the levies on disease eradication which at present are costing the farming community some £10 million. These levies were introduced in 1977, when farm incomes were quite high, on the premise that farmers were doing well and could quite well afford to pay the levies in question. Now when things are in such a sorry state the Minister and the  Government should make a gesture to the farming community and remove not alone these devies but all types of levies which are an unfair manner in which to adjudge the production of the farming community. Also it is time that we had positive steps towards removing rates on land and, for that matter, the resource tax. I know that the removal of that has been promised at the end of the current year, but this measure should never have been brought in and in a bad year it should have been abandoned at a much earlier stage than this. Also I suggest that the Minister improve the compensation being paid for small cattle suffering from tuberculosis. The present compensation is completely inadequate and the amount being paid should be increased considerably.
It is a sad state of affairs when we have to export cattle in such numbers as is the case at present. I cited figures here the last day and expressed my concern — and the Minister should be concerned also if not alarmed — at the manner in which the numbers in the national herd are dropping. Surely the time has come to have a co-ordinated plan to process this beef at home and not be sending it abroad on the hoof, as is the case at present, in huge quantities. The unfortunate thing is that if it were not being exported farmers probably would be in a much worse financial position than is the case at present. We must get down to the business of providing meat processing plants in this country which will give good employment and provide thousands of new jobs and which will mean also that our products will fetch a much greater price because of the processing involved. It is a poor commentary on the state of our industrialisation and our business acumen when we have to export millions of cattle on the hoof and it is also very poor comment that if such policies were not being adopted many farmers in this country at the moment would be a lot worse off because this is the only market available to them at the moment on a large scale. They are glad to have it, but it is an indictment of our business acumen. It does not make good sense that we should reduce herd numbers in this country to  an alarmingly low figure. I believe it will be less than seven million by 1981 and some steps will have to be taken to arrest this decline. We cannot have increased productivity unless we have the proper numbers and the numbers at the moment are not sufficient.
Over the past ten years in particular we have invested not millions or hundreds of millions but billions of £s in agriculture in this country and we have reached the stage where the raw material of that very industry is in lesser supply than it was at the beginning of that ten-year period. That should not be tolerated and cannot be allowed to continue. I cited a case where the herd numbers have dropped so low that jobs in the meat processing industries in this country are going to be at grave risk from now on. A number of plants have closed down already or have had a number of lay-offs and job numbers will be reduced drastically in the coming years unless something is done to arrest the downward trend in the national herd numbers. For instance, it is estimated that 250 cattle killed provide one job in the meat processing plant. If the numbers decrease and, therefore, the numbers of cattle slaughtered in this country decrease, the number of jobs involved is bound to decrease. I am told that already it is estimated that the number of cattle to be slaughtered in this country next year will be 150,000 fewer than in the current year and that immediately is going to mean 600 jobs fewer if one divides 250 into 150,000. The position regarding cattle numbers is most depressing.
The position as regards farm incomes is depressing when we see that in real terms farm incomes over the past two years have dropped by 50 per cent whereas wages and salaries generally have risen by 6 per cent in real terms and the income of the self-employed has dropped by 14 per cent. It is difficult to see an improvement and the Government have not announced any measures which will bring about an improvement. According to the article in The Irish Times to which I referred previously, a farmer on a 60-acre farm earned £78.50  in 1978. This was reduced to £64 in 1979 and it is estimated in the current year 1980 that it will be merely £58.
Mr. Deasy: Reference is made in the Minister's statement and the Estimate to the farm modernisation scheme. We all welcome this scheme and the fact that the numbers availing of it have increased. I only hope that people who have invested heavily with the aid of this scheme will be in a position to meet their repayments in the coming years. There are doubts that many of them will be able to do so because of the high interest rates. I hope the Minister in his reply will give us some hope that the present huge interest repayments expected and the huge interest rates pertaining will be reduced somehow and give our farmers an opportunity to compete on equal terms with their counterparts on the Continent. At present one of the greatest problems in farming is the enormous amount of the repayments expected. We would like to hear some declaration from the Government that they will pump sufficient money into farming, be it from their own resources, from the EEC by way of a devaluation of the Irish green £ or otherwise.
I ask the Minister why the farm modernisation grants have not been extended to the smaller farmers, as was promised three years ago. We were promised that  people who at present are classified as transitional farmers would have their case re-examined and if at all possible they would be included under the farm modernisation scheme. This has not happened. The scope of that scheme is as small as it was. I would like to see it extended to include the smaller farmers who are trying to make a living out of the land and who have no hope of doing so under the present system. Would the Minister, in his reply, tell us why that promise has not been lived up to and what efforts he is making in the Council of Ministers to bring about a change?
The main problem in agriculture today — this has to be voiced publicly — is that the Government are not awake to the difficulties in agriculture at present. What are they going to do to improve the sorry state of affairs that has come about in the past two years and which is likely to continue unless something drastic is done at Government or EEC level? Maybe the Minister does not possess political clout at the Cabinet table or at the meetings of the Council of Ministers in Europe. However, he means well and I hope he has the necessary political ability and strength so that farmers can look forward to better days.
Mr. Noonan: Listening to the speakers on the other side of the House one would imagine that the state of agriculture here is very bad. It is easy to keep knocking, but the Opposition have a duty to put forward alternative policies and we have not seen any from either of the Opposition parties.
I would like to congratulate the Minister on the fine work he is doing for agriculture, not alone in this country but also in his position as a member of the Council of Ministers in Brussels. He has put forward solutions and, if more solutions are needed to combat the problems affecting Irish agriculture at present, the Minister and the Government will have the necessary alternatives to solve the crisis in agriculture, which has come about because of conditions outside the control of the Government and prevailing all over Europe at present.
 There are other areas of help which can be given apart from Government aid. I want to emphasis to the Opposition parties that the Government and the Minister are aware of the problems affecting Irish agriculture. This party more than any other party in the State have come up with alternatives down through the years and will continue to do so. There has been so much talk on the plight of farmers and of agriculture that there is a danger of over-kill. Statistical evidence is increasingly thrown at us, but this very weight of evidence blinds us to the plight of the individual farmer. The fact that farmers suffer is far more evident to us in rural Ireland. Those who represent rural constituencies have people calling to us at our homes and “clinics” with the most horrifying tales, due to conditions prevailing not alone here but also in Europe. To a person not involved in agriculture, the whole picture for 1980 may seem like another bad tale in a national year of bad tales. However, farmers are still enthusiastic about the development of their farms and about the development of agriculture generally, and the Government and the Minister for Agriculture should help farmers with this difficult problem.
Farmers who have been successful in bringing their farms up to a high level of production can now decide to expand their enterprise still further. When money was freely available a farmer would approach the banks on the question of expansion. They advised on the enlargement of his enterprise and on increased production by way of better management and by better breeding stock. Farmers, as they always have, answered the call. Notwithstanding the temporary problems that are affecting Irish agriculture, I have no doubt that our farmers will continue to answer the call to greater efficiency and greater production in agriculture. The individual farmer, having given careful consideration to the question of increased production, having taken into account the levels of development in agriculture and his ability in those price structures and guaranteed markets to pay off for such an expansion, now puts his plan into operation  with the aid of his agricultural adviser and of many commercial organisations, such as the ACC and the commercial banks, who are there to assist, to advise and to give him the necessary credit. Farmers who are developing their farms, who are prepared to expand their cattle and livestock numbers, who are prepared to expand their acreage, find out what land is available in their area and if it is for sale. Having done all that, they return to the lending agencies and show them a detailed plan. At that time not only did the banks and other lending agencies pass his application and development plans but gave him the necessary encouragement to expand and to buy any extra land available for sale in his area. Therefore the farmer went ahead, bought a holding in order to expand his enterprise and then, unfortunately, the situation in agriculture deteriorated. Prices stabilised with the farmer getting no real increase over a two-year period because any increases that occurred were eroded by inflation and increased costs. Of course this is the trend world wide with interest rates escalating to an impossible level.
Then on top of all of that we have had a credit squeeze also affecting agricultural development. Indeed one should bear in mind that the fact that one cannot get further credit forms part only of that squeeze. The other part is occasioned by a general tightening of due dates of repayment. This is the difficult situation affecting many farmers at present. The farmer is now caught in a situation in which he must pay vastly increased interest rates out of an income which has been lowered considerably in real terms over the past couple of years. I want to give the House some idea of the magnitude of these repayments assuming that a farmer can make an arrangement with his bank under which for a year he repays interest only but does not repay any of the capital sum involved. I am talking now about farmers who answered the call to develop their enterprises, the people who are important to agriculture, who were prepared to take the necessary step forward in order to expand their farms and production.  Not alone does such an initiative help the farmer himself but is very important to the economy as a whole. In future years agriculture will continue to be the bedrock of our economy.
Therefore our farmers are caught in a very difficult situation at present. I had been referring to interest rates farmers must pay the lending agencies. A farmer's weekly repayment — and I repeat weekly repayment — in some instances can vary between £300 and £800. Certainly such figure would be the average throughout the year. Therefore one can readily see the position confronting those farmers who answered the call, the difficult financial situation in which they now find themselves because of depressed prices and rising costs and interest rates. This means that the vast burden of their original commitments now stands like a rock over their heads. One might ask: why was not the farmer satisfied with his lot three years ago? Why did he bother to expand? Was it not mere avarice that led him to take on this extra load for which he is now paying a just price? One must remember, However, that such expansion and development benefit the country generally. If one recalls the situation obtaining three or four years ago one will readily see why the farmer was encouraged to expand by every sector. It was felt that to a large extent our land was unused. Everybody maintained that such partially unused land should be made available to young farmers with the enthusiasm and ability to deliver on such expansion. It was maintained then that not only was it through such farmers that the vast potential of agriculture could be developed but also that our farmers be given a chance to make some use of this unused land.
We encouraged the early signing over of farms, which was done throughout the industry. Indeed we politicians gave such encouragement also. How easy it was to talk then and equally how quickly do we forget how we advised our farmers at that point. Indeed how slowly do we appear to approach any solution to their problems. It goes without saying that such must be found. Certainly the Government and the Minister have gone a long  way in this direction but there remain to be found individual solutions to individual problems. Not alone are Government aid and advice necessary but the individual concerned must also provide the aid to combat this problem. Therefore it is an individual problem. Certainly I hope such does not sour the individual farmer against future development. It must be said that the advice given in the early stages equipped our farmers for such development. If solutions are not forthcoming to the problems obtaining at present then we cannot hope to see further development in agriculture. But I have every trust and confidence in the way being shown ahead by our Minister and that, with the necessary advice, we will overcome these problems.
This Supplementary Estimate is part and parcel of the financial assistance so very important to our farmers. We are in the throes of a tightening of credit, a type of recession — though I do not like using the word recession — which we might easily forget is short-term only. If, in the interests of expediency in the short term, we ignore the plight of our farmers and their ambitions for the future then the industry will suffer in a big way in the years ahead. This cannot be allowed to happen. The Government must not allow it to happen because, if they do, it will be to the detriment of our farmers and their ability to forge ahead. However, the potential damage to our farmers forms part of the picture only. Only recently has it been made clear to us the enormous size of the spin-off employment in agriculture. Perhaps it is not evident in certain quarters at present but it must become so when we realise the number of workers now involved in co-operative groups, in food production, packaging and export. Therefore, financial aid and advice are essential, If we mortgage the future of our farmers, or play fast and loose with their futures, then we are playing fast and loose with the employment of all those citizens in allied lines of agriculture. That certainly would be carelessness and would have repercussions in coming years.
We must help the industry now. It  involves far too large a sector of the population to be temporarily ignored. While the Opposition Parties may criticise the Government and the Minister we must realise the work being done by the Taoiseach and the Government for farmers at present. This is certainly recognised throughout the country. Speaking to farmers as I do every day, meeting them as I go through my constituency, they are well aware of the high esteem in which they are held and the importance the Government attach to the development of agriculture and its expansion. This Estimate is proof of this. Within the limits of what is available a great deal has been devoted to agriculture financially and otherwise. We must find additional solutions and perhaps additional funds if necessary. Funds alone are not enough.
Supplementary estimates are providing these funds for development but there are other areas where aid should be encouraged. I refer to the banking groups that have thrived greatly in Ireland and have reaped the profits of their labours at a very high level. They must now show an increased sense of responsibility for our farmers. It is well within their ability and their province to make an investment in agriculture for the future. They would suffer as much as any one of us in a narrow commercial sense in future years if they do not attend to the needs of the agricultural industry today. It is quite possible for them to rewrite loans for longer periods — these are some suggestions — to reduce repayments to interest only in the interim. They can do all in their power to aid farmers in the full knowledge that in the future, following this short period of recession in the world, they will be repaid many times over by increased business and increased expansion in agriculture. It should not require severe commercial pressure to convince them of this. In any institute of their size there must be a sense of national responsibility for the agricultural industry. If they fail to show that responsibility and opt only for short-term gain they will pay for it dearly in future years in lack of confidence of the people and the farmers.
I have no doubt that they will not be as  commercially short-sighted as that. As a Government, on the other hand, we must add substantially to what we are doing. Every possible avenue of help must be explored so as to reduce the crushing load on farmers. That must be done and we must show added responsibility towards farmers. Not only must we ease the immediate financial burden but we must try to alleviate it in other ways. This burden can be reduced also by increased production even within the restraints of dealing in agreement with our European neighbours. We must improve prices and incentives for our farmers. Prices and incentives are one aspect: increased production is another and awareness of the importance of agriculture to the country is a further aspect.
We must also consider the terrible dangers of a lowering of national output and the price we would have to pay for it in the years ahead. Farmers must be helped today to realise that the present position is temporary, that the Government care deeply about the individual farmer, as it does. This Supplementary Estimate proves that. Production must be increased. It is very difficult to persuade somebody to produce more when there is a marketing problem to a certain extent due to increased production in certain sectors throughout Europe. Ways and means must be found to sell the increased production. Farmers are quite capable of increasing production. They have answered the call down through the years. The marketing of their produce is somebody else's problem and it must also be tackled. It is another way of alleviating the present temporary problems of agriculture.
What we need therefore is confidence among the farming community to increase production thereby improving their standard of living and their income. The instruction and advice provided by the Department must be utilised to the full in all its facets by the agricultural community. The Estimate refers to the establishment of ACOT which is now in the process of finalising its programmes for the development of agriculture. I have no doubt that the formation of this national council for the development of  agriculture will bear fruit in the years ahead. If we now fail to encourage our farmers we fail just as much as if we fail to encourage our other industrialists and workers. It has often been said that it is only in time of trouble that a Government can really shine.
This Government have begun the process and are showing the people that confidence rather than knocking should be the order of the day. When this morning's troubles are in mind it may be difficult to see that these troubles will last only for the day. Tomorrow can be a very different day if we are prepared to work towards it. This is why I have emphasised that this Government are working towards tomorrow and a better future for agriculture. This is the message which the Government are giving to those involved in agriculture. Today's troubles are only temporary and the enormous potential of our agriculture is only partly appreciated at present.
Kind words will not ease the problems of farmers today. What is needed is an easing of pressure on them and the provision of means for further expansion. I appeal to all parties, Government agencies and everyone dealing with agriculture to unite in this type of drive and encouragement. This is far too serious a matter to be used for any immediate political gain. The provision of aid is the only thing which will give our industry the necessary confidence for 1981 and following years. The task is enormous, but knowing the deep interest of the Government in agriculture and their appreciation of present problems I have no doubt that farmers and the rest of the nation will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Mr. Hegarty: I agree with some of the sentiments expressed by Deputy Noonan. I welcome the Estimate as far as it goes, but then I must ask myself just how far it does go. The answer is that it goes absolutely nowhere.
It is not strictly the function of the Opposition to provide policies; that is the function of Government. You are not the only one, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, to make that point. Everybody seems to  think that Fine Gael in Opposition should be running the country, but this is like asking a surgeon to operate on a patient who is in the next room. We do not have access to what is happening behind closed doors—and they are very much closed at present. We are not in a position fully to assess the situation and come up with remedies. But when the time comes, be it sooner or later, we will have the remedies.
Deputy Noonan spoke about high borrowings and high interest rates. I am a farmer and I am convinced that the real problem so well outlined by the Deputy in his speech is caused by the total mishandling of the economy by the Fianna Fáil Party. Money was squandered as a result of the infamous manifesto. We now have a situation where inflation is about 20 per cent, interest rates are also about 20 per cent and we have a zero growth rate.
Mention was made of the situation in other European countries. I have just returned from these countries where I had discussions about such matters. The wave of depression hitting the mainland of Europe has not had the same impact there as in this country because the responsible governments in these other countries had their economies in good shape; they had something on which to fall back, something for the rainy day. We have been caught with nothing in the cupboard for the rainy day. The bareness of the cupboard is emphasised here in that we are not facing the real problems of agriculture; we are only scratching the surface and hitting spots here and there.
Mention has been made of ACOT. One of their main functions will be to give, for the first time, to all politicians an opportunity to find out the grass root feelings of farmers through their local planning meetings. I mentioned this to the Minister of State when last I spoke in this House and said I would appreciate it very much if he would give the green light for regular monthly meetings of the district planning committees. It is at these meetings that Deputies and councillors will find out the real facts of the situation. Deputy Noonan will meet friends who  will tell him that his party are not doing too badly and that the other crowd would probably do much worse. That is what we as politicians want to hear, but if one wants to find out what farmers are really saying one should attend these planning meetings.
We were told that we could discuss the middle band of farmers but the meeting ended up discussing the crisis in finance for agriculture. Most people felt that the middle band of farmers were the people who had battened down the hatches long ago and had not gone to their bank manager, the ACC or any other lending agency. They stayed static and, as things have turned out during the past couple of years, they have been the lucky ones. The field leaders, the front runners, took the advice when things were going well in the seventies and borrowed money. I have figures showing that repayments in 1977 for certain borrowings were £8,000 and those repayments are now running at £13,000. Could any man be expected to forecast that in a few short years his repayments to the lending agency would have doubled, that his income would be falling, that his costs would be up by 40 to 50 per cent and that he would be enjoying only about three-quarters of the prices enjoyed by his European counterparts because of the lack of effort on the part of the Minister and the Department concerned with ensuring that he gets the top price in the market place for his products?
We have the policies. It is a pity that this Chamber is constituted as it is with the parties on this side of the House having to hammer everything that is produced on that side of the House and then, when we get over to that side of the House, the same thing happening in reverse. We should work together for agriculture. Agriculture is far too important to be made into a political football. The livelihoods of thousands of farmers depend on it, and agriculture is going through a tunnel with no light at the end of it. The lives of many people, and indeed the economy, depend on a buoyant agriculture.
This Supplementary Estimate is only hitting a few spots here and there, dealing  with land projects and allocating a little bit for the farm modernisation scheme. The previous speaker made various points but he did not take them to their logical conclusion. He talked about what the farmers had to face up to, that they have to meet heavy borrowings. Here is a golden opportunity for the Government to look at those people individually through their ACOT advisers, which is the ideal set-up, and to discuss matters with the farmers. They will find out the extent of the borrowings and the problems. They will even find that the odd herd of dairy cows is being sold in order to meet commitments and rear families. This is how serious things are at the moment.
Agriculture needs a massive injection of money to get these farmers out of trouble. The first priority is to get them out of trouble, and they are in big trouble. The only place that this crisis can be solved is here. It is a political problem; it is a problem for the Government and the Government can solve it. Of course, in relation to the total expenditure we are not talking about very substantial sums. We spend millions on infrastructure, on buying land and on encouraging new industries. That is as it should be. But here we have the most substantial industry of all, because whatever fashions change, in motor cars, transport and so on, people must always eat. Their eating habits are becoming more and more sophisticated and our industries based on agriculture are getting more and more sophisticated to meet these requirements. If there is to be light at the end of the tunnel it will have to be found quickly before it is too late. We should not tolerate the closure of the Fastnet co-operative, or of the food factories in Carlow, or of the cutting back of dairy produce. As responsible politicians we should be ensuring that those industries that have problems, such as the Sugar Company and the co-operative societies, are rescued, and rescued now. Any person who has borrowed knows that one does not get out of borrowing by going to bed and sleeping it off, but only by taking off one's coat, rolling up one's sleeves and getting to work. That is the only way we  can do it. This Government will not get the economy out of trouble by letting it slide further and further down the hill. There is a very good article in the current issue of Magill entitled “In the Valley of the Shadow of Death”. It shows that we are fast coming to a stage where we will be borrowing to pay the interest on the debts already incurred.
Agriculture is one area into which money can be poured because we know we will get it back. By putting money into agriculture we will be able to put the country back on its feet. Static production will not save us. The only answer is to expand and to expand quickly. We must help the farmers who are in trouble; they have already expanded. We must encourage those who have not done so to do so immediately. We must expand our co-operatives, our food processing industries. We must ensure that there are adequate processing facilities for every meat plant and that, as far as possible, every pound of food that leaves this country is processed and prepared for the market. Big operators in the UK and all over Europe are picking around from one food product to another indicating that they need one thing and that they do not need the other. It is time that the Government and the Minister went on to the market place with one Irish brand, whether it be called “Kerrygold” or anything else, and ensured that everything leaving here leaves in a processed condition under one brand name. The Government should go on to the market place and say that, if these operators want our quality Irish beef, they must take our dairy products and our horticulture products. This is what the Jews do — and they are getting away with it. I see no reason why a community such as ours, which is so totally dependent on agriculture, cannot do the same.
We should stop all this town and country bickering. If only the people in Grafton Street and O'Connell Street would realise that the whole economy is dependent on the success of agriculture, it would stop all this bickering between the PAYE people and the farmers that is doing so much damage. We are all interdependent. We depend on the workers  and the workers depend on agriculture. The whole economy depends on agriculture, on what it can produce and on what we can sell abroad. I am convinced that we are still dealing in a buoyant market place as far as food is concerned. If we were exporting combines costing £30,000, or expensive motor cars, we would have a problem. But we are exporting something that has to be bought and the people who are buying it are still able to pay for it.
This is why I am so disappointed with this paltry Estimate, which does not really face up to the situation. There is no point in going along to the banks and telling them they will have to give cheaper money. The building societies would not even reduce interest rates to please the Government. The Government have to take the blame for inflation and for the 18 and 19 per cent interest rates, because our colleagues in Belgium and Holland were able to borrow at 5 per cent and 6 per cent. I saw that for myself. This is a national problem. We have caused the problem by the stupid performance of the Government and no other thing put us where we are today. We should try to get out of it again and the only way we can do that is by getting agriculture back on its feet and restoring confidence in it.
The first real way to restore confidence is not by making wonderful statements about a growth of 2 per cent or 3 per cent. We know all about growth. The way to deal with the problem is by going to individual farmers who have problems, farmers who have borrowed £20,000 or £30,000 and are having difficulties, and seeing what we can do about it. The Government should offer them interest-free money. This freezing of the capital repayments is only a very temporary advantage. It will all have to be paid back at savage interest rates. The interest rates will have to be subsidised if these people are to survive. Their land is not even saleable at the moment. They get only about one-fifth or one-sixth of what they paid for it. The Minister of State, who understands the problem, should tackle his Minister and the Government and tell  them that, if we are to face the problem of Irish agriculture we must tackle the heavy borrowings and heavy commitments those people have and ensure that they are helped. We should then face the farmers with a programme for ensuring a buoyant agricultural industry for 1981. The Minister should convince them that, with good marketing and with good performance in the market place in the EEC, we will get a good market for everything we produce. If we doubled our dairy produce, our sugar production, horticultural production, cheese production, meat and everything we produce, it would not even cause a pimple in the food mountains of Europe because we are only taking about 1 per cent or 2 per cent of the total production.
The money provided in the Supplementary Estimate for the farm modernisation scheme will be a help, especially if it means that the money due to those farmers is paid out promptly. I have written to the Minister of State frequently, who replies and does his best. However, delays are still occurring. We must bear in mind that those small farmers have borrowed money and have told their bankers that they are entitled to money but are not getting it. That is not good business.
With regard to the contribution to ACOT, I believe we are still treating it as a voluntary organisation which in some mysterious way has to exist on nothing. Cutbacks are taking place all the time. Only half the number of staff necessary for our local offices are employed. I am not talking about agricultural advisers as much as the technicians and such people who can do a lot of soil sampling, and girls in the offices to answer the telephone. This is very essential for the efficient operation of the ACOT offices.
The district planning meetings have been cut down to about three or four in the year. The most significant thing about ACOT is the district planning meeting. I have learned more at those meetings than at any other meetings I have attended, because the most important people attend those meetings, including the women's representatives. The Minister of State should ensure that the green  light is given to hold regular meetings. In my area we held a meeting recently without permission because we felt it was very important to go ahead with our meeting. The chairman rang up the people concerned, who attended at their own expense, and we had an excellent meeting. The district planning meetings are very important. If those meetings are held regularly the ordinary farmers will keep the Government aware of the problems relating to agriculture.
The previous speaker referred to the problem of intervention. I favour intervention and I hope that it is introduced for every element of Irish agricultural production. I have particularly in mind horticultural products. The biggest problem the Irish food processing industry has to face is fluctuations in the market place. If somebody knows that one has a surplus of a certain product, one is screwed in relation to price. Our horticultural industry can go places, but if that is to take place we cannot allow any food industry to close down. The food processing industry has contributed a lot to the economy of small towns all over the country where employment has always been very important. Those small processing industries must be saved. I believe that salvation for those small industries lies in ensuring that we have an intervention price and that the EEC carry those products until a market is available for them.
There is a lot of talk about buying Irish. I have never heard more lip service being paid to anything as I have about that. One has only to go into a supermarket, even those which are co-operatively owned, and one will see Findus foods, English biscuits, chips, crisps and everything from all over the world; but one will hardly see an Irish product. The French have found a way to keep out Japanese cars, so we must find a way to ensure that our market is fully supplied with Irish products at the right price. Perhaps the supermarkets get better cuts from overseas people. There is certainly no justification for supermarket owners stocking their shelves with English food products, and products from other countries, which are only giving employment to somebody with a telex machine and a  secretary, while our own produce is sitting in food factories and they are closing down. The full impact of such closures and the full impact on agricultural co-operatives of a three-day week has not really hit home. This will only occur when the funds start to run dry and the payments start to run out. The money given in the Supplementary Estimate is only a temporary measure to take us over a temporary problem.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I have given the Deputy tremendous latitude for the last half hour but many of the points he is making now are not appropriate to the Supplementary Estimate but to a general Estimate debate.
Mr. Hegarty: I am dealing now strictly with the Estimate. Because of the difficulties facing people who have invested substantially in JCB's and other land project equipment, I should like a firm commitment and an announcement from the Minister, or either Minister of State, with regard to land project problems. We have in our area, lying idle at the moment, a lot of very expensive equipment. It is a good time for us to move out and get the presently unusable land into production, with further encouragement along those lines, and more money being put into land project work. This is not a big problem where I come from, but I travel around and I find that there is very little of this sort of work going on. I speak to the owners of this type of equipment and they tell me “We are not getting the work we used to get. Farmers are a bit scared and nervous. They are not doing that work now.” This is the time when we should be, because we would be creating some very worthwhile jobs.
In one part of this Estimate we see a very substantial sum of money for An Foras Talúntais and certainly, to my mind, this is money well spent. No praise that I could give to the work of that institute, would be too high. Not merely in Moore Park, but in Belclare, Kinsealy and wherever they are situated, they are doing tremendous work. I am convinced that, were it not for their wonderful  work, the problems of modern farming, problems related to varieties of grain, to weed control, to pesticides could not possibly be handled by the ordinary farmer. I compliment them on their work. We are still only talking of buttons, by comparison with what is being spent in other countries towards this sort of campaign. In spite of that, we have been able through our institute, to guide our farmers towards the best varieties of grain, the proper use of pesticides and herbicides. On the other hand, in other countries — and I have seen this for myself — where they were advised, that advice was overwhelmed by the advice of the multi-national pesticide and herbicide companies. There was abuse and far too much unnecessary use of all these products. This resulted, to a degree, in an outcry from the people who used the food which had been saturated by these products. Of course, the correct balance is necessary and the correct balance is to use the minimum of these products and only when necessary. Nobody can give that advice but the local advisers who, in turn, are getting their advice, not from the multi-nationals but from the institute. Full marks to them for their wonderful work in this field. Anything which we can do for them would not be half enough.
We have an Estimate here for the ACC. One area — and this would apply very much to Deputy Hussey's own constituency — where we certainly could be seen to move very much forward is in the area of borrowing. There is an over-reaction to borrowing at the moment. The banks are full of money and nobody will take it out because they are afraid of high interest rates. They have not the confidence. Certain categories of farmers should be entitled to low interest loans along the lines of the housing loans. I am not too sure about this, but gather that there is something in the EEC regulations for this type of approach. In the same way as we operate local authority loans, certain categories of farmers, could get cheaper money up to certain limits. This is something that should and could be done.
As I said in the beginning, I welcome  the Estimate as far as it goes and I repeat that it goes absolutely nowhere. If we are serious about the whole field of agriculture, we must listen to what the farmers are saying. They are saying that they are up to their tonsils in debt and can see no way out at the moment except Government aid, which will have to come. It stands to reason that if you have a situation where your inputs are growing by 10, 15 and as much as 40 per cent and your income is static or less than static, you are on a collision course, a disaster course. There is no way that anyone can survive if he is paying more and more for his input into the farm and getting the same income back in return. Basically that is how it is. As a gesture of goodwill, as a Christmas box for the farming Community, why not throw off that resource tax, which should never have been there in the first place. Get rid of the rates. We should be put in exactly the same——
Mr. Hegarty: The important thing is to get rid of the resource tax. This is my last point: we are in competition with farmers from Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany and Italy. We are in the same market place. We even have a disadvantage, which is substantial,  of a sea crossing. Our only hope of competing with them is on equal terms and we can compete with them and beat them on equal terms. We are better farmers, we have better climatic conditions and less foodstuffs for animals coming from South America. We can lick them on the same conditions, but there is no way that we can lick them if we are spancelled, if there is a halter around our necks and that is what the Government are doing.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Allen): Allegations by Members of the Opposition that the Government have done nothing for farmers in recent years to alleviate their difficult position could not have been farther from the truth. It displays a lack of intelligence which is nothing short of amazing.
Mr. Allen: If they had the intelligence to consult the daily newspapers they would see that the Government have done more for farmers in recent months, taking into consideration the difficult situation facing the economy and farmers, than was done by any previous Government, in particular the National Coalition during the last farming crisis. All we have heard from the Opposition are wild allegations that nothing has been done.
Mr. Allen: If the position is as bad as the Opposition say they should let us have their positive ideas on how best to solve the problem. There are enough knockers and prophets of doom around without the Opposition adding their voice. It does not surprise me that they never learn a lesson. Their negative and  destructive comments in this debate are a repetition of a campaign they conducted in Donegal in the recent by-election. They got their answer from the electorate in that constituency.
Mr. Allen: The Opposition got their answer from the farmers in Donegal in that by-election. I can say with confidence that if the Opposition maintain their present attitude they will get a similar answer from the electorate, particularly the farming community in the next election. As Members of the Opposition seem to lack the capacity to read newspapers or to find out what the Government have been doing to make life easier for farmers I should like to remind them of the many valuable measures introduced in recent months. Last August, when the bad weather was having a severe effect on winter fodder, the Government reacted swiftly and introduced subsidies for fertilisers and silage making. Under that scheme a subsidy of £20 per ton was paid for high nitrogen fertilisers and a subsidy of £3 per ton of silage made by farmers who had not made silage before up to a maximum of 50 tons per farm. About 17,000 farmers benefited from those schemes.
Mr. Allen: The farmers' appreciation of the Government's efforts is clearly underlined by the high number of farmers who availed of the schemes. A second measure introduced by the Minister for Agriculture was the provision of additional funds to speed up the payment of grants for farm development. In all an extra £23 million has been made available which is 70 per cent more than last year. By making these additional funds available the Government are putting an extra £23 million into the farmers' pockets as quickly as possible and this surely is beneficial to them.
Because of the bad income situation of farmers and because the Government fully realise that the warble fly has been almost eliminated about £500,000 has been provided to reduce the cost of treating cattle which would otherwise have to be met by farmers. In addition to eliminating the warble fly altogether farmers will benefit by improving milk yields, by improving the quality and the size of beef cattle and by eliminating warble damaged hides. Yet another measure was introduced to help beef producers and the beef trade. Restrictions on the intervention system introduced by Brussels were counteracted by measures at home which ensured that our beef farmers were not denied the valuable support of access for beef to intervention.
Mr. Allen: The consequences of this have been obvious as prices have been rising steadily in recent weeks which is contrary to the normal trend at this time of the year. I am sure Deputy L'Estrange agrees with that.
Mr. Allen: If the Deputy puts down a question I will answer it. One of the most pressing problems facing many farmers was the question of high interest rates. The Government's reaction to this was to underwrite the foreign exchange risks on £100 million of reduced interest loans to farmers for development purposes. As regards the present position of farmers' indebtedness, following talks with the four associated banks and the ACC, a constructive and positive approach to the restructuring of existing loans on a case by case basis is to be taken where farmers are faced with serious payment problems. In order to ensure that these schemes work effectively two liaison committees have been established between the farm organisations, the banks and the ACC. Those committees will ensure that the  schemes for restructuring and for productive investment operate in practice in accordance with the spirit in which they have been set up. A further helpful measure was the cancellation of the second moiety of rates for farmers in the £40-£60 PLV category.
Mr. Allen: The Deputy was part and parcel of that. Opposition Deputies complained that the Minister for the Environment introduced a restrictive measure on the extent of rates increases but on the other hand he is talking about increasing rates. Which hand is he eating out of?
Mr. Allen: Of particular benefit to farmers in disadvantaged areas have been the substantial increases in the headage payments. Farmers with beef suckler cows will benefit from a basic grant of £13.18 on all suckler cows with an additional grant of £12 on extra cows. This means that farmers already benefiting from headage payments will get as much as £57.18 for extra cows. This will not only help farmers to cope with the difficult conditions of farming in a disadvantaged area but will provide real encouragement to build up the national beef herd.
Sheep headage payments have also been increased significantly and the mountain lamb extension scheme premium has been doubled. The new common  sheep policy will give sheep producers a ewe premium of somewhere between £6 and £7 per annum, depending on market conditions.
Mr. Allen: This will be a welcome development to our sheepmen who have suffered for many years from depressed prices and uncertainty for their future. The Government have also responded to the need for farm relief services especially for dairy farmers. The annual grant to Macra na Feirme will be increased for five years to enable that body to organise and co-ordinate the establishment of local farm relief services on a group basis. Not only will this help dairy farmers but it will generate new jobs in rural areas.
These various measures show the determination of the Government to see that the agricultural economy develops in all its sectors. As well, they reflect the Government's concern for the farmers' current situation and their willingness to do what is possible to help. Unlike the Opposition, this Government believe in taking action wherever possible and as quickly as possible. All of these measures have been taken against the background of continuing discussions and negotiations with the farming organisations. These discussions are continuing and, where it is apparent that something needs to be done, then if it can be done, this Government will do it.
Already we are looking to the price negotiations which are coming up shortly in Brussels. The Government have made it clear that we will be seeking a substantial  price increase for Irish farmers in these discussions. It will not be an easy fight, but it is a fight in which we must all work together to ensure that the best result is obtained for our farmers and the agricultural industry. I should like to invite Opposition Deputies, if they are able, to come forward with positive and constructive suggestions. Their negative approach serves no purpose. It does not contribute to anything. Nevertheless, this Government will continue with their clear and positive policy of helping agriculture which is our most important sector of the economy.
I am sure many Opposition Deputies wish to speak in this debate. I hope they will contribute something positive and constructive, rather than demonstrate the negative approach we have been hearing so far in this debate.
Mr. Donnellan: The Minister of State, Deputy Allen, talked about the negative approach of the Opposition. During our time in Government it was admitted readily by Deputy Hussey that our approach to agriculture was in the best interests of the farmers. During that time we did not solve all the problems, but we did not create any problem similar to the one we have at the moment. Referring to Donegal on this Supplementary Estimate does not get us anywhere.
The Minister of State talked about the remission of rates. Possibly he does not realise that, in paying half the rates this year, farmers are paying more than they paid in full last year because of the fact that the agricultural grant was removed over a £40 valuation. Basically we are here to talk about the provisions in the Supplementary Estimate.
Mr. Donnellan: We want to take a serious look at the problems as we see them and, at the same time, to be critical of the Government where necessary. It is the role of an Opposition to be critical  of the Government. We can offer solutions, but that is no good when you have not got the power to implement them. Perhaps some of the provisions in this Supplementary Estimate will help to get rid of the problems in the agricultural sector.
The biggest problem is the fall in agricultural income. Some Government speakers talked about the great fall in farmers' income which is an admission that the problem exists. I hope they do not think this Supplementary Estimate will solve it. There is a reference in the Supplementary Estimate to savings on subheads which amount to a great deal of money. I intend to deal with some of them. Almost every day in the newspapers there are reports of speeches by the Minister or the Minister of State, Deputy Hussey, about the amount of money being made available to remedy the ills of the farmers. Farmers can see no great evidence of any of that money coming back into their pockets. There is talk about hundreds of millions of pounds being made available to solve the problems in the agricultural sector but, from talking to farmers, particularly in the area I represent in Galway, I believe that money is not getting back to them.
There was a time when the farmer was not as much of a consumer as he is at the moment. Many people involved in agriculture have become consumers. There has been a drift away from producing what the farmer needs for everyday living. There are some necessaries which the farmer cannot produce but, apart from those, he tends to become as large a consumer of agricultural produce from the shop as the worker in industry or people paying PAYE. Possibly that is why the present economic climate is hitting the agricultural sector of the community harder than ever before.
The object of this exercise today is to try to get money back into the pockets of the agricultural community and give them a standard of living comparable with that of people doing any other kind of work. This is being lost sight of in the debate on the Supplementary Estimate. Recently I got a letter from the Department of Agriculture saying there is to be  a review of the disadvantaged areas sometime in the new year. There are different categories of disadvantaged areas. Only a small portion of County Galway is designated as a severely handicapped area. Day in and day out there are complaints from people who feel they live in areas which they believe should come within the category of being seriously disadvantaged. They look across the border and see that all of County Mayo is in that category. I am not saying County Mayo should not be in that category, or the whole of County Donegal and a number of other counties.
The criteria for determining these areas makes it impossible to get it across to the agricultural community the reason why some are out of it and others are in it. It would help to solve the ills in the western region if when this review comes up, the Minister for Agriculture and his two Ministers of State are there taking the part of the Irish farmer so that all the people in the western region will be included in the severely handicapped areas. Will the Minister of State who has certain knowledge of these problems look at the position with a view to having the entire western region included?
Millions of pounds are talked about in these Estimates but many of them were voted before and were not spent. We are talking about the same money all the time. If the Minister and the Department pointed this out clearly it would help to foster unity between rural and urban dwellers. When we talk about millions of pounds for the farmer it helps to create divisions because non-farming people get the impression that farmers are getting millions of pounds day in and day out although this in fact is not the case.
This Estimate refers to grants of one description or another but the £7 ewe hogget subsidy, for instance, is not guaranteed. It bears some relation to the price. The week before last I put down a question to the Minister for Agriculture about the serious problem in County Galway this year in relation to the type of sheep dip on the market and the Minister indicated that there would be a meeting with the people in question to have it investigated. The meeting took place but  came to no conclusion. At this stage will the Minister say something on that as it affects the livelihood of a large number of people in Galway? The Minister and the Department should be ashamed at the lack of action in this instance. Some worthwhile grants have been made available for the sheep industry; however the Galway Sheep Breeders Association, the people representing the pure white Galway sheep are under the impression that there is a lack of confidence in and promotion of pure white Galway sheep by the Department of Agriculture. The committee maintain that the Department are promoting other breeds to the detriment of the base breed which is the traditional Galway sheep. It is necessary to keep the base breed there. If they are not kept, in a matter of years we will not have any of the breed that have led from the base breeds that are at present being experimented with by the Department. Unless finance is provided to promote this breed the people who participate in this type of farming will go out of business.
In the western region there is a terrible delay in the payment of grants under the farm modernisation scheme. The most effective way that I can deal with constituents' problems is by putting down a parliamentary question. I wrote to the Department in early September when people complained about having waited a long time for grants. I received an acknowledgment that they were looking into the problem and at the beginning of November I got a letter saying that the grant had been paid in late September. I wonder if I was the only public representative who received that notice or was a copy sent to politicians who were not involved and who were not asked to act in that instance. This type of correspondence should be above board in relation to the payments of grants of one kind or another. Grants are not a present from one political party to constituents. The Government are obliged to pay the grants. If the Minister for Agriculture does not look into these problems perhaps people working in the Department who have no political affiliation will take it upon themselves to have the thing  investigated. Many other Deputies could refer to this type of thing in the House.
There was a debate some time ago in Private Members' Time in relation to having heifers included in the intervention system. When Fianna Fáil came to office in 1977 they removed heifers from intervention although there was no pressure from the EEC. When intervention for heifers was in operation the national herd increased substantially. The reason given for the removal of heifers from intervention was that it would increase the national herd but there has been a decrease in the national herd. The intervention system was not the sole cause of the increase in the national herd but it must have made some contribution to it. There is a variety of grants available for those engaged in the suckler cow scheme. When one takes into consideration the size of the grants when they were first introduced in 1968 one would be of the opinion that they should be increased. This is a less profitable enterprise than milk production. The Government should give those engaged in this type of agriculture whatever help is necessary to enable them to continue.
Intervention is still in operation in the UK, Denmark, Belgium and Luxemburg for heifers and I do not see why it should not be so here. There has been a big decrease in the use of fertiliser, particularly ground limestone over the years. What action have the Government taken? One of the best ways to increase agricultural production is to ensure that farmers use as much fertiliser as they did previously. The use of fertiliser has decreased and that is very disturbing. The Minister must be aware of this. By virtue of the fact that subsidies have been removed the price of fertiliser has gone through the roof.
The amount of money being made available in this Supplementary Estimate, £39 million, will not put a great deal into individual farmers' pockets. We must look to 1981 and ask what will happen then. I hope my forecast will not be true but I would be under the impression that farmers will spread less lime and fertiliser than they did in 1979 and 1980.  The Government should take a good look at this situation because, whatever problems they face in agriculture at present, they will have greater ones later on.
We spoke about the disease eradication programme and the fact that the money voted for this has not all been spent. I put down a question in the House recently about disease eradication. I referred to the increase in the badger population, which animals are very prevelant in the western region. They are agents for carrying disease. People employed by the Department of Agriculture or veterinary surgeons will tell the Minister at first hand that the spread of TB goes hand in hand with the large badger population in the area. It is about two years since I first spoke about this. It was a big problem in one area in Galway. No action was taken at the time nor has any been taken since. It is something the Department should look into.
I recently made representations on behalf of a constituent regarding the categorisation scheme. I got a letter from ACOT in which they regretted to say that, once a farmer is classified as commercial, existing EEC regulations do not permit him to be changed to the development category, which has the highest rate of grant. Does that apply to all categories? If it applies here a change should be made because a farmer's circumstances can change. If a farmer applies for reclassification it should be investigated and if figures prove he should be in a different category he should be brought into it. That is something that should be looked into.
It is all right for Deputy Allen to say “We have no practical answers to give.” Let them give us some answers. The problems that exist in agriculture today were not created by this party. If times were good the Government would say they created the climate whereby agriculture could prosper. Naturally, now they have to take the blame. The election manifesto is relevant to this Supplementary Estimate. One thing the Government did, which they did not mention in the manifesto, was to introduce a resource tax. Page 16 of the manifesto states:
Fianna Fáil will introduce a National Livestock Development programme to prevent short-term cyclical reductions in the breeding herds, improve genetic stock and health status and encourage the retention of cattle under four cwt to rebuild the suckler herd. The disease eradication programme will be accelerated and in cases of hardship full compensation will be provided.
Fianna Fáil will provide a 3 per cent subsidy on interest rates for farmers who come within an expanded development category in an Agricultural Loan Scheme for long-term financing of farm development.
To many people who read this manifesto in 1977 it must seem today like a Christmas card which is about 1,000 years  old. The promises made at that time have not been kept at all. The Minister of State. Deputy Allen, and others have asked what proposals we would have. Our role is to point out what is wrong. The Government have made promises which they failed to implement. They seemed at that time to lay emphasis on education in agriculture. In this Supplementary Estimate we find that £740,030 which was voted already for the Department of Agriculture's schools has not been spent. Under another heading £857,000 has not been spent. Under scholarship training £132,000 has not been spent, and for brucellosis eradication £1,350,000 has not been spent. All these things are shown in very small print — not that the print on anything else is any bigger — but the Minister is his speech made no reference to them. It is well worth drawing attention to the fact that these moneys voted by this House previously were not spent. A total of approximately £4,706,000 already allocated under different subheads was not spent.
I finish as I started by saying that people were under the impression that millions of pounds were being paid out to farmers one way or another when quite often we were talking about the same moneys over and over again. We should all put our best foot forward and try to solve the problems that exist in the agricultural community. I hope that the amount provided in this Supplementary Estimate will go some way towards relieving those problems and we on this side of the House are prepared to join with the Government in that. It is well known that the agricultural community are well financed, but other sections seem to thrive as well.
Mr. Fox: I would like to address myself to the problems facing one of the oldest and most important crops that this country has known. I refer, of course, to the potato. The last few years have been an unmitigated disaster for the potato producers of this country. Unfortunately, the consumer, for a most peculiar reason, is now beginning to have a brand image thrust upon her from abroad for this basic  food. The most important name that springs to mind in relation to imported potatoes is that of Cyprus. Five years ago anybody thinking that our country could have a problem with potato imports would have said that this could never happen. Tragically, because of the very heavy cost that growers are incurring in production and because of the uncertainty of the weather and the market, this situation is beginning to creep into this very important area of agricultural production. Certain of the blame for this must rest with some of our officials and even with our own thinking. The farming organisations and the Department of Agriculture should apply themselves in a very commercial manner to the retention and expansion of this very valuable market for ourselves.
The countries that figured prominently last year in the import of potatoes from abroad were Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus and Spain and none of these is in the Common Market. We are able to handle the Common Market producers without any problem, but these countries are in under third country agreements for commercial reasons which do not affect this country and which are of no benefit whatsoever to this country. An exception is Cyprus which, it must be admitted, purchases a certain amount of seed potatoes from the Donegal area and, therefore, are probably producing their ware crop for export to Ireland. Nevertheless, two of these countries were forced to stop shipment to Britain and Ireland because they were found to be subsidising their exports. From what I can gather, these two countries were Spain and Turkey.
I cannot see how any Irish farmer can be expected to compete with production costs in any of these places, particularly Cyprus, where, I am led to believe, the agricultural wages are of the order of pence per day, in total contrast to the substantial wages that Irish farmers have to pay in the production of this crop. The tragedy is that the trade took this brand to their heart last year and they established in the public mind a demand for a named product.
We will have to look at this very seriously  because the medium-and long-term threat to the Irish potato producer cannot be overstressed. This Cyprus product was being imported here at a very low figure and sold at some substantial profits, of the order of £3 to £5 per half cwt. bag. Very often the Irish produce was passed over and left to one side. This is intolerable and must not be allowed to happen again in the coming year. I exhort our Minister to put pressure on the Department of Agriculture to bring about quality control and quality production the whole way along the line from varieties, through production, through grading to selling. Unfortunately, this is not happening. From the point of view of the farmers there is a bewildering choice of varieties which have not been assessed as well as they might have been by the Department of Agriculture. Farmers are being tempted to grow varieties which are totally inferior in quality, although they may be very heavy crop yielders and may yield at the time of the year when other varieties are not available on the market.
This is an area in which the Department must get involved. Over the years, the quality of the potatoes and the quality of the type of production has been totally ignored by the Department. This is in contrast to the attitude to beef production. In beef production the growing methods, the seed varieties, and the methods of harvesting have been the subject of intense investigation and intense improvement over the years at an official level. This has not happened in relation to the staple food of this country over so many hundreds of years, the potato. It is about time it was looked at from a commercial point of view and from the point of view of the housewife. Not so very long ago we were selling very substantial quantities of food to the various American outlets in Europe. They insisted, quite rightly, on laying down conditions in relation to quality, presentation and delivery. These conditions were met by our meat factories who, for a long time led the world in hygiene, quality and presentation. Tragically, the Irish Potato Marketing Board were not able to meet  these standards which were laid down by the Americans in the early and mid-seventies. I refer specifically to the uniform size and shape of the potato, to the eye depth and the numbers of eyes that the various tubers would have. All this has gone by default and it is one for which we are now paying the price in the importation of these potatoes which, undoubtedly, caused a dramatic upset in the market last season. If something is not done about it soon, potato growing is going to be a thing of the past. Do we want that? It costs approximately £700 to £800 per statute acre to produce this crop. That is a very hefty investment. An average grower has a minimum of ten acres, some people are growing considerably more. Apart from buying land, a farmer has to put in £7,000 input and it is a gamble as to what will happen when he digs that crop. Unless he has the technical backup that other areas in agriculture have, it is totally unrealistic to expect him to produce a product that will compete with the imported article. The guaranteed Irish drive, the drive to keep our money at home, the drive to create more jobs and the drive to recycle money within the economy, are going to be lost within the farming community unless it is tackled in a realistic way.
Do people want farm potatoes? I am convinced we will have to get back to the position where the Irish potato is preeminent and that the housewife will say, as with the Irish tomato, “if it is foreign I will not have it, it could not possibly be the same quality as the local product.” That is not the situation at present. I appeal to the Department of Agriculture to lend their expertise and energy to this very real problem. We do not hear about certain aspects of these imports. No so very long ago, no vegetable, potato or any other basic agricultural produce could be imported because of the very real, recognised risk of disease and importation of situations that would upset production at home. The Colorado beetle was a real threat also. These things now seem to be forgotten. We do not hear much about the substandard produce that may look lovely in a very expensive bag and has a lovely sounding name  but, nevertheless, does not come up to a properly grown and properly presented Irish potato. A properly grown and properly presented Irish potato will not happen unless growers are given a direction and the fillip which they need to fight the threat from abroad. Very many constituencies are involved and in my own constituency of North County Dublin this problem if of the utmost importance. This is in contrast to the tomato industry, which very successfully survived the onslaught of foreign competition in relation to cheap oil and cheaper wages. The Irish tomato is second to none. This will have to be translated into potato production. The vegetable growers, the tomato producers and the early potato producers have the technical ability to produce crops which are second to none but, unless they get the broader backing to enable them to have varieties and marketing techniques, all their efforts will come to nothing.
It is totally unrealistic to expect farmers, in the difficult times which we are going through, to make the inputs that are required, £700 to £800 per acre, and have a return of perhaps two-thirds of that. Last year the return on the potato crop was only £500 to £600 per acre. It is totally unrealistic to expect a man to hire labour, to buy fertiliser and seeds and take this risk if he is not going to have a market which will absorb his product. The harvesting of the early potato crop is very important all round the coast and we do not want to see this diminishing. It is a traditional area, where families have provided opportunities for teenagers to earn substantial sums of money in the summer. It is an extra income for many families and it has been of great importance to family life. It has enabled students to pay their college fees and to have some money over. It is a very healthy occupation and has helped to bridge the gap between town and country. All this will be thrown away if the same indifference is shown in official quarters.
I would like to congratulate the Minister for Agriculture on his very effective action in opening up the intervention outlet for beef. I would like him to make sure that this outlet is available for as  long as possible, and, specifically, to make sure it is available to give the feeders at the moment, the men who are putting cattle into yards, a chance of a decent market for their product in the spring. Feeders over the winter are doing what we have been asking for a long time, using Irish grown foods to produce a product in the spring. It is necessary that a proper and stable market should be available. I ask the Minister to recognise this factor and to make sure that the market is available in the spring.
There is another matter about which we hear from time to time. It is one that hits the newspaper headlines only when a tragic incident occurs. I refer to the thousands upon thousands of dogs roaming free throughout this island, particularly the unknown number of dogs roaming around smaller rural towns and towns bordering on rural areas. We see these dogs only when they cause the despicable havoc they do in sheep slaughterings at different times of the year. It is poignant to see photographs of sheep slaughtered indiscriminately in the spring, particularly during the lambing season. In many constituencies, and particularly in my own of North County Dublin, there are large areas in which it is physically impossible for farmers to keep a flock of sheep. They just cannot because there is no way in which these dogs can be controlled. Unfortunately the law is on the side of the dog owner in too many ways. While it is legal for a farmer to take precautions to keep these dogs off his land, if he sees an animal worrying his sheep and that animal then leaves his land there is nothing he can do about it.
One aspect of this problem that will hit the urban and city dweller so hard that they will not know what has hit them is the horrible situation that would arise if we got just one case of rabies in this country. Rabies is marching across the Continent at a rate of four to six miles annually, an endemic disease remaining in the place in which it breaks out. Do we want to see that disease progress across the Channel to this little island? If we do not face up to these facts to the necessity of controlling these dogs not  alone will our sheep industry deteriorate — which it is already in relation to it — but our whole population could be in serious trouble if even one case of rabies came into this country. In this context work of praise is due to a particular CIE bus conductor who a few years ago noticed a small dog with a Continental Visitor, who very publicmindedly brought that fact to the attention of the Garda authorities in the midlands. Quite properly that dog was put in quarantine until it was established that this dreaded disease was not being carried by that little animal. While it is wonderful to see that type of public spiritedness it should not be so necessary in this case if we had a proper attitude towards these stray dogs. Generally people in this country take up a dog, bring it into their homes, without any collar, not complying with the law; the dog is given a bowl of food once a day and is allowed roam free for the remainder of the time when he could be anywhere from one mile to ten miles away. Not alone do such stray dogs run riot through sheep flocks but they also stray into school yards, knocking children over and snatching their lunches from them. It is a problem affecting the urban as well as the rural dweller. If we continue to ignore this problem saying: it is difficult to control, there is no money in it, it is a problem about which we will have to forget, then we may learn our lesson sooner than we expect.
These points could well be borne in mind by the Minister in the expenditure of the funds at his disposal. The situation in regard to the potato crop is one that will cost this country very dearly if immediate corrective action is not taken. If the point arrives at which potatoes are no longer considered an economic and profitable crop for our small farmers then the expertise built up over so many generations could be lost in less than one. If farmers sell off their machinery for potato production they will think very hard before reinvesting so heavily in this type of machinery. It must be remembered that to produce a potato crop the farmer must invest in the type of machinery not suitable for other crops. For instance, he must invest in rotovators,  cultivators, potato planters, manure distributors, potato diggers, potato harvesters; he must have special tractors, sprayers, all of which are complicated, costly and require technology of a very high order in their usage to best advantage.
The production of a quality potato for the housewife appears a very simple, straightforward operation but it is not. It is one that takes the average grower at least two years. He must decide on the type of seed he will use, purchase the basic stock for that seed, then produce his own seed because we do not have here a basic bank from which the potato producer can buy his seed for sowing in the year in which he plans to sow. It is a two-year cycle. If that cycle is broken, if the confidence of these potato producers is eroded than we will pay the cost in imports that will not be of comparable quality. Also it will mean the housewife will be at the mercy of a small number of importers. Undoubtedly it will mean that the high prices obtained from potato sales last year will be very much higher without that money remaining at home. That is not a situation we want to see develop. Therefore I maintain that the situation in regard to the humble potato must be looked at again ensuring that conditions continue to obtain making its production attractive to our farmers.
Mr. W. O'Brien: Irrespective of what party we represent it gives none of us here this evening any joy to say that agriculture is going through a crisis never experienced since the foundation of this State. Farmers incomes were reduced drastically in 1979 and have taken a further nose-dive this year. Today we see our young farmers taking to the streets and I place the emphasis on young farmers because I am really sorry for them. This is not something any Irish politician wants to see happen. We have seen too much of that in the North. The young people on our streets today are not seeking profits. Rather they are seeking adequate incomes to meet their commitments to their bank managers from whom they hear so often. Indeed it is frightening for such people to find themselves in this situation. These people are fighting for  an adequate income to meet the requirements of themselves and their families. What explanation have we been given by the Government? They tell us about the weather — which perhaps is true — they blame the EEC but I can remember back in 1977 when the people now on the other side of the House made cheap gibes at any reference to inflation or prices. They maintained that such had been brought about by bad and incompetent government. Today we have a Government with a majority of approximately 18 or 19. We must ask ourselves: what have we got? In The Irish Times today, in an article entitled “Government Aid is only Hope”, Mr. Paddy O'Keeffe, editor of the Farmers' Journal, states that senior EEC official told him that the Commission had no intention of compensating Irish farmers for the mismanagement of an Irish Government. That was well put.
I think it is generally believed by all sections of the community that the Government have really fallen down on agriculture. In 1977 farmers were told that income tax would be abolished and that if Fianna Fáil were elected at that stage to government taxation would cease. After the election there was extra taxation, more farmers were brought into the net; there was a reduction in agricultural prices and introduction of levies. At the end of it all the Taoiseach announced recently that the second moiety of the rates would not have to be paid. What a gesture, when the same Government had increased rates by 500 per cent over two and a half years. We are now expected to clap that Government on the back for that concession — concession is a nice word.
I am not a farmer but I can never understand the reluctance of the Congress of Trade Unions to fight the cause of the farmer because an enormous number of people are employed in agriculture. We are rightly excited if a foreign industry comes to the country and we read such announcements, sometimes made at Fianna Fáil Cumann meetings and sometimes at other functions. We accept this as something good for our economy but we are all very slow to fully appreciate what the agricultural industry  means to the country. Even at this stage I appeal to the workers and union members not to treat the farmers as “them” and “us”. We should all be united and work in the common interest of all sections. When the farmers are doing well the spin off from agriculture helps the whole community.
As one example worth listening to I mention an industry in my own county which went into liquidation some six weeks ago. They dealt in tractors. In 1979 they delivered approximately 5,200. In 1980 the number for delivery was 2,400. That might seem small but there is a difference of almost 3,000 tractors. That industry gave employment in its own small plant in Limerick but outside that it played a very major part in other heavy industries and gave further employment. Such local industries should be subsidised. These are the industries that should be seen to because they mean a lot. If we are to have full employment at any time I am convinced the vast bulk of it will have to come from the agricultural sector. For that good reason alone we should put emphasis on the importance of agriculture.
We are told that in the coming year EEC prices will probably increase by about 8 per cent. What does that mean to a country with an inflation rate of almost 20 per cent? That type of rise benefits other countries in the EEC fortunate enough to have 6 or 8 per cent inflation while here we are faced with 18 or 20 per cent inflation. There is no hope that even if we get the 8 per cent — and that may be optimistic — it will be adequate. I do not think it will be.
What is needed at present is a cash injection because the average Irish farmer, the 60-acre farmer is living on an income of £50 or £60 a week. Most minors of about 18 are earning far in excess of that. It is terrible to say that the most important industrial sector in the country, agriculture, is only able to give an income of £50 or £60 a week to a farmer working on the land. The farmers are not prepared to stay at home. They must travel to industries to get employment. That is only a short-term solution because  in three or four years' time they may leave industry and come back to agriculture. Meanwhile, the harm is done. Cattle numbers are decreasing all the time. Therefore our future is bleak in agriculture. Irrespective of how we try to camouflage the position in agriculture it is only too obvious that that sector is really depressed. Many who have not been closely associated with agriculture sometimes feel farmers are very wealthy. I am sure that if those people were to speak to some of the bank managers or some ACC representatives they would find how farmers are trailing behind and suffering certain discomfort because of the fear and the fact of getting letters very often from the bank manager. The price of milk is not what it was two years ago; fertiliser prices have gone mad. How can the farmers survive?
I was interested in the disadvantaged areas particularly in my own county. Almost four years ago I took up the local Limerick Leader and I read of Deputy Collins, now Minister for Justice, pointing out to the then Government and particularly to the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Clinton, how they had neglected the people of west Limerick and the number who were really living on the bread line because their areas' needs were not attended to. He promised that if they were in government, after three months that matter would be rectified. Today, three and a half years later, not alone is the problem not rectified but we have heard nothing about it.
I think I heard Deputy Donnellan say that a review is expected in a couple of months, that he had information to that effect. I hope that is true because speaking for my own constituency of West Limerick I can say that never before in the history of that constituency was help more needed for the people there.
We have another problem which adds to the burden of the agricultural community, the agricultural grant. Some 12 months ago the Minister gave us an undertaking that the matter would be seen to immediately and that the grants would be paid. I have been in almost constant touch with the Department of Agriculture and I have been told that  even at the stage when the application has been approved and arrives in Agriculture House it is not possible to have a grant paid within four months. I believe this is wrong. At a time when there are almost 120,000 people out of work there surely must be a case to be made for employing extra people in the agricultural offices if the existing staff are not adequate to deal with the demands on those offices. The people are waiting for their grants in order to be able to settle with the banks. Now that we are approaching Christmas I hope that the money will be paid out. Such delays do not encourage development in the agricultural sector and can only leave farmers in the position of being reluctant in future to engage in any development unless there is a guarantee of the grants being paid on time. Undoubtedly, an event such as a by-election would ensure that the backlog in respect of grants would be cleared.
I realise that civil servants are not associated with political parties but the staff in the Department of Agriculture must be embarrassed because of these delays in payments. Recently I asked one of these people the position concerning payments and he replied that he would prefer not to answer my question. I did not pursue the matter because I did not want him to have to tell a lie. In his reply the Minister should give us an assurance that the outstanding grant payments will be cleared before Christmas.
Mr. Taylor: This Supplementary Estimate provides us with the opportunity of reviewing the policies that have been in operation in respect of agriculture. I am confident that in a debate such as this, Members on all sides can rise above the level of politics and in the national interest offer constructive criticism and worthwhile suggestions. Farmers respond to financial incentives that are adequate. Therefore, by offering such incentives we shall ensure not only the maintenance but the expansion of our vital exports.
There are many aspects of our agricultural policy that are causing concern to those engaged in the industry. The withdrawal  of subsidies on lime and manures has had the effect of reducing the level of application in this regard to a national average of between 14 and 15 pounds per acre. That is extremely low. Because farmers have had to cut back in terms of inputs into the land, the land is less fertile. In my county there has been a sudden drop in the application of lime, for instance, and this is in an area where there are many lime quarries and where in the past the application rate was always upwards. In 1978, 50,000 tons of lime were applied to the land whereas in 1980 that figure has dropped to only 20,000 tons. Likewise, there has been a dramatic reduction in the application of essential manures.
The dairying industry is, perhaps, the key to a buoyant agricultural industry but in this sector, too, there has been a downward trend in production during the past two years. Since 1978 the decrease has been of the order of 13 per cent. This situation indicates the ineffectiveness of the Government's policies. Milk producers are not being encouraged even to maintain production. In some cases productive stock is being sold so that overheads may be paid.
A cut-back in terms of inputs into the land can have disastrous effects. Unlike cut-backs in factory production, a number of years elapse before land that is neglected can be brought back to a high level of fertility. The policies emanating from Brussels have not helped in any way to bring about a policy in agriculture which the farmers can accept. Recently we were offered £300 million during a period of ten years, the stipulation being that the State would invest half of this amount and that Brussels would invest the remainder. The deal was referred to as a western package and it contained a number of acceptable suggestions in regard to improving the infrastructure by way of drainage and so on. However, I am amazed that that package excludes the application of any aid in respect of the dairying industry.
How, then can we accept a package which excludes a sector of agriculture on which our beef trade depends? Each of our Members in the European Parliament  should endeavour to have this package adjusted because we cannot accept the long-term exclusion of dairying from its benefits. If we accept that package there will be a further decline in production in the dairying industry. There will also be a fall in the number of cattle herds. If the people in the dairying industry are given sufficient incentive they will stay in that industry. There should be a loud and united voice to have dairying included in order to benefit from the package. Many of the people involved in this industry have stayed in production in difficult times. As is evident from figures issued by the artificial insemination centres, there is a drop-off in AI in the milk breeds and there is a trend towards the beef breeds. Again, this indicates a move away from dairying and we cannot allow this to continue, particularly in the western areas. To bring about a complete change, we must give much more encouragement to those in the industry.
There are many aspects of the common agricultural policy that do not give long-term hope to people in dairying. I find it difficult to understand how New Zealand can import 90,000 tons of butter into the EEC. There are complaints about mountains of skimmed milk, butter and other dairy products, but the amounts involved are diminishing. If the CAP will not give us stability, those of us who voted for that policy and for entry to the EEC will have to reconsider the matter. We cannot indefinitely support an organisation that deprives some of our people of a share in the benefits others enjoy. There has been a suggestion that an adjustment of the green £ might be helpful but I will not discuss that in detail now. However, restoring the subsidy on lime and fertilizers would be of considerable help. We must give considerable thought to the income of small farmers in the west of Ireland. It has been estimated that there has been a drop of 50 per cent in farm income during the past two years, yet unemployment assistance has been reduced for small farmers. This is one area where there has been considerable hardship. I hope that consideration will be given to those people who have a very  limited means. The increased cost of living affects them as much as anybody else and they have the same family responsibilities as those in any other sector. I hope the social welfare payments will be restored to them.
I hope the Government and the Minister for Agriculture will encourage farmers whose land is not fertile, particularly those in the west of Ireland, to go back to tillage production. People will not make a change unless they are given encouragement. The terms of the national understanding apply to every sector except agriculture. People in that industry do not receive the same benefits as other sectors. While offers are made to people in agriculture, particularly at the time of a by-election, very little is done for them. While the dairy co-operatives are paying 2 per cent or 3 per cent on reducing interest for farmers who are seeking credit, this is not adequate. People of limited means cannot continue indefinitely to pay such rates of interest. There should be a bold investment in agriculture, particularly in the western areas. We must appreciate that many years ago families were pushed out to the poorer regions of the country, to the western areas. The people living in those regions must be considered. When we joined the EEC we had high hopes for agriculture; we must do our best to see that they are fulfilled.
In the near future we hope to have a land policy. I am sure the Government will issue a White Paper on land structure or reform. The trend in the Land Commission, particularly with regard to the allocation of land to small holders, has been unsatisfactory. Too often the commission have excluded people who own small acreages.
Since our EEC entry the trend has been to give land to people who already had reasonable acreages and to exclude people who were already compelled to make a living from small parcels of land. I am asking the Minister to reverse the trend so that in his land division policy small farmers will not be forgotten, because such farmers will not have viable holdings unless they are given extra land. To people who do not live in rural Ireland  these points may not be of any interest, but I can assure them that the application of a reasonable land division policy will determine whether small farmers will remain on the land.
I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, who understands the type of farmers I have been speaking about and who has close contact with them, will use his influence to bring about a better understanding of the situation of small farmers and a consequent improvement in the incomes of the farmers among whom he lives.
We all have a real interest in the expansion of agriculture because we appreciate the benefits to the country from increased agricultural production. It will benefit everybody throughout the country, including those in business, particularly those who service farming such as tractor salesmen, hardware firms and those who sell manures. If agriculture is given the prop it needs the benefit will be seen in all areas of our society.
We cannot go on accepting present conditions in agriculture without being given some hope from the Minister for Agriculture. This message has been conveyed to us clearly in recent days. We have seen young farmers from every county outside this House contacting their Dáil and Seanad representatives, asking them to express their concern for the agricultural community. Arrangements are being made for further marches. This is a trend which seems to be popular at the moment. I do not know how effective these marches can be, but they display popular discontent. I hope the Minister will reflect on this and consider all the views he has heard from both sides of the House during this debate. Being a man of reasoned judgement, I hope he will study the views expressed and that he will implement as many of them as possible.
Mr. Keegan: I welcome the Supplementary Estimate as a serious attempt by the Government to minimise the problems of the agricultural community. This debate bears out the views expressed widely that the Government are concerned  for the welfare of agriculture and those who make a living from it. The Government realise the role farmers can play in the entire national economy. Opposition speakers have said that the Government have not done anything for agriculture. Though we concede that we have an economic recession, it is no harm to remind Deputies opposite that this is not the first time we have had a recession in agriculture.
I would take their minds back to 1974-75 when there was a serious recession in agriculture, when thousands of livestock died for lack of fodder, when breeding stock were slaughtered by farmers who were in need of cash because of uncertain marketing arrangements. We are far from that situation today and we must appreciate that the problems in agriculture would have been far greater were it not for the corrective measures taken by the Minister for Agriculture and the Government. Though these measures have been played down by the Opposition and the media they have meant a great deal to farmers. It is well to remind people that farmers have a future in their industry and that this has been guaranteed by the Government, who are making every conceivable effort to ensure that farming incomes will not fall short of those enjoyed by people engaged in other activities.
I would remind the House that our climate recently has not been conductive to big production in agriculture, at least not for the past couple of seasons. We have gone through one of the worst seasons for farmers since the 1950's The weather has played a big part in cutting into farmers' incomes. A continuous rainy season means that farmers cannot increase their production, but the situation is still not as bad as it was in 1974-75.
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