Dáil Éireann - Volume 80 - 28 May, 1940
Committee on Finance. - Vote 30—Agriculture.
Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan) James Ryan
Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan): I move:—
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £456,011 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1941, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Talmhaidheachta agus seirbhísí áirithe atá fé riaradh na hOifige sin, maraon le hIldeontaisí-igCabhair.
That a sum not exceeding £456,011 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture and of certain services administered by that Office, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.
In the Estimate this year there is a net decrease of £279,245 compared with 1939-40, but included in the 1939-40 figures was a sum of £302,000 for expenses in connection with the provision of butter for winter requirements under sub-head M. 7, for which only a token provision of £5 is made in the present Estimate, but for which a larger sum may require to be provided later in the year. The sub-heads which show important changes compared with 1939-40 are as follows: A, Salaries, Wages and Allowances, an increase of £14,262; H, Grants to County Committees of Agriculture, £22,400; I, Special Agricultural Schemes in Congested Districts, £2,525; O. 1, Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act, 1939, £5,029, and O. 8, Acquisition  of Land (Allotments) (Amendment) Act, 1934, £9,670. The decreases of any magnitude are as follows: sub-head F. 1, Agricultural Schools and Farms, £2,915; G.3, Fertilisers Scheme, £18,000; M.5, Improvement of the Creamery Industry, £10,000; M.7, Expenses in Connection with the Provision of Butter for Winter Requirements, £301,995; M.8, Importation of Seed Wheat, £12,420. The total decreases amount to £352,212. The total increases amount to £63,365, and £9,602 in Appropriations-in-Aid, making the net decrease £279,245. There is no very radical change in the Estimate this year compared with last year.
I should like, however, to mention a few points in regard to some subjects. The increase in connection with salaries, wages and allowances is mainly accounted for by normal annual increments of salary and increase in the cost-of-living bonus. The bonus for 1939-40 was calculated on an average increased cost-of-living figure of 75 for nine months and 85 for three months. In the present Estimate the bonus is based on an increased cost-of-living figure of 85 for the whole year. Sub-head F deals with agricultural schools and farms. Deputies may be rather surprised to see a decrease there, but it is mainly due to the fact that in 1939-40 the provision was unusually high, the reason being that farmers were encouraged to lay in reserves of supplies. It is probable that the £31,416 will require to be supplemented if the Department finds it advisable to maintain these reserves of supplies. The same thing will happen, to a great extent, with regard to the veterinary college. There is a decrease of £793 this year due to the fact that reserves of supplies were laid in last year. It is almost certain that in this case the Estimate will be inadequate if the college has to purchase considerable quantities of drugs because the prices now ruling are much higher than when the Estimate was prepared.
F. 4.—Scholarships in Agriculture. A number of scholarships in agriculture, horticulture, and dairy science are  granted annually by the Department. The scholarships in agriculture and horticulture are tenable at University College, Dublin, and those in dairy science at University College, Cork. The scholarships entitle the holders to free tuition at the college and a maintenance allowance of £50 per session, augmented at the Department's discretion by a bonus which varies according to the cost-of-living figure. An allowance for third class railway fare between the scholar's home and the college is paid at the beginning and end of each session. There are usually 20 of these scholars undergoing instruction each year. A scholarship is tenable for one year, but is renewable annually, so that the scholar may cover the entire course of four years leading to the degree of Bachelor of Agricultural Science or Bachelor of Dairy Science. The renewal of a scholarship is dependent on the Minister for Agriculture being satisfied as to the progress of the scholar in the course which he is pursuing.
With regard to the training of instructors in horticulture, sub-head F.8, there are scholarships for persons desirous of qualifying for employment as instructors in horticulture under a committee of agriculture or for analogous posts. The course extends over four years—the first year at the Agricultural School, Ballyhaise, the second year at Albert Agricultural College, the third year at the Botanic Gardens, and the fourth year at the Albert Agricultural College again.
Sub-head G.1.—Improvement of Milk Production. This item is mainly concerned with the improvement of milk production by means of cow-testing associations. Every year this question comes up and neither the Minister nor Deputies can understand why the scheme is not more successful. I should like to give the conditions of that scheme so that the Deputies' memories may be refreshed and so that they will appreciate that it is difficult for the Department to do more than it is doing. As Deputies who are interested are aware, there is a printed scheme available and particulars are  also to be found in the annual reports, particularly the annual report for 1938-9 which contains quite a lot of material on this subject. The income of each association includes (1) a fee of 2/- from each member in respect of each cow of his under test; (2) A grant from the Department of 4/- in respect of each cow under test; (3) a grant of £26 10s. 0d. from the Department to supplement the salary paid by the association to its supervisor, plus 1/- for each cow under test in excess of 250. I think Deputies will admit that the Department is doing quite a lot to encourage these societies and I think it would be a great mistake to advocate that the farmer should be entirely relieved of payment on the fee basis. The fee is practically nominal—only 2/- per cow. Against that, the Department contribute 4/- in respect of every cow and also £26 10s. 0d. to each society or association. There is also a sum of 1/- per cow available where the number of cows exceed 250. In April, 1938, there were 195 associations owning 47,787 cows. In April, 1939, there were the same number of associations—195— owning 50,205 cows, so that there has been a slight improvement during the year but nothing like what we should like it to be considering the number of cows in the country. Only 50,000 cows are under test.
The next sub-head with which I want to deal is G.3, which deals with the fertilisers scheme. It was estimated that, for this season, 1939-40, £130,000 would be required to enable farmers to purchase fertilisers at reduced prices. Of this sum, £50,000 was included in the Supplementary Estimate for 1939-40 and £80,000 is being voted in the present Estimate. That makes £130,000. When the Supplementary Estimate was introduced in February of this year, it was explained that the scheme related to the following fertilisers manufactured by the Irish Fertiliser Manufacturing Association— superphosphate, potassic superphosphate and the compound and complete fertilisers manufactured by members of the association, as shown in their wholesale price list. I am not sure at  the moment whether the whole of this sum of £130,000 will be used this year or not, but whatever is left over of this £80,000 will be available for the coming year. In addition, as Deputies are aware, the Minister for Finance, in his Budget speech, said he was providing £100,000 for a fertilisers scheme during the coming season.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Will the Minister for Supplies supply the artificials?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: With regard to the supply of artificials, our present information is that we have used more potash and more nitrogenous manures than in any season before, so that, so far as these two manures go, the Minister for Supplies is to be congratulated.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: That was because we could not get phosphatic manures.
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: We used practically as much—I have not got the exact figure —phosphatic manures last year as we did the year before or as we did on the average for the ten years before 1932. Again, in these very difficult times, the Minister for Supplies is to be congratulated on what he did to get phosphatic manures into the country. The supply of phosphatic manures was, undoubtedly, inadequate. We could have used more, but we got quite a good supply. The manufacturers here have been engaged for some time in an effort to lay in supplies for the coming season.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Is the position favourable in that respect?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: I could not say. It would be very difficult to give a reliable opinion on that. The raw phosphates can be got, but the bringing of them in is the difficulty. They can be purchased.
Mr. Keating Mr. Keating
Mr. Keating: If they were purchased and not delivered, it would be very bad.
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: Sub-head H deals with grants to county committees of agriculture. The amount is £149,540, an increase of £22,440. The normal grant  to the county committees is £93,540. This grant is equivalent, in the aggregate, to the proceeds of the statutory agricultural rate of 2d. in the £. It is apportioned amongst the committees of agriculture as the Minister considers desirable after consideration of the financial situation of the committees and the special needs of any particular counties in regard to the development of agricultural education, live stock, or other agricultural schemes. It is estimated that the equivalent grant in respect of the 2d. rate in 1940-41 will be £73,540. There will also be an extra grant payable, equivalent to the amount of any income from rates in excess of the statutory minimum rate of 2d. in the £. This, it is estimated, will amount to £20,000. Deputies who are interested in this matter will note that a county committee may request the county council to strike a rate of more than 2d. in the £. If the county council agree, then an equivalent amount is given by the Department against the extra amount raised. We estimate that this extra grant in the present year will amount to £20,000.
Then there is a special temporary grant of £6,000. That has been there for some time. It was brought in some years ago. It is for distribution amongst such committees as are in great need of financial assistance. There are some committees that find it hard to make ends meet, and this £6,000 is distributed amongst them. It is put down as a temporary grant, but the Minister for Finance has now admitted that it should be made a permanent addition to our expenditure. From year to year he has sanctioned it so far. Sixteen committees received grants varying from £1,000 to £100 in 1939-40.
There are special grants to provide lime for agricultural purposes. The amount estimated this year is £50,000, an increase of £20,000 over last year. For some years past this scheme has been in operation for the purpose of encouraging the production and use of lime. The scheme is administered by the county committees. They invite quotations from the kiln owners for the supply of lime for different districts.  Certain kiln owners are selected to supply the lime to farmers who are approved applicants under the scheme. The farmers get the lime at a price less than the accepted quoted price and the difference is paid to the kiln owners as a subsidy by the county committees. Owing to the variations in the price of the lime in the different counties, the amount of the subsidy varies considerably, but on a broad average it is about 30 per cent. of the price. There is an increase of £20,000 this year, as I have already indicated. On the experience of the last few years, this should make it possible for the county committees to grant almost every application.
Mr. Hughes Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes: Irrespective of quantity? Is the quantity not limited to five or six tons?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: I admit there may have to be a limited quantity in some cases. In certain counties they had to refuse applicants up to this.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: If liming is good, why limit the quantity?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: There must be some limit to the amount that can be spent on it.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Why limit the amount if liming is good? You are out for more production.
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: I think what the Deputy means is that if the county committee have sufficient funds, instead of handing back some of those funds they should give larger quantities.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: If an applicant wanted 50 tons, why should he not get it?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: I agree if they have enough to satisfy everybody; but in order to satisfy every applicant it may be necessary to have some limit. M.4 relates to loans and grants for agricultural purposes, etc. This includes a sum of £1,800 for loans for the purchase of stallions. These loans are granted mainly in respect of sires purchased by the Department for resale at a reduced price to selected applicants residing in districts where there is urgent need for the services of good  class sires. These sires are sold at a reduced price and a loan is issued. Under the scheme the purchaser pays a deposit of one-third of the approved sale price and the balance constituting the loan is paid in five equal annual instalments with interest at 5 per cent.
There are also loans for the purchase of premium bulls. These loans are granted to persons selected by the committee of agriculture to keep such bulls for premium purposes. The bulls purchased must be passed beforehand by the Department's inspectors. The purchaser pays a deposit of one-third of the purchase price and the balance is payable in two equal annual instalments with interest at 5 per cent. The number of loans is fairly constant in the case of stallions and bulls, being 20 in the case of stallions and 270 in the case of bulls.
There is also an item relating to loans for the purchase of hand-sprayers. The normal provision for this scheme is £1,750, representing 1,000 loans at 35/- each. The estimated number of loans for 1940-41 is 1,400. The purchase price of spraying machines has been increased by approximately 33⅓ per cent. In view of this, it is considered that a provision of £3,000 will be required for this year. The loan is repayable in two equal annual instalments with interest at 5 per cent.
I come now to loans for the purchase and erection of poultry houses. This scheme came into operation at the end of the financial year 1938-39, and it was anticipated that loans to the extent of £10,000 would be applied for in the succeeding year. The scheme was availed of only to a very limited extent —approximately a sum of £600 was advanced—and it is estimated that a provision of £1,000 will be sufficient for 1940-41. Under the scheme loans may not exceed four-fifths of the cost of the houses. The loans are repayable in four equal annual instalments with interest at 5 per cent. Loans are not granted in respect of an imported house if a home-manufactured one is available. The scheme is confined to houses costing between £6 and £50.
 The scheme in respect of loans for the purchase of poultry equipment provides money for the purchase of incubators and hovers. Unless in exceptional cases, loans are not granted for equipment costing less than £5, and in no case will a loan be granted in respect of equipment costing £40 or upwards. The pattern and price of the equipment must be approved by the Minister. The loan, which is not to exceed three-fourths of the cost of the equipment, is repayable in three equal annual instalments with interest at 5 per cent. The scheme was not availed of last year to the extent anticipated and there is a reduced provision of £200 for 1940-41.
As regards loans for the improvement of flax scutch mills, this scheme has not been availed of as extensively as was expected. Many scutch mills are let to tenants at very low rents and the owners are consequently averse to undertaking expenditure in connection with their improvement. It is anticipated that a provision of £100 will be sufficient to meet requirements in 1940-41. I come next to loans and grants for the erection, equipment and repair of corn mills. During the several seasons in which it has been in operation, this scheme has not been availed of to the extent anticipated, and it is estimated that a provision of £500 will meet any requirements which may arise in the current year.
Mr. Hughes Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes: What does the Minister mean by corn mills?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: We have in mind the mill where a farmer brings his own wheat or oats to be ground and then takes it away and pays for the grinding. Some years ago these mills were widely scattered throughout the country, but a great number of them were allowed to go into disrepair. Farmers complained in certain places that they were anxious to grow wheat but could not get it ground. This scheme was brought in to enable mill owners to repair their mills. With regard to loans for the erection of silos, I may indicate that this is a new scheme. Loans to the extent of £10 will be issued for silos constructed of reinforced concrete  staves or slabs standing on a suitable rigid foundation, and to the extent of £20 for silos erected on an approved site and constructed of reinforced mass concrete or concrete blocks. The loans are repayable in four equal annual instalments at 5 per cent. A copy of the scheme will be available for anybody interested.
I come now to the improvement of the creamery industry. The amount in this connection has been decreasing for some time. It is down by £10,000 this year, the estimated amount being £10,700. The two principal items are an extension of Cahirciveen creamery to become a central creamery, estimated to cost £1,800, and the erection of certain auxiliary creameries in Dingle Peninsula, estimated to cost £4,915.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Are these travelling creameries?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: No; they are to replace travelling creameries. The Dingle Peninsula Creamery was organised on the basis of a system of travelling creameries and it was very successful from the point of view of getting information. The central creamery was erected in Dingle and the travelling creameries made three or four stops each, so we could find out from experience where it was worth while building an auxiliary. The result is that, as soon as these particular auxiliaries are built under this Vote, the travelling creameries will be practically unnecessary.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Does the Minister anticipate that the whole system of creameries will be an economic unit?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: Yes; provided the world remains somewhat as it is. Sub-head M. 7 deals with expenses in connection with the provision of butter for winter requirements. This is a token provision of £5. If the dairying industry has to be assisted—and it will have to be—during 1940-41, by means of allowances, etc., on home production, the expenditure will be met out of this sub-head. There is a note under this sub-head and under that for export  subsidies, to the effect that any money spent under this sub-head will be taken from the Vote for export subsidies.
I should like to say a word on sub-head O. 8, which deals with the acquisition of allotments. There is an increase of £9,670, which is due to increased provision, in view of the present emergency, for the supply free of charge of seeds, manures, spraying materials, implements, etc., to unemployed persons for the cultivation of allotments. The amount provided for this purpose is £18,272 and is based on the expectation that 8,500 unemployed persons will avail of the scheme during the year. It is made up as follows: Provision of seed potatoes, small seeds, cabbage plants, etc., for 8,500 allotments at 22/- per allotment: £9,350; provision of 1½ cwts of artificial manure at a cost of 12/- per plot for 0,800 plots, and 1 cwt. of artificial manure and 2 tons of farmyard manure at a cost of 18/- per plot for 1,700 plots: £5,610; Provision of implements for 3,700 new plots and the replacement of some 300 old and worn out sets at 10/- a set: £2,000; Provision of spraying materials at 2/6 per plot: £1,062; Provision of spraying machines and barrels: £250. That makes the total of £18,272.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: What would that work out at per plot? Would it be £3 10/-.?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: It would be a little over £2. There would be 8,500 plots at £18,572.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: That would very nearly buy all that is grown on them.
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: Some of the plots are very successful, though I cannot say that of them all. Provision is being made under sub-head O. 10 for the training of scutchers, £225. This provision is for the training of 15 boys as flax scutching apprentices. The training extends over the normal scutching period of from 14 to 16 weeks. The trainees are sent to scutch mills near their homes, one to each mill, and their work is inspected at intervals by the flax inspectors. If their work is satisfactory at the end of the season, each  trainee receives a grant of £5 and the miller receives a grant of £10. During the period of training a small weekly wage is usually paid to the apprentice by the miller.
Provision is being made under section (F) of the same sub-head for guarantee against loss in the case of importation of flax seed by a co-operative society. This is a token provision. The Department has undertaken to recoup a certain co-operative society against any losses incurred by the society through its possible failure to dispose of a certain quantity of flax seed which it agreed to import on the Department's behalf over and above the quantity which it was prepared to import for its own requirements. The Department has arranged with the British Ministry of Supply to purchase the entire 1940 flax crop produced in Ireland, at an average price of 20/- per stone. An order will be made prohibiting the export of flax except under licences which will be given solely for exports to the United Kingdom. It is considered that there will be sufficient flax growers to take all the seed imported and that the possibility of having to meet any loss under the guarantee is very remote.
Unless I am asked by any Deputies for particular information, I need not say anything about any other sub-head, but I wish to say a few words in general. I know that Deputies will be interested in the present position of our agreement with regard to prices paid by the British Government. As everybody is aware, the British Government has not agreed to give us more than 126/1 per cwt. for creamery butter delivered at the British port. Naturally, we have considered that a very inadequate and entirely uneconomic price for the producer here. We are ourselves providing subsidies here, which will bring that price of, say, 4½d. per gallon for milk—which is the equivalent of the British price— up to 5½d. per gallon, by levying on the home consumer here and by contributing a certain amount from taxation, but even so, that is inadequate under present circumstances. Therefore,  we are not accepting the price. It is true that the butter is going out, but that is on the understanding that, if we can find a basis more agreeable to both sides, the new price will be paid as from the beginning of the season.
So far, there is no agreement with the British Food Controller for the acceptance of non-creamery butter. Negotiations on that point are being carried on. It will be extremely awkward for us if we cannot dispose of our surplus of non-creamery butter. The position up to some two or three year ago, at any rate, was that we were exporting to Great Britain more than half of our non-creamery butter, that is to say, of the surplus for sale. The remainder went to other countries. It is difficult to send non-creamery butter to other countries now and the fact that the British Government are refusing to take it will make it very awkward for farmers who have no creamery at their disposal. Negotiations are still going on, and it is possible that we may succeed.
We have not yet reached agreement with regard to an enlarged quota for our bacon. We have an agreement that the British Food Controller would take 500,000 cwts. of bacon per year at prices to be agreed on from time to time. The present price is 133/6 f.o.b.
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: F.o.b. where?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: F.o.b. our ports. We would like the British Food Controller to take more bacon at the same price, but there has been no agreement so far. We reached agreement on the price of a number of small things, but this is not felt much by the ordinary producer or by anybody in the trade. Those small things had been troubling us—things such as how to get rid of the surplus of lard, fresh cream, dried milk, and so on—and they have now been disposed of fairly satisfactorily.
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: Would the Minister repeat the price for bacon?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: 133/6. I do not wish Deputies to conclude, however, that the case is entirely hopeless. The  impression should not get abroad to our dairy farmers or pig producers that there is nothing for them to look forward to. The negotiations have not been concluded and, although they have been unsuccessful so far, we should not create any pessimistic feeling amongst the farmers, at least until the negotiations have concluded. I think it possible that within the next week or two we may know exactly how matters stand in regard to these commodities, milk products and bacon.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Will the Minister put the agreement before the House then?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: Yes. So far there have been no agreements; they were just letters. It is possible that there may be a formal agreement in this case. I am not sure yet, but at any rate if there is no formal agreement, the prices will be published. If there is a formal agreement, the Deputy's request is one that will be considered.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: The Minister appreciates that we have an opportunity of debating agriculture now that we may not have later on unless there is a formal agreement?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: As a matter of fact, I was anxious that this Estimate should not be taken until after these negotiations had concluded, but then they might not be concluded until after the Dáil had risen.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Perhaps the Minister would consider introducing a token Vote?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: Yes, if that is the Deputies' wish.
Mr. Bennett Mr. Bennett
Mr. Bennett: If a more favourable rate is given for butter as a result of the negotiations, did I understand the Minister to say that it would be made retrospective?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: Yes; it will be retrospective. As regards eggs, the Minister for Food will deal with imports of eggs on the same lines as those followed in the case of imported bacon. Imports of eggs will be taken over by the Minister  for Food when landed in Britain. That arrangement will come into operation early next week or at the end of this week. Prices will be a matter for discussion just as in the case of bacon. Of course the price will vary more than in the case of bacon because the ordinary seasonal variations in egg prices will have to be taken into account. Due consideration will be given to that. The agreement provides that there should be a monthly discussion of prices. That does not mean that there will be a monthly change in prices but at least the matter will be discussed every month to see whether a change is warranted or not. In the case of eggs, an export board will be set up on which the exporters and producers will be represented. The board will merely be a routine board. The eggs will not go through them. The board will merely have the onus of directing exporters where they should send their eggs. As far as possible, the ordinary channels of trade will be kept going, that is, consignments which usually went through Cork, Waterford or Dublin will continue to go through these ports in the name of the exporter who always sent them out. On the other side, they will be taken over by the Food Controller and they will not go to the ordinary consignee to whom they were sent prior to this.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Will they go to merchants?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: They will be taken over by the Food Controller.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Will they be sent to the Food Controller?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: They will be sent to a representative of the Food Controller on the other side, and he will consign them to merchants. The Food Controller will fix the terms. With regard to imported feeding stuffs it is possible, in fact it is certain, that there may be a tendency towards a fall in prices for some time to come. I do not know what the amount of the fall may be, but everybody is aware that freights on imported feeding stuffs have been going down for some time. That will mean a fall in the price of  feeding stuffs here which should result to the advantage of our pig and poultry feeders. On the other hand, as time goes on, the difficulty of getting imported feeding stuffs will become greater. I think there is no doubt that at the end of the summer the difficulty of getting in sufficient feeding stuffs will become very serious. There is no use now in talking to farmers about the advisability of more tillage this year, but I think we should not lose any opportunity of advising farmers for the coming year that they should devote a greater acreage to the production of feeding stuffs. We have been rather successful in regard to the quantity of feeding stuffs imported this year, but I am not so sure that we shall be so successful next year.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: How can prices go down then?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: Freightage costs are going down, but the cost of the maize in the Argentine or wherever else we may buy it, is much the same as always. The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the Farm Improvements Scheme. My Department has been considering for some time the preparation of a scheme under which part of the Government funds voted for employment schemes in rural areas would be devoted to the improvement of land. The Department has almost completed its labours as far as the preparation of the scheme is concerned. It should be ready now, I think, for the necessary sanction of the Minister for Finance, the concurrence of other Department concerned, and then for the approval of the Government. When it receives this approval, we shall be able to publish details of the scheme so that farmers will be in a position to avail of it during the coming year. As it has not got these sanctions and approval, I cannot go into the details of it now, but I think it will meet, to a great extent, the views of many Deputies and farmers throughout the country. It is the sort of scheme they have been asking for. I have met farmers in every part of the country and they have been advocating a scheme of this kind for the last three  or four years. Deputies also have been advocating the possibility of spending some of the money allocated to the rural areas in the improvement of land, rather than in straightening corners of roads. The scheme should do a certain amount of good in that way. I do not know how much we may require under the scheme for the first year, but it should be possible, if we get the necessary sanctions, to make £200,000 or £250,000 available under the scheme in the present financial year.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: The Minister could not indicate in broad outline how it will be administered?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: I do not know what way the scheme may read when it was been finally approved of by the Department of Finance and the Government, but my idea is to make it as easy as possible for the farmer—that is that there should be the least possible amount of inspection or formality. My desire is to make it as useful as possible for the type of work that the farmer should be expected to do. The obvious improvements that strike one are drainage, reclamation, the cleaning up of dykes, the improvement of fences, etc. We want, if you like, to remove any technical difficulties, to remove what is known as red-tape, and make it easier for the farmer to avail of the grants that would be given and to ensure at the same time that any farmer availing of the scheme would carry out some desirable improvements in his farm.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: It will be a grant—not a loan?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: That is my idea.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: Will it be given to the farmer to handle it himself?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: That is my idea.
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: Will there be any limitatation as to valuation?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
Dr. Ryan: I do not think so.
Mr. Allen Mr. Allen
Mr. Allen: Will any contribution be expected from the farmer?
Dr. Ryan Dr. Ryan
 Dr. Ryan: Oh, yes. We would not give 100 per cent. of the value of the work. We will give him a grant towards the work.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: You would want to see how much work was done then.
Mr. Nally Mr. Nally
Mr. Nally: It will mean thousands of more inspectors.
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: There is a motion on the Order Paper, in the name of Deputy Dillon:—
That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: There is a motion to that effect on the Order Paper in my name, Sir, but in my judgment, Sir, we are meeting to-day in such exceptional circumstances that I think this House would be wise to approach its business in a certain way. If I were to discuss the Agricultural Estimate, in the detail into which it is my custom to go, on this occasion, I should be obliged to criticise adversely much of what the Minister has been doing and is doing at the present time. I should be obliged to comment at some length on what he felt himself called upon to say recently, at a meeting of farmers in County Cork, upon his record in connection with the trade negotiations with Great Britain, upon the measure of success that has attended his attempt to direct production along certain lines, upon the adequacy of his efforts to secure supplies of artificial manures during the recent growing season, and on several other matters. I say deliberately to the House now, however, with full appreciation of the gravity of my words, that I believe this country is in imminent danger of invasion, and the sooner Deputies open their eyes to the fact, the better it will be for themselves and for the country.
In that situation, I consider that very little matters but the integrity of our common country. I believe in democracy, and I believe in the system of reaching conclusions and taking decisions by consultation and debate, but I believe that that system can only justify itself if it shows itself equal to  the task of adjusting itself to special circumstances. I believe that such special circumstances obtain now, and I believe that in this hour of supreme crisis for this country, one middling captain on the bridge is better than three good captains with divided counsels. So far as I am concerned, the furthest I am going to go in connection with this Vote to-day is to say to the Minister for Agriculture: “You are the captain on the bridge at the present time; you have been put there by the Irish people and have got to try to do the best you can; therefore, I do not elect to engage in any controversy with you now, and any help, or any advice, or any co-operation or assistance that I can give you now, you have only to ask for, and I shall give it to you.” In other words, any criticism that I may be going to make, I am going to make behind closed doors, and I think that the front that all of us should present, both inside and outside this country at the present moment, is that any differences that may arise between us on such matters as these, are being laid aside for the time being and that, when this crisis is past—as pass, I hope, it will—we can resume the discussion of those things that divide us with regard to general policy and carry on as we have carried on previously. Bear this in mind, however—and I press it on the House most strongly—any cleavage or difference between us to-day, which to us who understand the custom of this House might be indicative of nothing more than ordinary Parliamentary life or usage, may create in the minds of our people throughout the country the impression that, if we choose to pursue such discussion at this time, it is therefore unthinkable that there can be any real crisis impending.
I believe that we ought to show our people the example of refusing controversy at this present time, until this threat has passed. For those reasons, Sir, I do not propose to move the Motion that stands in my name or to pursue the discussion of this Estimate further. All I intend to say to the Minister—and what I would wish everybody in this country to say, no matter how they may look upon the  Minister or the present Government— is: until this threat to Ireland passes away, ask us for any help that you want, ask us for any assistance or any co-operation that you stand in need of, and you will get it because, for good or ill, you are the captain on the bridge and you are better there alone than with three arguing adjutants around you.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: While, of course, I agree with my friend, Deputy Dillon, that this is a very grave hour in the history of our country because it is a very grave hour in the history of all Europe, and while I recognise entirely at the present moment that, in my judgment at any rate, the future destiny, and especially the future liberty, of this country is being battled for at the moment in the fields of Northern France and in Belgium, I believe——
Mr. Everett Mr. Everett
Mr. Everett: We do not agree with that at all.
Mr. Corish Mr. Corish
Mr. Corish: That kind of speech is not going to do any good at all in this sort of discussion.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: I believe in preserving the neutrality of this country.
Mr. Corish Mr. Corish
Mr. Corish: What the Deputy has been saying is certainly not a neutral speech.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: I do not profess it to be, but I believe it is.
Mr. Corish Mr. Corish
Mr. Corish: This is supposed to be a discussion on the Vote for Agriculture, but the Deputy is now speaking about Flanders.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: While I agree that these things are happening in Europe, and that our destinies may be involved, I am strongly of the opinion that we should formulate an agricultural policy which is suitable, not only for the present time, but which is suitable for whatever event may happen. I am perfectly satisfied in  my own mind that we can build upon our present foundation, that we can assume that this war will end in a favourable manner to those with whom —and I have no hesitation in saying it—my sympathies lie, and those are the democratic Powers, France and Great Britain. My view, which I put forward to the Minister, is this: that at the present moment we have got to consider two things: first, a policy which will suit our needs at the present time and, secondly, a policy which will suit our condition when the war is over and when, certainly, we will have impoverished, and greatly impoverished, customers purchasing from us.
As far as the present time is concerned, the Minister has a definite and specific policy, that is, the policy of compulsory tillage. Upon compulsory tillage I would like to say a few words. I think that the Minister, now that he has an opportunity of so doing, should consider that scheme more fully than he has done, because he brought in a scheme for the whole of this country, and the compulsory tillage scheme in force at the present moment is essentially a scheme dealing with the whole country. I think that the Minister should not deal with the country as a whole, but that he should have different schemes for different portions of the country. I have often urged in this House, and I urge again now, that the Irish agricultural problem is not one single problem; it is a variety of problems. There is a different problem for, let me say, the County Wexford and the County Mayo. They are quite different counties. There is a different problem for Meath and Galway. They are quite different problems and they should not be dealt with as a whole. The Minister's scheme is compulsory tillage, but it is compulsory tillage which does not include the growing of forage crops. In parts of the country, at any rate—and I am speaking now especially for the part of the country which I know best—I think that forage crops should be permitted as portion of the tillage scheme. I cannot see what is the difference between growing an acre of oats which, for practical purposes, is not a human food, and any other forage crop. I grant to the  Minister that there is a certain amount of oatmeal used by human beings, but it is primarily an animal food. I grant the Minister also that there is a certain amount of Swede turnips eaten by human beings, but they are primarily an animal food and, though I believe that mangel-wurzel may be used as a food and was first used in starvation times in Germany, I do not think that anybody in this House or in this country, not even in the Labour Benches, has consumed a mangel as human food.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: It gives us sugar.
Mr. Corish Mr. Corish
Mr. Corish: We leave the carrots to your benches.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Very likely, and if there were carrots in this bench the Deputy would come running over after them. In my opinion, therefore, the Minister has drawn rather an arbitrary division, and I think that in certain places—I am satisfied about the West of Ireland and, certainly, non-wheat growing areas—forage crops should be allowed to come as portion of the tillage scheme. The Minister is working out silage schemes and encouraging silage. At the present moment he is giving grants for the erection of silos. I am very glad. I entirely approve of that scheme, but I think that grass silage is not the only form of silage. In the places in which silage is principally made, grass is not what is primarily used, and, certainly, if crops, such as oats and vetches or rye and vetches were grown for silage they would make much better feeding-stuffs and I think they should be encouraged. Therefore, they ought to count as portion of the tillage scheme. I would like the Minister to get some of the agricultural colleges to make experiments about another class of forage which might possibly be grown successfully in this country. In the United States. which, of course, was the great home of silage, the main crop which is made into silage is maize. I think some effort should be made to see if we could not grow maize in this country. I think it is quite possible that we could and I  would like to see some efforts made in that direction because the yield per acre would be enormous.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: We could grow it for silage.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Yes, I think so. It could be grown in certain parts. It is certainly not a crop which I personally have ever seen growing in this country. I do not know whether any Deputy, except Deputy Belton, has seen it growing, but it is a crop which certainly ought to be encouraged because, as I say, its yield is enormous. It will not do for this country, especially in the very bad times which must come at the conclusion of this war, to remain farming precisely as farming went on 100 years ago. It will be necessary for us to improve our methods very considerably. I would like to see the Minister giving a lead now for that long-term policy which will help this country, when the war is over, to face the difficulties and poverty which must come.
I have mentioned one thing, the growing of maize. I think experiments should be made in other directions with other forage crops. To a certain extent too, in certain areas, I know lucerne has been grown, but as to what areas in which lucerne can be grown is a matter on which I have very little information. Although I think that lucerne was once grown in my neighbourhood, I have never seen lucerne except in Glasnevin. I do not suppose any farmer in this House has, and yet it is one of the most valuable nitrogenous crops that can be grown. I would suggest to the Minister that it is upon such lines as I have suggested that he should formulate now a long-term scheme.
Now that the prejudice against grasslands is beginning to pass away, now that it is no longer regarded as a mortal sin to say that certain lands of this country ought to be kept in grass because in grass they can produce more valuable food than otherwise, more encouragement should be given to the better treatment of grass fields. If anybody who goes around any ordinary  place in this country looks at a grass field he will see a field that is very largely neglected. It may occasionally get a dose of artificial manure but certainly that is all it gets. You practically never see a grass field in this country properly treated. You see very small efforts to pull the moss out of it and to sow good grass-seed in its place. Again, you see land put down into pasture which is going to be permanent pasture and it is sometimes sown with a mixture which contains nothing but perennial rye grass, a little clover, and, possibly, a few lbs. of coltsfoot and timothy; but the more valuable grasses—certainly the grasses which, in the West of Ireland, I look on as the more valuable—like meadow foxtail are not included in the mixtures at all.
There ought to be a great drive by the Department to impress on farmers that one of the very best investments they can make is to put down the very best grass seed they can buy. Some years ago I experimented in laying down fields to grass. I paid a very considerable sum per acre—as a matter of fact, I went as high as £5 an acre for grass seed, working upon what is known as the Clifton Park system, under which more things than merely grass—such as chicory—are put into the grass mixture, and I believe it paid me within the first year or so. I can say that the land is much better at present for having been laid down in that fashion, and I suggest that what the Minister should do is to encourage farmers to work out a more modern, a more improved method of farming than that which they are working to-day.
I wonder how many farmers would even know where to send their soil if they wished to get it analysed? All up-to-date farmers in Scotland, and especially in Denmark, get their soil analysed because they can only effectively apply artificial manures when it has been analysed. It is all very well to carry on on a rule-of-thumb method of having 2 cwt. of super-phosphate 1 cwt. of muriate of potash and 1 cwt. of sulphate of ammonia, or some such  mixture, and to put it on to land, irrespective of the nature of the land. There must be terrible waste in that procedure because it is perfectly obvious that what suits one land will not suit every land. I press very strongly on the Minister that he should encourage farmers to have their soil analysed and that the Department should send back, not merely the result of the analysis but should state: “The proper manure for you to use on this soil is such-and-such a mixture,” and should tell the farmers: “You do not require nitrogen in which your land is rich, but your land is deficient in potash, lime, or some other mineral food.” The result will be a very considerable economy to the farmer.
I do not want to go into any criticism of the working of the Department and what I have done is simply to make suggestions to the Minister as to what I think he can do towards bringing about an improvement of agriculture. I suggest strongly that he should, as he can, impress upon the farmers that there is going to be a very bad time when this war is over and that now is the time when we ought to be preparing our land, improving the fertility of our land and improving our methods of production, so that when the war is over, and we have world economy to face, we shall be better able to face it than we are with our present methods of farming, which I think it must be admitted are tending to become very much out of date.
Mr. Hughes Mr. Hughes
Mr. Hughes: To some extent, I am in agreement with Deputy Dillon that there is an atmosphere of unreality in our sitting here and trying to discuss ordinary routine matters as if nothing was taking place around us. When nations and empires are crashing around us, it is really very difficult to concentrate on the type of work we are asked to do here. It may give the impression outside that we are living in a fool's paradise and that we, who are the representatives of the people, do not fully appreciate or realise the grave dangers threatening even this little country at present. To  that extent, I agree with Deputy Dillon that it is very difficult to concentrate on the work we are asked to do. The work of the Government and of the various Ministers is of such a very important nature at present, in view of the very serious emergency which exists, that we are not anxious to hamper them in any way. It is their responsibility. They are the elected Government and the Minister for Agriculture has the responsibility of looking after the most important industry we have and, during this grave crisis, it is not good national policy for any Party to raise controversial matters which might in any way endanger the national interest.
I think, however, that it would be unwise to leave it at that and that the House quite possibly can be helpful. No matter what is happening around us, we have to continue our normal work and, for that reason, I think it right that we should consider the present position of this important industry. Any help or any suggestions which we can give should be freely given and, therefore, I think the House should avail of the opportunity of discussing agricultural matters and agricultural policy generally, particularly with regard to the matters outlined by the Minister and the various references to the sub-heads which he has made.
I propose to deal briefly with some of the matters which I think are of importance. The first and the most important is that of the trade negotiations with Great Britain. The position with regard to them at the present time is very unsatisfactory. They have been opened up, but not completed. We have had no information from the Minister on that. In my opinion, it is unfortunate that these negotiations were not opened earlier. I think a lot of valuable time was lost during which other countries were allowed to get in on the British market. The Canadians came in, and, without any difficulty, made a deal. I understand they offered the British vast quantities of bacon, in or about 700,000,000 lbs. weekly. South Africa also got in, but we left the matter on the long finger, so we can  understand that, during the present grave crisis, the talks that had been going on between our Ministers and the Ministers on the other side have been dropped. It is difficult to say when they will be reopened.
The Minister mentioned that agreement had been reached on some minor matters. Agreement, however, had not been reached on some of the most important articles of production here— bacon, the price of eggs and butter. The Minister told us that the present price for bacon was 133/6 per cwt., and I think he said the quota was 500,000 cwts. I want to put it to him that this question of a quota for bacon is all-important and that when the negotiations are resumed every possible effort should be made by him and his Department to get rid, at all cost, of the vile system of quotas. It is extraordinary that this quota system is being preserved. It may be that it is not seriously hampering us at the present time, but if this emergency period passes, and if, in the future, we have to look to the same market that we had in the past for our agricultural products, then this quota system is going to be a very serious problem and will operate detrimentally against our trade. It may be that it is not being used to the detriment of our trade at the moment, but there can hardly be any doubt that, when world competition is restored, it is an instrument that can be used to inflict very severe losses on us. For that reason I urge that every effort should be made to get rid of it.
The Minister has set up an Agricultural Commission to examine into the ways and means of increasing agricultural production here. I suggest to him that the efforts of that Commission are going to be absolutely wasted if our market is restricted by the use of quotas. That is the position that I see facing the country at the moment. The Minister had not anything very encouraging to say on it. The most that he would say was that no decision had been reached. He does not like to discourage the agricultural community or say anything that would make the milk and bacon producers feel that  they were not going to get a decent price for their products. The impression his speech left on me was that he was not very optimistic about the present position. If that is so, it is a very serious one. Therefore, I would again urge on him that, when those talks are resumed, every possible effort should be made to get rid of this vicious system of quotas. It is an extraordinary state of affairs if it cannot be got rid of in view of the fact that we are a food-producing country, of our proximity to the British market and of the advantage all that must be to the people on the other side. If this system of quotas is to continue, and is going to be used against us in the future, then I suppose our whole system of agriculture will have to be changed.
The Minister mentioned a number of loans for agricultural purposes: loans for poultry houses, for the purchase of bulls, for silos and so on. So far as the agricultural community is concerned, one of the most important questions that we have to tackle is their shortage of capital at the present time. Many of our farmers are seriously handicapped because of that. I suggest to the Minister that the first thing that ought to be tackled is the question of frozen loans. Quite a number of our farmers are burdened by them, with the result that they are no longer units of production. Their output is being crippled. The banking and other institutions which have a grip on them have paralysed and made them ineffective as units of production. An examination should be made of loans that were negotiated within a certain period of, say, from 1917 up to the time that the slump came, and some reasonable amount fixed for their repayment. Whatever that amount was found to be, it should be charged over a period of years. That is work that might be undertaken by some commission. I think if such an examination were made, it would be welcomed by all sides and particularly by the banking institutions. The latter bodies, I think, have written off most of those frozen loans as bad debts. At the present time, where even an attempt is being  made to repay them, it is treated more or less as a windfall by the banks. I am aware that is the position. The extraordinary thing is that the man who is trying to pay off something year by year, and is showing a readiness to meet his obligations, is finding it almost impossible to effect a settlement with the banks. On the other hand, the man who has ignored his responsibilities for three or four years, and has got away with it, and then attempts to effect a settlement with his bank, is usually able to make a far better settlement than the man who had been honestly trying to meet his obligations year after year. This question of frozen loans affects a very large number of our agriculturists. It is time that it was tackled. The present seems to be an opportune time when it is of the utmost importance to get our agriculture on a sound productive and profitable basis. There is particular need of it and it ought to be fully availed of. If there is any hampering, or if there are any difficulties preventing individual farmers from breaking in on a measure of prosperity, every effort ought to be made to have these difficulties removed.
There is a matter that affects a certain number of farmers in this country very severely—I refer to the matter of frozen loans. There is another type of credit that is required by the farmers. That is some sort of short-term credit. Many a farmer is forced to sell immature live stock because he is short of liquid cash. He must sell and sometimes has to sell if the market is not favourable or when his stock is not fit for sale. He is forced to sell simply because he is short of cash. There should be some sort of credit available to that farmer on what might be called a chattel mortgage. That would secure the farmer over a period so that he could hold his immature stock until they are in proper condition; in other words, it would give the farmer an opportunity of taking his time. At present he has no choice whatever in the matter. He must sell when he is short of cash. He must cash something in order to meet his ordinary current expenditure. I suggest to the Minister that some arrangement should be made  to make available to men like him some sort of short-term loans. We ought to realise that there is a very keen demand for live stock, for forward stores in good condition that could be finished after a very short keep at the other side. The English farmer gets a subsidy for those cattle. We know that the English feeder is anxious to turn over as many lots of cattle as possible during the season so as to get the maximum subsidy. It ought to be our policy to cater for that market. But the farmer who is short of capital has to sell his stock before they are fit for the market. That sort of farmer ought to be provided with the necessary credit by way of some sort of short-term loan or short-term credit so that he can carry over his stock and sell them at the most favourable time of the year in the most favourable market and when they are properly fit for sale. It is right and proper that we should examine and try to discover some method of increasing agricultural production in this country.
While you have the Minister expressing anxiety about the development and the improvement generally of agriculture you have a very serious state of things operating at the shipping ports here. I do not know whether, in this debate, the Minister's attention has already been drawn to the matter. Cattle arrive at the Dublin port here late in the afternoon. These cattle are sent up by rail from a country fair. The cross-channel boat leaves here about 6 o'clock or 6.30 in the evening and very often cattle arrive before the boat leaves but not in time for inspection. They are not examined by the veterinary inspectors and the result is that the cattle cannot be shipped that night and the boat leaves without them. These cattle are bought for a particular market in England. They may be bought for the Norwich market or some particular market like that and they are intended to meet that market. The Minister, I am sure, will realise and Deputies are aware that there are particular types of cattle suitable for particular areas, or particular markets in England. If these cattle miss the weekly market they will not fetch as much elsewhere and  so they have very often to be kept to meet that market the following week. That means that livestock that are sent to Dublin to be shipped to-day will, if they miss that boat, not be able to reach the market for which they are bought and if sent to another market in England they certainly will not make as much as if sent to the market for which they were intended.
It is an extraordinary state of affairs to find that the shippers get all the co-operation they can from the shipping companies and from the railway companies to help them to get their livestock to market, yet, because of the fact that the Minister's experts, the veterinary inspectors, who examine cattle, are not prepared to wait for an hour or two to have these cattle examined, immense loss is caused to the shippers. That is unreasonable, unjust and unfair. There is certainly a great lack of co-operation on the part of the Minister and his inspectors. One would expect that every effort would be made to speed up the transport of livestock and to do what is possible to safeguard the exporters from loss. What we find is that the inspectors walk out of the cattle yard at 6.30 o'clock in the evening, in face of the fact that a special arrival of cattle may have reached the North Wall just then. There is no reason why the inspectors should not be paid overtime so as to see that the cattle would be shipped to the market for which they were intended. It is scandalous that this sort of thing should be allowed to hold up the shipment of livestock and it is worse still to find that when the railway companies and the shipping companies are doing their best, the Minister and his Department are causing immense loss to the exporters of livestock. I take it this is because the officials are too much tied up by red-tape regulations. The veterinary inspectors walk out exactly at 6.30 and apparently do not care a damn what is to happen in the matter of the cattle that are arriving or on the point of arriving just then and that the shipping company are anxious to have loaded. Both the railway companies and the shipping companies do their best to have these cattle shipped. The  only people who are holding up the cattle are the Minister's veterinary inspectors. These walk out and their services are not available after 6.30. That is an extraordinary state of affairs.
I think representations have been made to the Minister on the matter. I cannot for the life of me understand why that sort of handicap has not been put right. That thing has been happening for a considerable time. I have heard numbers of men in the cattle trade here complain bitterly of the loss, disappointment and worry caused as a result of this want of consideration on the part of the veterinary inspectors. This thing goes on happening because the special train may arrive a few minutes late. Nevertheless, I have been told that it arrives in all cases in time to meet the boat and to give ample time to have the cattle examined and loaded. The one thing that prevents the cattle from being shipped is that the veterinary inspectors at the port walk out at a particular hour and simply close down the whole job. I press on the Minister the necessity for immediately attending to that matter and putting it right. We hear a lot of talk about increasing agricultural production. Surely the one thing above all others in that connection is the necessity for removing any obstacle in the way of agriculturists and exporters. Anything that in any way tends to restrict the free operations of exports should be removed. I put it to the Minister that it is his duty to remove all restrictions of that sort so that live stock can be exported without any difficulty. I should like to point out that that sort of loss is not borne by the shipper; the unfortunate producer eventually bears the loss. Any loss arising from any difficulties that increase the cost of keep and the cost of transport and thus reduce the amount realised for live stock naturally is not borne by the exporter but is deducted from the amount paid to the producer.
There is another matter I should like to refer to and that is the price of milk. I understand that after the milk  strike last year a settlement was effected to which the Minister was a party. Normal supplies were restored on the understanding that the Minister undertook to do certain things. As far as I understand the matter, at all events, the Minister has dishonoured that promise, and that is a very serious thing for the Minister. I believe that this question of the price of milk was to be referred to the Milk Board. If the board made certain recommendations or the chairman made certain determinations the Minister promised immediately to implement them. The Milk Board as a whole, I understand, agreed to an increase of 1d. and possibly 2d.; a majority recommended an increase of more than that. According to the settlement to which the Minister was a party, that should have been implemented immediately. It was the Minister's responsibility to do that, but he has failed to do it. I should like to ask the Minister for an explanation of that. After all, it is treating those people with contempt and it is certainly an extraordinary attitude for the Minister to take up. He agreed to a certain course which terminated that strike and he has failed to honour his promise in the matter. There was another important part of that agreement, and that was that there was to be no victimisation. I understand that certain creameries have been very seriously victimised or penalised as a result of their failing to supply milk when ordered to do so by the Minister. I suggest that that is contrary to the spirit of the agreement to which the Minister was a party, and I think it is very unfair and very unjust to penalise those creameries.
On the question of loans, the Minister mentioned that loans were available for poultry houses, incubators, and hoovers and he told us that in the case of poultry houses these loans were only availed of to a very small extent, in fact, to the amount of £600. Evidently the Minister has not considered the possibility of making a small grant available as well as a loan. After all, we can appreciate the fact that there is no encouragement at present to avail of loans for poultry houses. Even  a grant and a loan might be a little bit more attractive in the present state of the poultry industry. I think the present state of the poultry industry is a very serious one. Putting the present prices of eggs and poultry against the cost of feeding stuffs there is no margin of profit for the producer. Many of our people are going rapidly out of production. It is unfortunate that we should be going out of production at the present time especially when our chief competitor has disappeared off the market. Denmark was our chief competitor for eggs and poultry in the British market and she is no longer supplying that market. I should like to point out to the Minister that if some increase in the price of our eggs and poultry is not secured as a result of the trade talks that we all had looked forward to with hope of success, I am afraid the poultry industry is going to shrink still further. The fact that we were exporting £3,000,000 worth of eggs ten years ago and that that shrank to about £800,000 last year, shows how much our poultry industry has shrunk. I have no hesitation in saying that that industry is shrinking still further at present as a result of the small prices being secured for eggs and poultry and the very high cost of feeding stuffs.
On the question of fertilisers—and this is a very serious matter—the Minister pointed out that we used more potash and nitrogen last year than in previous years and there was some reduction in the amount available of the basic manure, superphosphate. That means that we have an unbalanced manure and that many farmers must have used an unbalanced artificial manure, which possibly in the circumstances could not be avoided. On several occasions we pointed out to the Minister the necessity of trying to secure the manufacture of super-phosphate. I believe that towards the end of the season the Minister for Supplies did secure that. But we are aware that there was a considerable quantity of raw rock in this country before the emergency period last September. I think the quantity that came after September was very small, so that we had sufficient superphosphate  simply because the manufacturers had secured 60 or 70 per cent. of their supplies prior to September. Can we get any information as to what is happening at present or what will happen? If it is possible to secure raw rock will there be shipping available for it? What efforts are being made to examine the possibilities of working the Clare deposit, or is it a commercial proposition at all?
I am convinced of one thing, that we cannot grow decent crops without the use of artificial manure. Many soils and, possibly, some of the rich soils that were broken up under the Compulsory Tillage Order might be able to produce decent crops for two or three years, because there is stored in the roots of the old grass any amount of nitrogen and quantities of vegetable matter, but on old tillage soils lacking vegetable matter, where there is not much plant food available, good crops cannot be grown without the use of artificial manure. Therefore, it is of importance that we should examine the position with regard to basic ferilisers. If it is not possible to get the necessary shipping to bring in the raw rock, I suggest that some examination should be made of the possibility of working the Clare deposits, to see if that would be a commercial proposition. If we find the amount of phosphates available next year limited, we will certainly have poor crops. One particular crop cannot be grown successfully without an intensive dressing of artificial manure, particularly superphosphates, and that is sugar beet. Beet cannot be grown on any type of soil without an intensive dressing of artificial manure. For that reason the whole question of the supply of fertilisers is very serious, and should engage the Minister's attention.
I agree with the Minister that a good deal of our soil is in a very sour condition, and that it would not react to the drive for increased production without lime. It is good policy on the part of the Minister to give a subsidy for lime, but the subsidy should not be limited to £5 or to £6. The amount that could be purchased for that sum would not go very far. Some land that  is sour would require a couple of tons of lime to the acre. If the amount was limited to £6, probably only three acres could be dealt with, while farmers might want to use 20 or 30 tons of lime. The Minister should encourage the production by lime kilns of caustic ground lime, because, in my opinion, that is the most effective and cheapest form of top-dressing. It may be more expensive but in the end it is the most successful. Where lime is produced for agricultural purposes the Minister should encourage the grinding of it in the caustic state. It has given excellent results in some counties. I ask the Minister to consider the question of increasing the amount of the subsidy, because a more extensive use of lime would have reactions that would be beneficial.
I notice that the subsidy of £12,000 which was given for seed wheat last year has been reduced this year. I understand the amount last year was to subsidise the importation of spring seed wheat, and that not so much was required this year, because much of the land that was intended for that wheat was sown with winter wheat. Is the Minister aware that a considerable quantity of that wheat was not sown at all? Possibly farmers put in more barley than was anticipated. As a result a number of importers have a good deal of that seed wheat on hands. As the Minister knows that wheat was dyed. Is the Minister aware that the importers have suffered a loss as a result of failure to dispose of the wheat? If they have, I suggest that is going to react on the price of seed wheat in future, because the merchants will have to guard against the possibility of having a large quantity of seed wheat left in their stores. There is no reason why that seed should not be available for milling purposes after a short period at the ordinary milling price.
I also want on this Vote to refer to the destruction that is caused by rabbits. I do not know if the Minister will agree with me when I say that my experience is that rabbits are definitely on the increase. Parts of the country  are simply swarming with rabbits, and the destruction and resulting loss is enormous. Some serious effort should be made to deal with the pest. No real attempt seems to have been made by the Department to tackle that question. I am aware that rabbits were selling at fairly decent prices last year, and that many trappers were at work, but they do not appear to have made any real impression in reducing the numbers in the country, as farmers and others are suffering serious losses. These are a few points to which I wish to call the Minister's attention. I agree with Deputy Dillon that it is not the time to engage in discussion of controversial matters. The Minister has a very serious responsibility as a member of the Government and we do not want to hamper the efforts of the Government at a time of very grave crisis. Nevertheless, some of the matters I have mentioned should seriously engage the attention of the Minister.
Mr. Brasier Mr. Brasier
Mr. Brasier: I wish to add my voice to the note sounded this evening by Deputy Dillon. As members of the House followed the words he uttered, I am sure they were impressed with the seriousness of the situation as evidenced by the news which has come to hand. It has made us painfully aware that we are facing a crisis. It is advisable in a time like this for Irishmen, no matter what their interests are, to show a united front. At the same time, we cannot ignore the gravity of the situation regarding agriculture. Farmers had the reputation of making a certain amount of money during the period of what is known as the Great War. Perhaps they did make some money then, but the amount was grossly exaggerated. There is no indication that that state of affairs will occur on the present occasion. A very careful attitude has been adopted by the Food Controller in Britain, who is a very astute businessman. He avails of every opportunity to secure at the lowest possible prices the goods necessary for the economy of a nation of close on 50 millions. I am sure it is fully appreciated by the Government of that country that they are facing a very difficult  situation. I should have liked this Vote to be deferred, as the Minister mentioned, until the negotiations which are in abeyance had been brought to an end.
The Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Supplies can look very far ahead with regard both to agricultural and industrial policy. There is, undoubtedly, an opportunity now, at a time of crisis for both countries, to secure reciprocal accommodation. So far as our industrial policy is concerned, we have gone as far as we can go. After eight or nine years' experience of a policy of high protection, it might be advisable for the Minister for Agriculture to inquire as to the possibility of readjusting some of the economic obstacles to trade with our neighbours in order to secure, in return, greater facilities in respect of our agricultutral exports. The Minister struck a rather pessimistic note in Cork. He suggested that there was no very bright future regarding the prices that could be obtained for our exports. He emphasised that our prices would depend on the prices at which goods could be secured elsewhere. While that policy may be generally carried out in respect of the food supplies which Great Britain imports, it may be possible, by looking ahead, to arrange a trade and agricultural agreement whereby secondary adjustments might be effected in our industrial production in return for more favourable treatment for our agricultural exports. We cannot ignore the necessity for maintaining our chief industry—agriculture. That is absolutely incontestable. No Deputy will challenge the statement that our agriculture is not in the happy and prosperous state we should like it to be at a time when there is an extraordinary demand for the products of the land.
If a fair price cannot be obtained for the marketable produce of the land, surely there should be a way of helping the farmer by reducing his expenses of production. I was glad to hear the Minister state that feeding stuffs might be cheaper, although more scarce, in the future, due to the fact that shipping costs would be reduced.  Does that mean that transatlantic shipping costs will be reduced or that cross-channel shipping costs will be reduced, because that is a very important factor? It would not benefit us very much if transatlantic shipping rates were reduced and the cross-channel rates remained as high as they are. There is very wide divergence between the position of the English farmer and the position of the Irish farmer in respect of maize and the other commodities they have to use, owing to cross-channel costs of transport. With the costs of production as high as they are, the farmer cannot carry on. He is called upon considerably to increase his tillage area. Side by side with that, he has to pay with greatly increased costs of production a greatly increased agricultural wage, probably due to the increased cost of living. If there is a demand for extra tillage and a consequent increase in every phase of agricultural production, the farmers' possibility of earning a livelihood is reduced. A large number of people were not prepared for the compulsory tillage policy this year.
I hope that the difficulties with which these people have to contend will be taken into consideration by the Minister. It might have been better if the Minister had considered the giving of a subsidy. He told us in Cork that it would not be fair that a man who had been tilling a small proportion of his land should get a reward of £2 for tilling more, as against the man who had been tilling a large proportion of his land. The same thing obtains in England, where a subsidy of £2 per acre is given and where it is far more urgent to carry on a system of increased tillage than it is in this country. Our requirements in agriculture are very much less than the amount we produce, while, across the water, their requirements are far more than they produce. Therefore, I think the Minister could have considered the question of giving a grant. It would have helped very much to encourage farmers to till arable land even on a much more extensive scale, and some easier system of economy  could possibly have been carried on in the case of lands not quiet suitable for tillage.
The position is a serious one. Those of us who are acquainted with agriculture have often observed land under cultivation which would scarcely produce a quarter of the crop that a similar area elsewhere would yield. That indicates the inadvisability of any uniform compulsory tillage scheme. I suggest that we should leave matters of this sort to the intelligence of the average farmer and encourage him with a subsidy. That would be a much better way, in my opinion, of dealing with the situation. We know very well that the cost of living and the cost of production have gone up. The position with regard to agriculture requires very deep consideration. The cost of farm implements has doubled, and artificial manures have increased in price almost to a prohibitive extent, even if we were in a position to get them. Only a short time ago large farmers who were in a position to grind their own maize could not get a licence to obtain the maize. Such things are having their repercussions on the methods of economy which these farmers practise.
The halved land annuities, while to some extent a help, are more than set off by the increased rates, the increased agricultural wages, and the other very heavy costs now falling on the farmers. It has been pointed out already that the increased number of nulla bona decrees returned by the sheriffs in connection with land annuity cases show the very serious position in which the farmers find themselves. The numbers of men not able to pay their way are on the increase. It must be apparent to every Deputy familiar with agriculture that such a state of affairs is indicative of one thing, that the present methods are not producing the results that were anticipated. The duty has been taken off artificial manures but, unfortunately, that has been done at a time when we are not able to get them.
Reference was made by the last speaker to the frozen loans due to the  banks. I suggest that this might be an opportune time for farmers to make offers to the banks in connection with their debts. The banks might be willing in some cases to accept a small amount in discharge of the debts. Farmers could rely to a certain extent on the machinery that we possess whereby a loan could be obtained with which to pay off some of the amount due to the banks. The position at the moment is that the farmers are obliged to neglect the debts due to the banks, while ever-increasing interest is accumulating, and the last stage in the case of most farmers is worse than the first. I think this would be a good time for many farmers, who owe money to the banks, to try to make some arrangement to clear off their debts.
I have in mind a rather interesting case which may serve to illustrate the advantage of making some arrangement. During the term of office of the last Government there was a certain estate under the old Land Committee. It was sold to the allottees by the committee at £52 10s. an acre. The smallholders who were mainly concerned borrowed the money from the banks. That case was submitted by me to the Land Commission. The Government took it up. The land was valued and there was a bargain made with the banks to compound the debts due. The result was that the men were put back, after the land had been taken over, and they agreed to pay a fair annuity based on a fair price fixed and the difference charged to the general fund. The bargain made with the banks was, perhaps, a small one, but it changed the position of a very large number of the smallholders. That is an indication of what can be done in the case of frozen loans. The men to whom I have referred were put back into active production. If the arrangement had not been made they would have become bankrupt and the banks would not have got anything; they could not recover; they could not knock blood out of a turnip.
I suggest that where there are frozen loans, the parties interested should endeavour to make a bargain with the banks. The Agricultural Credit Corporation,  composed of business men, may not advance a very large amount, but no matter what it is it would be better than nothing for the banks and it would help to put the farmers into a solvent position. I think the suggestion is well worthy of consideration. Deputies would be of considerable help in advising their constituents who may be interested, to carry out that type of experiment.
At a recent meeting of the Cork County Committee of Agriculture reference was made to the very desperate position of the dairying industry. In some of the larger creameries in County Cork there has been a decrease of fully 35 per cent. in milk supply during the last 15 months. There has been a very considerable loss in some of the larger creameries there, largely because of increased working expenses. That is a matter which the Minister might take into consideration. Perhaps he could arrive at some satisfactory arrangement in relation to a better price for our butter? To put our dairying industry into a position of solvency is a matter well worth while considering. It is to the Minister we look to fight the battle of the dairy farmer. He is in charge of what is, perhaps, the most important Department in this country and, if he is strong enough to insist upon some sort of reciprocal arrangement with the people across the water, then he will be doing more for agriculture than has ever been done before.
There is another matter in which I am deeply interested, and that is in connection with the control exercised over the pigs and bacon industry. The Minister has been informed of the very rigid control that has been exercised by officials and he has been informed that it has been inimical and highly detrimental to the very best interests of that section of the agricultural industry. I was very glad to hear the Minister's statement that he was going to help farmers with the improvement of their land. Loans for that purpose are going to help production very materially, and the sooner the scheme is put into operation the better. The improvement of the land is of very  little use, however, if we are not going to reach a definite improvement in the price of the products of the land. The securing of agreement on the other side cannot be brought about without certain reciprocal treatment, and I have no doubt that the Minister can exercise his influence with the Minister for Supplies in securing it. The Minister for Supplies is following a very hard policy and has rigidly enforced his views upon the country and even upon his own Government. It is to the Minister for Agriculture that we look for some relief in the present emergency.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: I do not care for the views of Deputies Dillon, Fitzgerald-Kenney or Brasier. Whatever happens this country and whether empires are born or crash, the farmer will be there all the time. There are a few matters which I would like the Minister to look into. He should see that proper provision is made in connection with machinery, and the essential parts of machinery, for the harvesting of our crops this year. Deputy Brasier's remarks bring back to my mind the statement made here by the late Minister for Agriculture in 1933. He warned us that if the Live Stock Breeding Act were enforced as it had been enforced during the previous six years there would be very fine looking cattle but it would be hard to get a decent milch cow. Inspectors down the country inspecting bulls for licences should pay some attention and give some heed to the milk yield. It is one of the most important things and I am glad that we have converted even a hard-hearted sinner like Deputy Brasier to like the Minister for Agriculture now. He did not like him a few years ago, but he likes him to-day. Why?
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: He was down in Cork lately.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: There were many people wishing to attack him but he beat the lot of them together and needed no help. Every Deputy realises to-day that but for the policy worked by the Minister for Agriculture this country would be in a very peculiar position  indeed. We have heard a lot of talk from the opposite benches about the British market. They said: “Let us pick our market”. I am not bothering one bit about what may happen next week. Herr Hitler might as well win as anyone else. In the middle of a war, with difficulties in transport and in procuring foodstuffs, if the British Government can only pay 126/- a cwt. for butter purchased from the Irish people, I wonder where the market is and what it is worth. I have looked at the industrial side of it. I have not seen the Irish Flour Millers' Association starting an export trade to Britain, where the price of flour would be less than the cost of production. In regard to eggs, bacon and butter, we are brought to the position that the more we send out the more the Irish people have to pay.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: The bigger the loss.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: Yes, the bigger the loss. That will show what the British market is worth, and it is time it was realised by Deputies and the ordinary people. If the price of butter on the British market in the middle of a war is 126/- per cwt., what would it be if there were no war at all and freight charges were reduced? So the change in yield in the cows is not altogether the curse which people thought it was. The home market has been preserved here. This year we will produce 50 per cent. of our wheat requirements and the farmers will have a guaranteed price for that; we will produce the whole of our sugar requirements and there will be a guaranteed price for that also. Only for that I do not know what the position would be in the agricultural industry to-day.
We had a “shadow” Minister for Agriculture proposing, as one of his terms for co-operation with this Government a few months ago, that the beet factories should be blown up. He was proposing that we should go abroad for our sugar in the middle of a war. I do not wonder that he refused to speak here to-day and said the British Empire was tottering about his ears. Deputy Brasier raised the  question of frozen loans. Leave them alone for another bit.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: They will get more frozen.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: I should not be surprised if you could put an egg on one side of the scales and pound notes on the other and the notes would be weighed down. I place no value in the pound note at all at the present day. Probably, soon one will be able to drive a bullock in at the back door and say “There he is for you; take your hundred pounds out of that.” Undoubtedly, we are going through fairly tough times generally. The first step we should take here is in connection with the harvest. Then we should take a further step in connection with increased production next year so that we will be able to grow, not 50 per cent. but 100 per cent. of our require ments. We do not know what is going to happen and we should have an insurance policy here that our people will have enough for themselves.
Deputy Brasier spoke about the £2 an acre for wheat. I do not agree with it. When farmers find themselves in the position of getting a better price for their wheat, I wonder if Deputy Belton—Deputy Brasier does not till anything—who always grew wheat and advocated wheat growing would be prepared to accept the British controlled price of £2 an acre for wheat.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: I would not.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: Our plan is better, that is, getting home on the job. That is why I consider the present policy in regard to a guaranteed price far better for the agricultural community than this grant of £2 an acre under which the land is scratched and left there. I would also suggest to the Minister that some definite plan of campaign should be put into operation in regard to noxious weeds. Five or six farmers down in my constituency have complained about the stuff that grows on Deputy Brasier's farm——
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: Such personalities  should be omitted from the debate.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: I am only giving an instance of what is happening.
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: Whatever about instances personalities should not be indulged in.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: Certainly, I think the time has come when we should check that particular abuse. I do not wish to go further into that matter. With regard to compulsory tillage, I think a very definite policy should be put into force immediately after the harvest, if possible around the 1st September next, to ensure that the requirements of this country in essential foodstuffs will be met for the coming year so that the farmers may know in time what is expected of them and so that they can make arrangements to have the work done in time. In the second place, inspectors should be sent round far earlier to ensure that compulsory tillage is properly enforced. In that way, we shall avoid the foolish position of entering lands in the month of May when it is too late to proceed with tillage operations. I think that action of that description should be taken much earlier, and that where people are not prepared to do their duty in regard to tillage requirements, the Minister should step in in time to let the land in conacre or make other arrangements to have it tilled. The land should be tilled, no matter by whom, so that some crop can be taken out of it.
I was glad to hear the Minister's announcement in regard to the improvement scheme for land. I certainly think that the payment of dole should stop in rural areas where there is so much work on the land, that can be usefully done. There is no farm that I know of on which employment could not be found for at least one man. On some farms work could be found for probably half a dozen men. I seriously suggest that steps should be taken to put men, at present drawing the dole, to work on such farms. Unfortunately, the particular class of work I have in mind would  not be an economic proposition for a farmer paying even the minimum wage. While it might not pay the farmer to pay 30/- a week to a man engaged on drainage work or reclamation work, the country would certainly benefit by work of that nature. If the men employed on this work were given their quota of dole by the particular Department concerned, the difference between that and the minimum wage could be made up by the farmer on whose land the work was carried out. I certainly think that in that way much of the unemployment we hear of in this country would be brought to an end. There is definitely plenty of room for work of that description and a scheme along these lines should be prepared without delay. I think it is the height of foolishness, especially in the rural areas, to have men idle drawing the dole while there is plenty of work on the land for them. Steps should be taken immediately to provide work in that direction and I hope the suggestions I have made will be looked into.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: I entirely agree with Deputy Corry that the plan which he has just put forward is highly essential at the present time. I think the production of food is the most important matter facing this country at present. I was surprised at the statement of Deputy Dillon that the present occasion was not the time to engage in tackling the Minister's policy as we would wish to tackle it in other circumstances. Of course, we all know this is not a time for recrimination. It is not a time to make a case to show that the Government is not fit to govern. It is a time, broadly speaking, to close up the ranks and to show that the country will be united in facing the trials and the crises that lie ahead. But the fact that we are faced with trials and that a crisis is now upon us, makes it all the more important, in my opinion, that we should discuss the most important Vote that in the circumstances could come before this House—the Vote for Agriculture— and approach it in a spirit of co-operation. I do not agree with Deputy Corry that we should have some body set up to examine agricultural production. This House is the body to  examine agricultural production, and this is the time and the occasion on which it should be examined. I am glad that we had such a tillage foundation starting this crisis. I have always been an advocate of tillage and, as I understand it, the policy of the Party here is directed towards the support of that tillage policy. You may express surprise at that but I say that the policy of this Party has been unreservedly behind the wheat policy of the present time. I stand behind it. Now, why should we not examine the position on an occasion like this? As I said a moment ago, the most important front for this country at the present time is the food front. The most important thing for Great Britain and France was the military front. Did they hesitate to criticise when they were faced with danger? Did they not criticise men in important positions? Did they not remove their commander-in-chief, and did they not remove 15 generals? I am not saying that the Minister for Agriculture, or the Head of the Government, or any man in an important or key position in this country, is not doing his job, but I do say that, if he were not doing his job, it would be our duty to remove him or cause him to be removed.
Mr. Corry Mr. Corry
Mr. Corry: If so, remove your shadow-Ministers.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: I am not talking of shadows now, but of substances. Even Great Britain did not hesitate to accept the resignation of her Premier. Now, when we had the debate on the Tillage Order, I suggested to the Minister that he was not approaching the matter in the right way. I agreed that, if necessary, in the circumstances, the tonic of compulsion should be applied, but I suggested that if we could get what we wanted without compulsion, it would have been all the better. I suggested to the Minister that he should take stock of all the food for man and beast that this country will require for the future, or during the present emergency. When I read the Minister's speech at Cork I rather congratulated myself that I had been right on that occasion and that  the Minister was not completely right, to put it mildly. He regretted, I think, that more animal foodstuffs had not been grown this year, but said that it was now too late in the season to rectify that position. I think, however, that, if it is not too late, he should make sure to rectify that position for next year.
The Minister made a statement, in his speech here to-day, which was self-contradictory. He said that feedingstuffs—and I presume he meant feeding-stuffs for live stock—would be cheaper in the future, but that they would be scarcer. Now, anything that is scarce, will not be cheap. If you have not an adequate supply of feeding stuffs, what you actually have will soar in price and, in all probability, be diluted, I think it will be agreed that it would be a pity if we were to be short of feeding-stuffs. Now, I do not suppose we will have more than half of our supply of native flour this year, and I wonder how the Minister proposes to give us our daily bread, if there is a shortage of imports, and it looks dangerously like that at the present time. The Minister's remarks about his negotiations with British Ministers were not reassuring, and were not comforting to agriculture. We were given a figure of 126/1 per cwt. for butter, representing 4½d. a gallon for milk. A cow that would give 600 gallons of milk would yield a gross income of £11 or £12. I am sure that the Minister is sufficiently conversant with practical farming to know that £11 or £12 gross income for a cow in the year is not a business that millionaires would pursue. He knows that it would not pay, even if every cow that was productive were to live and had no illness, and even if everything went with mathematical precision. Of course, if everything went with mathematical precision, you might be able to carry on, but the Minister knows that things in this connection do not go on with mathematical precision; that the expected does not always happen, and that, very often, there are unexpected losses.
In other words, dairying is not an economic industry here, and in order to  induce Great Britain to buy our butter, we shall have to subsidise exports. A man with a varied business can run some parts of his business at a loss, but the majority of them must be run at a profit or he will run himself into bankruptcy. I should like to hear from the Minister, when he is replying, where will be the compensations for running dairying at a loss? In his dealings with British Ministers, has he impressed on those Ministers the necessity for our getting the manufactured goods that we require, at pre-war level, if we have to give our produce at, roughly, pre-war level, in exchange? After all, international trade is a system of barter. Will we get the same amount of manufactured goods for a ton of butter that we were getting pre-war? If trade between the two countries is to be continued on the basis that the present emergencies in both countries should not be exploited for either personal or national gain or super-gain or profits, then I suggest that the Minister should approach the question from the point of view of pure barter, and ascertain whether or not Great Britain will give us as much manufactured goods for a ton of butter, a ton of beef, a ton of bacon, and so on, as in pre-war times. If she does, we will be, at least so far, on an equitable basis.
The Minister has other things to consider, such as whether we would be able to get our fertilisers as cheaply and in as unlimited quantities as in pre-war days. He told us there were more potassic and nitrogenous manures used in this country this year than in any of a number of previous years. Of course, there were; and the reason was that the phosphatic manures could not be got, and, consequently, other manures had to be used in greater proportions in order to cover the land that required to be manured. That land was fertilised, not with a properly balanced manure, but with one that was heavily loaded with nitrates and potash, and, as a previous speaker said on this Vote, there was a considerable amount of waste there. Have we any guarantee about the supplies of artificial manures for the future? The Minister told us the amount of money that is provided. There is no use in  providing money if you cannot get the goods to buy. It is much more important to the farmer to be able to get the stuff he wants than to be offered subsidies to buy that stuff if he cannot get it. If the Exchequer has money to spend on manures, it should be spent in getting manure into this country. I think the Government must now see the folly of farming out stocks of various commodities that certain merchants had in this country. By doing so they have killed the initiative of enterprising merchants to carry large stocks. I think a classic example of that was the rationing of paper stocks. If merchants were encouraged, by getting profits through carrying large stocks, we would have the stocks in the country.
In the matter of fertilisers, we were told that phosphatic rock could be got plentifully and we were told, early in the emergency, that there was an adequate supply of fertilisers. That did not prove to be the case when it was put to the test. I would like to get a reassurance from the Minister that he, in conjunction with the Government, particularly the Minister for Supplies and the Minister for Finance, has made adequate provision to secure a supply of those fertilisers or the raw materials to make fertilisers. I would much prefer that we should import the raw materials to be manufactured into the finished fertilisers, ready for application to the soil, at home. So, I am sure, would every Deputy in the House. But, if we are running short in the coming year as we were last year, and if we can buy the finished fertilisers and we refuse to buy them, waiting to get them made at home, we may, in the end lose the race. That would be very foolish. The Minister will appreciate that if we have not adequate fertilisers, we will have to break more land to grow the same amount of food and thereby have less land for growing good grass. I hope that the suggestion to pay a subsidy per are broken will not be entertained. The way to reward tillage, the way to reward anything, is by results and to secure a price for results.
In regard to the price that the Minister  may fix with the British for certain articles of food that this country will run short of, I think the Government is greatly to blame for having tens of thousands of people idle. There is plenty of land in the country not yielding very much and we are facing this harvest, even if it is a good one, with the certainty that in some articles of food we will be short. Why are not those people that are unemployed put to work? Instead of getting money for doing nothing, instead of being an overhead charge on productive industry, particularly agriculture, at the present time, they would become a source of revenue to agriculture. Let the Minister consider the responsibility which he and his Government carry. If in the midst of a war and selling in a war market we cannot get the cost of production, what will we get in the aftermath of that war? I saw that an English statesman said that they would be glad to buy our butter, and that they will buy it if we sell it as cheaply as New Zealand butter is sold. New Zealand butter, as I understand, has to come around by the Cape which, at the present time, takes a fortnight. Insurance risks are three or four times what they were. What is wrong that we cannot sell butter as cheaply as New Zealand?
The Minister must now feel a certain amount of guilt. The land of this country was considered by the Minister and his colleagues as something that could be taxed out of recognition. There was no limit to the load it could bear. Now, in times of war, within three hours' sailing of the British market, we cannot sell our butter as cheaply in that market as New Zealand can sell its butter, which has to come 9,000 or 10,000 miles, through a submarine-infested ocean, liable to attack by hostile aircraft, with hostile ships everywhere lurking to sink it. Yet, according to the British Minister, he can get it more cheaply than the economic price for which we can sell butter. I would like to know from the Minister, as he, through the machinery of his Department, must know, how is it that, in view of all those handicaps  to New Zealand butter production and marketing in Britain, we are unable to sell it profitably as cheaply as New Zealand? If that is the position now, what will it be in the aftermath of the war? We have seen the aftermath of a previous great war but in that great war agricultural produce went to high prices and those engaged in agriculture were well-off when the depression came; but they will face the aftermath of this war badly off, with frozen debts, that have been mentioned before by some speakers on this debate, more frozen and with accumulations of them. Is it not a terrible prospect that is ahead of this country?
I have not heard from the Minister, I have not seen in the Press, any reason given why an economic price for our agricultural produce cannot be got at the present time. I would like to know has the Minister any guarantees or looked for any guarantees? Few people in this country are aware of the terribly dangerous position we are in in regard to agriculture. I put this to the Minister: that we do not raise a pound of agricultural seed in this country. If we were cut off from Britain to-morrow, we would starve for want of seed. I challenge contradiction of that statement. Every seed which leaves Britain at present must leave under licence, and seed is rationed, even though it is grown in Britain to the order of Irish growers, and some seeds cannot be got. There are two varieties of cabbage seed which I wanted and which I could not get. Onion seed cannot be got. We do not save it here, nor do we save cabbage seeds, except in isolated places. The same applies to parsnips, carrots, turnips, mangolds and beet, and if we are cut away from Britain, what will we do with our tillage?
The position is terribly serious and it is necessary for the Minister, when making his price deal with the British Government, to be sure to make a contra-seeds deal with them. On each occasion on which this Vote came up for discussion, I have stressed this matter of raising agricultural seeds, but I do not think any progress is being made in that respect. I am not confusing the propagation of seed from  stocks or strains already in cultivation with the breeding of new strains but, of course, in the matter of breeding new strains, we have been deplorably lacking. We get a good strain of any seed only when it is past its prime.
Another matter touched on by Deputy Hughes—the Minister was not in the House at the time—was the question of the price of milk. There was a milk strike before Christmas. I was asked to intervene in it, and, whether I was responsible or not, it was settled, and what struck me about the settlement negotiations was that everybody concerned, the Minister, the Department officials, the milk producers and the public, were all delighted that a settlement had been effected. There was a paper agreement as to the terms of the settlement, one of which was that there would be no victimisation. I am sorry to say that the Minister and the Department have broken that term of the settlement, and have defended the breaking of it. They have broken it in this way, that there were certain creameries, running up to about a score, which were victimised by the withholding by the Department of grants due to them. Grants to the amount of about £1,600 were withheld from a number of creameries because they did not obey the order of the Minister to send milk to Dublin during the period of the strike.
I am not saying that they should, or should not, have sent it. I had no part in the strike, but I do say that it was a condition of the settlement that there would be no victimisation. The Minister and the Department victimised those creameries—they make no secret of it—and they defend that victimisation. I should like to hear from the Minister how he feels justified in departing from the terms of the settlement. It was a very small matter and was not worth their while. I hope he will see his way even at this late hour to rectify the position and restore the grants to these creameries.
In those settlement negotiations, the question of price was important. It perhaps was the cause of the strike. Anyhow, the Minister referred the fixing of prices to the Milk Board. That was agreed to, but it was understood  that it would be attended to with all expedition, and the Minister told the milk producers how he was alive to the situation, and that, in fact, he had introduced a Bill dealing with the price of milk. That Bill was introduced at that time, about the beginning of December, and it was on the Order Paper of the Dáil for Second Reading. It is still on the Order Paper for Second Reading, and the price at which milk was to be fixed for the winter months has not been fixed, and it is now midsummer. I understand that the board met and unanimously decided on a certain increase, but the Minister did not budge, and there has been no increase. The impression given by the Minister was that if an increase was recommended by the board, he would do the rest. I hope that the period during which this Bill will lie dormant on the Order Paper will be cut short.
I was glad to see that the Minister proposes, in relation to unemployment grants, that the money should be used for land reclamation, and that the scheme in hands may be ready by the autumn. Autumn would be good enough for a scheme of land reclamation which consisted of the removal of rocks and stones, but the Minister knows very well that it is not the time to start the reclamation of wet land. A scheme in respect of wet land should be ready now, because this is the season for working on wet land. You cannot reclaim wet land in winter, and a scheme which will have matured only by next autumn is, in reality, a scheme which will not mature for 12 months, because nobody can touch wet land in the middle of winter.
The Minister did not say, I suppose he could not very well say, how this would be administered in detail. He proposes giving a percentage of the money required for certain reclamation schemes to farmers, the latter to back that with a percentage of the total cost. I suggest that the Minister should consider another party in connection with that, namely boards of health, and, where they do not exist, boards of assistance. We know that millions of money are going out, in the majority of cases to able-bodied men. This money is being administered by  boards of health and boards of assistance. Why could it not go by way of contribution to a scheme of this kind? At the present time this country, and rightly so, will not allow any citizen to die of hunger, but neither, I suggest, should it subsidise idleness, because the man who is working must pay for the man who is idle. If it is the duty of the State to maintain its citizens, it is also its duty to see that those citizens give a return to the State. As I look out on the order of society to-day and on the economics of this country, I do not see how any reduction can be made except in the overhead expenditure of subsidising people for doing nothing. If all the money that is going out in doles, assistance, relief of various kinds, unemployment grants and all the rest could be utilised to give an adequate productive return, then the overhead weight on agriculture and on industry would not only be very considerably reduced, but those people who are now living as parasites on agriculture and on industry would be contributors to the wealth of the common pool and to the taxation and rates of the country.
A considerable amount of discussion hinged around frozen debts. A lot of it, in my opinion, was unreal. I cannot understand why the Government have not tackled this problem. The banks are settling those debts every other day. I have been with parties and have helped to settle dozens of them. The banks are most anxious to settle. I know of one case where the bank was prepared to commute thousands for hundreds: to take £100 for each £1,000 due. It is time the matter was taken in hands, because while the banks feel that they have so much dead money in these frozen loans, money that is not even paying interest, they are not inclined to lend to agriculture. If some composition were effected and those frozen debts wiped out, then, unless new ones were contracted, and I do not think there is much danger of that, the credit of agriculture would go up from that new starting point.
We had a little toy loan scheme introduced last year by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health  for the purchase of seeds and manures. The scheme is being administered by the county councils. What surprised me was that the scheme was not introduced by the Minister for Agriculture. The county councils would be prepared to go much further than is contemplated in that scheme. As a matter of fact, some of them have done so, and have had very satisfactory results. They were able to borrow money at 4 per cent. and to lend at 5 per cent. for the purchase of seeds and fertilisers. When that measure was before the Dáil we, on this side, suggested to the Minister for Local Government that a more ambitious scheme should have been introduced. His reply was that a scheme such as we visualised should not belong to his Department, but to the Department of Agriculture. I would be glad to see the Minister for Agriculture considering that matter and enlarging the scope of that scheme. It could be very easily administered and, in my opinion, would tend to increase production. If certain amendments that we put up when the scheme was going through were now refashioned and applied in another way, the result might be that we would be able to get round, for the time being and during the emergency, the problem of frozen debts.
Mr. Cosgrave Mr. Cosgrave
Mr. Cosgrave: Some 15 years ago the late Minister for Agriculture inaugurated a scheme for reconditioning the creamery industry of the country. At that time there were two large British companies, or perhaps it was only one with a double name, operating a number of proprietary creameries throughout the State, particularly in Munster. Negotiations went through for the sale of them. The sale was not effected without some cost to the State. During that period there was one small proprietary creamery down in West Cork. Its central creamery was at Enniskean, and its anxiliary at Ballinacarriga. In 1927 negotiations were opened up between the proprietor and the Dairy Disposals Company for the purchase of these creameries. In accordance with its general plan, the Dairy Disposals Company was willing to acquire those two creameries with a view to transferring them to a co-operative  society, but, as the price demanded by the owner was too high, the negotiations broke down. Other attempts at negotiation were made in 1928, 1929 and 1931, in some of which a legal member of this House, who represented the area down there, participated.
No progress, however, was made, because the proprietor, according to my information, continued to demand a price which appeared to be too high to the Dairy Disposals Company. About that time—1931—the Bandon Co-operative Society were granted a licence to build an auxiliary creamery at Enniskean, as all hope of being able to purchase the proprietary creamery there at what was considered to be a reasonable price had been abandoned. These negotiations took place before the present Minister had responsibility for the Department of Agriculture. Further approaches were made about 1932. At that time this gentleman's position, according to the information I have had, worsened to some extent. His milk supplies had diminished, and he had not as good a property to offer as he had five years previously. It is fair to say in that connection that why he had not so good a property as five years previously was because of State action. In 1932 the attempts to open negotiations broke down also.
Again, in 1938, this gentleman approached the Dairy Disposals Board with a view to discussing the sale of these creameries at Enniskean and Ballinacarriga. Enniskean having been wiped out, all he had to sell was Ballinacarriga. The Drinagh Creamery was at that time disposed to give him £1,500 for the creamery. But the licence was given to another creamery, and the result was that this man got a sum of £70 a year for eight years— that is all he got. Whatever may be said in regard to the manner in which the negotiations were conducted, or the want of reasonableness in coming to terms, the State, as represented by the Department or by the Dairy Disposals Company, has not covered itself with glory. This man's property was reduced unfairly because of State action. I raised the matter a couple of months ago, and the Minister  simply stated the circumstances in reply. We know the circumstances fairly well, and we are not interested in recapitulating them, but we are interested in seeing that justice be done to this man. The sum involved in making matters easy now would be inconsiderable. I suppose a few hundred pounds would settle the case. The Minister should reconsider his attitude in this matter and endeavour to repair the injustice done to the man. His original indiscretions have nothing to do with the Dairy Disposals Board in dealing fairly with this case now. The British company was paid a fair price, and we should be as generous to our own people as we are to strangers.
Mr. T. Murphy Mr. T. Murphy
Mr. T. Murphy: I want to refer to the subject on which Deputy Cosgrave has touched, but I want to do so on a somewhat wider field. I would like to avail of the opportunity on the discussion of this Estimate, to get from the Minister, if possible, his views with regard to the whole position of the extra business that the co-operative creameries have taken on. The Minister must be aware of the fact that the erection of the co-operative creameries and the inevitable store that follows have had a very serious consequence in the towns in various parts of the country, but this is so in a very particular measure in the case of the towns of West Cork. The plight of the small towns in West Cork in the circumstances that otherwise prevailed in the last seven or eight years was an inevitable one. But the position has become very considerably worse because of the unfair type of competition to which they have been subjected. They have been subjected to a type of competition that has caused business to deteriorate very considerably. A good many of the small towns of West Cork are in a pitiable position. If the Minister or any of his chief officials were to visit any town in West Cork on a market day, he or they would understand how far the ravages of this creamery trade have gone. I do not want to have it suggested that there is any hostility to the creameries as such, or that there would be any hostility to their carrying  on trade in the matter, say, perhaps, of seeds and manures. But when they go into general business and keep on adding to that business every day in the week, and when they are in a favourable position, being able to fight the people in the towns with their own money, it is time that the Minister and the Government should regard the matter as one of urgency. It has long been an urgent matter with the people concerned. I am aware that the traders in these towns are rapidly being driven out of business by this type of competition. I am sure the Minister would have a fair mind in this matter, and I suggest to him that this menace —and it is not an exaggeration to call it a menace—should have certain restrictions placed on it. These restrictions could be set forth when issuing licences to co-operative creameries. That is one aspect of the case that I wish to bring very seriously to the attention of the Minister here this evening. I ask him to review this matter as quickly as possible, because it is a matter of very grave urgency to the people concerned.
I want to repudiate the view that has been “propaganded” in certain quarters, and that is heard all over the country, that is, that the people in the towns are parasites, that they are a sort of incubus to be got rid of, if the ordinary population is not to be throttled. That is an entirely wrong view. It is certainly wrong having regard to the record of the people in the towns generally in the matter of citizenship and in the matter of their contributions to any of the national struggles that took place in this country in the past or that are likely to take place in the future. In all these struggles it used to be the accepted view that the people in the towns were the driving force. That was true in the matter of the land agitation, and what was true then has been true consistently since then.
I want to support the view that Deputy Cosgrave has expressed. I know the particular set of circumstances that arose in that particular district, and I want to tell the Minister and the House that the position  has got very much worse in regard to certain other proprietary creameries in West Cork. There are a number of creameries in West Cork under the control of a certain firm operating from Cork City. That firm has always given good example in the matter of employment. I believe it is unknown that they ever dismissed a man because of his old age. It has also a record of giving good employment and fair conditions. In the ordinary way if that firm were prepared to hand over its property to the Dairy Disposals Board, or to the co-operative creameries they would be entitled to a reasonable price. Negotiations in the matter of price for a certain group of creameries have been in progress for a long time, but the whole policy of the Department and the cry of watchful neighbouring creameries seem not to have changed. There is one such creamery at Ballinascarthy, four miles from Clonakilty, and just across the road from that has been raised a co-operative creamery for the purpose of crushing out the original creamery. I think that is nothing short of confiscation. It is a most unfair way to throttle people in business. It is an attempt to crush these people out of business. That is not the type of action that might be expected from the Department or from the Minister who presides over the Department of Agriculture. I wonder sometimes if he is aware of the facts in numbers of these cases.
The whole position appears all the more strange when, at the same time, the Dairy Disposals Board, which was set up to provide machinery for the handing over to the farmers of the creameries that were acquired under the terms of the arrangement referred to by Deputy Cosgrave, instead of gradually going out of business is having new creameries added to its responsibility every day. One sees the extraordinary inconsistency of the position that gives that board every other day additional creameries and, at the same time, seeks to wipe out the few proprietary creameries that remain.
I feel that this whole matter is very strange. It is a matter that one comes up against in all the towns in West Cork. One comes up against people  being steadily driven out of business and, in my opinion, driven out of business without getting any fair opportunity of fighting their own corner. I put the matter very strongly to the Minister. He certainly will have very little difficulty in ascertaining what is the viewpoint in the various towns in West Cork and, I presume, that applies to other parts of the country, about this matter. I ask him to reconsider this policy and to make it possible for the people in the towns to survive. After all, they deserve some consideration. At a time when a commission has been inquiring into the question of regulating the number of shops, it is strange that, indirectly, through State action large numbers of people are being wiped out of business. I am completely opposed to that policy, especially when it is accompanied by the kind of conditions that I see existing in concerns of that kind at present, and I ask the Minister to give some indication of his view on this matter when he comes to reply that will be reflected in a change of policy at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. Linehan Mr. Linehan
Mr. Linehan: There are one or two items with which I wish the Minister to deal. The first is the rather important matter of credit. I wonder does the Minister ever read the advertisements which appear in the Press from the main credit-giving organisation which the Government established, the Agricultural Credit Corporation, because, if he does, he would see that the advertisements rather indicate the policy of the Government and of the Agricultural Credit Corporation in a very sinister manner. Quite recently in every paper they had a short advertisement of about a dozen words altogether and the main trend of it was that loans were available for solvent farmers.
That is really where the whole joke comes in—that the Agricultural Credit Corporation set up by the Government, and utilising State money was prepared to advance loans to solvent farmers. To my mind, the real difficulty at present is not the solvent farmer, because if he is solvent in the ordinary sense of the word he possibly can get  a loan somewhere else. The real difficulty is the providing of loans for insolvent farmers, who are insolvent in so far as they cannot meet their ordinary liabilities to traders, or to the local authorities, or to the Land Commission. These people are insolvent in the ordinary sense of the word, because they are not able to meet their liabilities at any given moment, and if they are left in the condition in which they are they will get deeper into the mire. There is no good in having a credit-giving organisation if its only policy is to give money to those who are solvent, and ignore the people who are insolvent. I cannot understand why that word “solvent” is used. It indicates that any farmer who felt he was insolvent, could not pay his way, and required money to help him, had no business applying to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I think the idea behind that advertisement is altogether wrong. I assume that the Minister does not mean us to take the view that anybody who is not solvent in the ordinary sense of the word has no business applying to the Agricultural Credit Corporation for a loan.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the question of cow-testing. Quite a number of people who are interested in that matter called on me recently to discuss it. They are young men who are cow-testing supervisors. They felt that something ought to be done by the Department to increase the value of cow-testing and the interest taken in it. The point they made was that, while the scheme as at present operated is a good one, the real value of it is lost, because in any particular area the number of farmers who avail of it are rather few. The real benefit of the scheme is lost if 25 per cent. of the farmers in an area are availing of it and the other 75 per cent. are not. These people suggested ways and means whereby a more general interest would be taken in the scheme. I believe myself that there is a certain amount of difficulty in getting people to join a cow-testing association, because they have to keep records and weigh milk. From what I learned, one of the objectionable features is the weighing of the milk. I think that difficulty might be got over if the  supervisors visited the farmers and weighed the milk themselves.
To my mind, the real reason why people do not take advantage of the scheme is the very human feeling that they are getting no advantage individually. The position is that they are expected to pay something for membership of a cow-testing association. I believe that if the Department adopted some scheme that would induce people to feel that at least they were getting some benefit out of being members of a cow-testing association, far more farmers would join. One suggestion made to me was that members of a cow-testing association should be paid slightly higher prices for their milk by the creameries because of their membership of the association and because their milk was being regularly tested, than farmers who were not members. However, I do not believe myself that that would be possible. What might be possible is a system whereby premiums or prizes would be given in each area for the best heifers reared by farmers who are members of such an association. Unfortunately there is a tendency, when very good prices can be got for good heifers, to sell the best heifers and keep the worst ones. I am afraid that that is one of the reasons why the milk yield has dropped considerably in the past few years. If a scheme of that kind were adopted, and premiums of a few pounds given in each rural district or each county health area for the best heifers produced by farmers who are members of a cow-testing association, the mere fact that they would get something for having produced those heifers would encourage them to keep them rather than to get a fancy price by selling the good ones instead of getting rid of the bad ones.
The whole value of the scheme is lost if herds that farmers try to establish are sold off simply because it pays better to sell good heifers than to keep them for milking purposes. I had a considerable amount of experience of cow-testing associations, but the whole value of the work was lost, in the first place, because a sufficient number of farmers were not taking an active interest in it,  and, in the second place, because no attempt was made to impress upon farmers the necessity of joining these associations. I do not think any great expenditure would be involved if some such scheme was proposed as a means of inducing them to join. If the Department had a scheme to induce farmers in every milk producing area to become members of cow-testing associations, they would become interested in the work, and would keep records, to show whether or not their stock was producing as much money as it should. When Deputy Corry was speaking he used the extraordinary argument that because people were not getting the prices they expected it would be better to have no surplus. Apparently that is his final decision on the Government's agricultural policy. I could not take it to mean anything else.
The Deputy's idea is that if farmers are not satisfied with the prices they get for their exportable surplus they should not have any surplus. I found it hard for a number of years to follow Fianna Fáil's agricultural policy, but I hope the Minister will be able to allay the fear in my mind, even at this stage, that it proposed not to have an exportable surplus. That would bring us to this stage that farmers would ask themselves: “What do we want producing more food for? Is it to give other people cheap food?” I do not intend to chastise Deputy Corry for his views, but I think the Minister will have to say something to him. Surely we are not going to assume that our agricultural policy is to be this, that simply because prices that are asked cannot be got, we are not to have any exportable surplus. If we followed that line of argument what would happen eventually is that farmers would only produce enough food for those living on farms. If that was the agricultural policy there would be only sufficient cabbage for each holding. I thought Deputy Corry had more sense than to suggest that.
I was glad to hear Deputy Murphy refer to the creamery position, and I wish to point out that the greatest resentment is felt in market towns, where business is being wiped out by co-operative creameries, because the  business has been taken away from people who utilise their own money by organisations subsidised by the State. Individuals are boaring taxation that co-operative creameries have not to bear. That was the policy of the last Government and of this Government. I do not think it is the right policy, but I do not see any hope of altering it. No one objects to co-operative creameries legitimately trading in things that concern their customers, such as the supply of manures, but under the system being built up at present, these creameries are no longer dealing in what concerns their ordinary customers' requirements. An advertisement appeared recently in a southern paper stating that a vacancy for a qualified chemist existed in a co-operative creamery. Apparently they do everything in the South and in West Cork, from making a suit of clothes to mending a pair of boots, and now they can supply prescriptions. I am sure if that develops we will have little communes in each area, and possibly traders and professional men may have to become members of local co-operative creameries. In the end there will be intense agitation, rather like country council or board of health elections, to see who will be controlling the work of these societies. I can visualise that happening.
The real resentment amongst the townspeople arises from the feeling that the competition is unfair, as the creameries are trading under different conditions from those applying to ordinary traders. I do not think anybody objects to the co-operative creameries doing a certain amount of trading. In North Cork traders are perfectly well able to stand up to these creameries in their own areas.
But that is not the position in other places. I should point out that where creameries are handed back to farmers by the Dairy Disposals Board, it is unfair, seeing that money was advanced on them by the State, to have these trading concerns put into immediate competition with traders. If any other trader wanted to take over a business like a creamery he would not find an accommodating body like the Dairy Disposals Board  willing to advance £20,000 or £30,000 to pay off the capital by instalments. I do not know anybody doing business who could find a firm so accommodating as to sell that business and to allow the purchase money to be repaid by instalments. That is where the grievance arises. The traders do not object to competition in the ordinary way, but they feel that the balance at present is greatly in favour of the creameries, because they are treated differently to the ordinary taxpayers by the State.
There is another item in connection with creameries which I ask the Minister to look into. I raised the same question last year. In parts of my constituency there is a large group of creameries controlled by the Dairy Disposals Board, and there is an outcry about the price they pay for milk. The Newmarket group of creameries, it is still firmly asserted, pay from 1d. to 1½d. lower than the price paid by the average creamery. There appears to be no doubt about that. I remember the Minister stating on one occasion that he was on the horns of a dilemma there, as if that group paid less than neighbouring creameries he would hear more about it. I am not asking to have more than is paid elsewhere paid, but the price paid by this group should approximate to what is paid by neighbouring creameries. It would be very hard for the Minister to convince the people in the Newmarket area that a better price could not be paid, because in the negotiations for the disposal of these creameries the Dairy Disposals Board asked a very high figure. Obviously if the farmers who were anxious to take them over were asked a high figure this must be a fairly profitable concern. If it is not a profitable concern it would be unfair to ask such a high price.
The public mind in that area has been agitated, especially since it appeared in evidence in a certain case before the High Court, that in a creamery not very far away across the Kerry border a profit of £12,000 was made in six years. The Minister will find it very hard to convince people in the Newmarket area that the Dairy Disposals Board has not been making  at least sufficient profit from that group of creameries to enable them to pay a price comparable to that paid at Kanturk and other places. I do not profess to understand whether the Dairy Disposals Board deals with all the creameries under its control as one unit or not.
What surprises me about that particular group is that everyone quarrels with the prices paid, whereas in Rathmore and in West Kerry everybody seems to be satisfied with the prices paid. What is happening as regards the Newmarket group I cannot tell. It is perfectly clear to me that the Newmarket price, over a number of years and last year, has been far less than that of neighbouring creameries. The position is a hard one for the individual farmer, particularly since this group is operated as a State concern. The farmer who is supplying the Newmarket group meets his neighbour from across the road when going to Mass on a Sunday morning. He asks him what price he got for his milk during the last month and he says 6¾d., whereas he himself has only got 5½d. That man will not be in a very pleasant frame of mind when he gets that information. I cannot understand why that group should be in a position in which it always pays a lower price than the creameries round about. If the profit being made out of the group is so small, I do not understand why the Dairy Disposals Board wanted such a big price when asked to sell to the farmers. They asked £18,000 and they were offered £12,500—an offer which, in my opinion, was entirely too much. If the aggregate of the prices paid by the Newmarket group over a number of years was compared with that of the creameries round about, I think that the Dairy Disposals Board could practically make a present of that group of creameries to the farmers.
I should like the Minister to clear the air regarding the position in respect of loans to farmers. Is the farmer who is technically insolvent because he owes money to somebody which he cannot pay, no longer welcome by the Agricultural Credit Corporation?  Is the only farmer who is welcome by that corporation the man who is technically solvent and who is able, just as easily, to get a loan from the bank? If that is not so, would the Minister have that little word “solvent” removed from the advertisements of the corporation in future?
Mr. McGovern Mr. McGovern
Mr. McGovern: The question of credit and of loans would solve itself if agriculture was in a position to pay its way. That would be my solution, and I do not think that there is any other solution. No institution would lend money to an industry which is losing money. That is merely common sense. If money is being lost in any line of business, no lending institution will make a loan to those concerned. I was sorry to read that the Minister did not succeed in his attempt to get a fair price for our agricultural produce on the British market. The present price, as Deputy Corry has pointed out, is not at all satisfactory. I ask the Minister not to give up his efforts in that direction, because, no matter what anybody may say, this country has to export a certain amount of produce. The alternative is to cut down the standard of living for everybody.
If agriculture cannot produce to sell at the price obtainable, then other industries must produce so cheaply as to be able to export a surplus. I do not think that they are likely to do that. Failing that, they must produce sufficiently cheaply to enable those engaged in agriculture to buy their products at a reasonable price. There must be a closer relation between the price of agricultural produce and that of manufactured goods. If that matter is properly regulated, it will go a long way towards settling the problem of credit. There are plenty of banks and other lending institutions prepared to make loans provided the security is good. The first consideration is that the people who borrow should be able to put the money to good use. Unless they are able to make a profit out of their industry, the lending institutions are not interested in them. These facts stare us in the face every day of the week. I urge the Minister to try again  to get a price for our agricultural produce which will meet the cost of production. The alternative is to cut down the cost of production in whatever way is possible, because this country must export in order to pay for its imports.
I was glad to hear the Minister say that he has a scheme almost in working order for giving employment on the land instead of doles. I have been asking the Minister a long time to devise some scheme like that. Everybody in the country will be glad to hear of it, and I hope it will be a success. It will be the greatest boon which has come to the workers for a long time, because they felt humiliated when seeking a couple of shillings, which they had not earned, while their neighbours looked on. That practice was undermining their spirit of independence and was demoralising in every way. The country was going to ruin. Land was going derelict and agriculture was far from prosperous. We can hope now that farms will be improved, and that more production will accrue, while a general spirit of independence will be fostered in the working people in the rural districts. That will be a great national advantage. The Minister or his Department should not be above consulting groups of farmers, whether organised or unorganised, in various districts as to the best way in which the money can be expended. Different districts require different schemes, and it would be well worth while for the Minister or his Department to consider schemes put up by particular districts for what they are worth, instead of having a hard and fast rule for all districts. The Minister might get suggestions which would be very useful and workable if this were done. These suggestions should be considered and, if found workable, should be given a trial.
I think it was Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney who suggested that farmers should be encouraged to grow maize. That is a matter for technical advice. I myself do not know anything about it. It would be a good thing for the Department to carry out all the experiments possible, but if they decide that a certain crop would be useful and profitable, they should not try to force the people to grow that crop against  their own judgment. They should confine their activities, first of all, to research and experimental work and, when they have found that certain crops are profitable, they should never be tried of getting the facts before the people, giving the people facts and figures to prove the success of their work; but by no means should they try to enforce on the people what they believe to be the very best, even though it is the very best. They should leave the people a certain amount of freedom. By constantly persuading them and by giving proof of the success of their experiments, they will have the people in the position that they will be only too glad to try out experiments for themselves and, if these are successful, the whole thing will become general in good time. By this means there will be more co-operation between the Department and the farmers, and that will be a big help.
If we want to get on, there must be co-operation. The farmers should not be taught to regard the Departmental officials and the inspectors as their enemies; rather should they be taught to regard them as their friends. The Department should not try to push views on the farmers and to disregard the opinions that the farmers hold, opinions that they have very good reason for holding, having the experience of generations in relation to certain types of land, the particular crop suited to that land, and the manner in which the crop should be grown. The same applies to other branches of agriculture. It is only by co-operation that we can hope for success. The Department should carry out research work in all directions and furnish the information obtained in the most attractive manner. By this means the Department can be a great help to the farmers. The really important thing is for the people to produce whatever they can and, notwithstanding what many may think, it is necessary for us to export as much as possible, as otherwise our standard of living will go down. In order to succeed in doing these things, there must be closer co-operation between the Department and those engaged in agriculture.
Mr. J.P. Kelly Mr. J.P. Kelly
 Mr. J.P. Kelly: I welcome the Minister's announcement that an employment scheme is ready for approval and that those who are in the rural districts drawing the dole will have an opportunity soon of working on the farms. Where farmers are prepared to give a contribution, they will be able to get useful work done. We are confronted with a particular problem in the rural districts in my own constituency. The single man, under the unemployment assistance regulations, will not get unemployment assistance in the summer months. I find that the compulsory tillage order has not had the beneficial results, in the way of relieving unemployment, that one expected. I will give an instance in order to illustrate that. The owners of what heretofore were grazing ranches let the required 12½ per cent. of their arable land for tillage purposes, but the letting was made to outside speculators, who took the land in the hope that they would be able to reap a profit. These people give no employment. They merely come in and put down a crop of oats; they will come along later to reap the oats, but they will not give any employment.
The single men living in the rural districts feel the full effects of unemployment in the summer months. The unemployment assistance order was instituted with a view to giving the farmers ample facilities for obtaining workers during the summer and autumn, the period when work in the country is at its height. In some counties the position seems to be different. Deputies representing those counties often complain that it is impossible to get sufficient workers, and one of the greatest complaints they had against the compulsory tillage order was that such a position would exist that they would be unable to get sufficient workers. The order may work very effectively in other counties, but it certainly has had an adverse effect on the single men in my county.
I suggest that, in addition to a compulsory tillage order, the Government should have a compulsory employment order running concurrently. In my constituency we have farms of 200 and 300 acres—there are even larger farms —giving no employment worth speaking  of. There may be one man or, in some cases, two men employed. If the Land Commission acquired that type of land for distribution they would divide, let us say, a 300 acre farm among ten families. These ten families would then have a means of livelihood. It would mean giving one man 25 or 30 acres. If the owners of those farms were compelled to give employment in the sense of having one man to 50 or 60 acres, it would help to relieve the rural unemployment problem; it would certainly give employment to every idle man in my constituency.
The compulsory tillage order was introduced with the object of providing food for our people during a state of emergency. I believe that a compulsory employment order is absolutely necessary to ensure that our workers will be able to produce the food. The grazing ranches are a dead weight in our national economy. They should be giving employment to many of our people. There should be a maximum effort in regard to them and maximum production from them.
There is another aspect in regard to these ranches or grazing farms. The 12½ per cent. of arable land has been ploughed, but it has been let to outsiders, and the point arises that the land will be deteriorating. The owner who is compelled to till the land is doing it against his own will; he is looking to the time when he will be able to resume grazing on his farm, when he will be able to revert to the old system of grazing. In the first year of the compulsory tillage order the owner will let 12½ per cent. of the land to an outsider; in the second year he will also let it for tillage, and in the third year it will be similarly let if anyone is foolish enough to take it: but there will be no manure applied to the land. The soil will be losing its value year by year, and weeds will abound. Thistles and other objectionable growths will be allowed to run riot. In that case, land that should be a national asset in this emergency will become a national liability. We saw similar things happening during the last war, and the land then used has never recovered from the treatment it received. It started to grow weeds,  and the same conditions prevail at the present time. That should be a lesson to the Department not to allow a similar state of things to exist during the present emergency.
The owner of the land should not be allowed to extricate valuable properties from the soil without restoring them by an application of manure. He should not be allowed to destroy the value of the land, and the aim of the Department should be to ensure that the fertility of the soil would be improved instead of diminished. The small farmers and tillage farmers who are working land scientifically will get a full return for their work. Each year they will be having a full return, and the nation will benefit as a result. The grazier will have the same amount of value in the first year, but in every other year after that—because of the fact that he will not attend to the land—it will become poorer and poorer.
The Minister concludes that we will have a certain yield from the crops which grow on the 12½ per cent. arable land tilled, but he will be sadly disappointed with the results from these grazing ranches. I believe he should exercise his authority to ensure that we will have maximum production on these farms. During this period of emergency, we expect all farmers to aim at maximum production and the smaller the farm the greater the percentage of tillage; but it is hardly fair that the whole burden should be placed upon the shoulders of the small farmers and of farmers who have been carrying on tillage for a number of years. If it is found necessary later on to increase the present percentage of arable land that must be tilled, it would be unfair to those farmers always carrying out tillage to saddle them with the still further area because the return from the graziers' portion has not been as anticipated by the Minister. Therefore, I suggest that this is a matter which should receive the very careful consideration of the Department. I believe that, if such negligence were tolerated, we would find that it would be a very serious obstacle to progress in our agricultural economy.
Mr. Bennett Mr. Bennett
Mr. Bennett: I should like to  reiterate what Deputy Dillon said in opening the debate here this evening— that, in the circumstances prevailing all over the world, it did not seem timely that we should engage in the usual acrimonious discussion on agriculture in this House. I venture to say that, if the times were normal, we would have had a repetition of the previous debates we had on this subject, but nothing is to be gained by that at this particular time. The policy of the Minister is in operation and I think it behoves us to assist him as far as possible to get the fullest advantage out of his particular policy during the present period of crisis. I have no doubt that the Minister used his great ability—aided by some very able officials—to get the best terms he possibly could for our agricultural produce in the market across the water. It is a disappointment to us that in some matters he did not succeed, and I am certain that it is a disappointment to the Minister himself. In regard to butter, everybody knows that the price of 126/- per cwt. delivered does not nearly approach an economic price. I should like to compliment the Minister on the proviso he has made that, if circumstances make it possible later on to pay a higher price for butter, the price will be retrospective. This will mean that farmers and creameries who have sold at a lower price during the year will eventually get the benefit, if there is an improvement in the situation, as we all hope there will be.
It appears to me that what concerns us more than a satisfactory price for our agricultural produce is that, when we are arranging our agricultural policy during the next year or two, we should have in mind the future position. Wherever the whirl of war leaves the world, it is certain that we are going to have a dire period of adversity. During the next year or two we should consider what the prospects are for our agriculture in the future, and I should like to see a united effort of the Minister and Deputies on all sides of the House on this particular matter. I think it would be advisable that the Minister create some sort of council. I do not mean the council which is considering the conditions of  agriculture as they are at the moment, but some special body of Deputies and others interested, to go fully into the question of what the conditions are likely to be, as far as they can visualise them, and what steps should be taken to meet those conditions.
Increased production will immediately appear to everyone as one solution. The Minister referred to-day to one aspect of the activities of the Government to increase production— cow-testing. I deplore the fact—and I think many other Deputies do also —that there has not been a more general acceptance of the benefits of cow-testing. It was rather a surprise to me to hear the figures read out by the Minister—I had not thought the position was so bad—that only 50,000 out of 1,200,000 were undergoing tests. In other words, I think about 4 per cent. of the cows of this country are being tested at the moment.
I think we should have an all-round campaign in which Deputies in their own constituencies and everywhere else would engage, to show that we do believe in the value of cow testing. I believe there is a general recognition of its benefits amongst Deputies, and there should be a co-ordinated effort to popularise it and to induce farmers to engage in it. There are two ways in which that can be done, namely, by compulsion and by inducement. I think myself that the first method is unthinkable. I should not like to see the present Minister or any other Minister resort to compulsion as the means of increasing milk production in that way. I think the result at which we are aiming could be more readily brought about by some form of inducement. The Minister will say that we have already offered inducements to farmers to engage in cow testing, or to examine the strength and the richness of the milk yield of their cows.
I admit there has been a great deal done in that way; the Government contributes a good deal towards schemes of that character, but much further remains to be done. The difficulty is that the ordinary farmer, even if there is a cow testing association  in his district, does not readily see the benefits that would accrue to him from cow testing. He does not see the advantages he is going to get at the end of a period, and, mind you, though I have myself what may seem an exaggerated enthusiasm for the principle of cow testing, I can see his difficulties. Our aim should be to try to remove these difficulties, and try to offer him the inducement he needs to come into a cow testing association.
In the first place, he sees in his district a number of people who have been engaged in cow testing. They started out with the idea of improving their herds, and at the end of four or five years the farmer who is not a member of a cow testing association asks himself: “How much or how far have these particular farmers who have gone in for cow testing improved their herds?” Even though it may appear a refutation of the arguments which I have already advanced in favour of cow testing, I regret to have to admit that if a census were taken it would prove that that farmer was probably right in his doubts. For certain reasons those of us who have engaged in cow testing for a number of years find ourselves at the end of that period with a number of cows which are not producing on the average very many more gallons than before we joined the cow testing association. Generally, we find that our herds have not greatly improved. The reasons which have militated against an improvement in such herds can be easily stated. Firstly, there is abortion. Some people are luckier than others in that respect, but that is one of the maladies that practically every dairy farmer comes up against at some time or another. If an outbreak of contagious abortion occurs amongst a herd, it wipes out all the benefits that have accrued from cow testing. That is one difficulty, but I do not say it is the chief difficulty, as it occurs only once in a while.
Even in a district where there has been immunity from abortion for some considerable time, the majority of people engaged in cow testing—I emphasise “the majority”—do not improve their cow herds, the main  reason being lack of capital. No matter how enthusiastically a man goes in for cow testing, unless he has some capital behind him he cannot improve his herd. It is useless for him to try. I have myself on my home farm been engaged in cow testing for a number of years with a fair measure of success, but it could not be done without money. A man samples his cows' milk every week, and at the end of the year he finds that there are five or six cows which are uneconomic. If he wishes to improve his herd he has got to dispose of these five or six cows and get five or six others. That requires money, and the average farmer has not got money.
If the production of milk were a profitable pursuit, that is, if butter prices were so high that the production of milk was a paying proposition, the man engaged in cow testing would be able to make so much money out of milk production that it would be possible for him to eliminate the bad cows and so increase the all round value of his herd. Unfortunately that is not the case. With butter at 126/- per cwt., increased by the help which the Government gives to dairying, the price of milk is probably in the region of 5½d. per gallon, or perhaps somewhat less. At 5½d. per gallon, the production of milk is not an economic proposition, so that in a way it is idle for us to try to gather the 96 per cent. of our farmers who do not engage in cow testing, into that very beneficial movement. We know that a good cow will pay better than a bad cow, but when the fact is that no cow is paying, so far as milk production is concerned, it is difficult to induce the ordinary farmer to engage in cow testing. A rather valuable suggestion came from Deputy Linehan, that we should offer something in the nature of premiums for heifers such as are offered for bulls. I should think that even a better way to approach the matter would be to organise something in the nature of an exhibition of heifers at which prizes of £10, £15 or £20 would be offered for competition amongst members of cow testing associations. The competition would be confined to heifers, the property of members of cow testing associations. I think it would follow eventually, if there were  a good many prizes of that kind offered, that the people whose heifers were not eligible to compete would be anxious to come into the association and so qualify for some of these benefits. In that way you might possibly succeed in getting a greater number of people to join cow testing associations. At the moment, the inducement is definitely not there. That is unfortunate, and I think everybody regrets it as much as I do. We have got to devise some means of inducing them to join these associations. When the war is over, and when we have to face its inevitable aftermath, it will be necessary to produce more economically than ever as there will be a difficulty, as far as I can see, in obtaining a fair price for our products. We shall, therefore, have to try to produce at a much lesser cost. Cow testing will help us in that direction if we can attract the majority of our people into it.
There were two or three interesting announcements in the Minister's opening statement to-day. One had reference to cow testing, with which I have already dealt. I hope he will consider providing increased inducement to farmers to engage in cow testing. The second announcement had reference to the financial assistance which the Government is providing for the erection of silos. A minority of people have been advocating the use of ensilage as cattle food for a number of years. I am glad to see that at least in the dairy counties it has been generally accepted as a substitute for other foods. In my own county, I am glad to say, there appears to be a greater tendency, particularly this year and last year, amongst farmers to build silos and to use ensilage as food for their cows. I think the probability is that once you get two or three silos in a district, the thing will spread, and I foresee the day when silage will be a pretty general food, in dairying districts at any rate, and from my own experience I believe it will be a success.
I was also very glad to note, from the statement of the Minister, that he hopes that the farms' improvement scheme will be in operation before the end of the year. I know that, so far as the Minister is concerned, he will try  to get it into operation as soon as possible, and I hope that it will be put into operation as early as possible. A number of us have been advocating for some years now that some of the money that is expended on relief works, and so on, could be spent to better advantage on the land and in improvements in the land, and I am happy to see that the Minister is making an effort to get the other Ministries to fall into line with him so that work of a useful nature, in connection with the improvement of the land, will be undertaken; and that, of course, will have its effect on the workers and others in the country.
I do not propose to say very much more on this particular Vote, except to say that I hope that the Minister and his advisers, in any arrangements that they may be able to make with the people who are the chief purchasers of our exportable goods, will make—as I know they will try to make—the best possible deals they can make, but that they will also bear in mind the continuance for the period after the war of whatever arrangements we may make now. If it is possible to arrange for such a continuance of these arrangements, I think we should try to do so for the period after the war, because, however bad our circumstances may be now during the period of the war, it is after the war is ended that we will be really up against it.
I do not think there is any other prospect before the agricultural community of this country but very hard times for a number of years after these hostilities are over. What the country requires now is a concerted effort amongst all lovers of this country, whether they support the Government or the Opposition, in order to prepare ourselves for the period of adversity that every thinking man must realise is facing us. If, in that period, agriculture in this country goes under, then there is no hope for the industrial or working class in this country. I am sure, however, that the Ministry have that in mind just as well as the Opposition, and all I ask is that they will keep it in mind.
Mr. Cogan Mr. Cogan
Mr. Cogan: In the present uncertain  and abnormal conditions in which we are living, I think it is very pleasing to find that both of the big Parties in this House are agreed as to the necessity for close co-operation in all matters and, in particular, in regard to this matter of agricultural development and agriculture in general. Nobody can forecast under what conditions the farmers may be producing in the course of the next year or two. For that reason it is desirable that no vexatious or unharmonious discussion should take place in regard to past agricultural policy. All our efforts should be directed towards securing that, whatever circumstances may arise in the future, we shall endeavour to get the most that we can out of the agricultural industry, so as to tide this country over the economic difficulties which are certain to face us.
I believe that co-operation between the leaders of our big political Parties and the leaders of all Parties in this House is very essential, but another form of co-operation is also needed, and that is a closer co-operation between the farmers throughout the length and breadth of the country with the Department of Agriculture. I feel that that co-operation does not exist to a very large extent. The average farmer feels that the Department of Agriculture consists simply of a number of well-paid officials who have very little interest in his welfare, who are simply carrying out their statutory duties, and who, beyond that, do not care very much what becomes of agriculture. Now, in order that the Department of Agriculture should give proof to the farmers that it is genuinely and sincerely out to promote agriculture and has a real belief in the advice which the Department so freely tenders to agriculturists, I do not see any reason why the Department of Agriculture should not establish in every county a number of real demonstration farms: farms worked under exactly the same conditions as those under which the ordinary farmer has got to work, and farms on which the balance sheets for each year would be clearly shown to any farmer who might care to visit these farms and inspect the work that is being done. If that were done, I think that farmers  would begin to believe that the Department of Agriculture really and sincerely believe in everything they teach or profess to teach to farmers.
Now, during the years immediately following the last war, 1919 and 1920, the Department of Agriculture undertook a very comprehensive and extensive scheme for finding out the exact costs of production of farms. I think that a very large number of farms were put to the test and very accurate records were kept of all items of expenditure. It was found that, during the year 1920, there was a fairly substantial profit in all branches of agriculture. Of course, we all know that. In 1922 that profit had very considerably declined. In 1923 it had completely disappeared and then the costing scheme was completely dropped. I think the fact that that costing scheme was dropped must deprive farmers to a great extent of confidence in the Department of Agriculture. Farmers ask: “Why should the Department drop that scheme of finding out costs of production immediately that it became clear that there was no profit whatever in agricultural production?” The position is that the scheme was dropped in 1923 or 1924 and has never since been revived. I asked a question in the House some time ago of the Minister for Agriculture as to whether such costs were being recorded, and he told me that they were not. That is one of the causes why the farmers have not a real belief, or have no belief, in the sincerity of the Department of Agriculture and, until confidence is restored amongst farmers in the Department of Agriculture, I believe it would be very difficult to get the active and close co-operation of the ordinary farmer with the officials of the Department.
I make two suggestions. The first is that you have demonstration farms established in every county, of various types of farms, 30-acre farms, 60-acre farms, 100-acre farms, which would be carried on as farmers endeavour to work their farms and, through the work of the Department, prove that the methods recommended by the Department are the most efficient and most profitable. Again, I am suggesting  that accurate costs of production in agriculture be published each year. I think it is absolutely necessary that such costings should be made out because it is utterly impossible for the Department to fix prices for certain products or to advise farmers to go into certain lines of production when they do not know, or have no figures to prove, or have made no tests as to what the costs of production are.
We see in the papers from time to time advertisements such as “Pig-feeding pays”, “There is money in wheat”, “It pays to cut turf”, but the Department have never taken the trouble to work out the costs of production and provide absolute, unquestionable proof that those assertions, contained in public advertisements and announcements, are true. If we had confidence restored between farmers and the Department of Agriculture I believe very great progress could be made towards increasing the output of the agricultural industry, which is the thing which is most necessary at the present time.
I would suggest that one step towards bringing about an immediate improvement in agricultural conditions and immediate increase in production would be to set up in every parish throughout the country a food production committee—call it anything you like—but a committee of what I would call the leaders of public opinion in every parish who would endeavour by every means in their power to press forward the various ideas of the Department and various progressive ideas generally for increased production. I think such committees would be an invaluable help to the Department of Agriculture in promoting increased interest in cow-testing and that they would also be an invaluable help to the Department in securing the best value for the expenditure which it is intended to incur in regard to land improvement, in connection with schemes for the relief of unemployment on land reclamation and improvement. Such a local body in each parish would be able to instruct and advise the officials of the Department and other officials concerned as to what works would be most beneficial in each particular district. In that  connection, I believe that the type of work which should be carried out under this scheme is work which will give increased production at the earliest possible date. I think that what might be called big drainage schemes would not be advisable. The best type of scheme would be the clearing of land which could be put into production during the coming year, the clearing of land which might be overgrown with furze or peat or brushwood, the clearing of small drains, the fencing of such land so that it could be immediately put under cultivation. In addition to that, it should be possible to carry out a certain amount of manuring, to clear up dykes and have the material from those dykes and drains put out on the land so as to give a return as soon as possible, because the most urgent matter at the present time is to get increased production in the next year. Bigger schemes, such as the reclaiming of more inferior land or draining bogs on a large scale, could be deferred until after the work which is immediately reproductive has been completed. I think a local committee would be able to advise the Department of Agriculture in such matters.
Another matter upon which they could give help to the Department of Agriculture is in the promotion of vegetable growing and the working of allotments. An energetic local committee would be able to see that no unemployed man was without an allotment. Such a committee would be able to see that the young boys, very many of whom are on the unemployment register, would take an interest in vegetable growing and would each have an allotment of his own—if he is working, to work during his spare time, and if he is unemployed, to work during the time that he is unemployed. In that way a great deal could be added to production in this country.
I notice that the heifer scheme has been resurrected. I am afraid that it will not achieve very much, because at the present time I know that cows and heifers are fetching a very high price, and a farmer who would borrow money at 5 per cent. to purchase a cow or a heifer, or a number of cows  or heifers, would be taking a very grave risk. For that reason I do not think that very useful results are going to be obtained from this scheme now, any more than when it was introduced some years ago. The best scheme would be that the Department should purchase a number of good heifers from well-known breeders and distribute them on easy terms to farmers who might be in needy circumstances. I believe that such heifers should be purchased under a year old because, at any later age, the cost would be too high. As a matter of fact, the cost is nearly prohibitive at any age at the moment.
With regard to credit, I feel that all the schemes which have been introduced so far for providing credit to farmers have this disadvantage, that they do not provide any credit for the farmer who is most in need of it, that is, the farmer who is unable to meet his current demands and who is at the moment insolvent. Surely it should be possible to devise a scheme under which some relief could be given to the insolvent farmer. As I pointed out before, the British Government, under the various Land Purchase Acts, did undertake to provide credit for the purchase of all the land within this State from the landlords, and to provide that money, in many cases, for farmers who were insolvent. Yet the fact remains that, with the goodwill of the entire nation and the co-operation and support of everybody concerned, the State was not at any loss. I believe that any credit scheme for farmers who have become insolvent should be carried out by the Department, and should be accompanied by a scheme for the assisting of such farmers through the active co-operation of officials of the Department.
I understand that in some of the continental countries, there are organisations for the provision of credit for farmers and even for farmers who have not got solvent security. Those organisations undertake to supervise the manner in which the money is expended and, in that way, give a certain amount of security  to the creditor. If we had a scheme whereby a farmer who applies for a loan and cannot offer a really solvent security would be prepared to contract with the Department of Agriculture to allow a certain amount of supervision over the working of his farm until the debt is paid, that would meet the situation. It would, at the same time, be one of the ways of bringing about the co-operation that is needed between the Department and the farmer, and particularly the farmer who at the moment is insolvent and who is not getting any result whatever out of his land, by reason of lack of capital or poverty generally. That farmer is the one who, most of all, needs to be helped, and I think the method of asistance I have suggested is the only feasible method at present, that is to say, that the State should provide loans and, in return, have the right to supervise the expenditure of such loans.
I have only one complaint to make in regard to wheat. It is that there has not been sufficient concentration upon spring wheat and upon the provision of the proper type of seeds for spring wheat. Practically every year there has been a shortage of spring wheat seed, with the result that it has been very difficult for a farmer, who has not got the best type of tillage land, to go in for wheat growing on anything like an extensive scale. In my own district, the Wicklow-Carlow area, it is practically impossible to grow winter wheat in a satisfactory manner, but spring wheat can be grown, provided the seed is suitable. Until the Department make ample provision for a reasonable and adequate supply of spring wheat seed, wheat growing can never be extended in the areas which are not what might be called first class tillage lands. Any attempt to grow winter wheat on such land has resulted only in the growing of every type of weed ever known and in the deterioration of such land. The promotion of spring wheat growing is most important in relation to land which is not capable of growing satisfactory crops of winter wheat or beet, and it is particularly important because there is at present no guaranteed price for oats, the crop which can be grown in such areas.
 The policy of the Department in regard to the growing of oats has never been satisfactory. I know that to guarantee a price for oats would, to a certain extent, cut across the policy of promoting wheat-growing, but it must be clearly understood that there are areas in this country, which can be easily segregated, in which it is impossible to grow winter wheat, or any wheat, to any great extent. In such areas, at any rate, the Department should be prepared to guarantee a price for oats. It would be quite easy to do that if the oats were grown under a contract similar to that which obtains in the case of beet growing. The beet-growing industry was introduced here in 1926. It was promoted mainly by a continental company and on very efficient and satisfactory lines. If, when the beet-growing industry was established, farmers had been allowed or encouraged to grow an unlimited acreage of beet, the entire scheme would have collapsed after the first year because the acreage of beet would have been too great for the factories to handle.
What applies to beet applies with equal force to oats. There is a market for a limited, and a very limited, quantity of oats in this country and there will always be such a market, but if farmers are encouraged to grow unlimited quantities of oats, the result will always be that one year there will be an unlimited supply and, as a consequence, prices will be uneconomic, and a very small acreage will be grown the following year when prices will be satisfactory. That is an unsatisfactory state of affairs, and I think it is a state of affairs which could very easily be remedied if the Department were prepared to contract with a limited number of growers in the areas where other cash crops cannot be grown. That would save the farmers in such areas from the hardship and the loss of growing a crop which, at the end of the year, they find is uneconomic. I make these suggestions to the Minister in good faith and I hope he will accept them in the spirit in which they are offered.
Mr. Meaney Mr. Meaney
Mr. Meaney: I think the congratulations of the House and the country are  due to the Minister and his staff for their tillage policy, including the Compulsory Tillage Order. Judging by the amount of fresh land that one sees being put under the plough through the country, I think one can say that the agricultural population has given a whole-hearted response to the Minister's appeal to grow more crops this year, particularly crops of the type that will provide more food for human consumption such as potatoes, vegetables, wheat, beet and other cereal crops. I would like to remind the Minister and his officials of the necessity of doing their utmost to procure beet seed for the coming season. I believe it was easier to procure it this season than it will be next, due to the unfortunate war which has cut off some of our sources of supply.
I feel that agriculture as an industry is nearing the cross-roads, and that the time is coming when it must adjust itself to the new situation that may be created. At the moment no one can foretell what that new situation is likely to be. I quite realise that the Minister and his staff are keeping an eye on that problem, and that whatever policy the Government put before the country to meet it will get the whole-hearted co-operation of our agriculturists. Deputy Bennett dealt with the question of cow testing. He said that the scheme was being worked to such a small extent that the average yields of the cow-tested herds had not appreciably increased. One of the reason he gave for that was the prevalence of contagious abortion. I am inclined to agree with him, and hence I think that the Department's experts should make every effort to try and find some preventative for that disease which is costing the dairy farmer so much in trouble, expense and cash. One of the remedies that I would suggest is a thorough examination of the administration of the Livestock Breeding Acts. Personally I am not at all satisfied that the best is being got out of the live stock breeding schemes. I believe that sufficient care is not being exercised in weeding out well-bred stock that are prone to certain diseases. As regards one or two premium bulls which secured first prizes  at county and local shows, what happened was this when it came to the question of the improvement of livestock: that the heifers from those bulls, generally before the end of the second milking period, were found to be suffering from diseased udders and became useless as milkers. I think that could be said to apply to 90 per cent. of them. The farmer who had that type of heifer fattened her and sold her to the local butcher. But what about the male progeny of those bulls? They have already been sold and sent to farmers all over the country, with the result that their female progeny are again found to be suffering from the same disease. That is just as detrimental, from the point of view of increased milk yields and of the work of cow testing associations, as contagious abortion. I suggest that the progeny of all dairy bulls should be looked up from the point of view of their frequency to disease, and that bulls found to be suffering from such diseases should be purchased and slaughtered.
Deputy Bennett also advocated the putting up of more silos and the making of ensilage. From personal experience I can agree with him. I have recently been reading, in a publication issued by the Department of Agriculture, the results of a series of experiments carried out over a number of years at different times and under different conditions. What I would like to see carried out is an experiment with grass converted into ensilage and grass converted into hay, fed to dairy and fattening cattle, and have the results published. The farming community would then have information to enable it to arrive at a decision on this question of ensilage. I welcome the heifer loan scheme, but would have had a warmer welcome for it if it were introduced 12 months ago. Nevertheless, I believe that it can still be of great benefit to the dairy farmer. Due to present circumstances over which we in this country have no control, I believe, as I said at the opening, that the agricultural industry at the moment is approaching the cross-roads. Suggestions that one could make might be feasible under one set of circumstances and might not under another.
Mr. O'Reilly Mr. O'Reilly
 Mr. O'Reilly: I move to report progress, and ask leave for the Committee to sit again later to-day.
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: On that motion I call on the Taoiseach.
Dáil Éireann 80 Committee on Finance. Vote 30—Agriculture.