Dáil Éireann - Volume 139 - 16 June, 1953

Committee on Finance. - Vote 27—Agriculture.

Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Walsh): I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £3,684,310 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, 1954, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture and certain Services [1342] administered by that Office including Sundry Grants-in-Aid.

Mr. Dillon: Does the Minister intend to favour us with a White Paper this year?

Mr. Walsh: Yes.

Mr. Dillon: Is it available?

Mr. Walsh: I think so. The total sum estimated to be needed for the year 1953-54 amounts to £5,525,310. Of this sum £1,841,000 has been granted by way of Vote on Account, leaving £3,684,310 to be granted now to complete the Vote.

Deputies will observe from the printed Estimates that the total sum required for 1953-54 represents a net decrease of £1,738,920 as compared with the revised Estimate for 1952-53. The decrease includes £1,315,000 for subsidies on dairy produce, which were discontinued last year, and £955,000 in respect of repayable advances to Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, Teoranta, for importation of superphosphate which was a special provision for 1952-53 and is not recurrent. The only other substantial decrease is one of £100,000 in the provision for the fertiliser credits (wheat) scheme, under sub-head O (5)—Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Acts, etc.—which is now in its final stages.

The sub-heads which show substantial increases as compared with 1952-53 are the land reclamation scheme, for which an additional sum of approximately £397,000 is provided, the ground limestone subsidy provision which is increased by £150,000, and the Grain Storage (Loans) Act, 1951, for which an additional £150,000 is required.

Since the Estimates for 1953-54 were printed, I have instituted some new schemes, and the necessary provision for them is being made in a Supplementary Estimate which has been circulated to Deputies. The estimated expenditure involved in these schemes is being met from savings on the main Estimate arising from the decision to meet cold storage allowances on creamery butter from the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund. Apart, therefore, from a token sum of £10, the [1343] Supplementary Estimate does not involve any increase in the total sum required for the year.

I have already circulated to Deputies a White Paper giving details of the work of my Department during the past year. In introducing this Estimate, I would like to touch on a few matters of particular importance. In doing so let me say at the outset that the agricultural picture generally is gratifying and the best thanks of the Government and the community are due to the farmers for the efforts they have made.

The January 1953 Census of Live Stock shows as compared with the 1952 figures an increase in every category except poultry. The highlight of the returns is the rapid increase in pig numbers from 551,400 in January 1952 to 764,700 in January, 1953. Sheep numbers also show a very satisfactory increase and there too we are within sight of the pre-war level. Cattle numbers have risen also though naturally not to such a striking degree.

The fear of a serious decline in cattle numbers which was frequently voiced during the past year has proved unfounded. In fact the cattle industry has contributed increasingly both in volume and value to the increase in exports.

Deputies will be aware that our balance of payments has shown a remarkable improvement in the past year. This has been due on the one hand to a decrease in the value and volume of imports and on the other to an increase in the value and volume of exports. The agricultural industry has contributed largely to this improved position. Agricultural exports make up practically 75 per cent. of total exports. In the year ended March, 1953, the total value of agricultural exports was £73,000,000. The corresponding figure for the year ended 31st March, 1952 was £65,000,000 and for the year ended 31st March, 1951, was £57,000,000.

On the other hand imports of wheat, maize and sugar declined from £19,500,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1952, to £16,000,000 approximately in the year ended 31st March, [1344] 1953. The value of these imports amounted to £16,706,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1951. Most notable in the development in our export trade has been the substantial increase in exports of carcase meat and tinned meat. Exports of these two items amounted to £11,996,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1953, as against £8,514,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1952, and £2,747,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1951. The past year has also seen the revival of our important trade in pigmeat. Exports of pork carcases to Britain commenced in July, 1952, and of bacon and hams in November, 1952. By the end of March, 1953, some 134,000 cwt. of pork and 62,000 cwt. of bacon and hams had been exported; the total value of these exports was £3,317,000. The increase in pork exports is noteworthy, particularly as up to 1952 we had no exports of pork. A most encouraging feature of this increase in pigmeat production is that it has been based mainly on home-grown feeding stuffs—indeed during the past 12 months imports of maize declined by as much as 30 per cent.

The relatively recent and important trade in chocolate crumb has now reached a new high level; exports for the year ended March, 1953, were £5,308,000 as compared with £4,136,000 for the year ended March, 1952, and £2,718,000 for the year ended 31st March, 1951.

There was also a notable increase in exports of sheep and lambs alive and dead. The total value of exports of fat sheep, store sheep and lambs to Britain and the Six Counties for the year ended March, 1953, was £1,319,000 compared with £462,000 for the year ended March, 1952, and £369,000 for the year ended 31st March, 1951. Exports of mutton and carcase lamb amounted to £729,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1953, as against £297,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1952, and £400,000 in the year ended 31st March, 1951.

The export of wool, which declined somewhat in the beginning of 1952 because of the fall from the very steep level which prices had reached following the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950, showed an upward trend in the [1345] past six months or so. In poultry and eggs we continued to maintain the export figures of the past few years. The marketing of eggs and poultry has encountered new problems since the British Ministry of Food decided to decontrol the price of eggs in Britain from the end of March last. This is one of the changes in our export markets for which we must prepare. In the long run, however, these changes should not operate to our disadvantage if the quality of our eggs is maintained, if we produce more eggs in the second half of the year when prices are high, and if the costs of production are kept low by the better and more widespread use of home-grown feeding stuffs.

The question of feeding stuffs brings me to what has been one of the main features of Government policy during the past year. I refer to the drive for an increase in the area under tillage. Starting in the early part of the winter of last year and continuing until the end of spring, my Department maintained a steady publicity drive for increased tillage. I have no doubt whatever that the substantial expansion of tillage provides the surest basis for a growing and profitable live-stock economy in this country. The principal factor limiting the very necessary increase in our agricultural production is the large area of land under permanent pasture. We have here some 12,000,000 acres of potentially arable land of which only about 1,750,000 acres are under tillage, leaving 10,000,000 acres of grassland of very varying quality. Up to 3,000,000 acres should eventually be tilled annually in order to ensure the optimum use of all our arable land. The drive which we instituted has, as far as we can see, produced good results. I expect a substantial increase in the area under wheat and the overall area under tillage is likely to be greater than it was last year. I should like to think that our farmers now realise the value of feeding barley as a stock food.

It is my policy to maintain and extend the use of education and educational propaganda so as to bring the farmers of this country to realise that a prosperous future for them lies in greater tillage.

[1346] The Government, in advocating a substantial increase in tillage, has two main purposes in view. In the first place, we are convinced of the need to maintain a large area under wheat, which is a security crop. To ensure that an adequate area of wheat is sown we have guaranteed what every reasonable person must regard as an attractive price. We must avoid finding ourselves in the position, should international conditions alter, of having to depend to an unnecessary extent on the goodwill of other countries to maintain a supply of bread for our people here. The fact of being put in such a position of dependence could have very serious repercussions should conditions arise in which normal supplies would be seriously threatened. Secondly, and this is also most important, we are quite satisfied that there can be no permanent and profitable expansion of live-stock production in this country and particularly the production of pigs and poultry so long as we continue to depend largely on imports of maize. Neither the supply nor price of maize is within our control or even affected by our purchases, while we have now, through the growing of feeding barley, high-yielding potatoes, fodder beet and silage, the means at our disposal to achieve such an expansion profitably and independently. Imported maize is now too dear as the principal food for pigs and poultry. While its price has over the past year come down somewhat, it has in recent months hardened again and there is no guarantee that we shall ever have abundant and cheap maize in this country again. Only by producing our pigs and poultry on feeding barley and on oats grown on the farm can we hope to compete in the export market.

The maintenance of an area under tillage commensurate with the total amount of arable land offers a magnificent opportunity for good rotational farming and a substantial increase in the ploughing up and reseeding of old permanent pastures. Grass in our conditions is still the cheapest feed and we can get good grass most quickly and profitably by more tillage.

Over the past year there have been frequent references to the alleged [1347] stagnation of our agriculture. Our farmers have been accused of producing now little more than their great-grandfathers did 100 years ago. I should like now to put very briefly before you a few points which I think will place this matter in better perspective.

It would be very hazardous to draw any definite conclusions from comparisons of output now and output 100 years ago, if only because of the great uncertainty attaching to the earlier figures. Moreover, any comparison between agricultural output now and output then must have regard to the special circumstances of production in the different periods. A point too often forgotten is that the total population of the Twenty-Six Counties declined by 42 per cent. between 1851 and 1951 and that, in recent times, there has been a continuing decline in the number of male workers engaged in farm work. The number of these workers fell from 579,409 in 1934 to 499,542 in 1948, to 452,704 in 1951, and to 441,000 in 1952. That is to say, there was a decline of almost 24 per cent. in the number of male agricultural workers between 1934 and 1952. The volume of net agricultural output excluding turf was approximately 2 per cent. higher in 1952 than in 1934; this means that output per male worker increased by around 27 per cent. between 1934 and 1952. I hope that the figure for 1953 of agricultural output will indicate a still greater level of output.

In comparing agricultural output here with that of other European countries full regard should be had to the fact that, while the population of this country fell drastically over the last 100 years, that of other European countries increased considerably. This increase in population has in itself created a growing and secure internal market for agricultural producers in these countries. The internal market in many European countries has been further widened by the expansion of industrialisation. Producers in these countries could expand their output in the knowledge of an expanding home [1348] market for their production. The existence of a large industrial sector in the economy naturally gives greater resources and flexibility to the State for support, where necessary, of the agricultural producer than in the case of countries with a relatively less substantial industrial sector.

In some discussions of agricultural output, I have noticed a tendency to decry the system of small holdings which prevails in this country as an obstacle to expansion of output. This point of view leans heavily on the possibilities of increased output through large-scale mechanisation. It should be remembered that very high levels of agricultural output have in fact been achieved in farming communities where the average holding is much the same as in this country and particularly where agricultural effort is directed largely to the production of live stock and live-stock products. Furthermore, in a predominantly agricultural economy such as ours, the system of small holdings is of very great national and social significance.

The scope for guaranteeing prices to agricultural producers here is, in practice, limited to a few commodities which can be wholly absorbed on the home market. Over 30 per cent. of our total agricultural output is disposed of in outside markets. If the amount of agricultural output consumed by farmers themselves is deducted from the total, the proportion of the remainder disposed of on outside markets is approximately 46 per cent. Because of the limitations of the home market, any increase in agricultural output over present levels, apart from increased production of wheat, sugar beet and feeding stuffs, must be sold abroad. The level of output is therefore directly influenced by the scope and nature of the export outlets available. Where these outlets have been reasonably satisfactory, the agricultural community has taken advantage of them, and it may be remarked that in recent years exports of beef and cattle, in terms of live animals, have risen as follows:—1948, 405,000; 1949, 523,000; 1950, 591,000; 1951, 642,000; 1952, 739,000. On the other hand, the [1349] relatively unfavourable export prices for eggs in 1951 caused a marked recession in our poultry and egg production.

Our principal need still is for greater economic activity and a higher level of international trade on the basis of balancing our international accounts. Realisation of this objective will require a further and rapid expansion in agricultural production and exports. The farming community of this country has not failed us in the past and I am confident that our farmers will respond to the requirements of the present circumstances with the same goodwill that they displayed in the emergency years.

Hopeful signs in this direction are indeed increasing. During the past spring I was very glad to see a considerable increase in the usage of fertilisers. Fertiliser prices went up considerably in 1952 mainly because of the effects of the Korean war, and purchases fell away. Indeed we know that many other European countries had the same experience. Supplies this year were good, prices were lower and possibly, too, because of a fuller realisation by farmers of the benefits to be derived from fertilisers much greater quantities have been used than in the spring of 1952. By comparison with other countries in Western Europe, however, we are still relatively very low in the scale of fertiliser utilisation, and there is accordingly great scope for further improvement. One of the surest and most direct ways of securing increased agricultural production is to use fertilisérs adequately.

The increase in the use of ground limestone continues. In the year ended March, 1953, almost 500,000 tons were delivered as compared with 280,000 tons in the previous year. There are now 27 grinding plants working, and one further plant is about to commence work. Six more are planned. The limestone transport subsidy scheme has up to now been eminently successful but, as the grinding plants are now fairly evenly spread throughout the country, I am at present giving consideration to whether more efficient [1350] means of utilising the subsidy provision can be devised. There is no doubt that deliveries of ground limestone could be considerably improved if farmers would order their lime and accept delivery of it in the summer months. There seems to be a fairly general opinion that ground limestone should be applied in the spring; it can equally well be spread during the summer and autumn months. At the moment the bulk of the demand for ground limestone arises in the late winter and spring. This results in a back-log of orders and consequent delays. There is no reason why delivery could not be efficiently spread out over the year to the greater satisfaction of everybody. Much the same tardiness in ordering takes place with fertilisers and here, too, there is an unnecessary and avoidable strain on the delivery system during the spring months. These extreme seasonal variations in demand for ground limestone and fertilisers only result in greater cost or poorer service to the farmer.

The increase in the use of lime and fertilisers is clear evidence of the good results of the educational and advisory work of my Department and of the county committees of agriculture. The number of soil samples sent for analysis to Johnstown Castle Agricultural College during the spring of this year showed a very big increase. I am considering proposals to relieve the pressure on the laboratory at Johnstown Castle and to speed up the work of testing by the provision of additional centres. Considerable interest was evoked during the spring in the results of trials carried out at Johnstown Castle by my Department with ground limestone. These results were given wide publicity in the Press. They showed how over a period of six years the total increase per acre in the production of crops at present-day prices was £100 greater as a result of the application of ground limestone at a cost of about £2 or £3 per acre.

In the past six months I have introduced a demonstration scheme to help county committees of agriculture to provide 20 tillage demonstration plots and 20 grassland plots in each county [1351] instructor's area. This scheme is designed to indicate to farmers locally and practically the advantages of adequate liming and manuring.

Land reclamation under the farm improvements scheme started about 1940 and continued during the war. In 1949, the then existing scheme was extended and divided into two sections, A and B.

Under Section A, a farmer who is prepared to carry out reclamation work himself is assisted by way of free grant. The grant amounts to two-thirds of the approved estimated cost of the work, including labour and materials, subject to a maximum grant. The maximum grant has now been raised from £20 to £30 per statute acre, which includes a sum not exceeding £5 per acre to cover the cost of lime and fertilisers where necessary. The benefits of the increased maximum grant will apply not alone to future applications but also to cases in progress.

In future, arrangements for the purchase and application of lime and fertilisers to the land reclaimed under Section A will be made by the applicants concerned. When they satisfy the Department's local officer that the requisite lime and fertilisers have been applied, a payment to them of the amount withheld from the grant to cover the provision of lime and fertilisers will be made.

The number of applications received is approximately 102,000 representing 878,000 acres. Under Section A the number of grants approved is 72,000 representing 336,000 acres, with a grant expenditure of £2,450,000 including the cost of lime and phosphates.

Under Section B a farmer who is unable or does not wish to carry out the reclamation work himself, can request the Department to carry out the work on his behalf. In such cases the farmer is required to contribute two fifths of the estimated cost of the work, subject to a maximum contribution of £12 per statute acre. If he does not desire to pay his contribution in cash, he can arrange to have his holding charged with the appropriate amount which will be repayable by way [1352] of annuity calculated on the basis of 3½ per cent. interest and ½ per cent. sinking fund. The yearly annuity for each £100 worth of work done is £4. The provision of the facility whereby farmers could arrange to have their holdings charged with an annuity necessitated the passing of the Land Reclamation Act, 1949, which empowered the Land Commission to be the collecting agency with the same powers of collection as that body has in respect of its own land purchase annuities.

The number of farmers who have asked the Department to carry out the work for them is 15,280. Plans prepared for 4,120 cases represent an acreage of 70,350. Approximately 38,000 acres have been reclaimed on 2,060 holdings.

Work is carried out on the holdings of farmers by the Department using its own machinery or employing contractors. The Department has acquired machinery to the value of approximately £360,000. There are 21 full units and 4 subsidiary units of drainage and reclamation machinery operating throughout the country. In addition, there are also operating throughout the country miscellaneous items of equipment, such as excavators, crawler tractors, etc. Arrangements for the disposal of the machinery operated by the Department, the decision in regard to which I announced at the end of 1952, are now in train. It will be a gradual process so as to ensure the minimum dislocation of the work. Seventy-one contractors have been assisted by way of grant or grant and loan under the land reclamation machinery scheme in acquiring machinery for land reclamation work. A few independent contractors are also carrying out land reclamation work.

Under Part IV of the land reclamation scheme, i.e., the fertilisers scheme, facilities are provided whereby farmers may have a soil analysis report on their lands on payment of a soil testing fee of 1/- per acre and may obtain credit for the purchase of fertilisers repayable as an additional charge added to their land purchase annuities. Applicants are required to pay 10 per cent. of the cost of the [1353] fertilisers in cash and may pay the balance by way of annuity. This scheme also is operated under the Land Reclamation Act, 1949. Applications totalling 2,792, representing 143,600 acres, had been received to the end of April 1953, under this scheme. Soil tests had been made on 2,240 holdings, representing 113,500 acres, and delivery and spreading of fertilisers has been effected or arranged for approximately 900 holdings, representing 44,000 acres. A large number of farmers, having had the soil tests taken, do not avail themselves further of the facilities provided under the scheme.

Drainage pipes, both home manufactured and imported, are used in considerable quantities, and there is a ready market for all good quality home manufactured pipes. The home production of pipes is, however, still grossly inadequate to meet the requirements of the land reclamation scheme and imports of clay pipes from Holland and the six north-eastern counties had to be continued during the year. To the end of March, 1953, approximately 20,000,000 pipes had been imported. Following the publication in March, 1951, of the Standard Specification (Concrete Land Drainage Pipes) Order, 1951, a number of concerns are now producing concrete pipes, which are being used in suitable ground conditions.

As regards the special Connemara scheme up to the end of April, 1953, 818 applicants had been approved for grants amounting to approximately £22,000 for the execution of work on 1,097 acres. The maximum grant has now been raised to £30 an acre with the existing maximum allowance in addition, of £8 per acre for lime, phosphates and potash. Six hundred and two applicants had requested the Department to undertake the reclamation work for them, and work had been completed or was in course of completion on the holdings of 108 of these applicants, the area involved being 620 acres approximately.

As a result of experiments carried out over a few years by Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, the company was satisfied that high bogland properly [1354] drained, manured and cultivated, is capable of producing good crops of grass, potatoes and sugar beet. It was accordingly decided to afford Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann financial support for a scheme of reclamation by way of grant in respect of such acreage as might be successfully reclaimed.

In addition, it was decided to provide a grant under the land reclamation machinery scheme towards the purchase by Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann of machinery to the value of £20,000, for use in bog reclamation work. A grant of £6,666 13s. 4d. was paid to the company in respect of the purchase of such machinery.

Under these arrangements, Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann has been engaged in reclamation work at Reen Bog, Kenmare, and at Gowla Bog, near Ballyforan, County Galway. To date, an area of approximately 17 acres reclaimed at Reen Bog and 165 acres reclaimed at Gowla Bog have qualified for payment of grants from land reclamation scheme funds.

The new land reclamation scheme came into operation in June, 1949. Under Section A, up to the end of June, 1951, there were, roughly, 36,000 grants approved in respect of 159,000 acres. The amount involved in grants was approximately £1,144,000. The amount which was paid for work completed was approximately £177,000.

Now the position is that grants have been approved in approximately 72,000 cases for 336,000 acres. The amount approved for grants is £2,450,000. A total of £895,000 has been paid in grants. Therefore, a sum of £718,000 has been paid in grants since June, 1951, as against a sum of £177,000 paid before that date.

Under Section B — up to the end of June, 1951, there were 2,030 plans ready, comprising 28,500 acres. The cases completed or in course of completion were 474, involving an area of 9,200 acres. At present, 4,120 plans, involving 70,300 acres, are ready. The number of cases now completed or in course of completion is 2,560, involving approximately 49,000 acres. Therefore, since June, 1951, 40,000 acres have been dealt with, as against 9,200 acres before that date.

[1355] In 1949-50 expenditure totalled £228,147; in 1950-51, £568,666; in 1951-52, £1,619,460; in 1952-53, £2,517,602.

These figures serve in themselves to demonstrate the progress made in land reclamation since the new scheme started.

It is not alone in soil testing that a growing interest in the application of scientific methods to agriculture is evident. In recent years there have been considerable increases in the number of instructors in agriculture employed by the county committees of agriculture. In March last for instance there were 115 instructors by comparison with 105 in March, 1952, and 88 in March, 1951. This and other signs of greater demand for scientific instruction by farmers are very welcome.

I should like to refer here, too, to the use farmers have been making in recent years of veterinary aids for the combating of diseases in cattle and sheep. A few years ago a scheme for the vaccination of calves against fluke and against worms was introduced.

Mr. Dillon: Vaccination?

Mr. Walsh: Yes.

Mr. Dillon: Against fluke?

Mr. Walsh: Yes.

Mr. Dillon: How would you vaccinate a calf against fluke or against stomach worm?

Mr. Walsh: Hoose worm.

Mr. Dillon: That is certainly a development since my day.

Mr. Walsh: You inject them against hoose.

Mr. Dillon: I will not press you too strongly but you are the first man that ever mentioned vaccinating a calf against stomach worm.

Mr. Walsh: There was in the first few years of this scheme a notable decline in calf mortality but we have noticed over the past year that the decline has not continued. The mortality is not, of course, anything as great as four or five years ago, but I think there is a [1356] danger that farmers have become overcomplacent. I would strongly advise them to continue the use of the recommended treatment as the benefits to be derived from the very small expenditure involved are very great by comparison with the losses which can be caused by neglect.

The Government has put proposals to the American Government for the utilisation of the bulk of the fund of £6.15 million which is the Irish counterpart of the dollar grants made to us under Marshall Aid. These proposals include:—

£

1. The establishment of an agricultural institute. (Estimated sum required to meet capital costs)

1,250,000

2. Scheme for the subsidisation of the delivery costs of ground limestone

1,750,000

3. The provision of a regional scheme for the eradication of tubercular cattle

700,000

4. Grants towards the purchase by creameries and cream separating stations of equipment for the pasteurisation of separated milk and the sterilisation of milk containers

500,000

5. Grants towards the provision of cold storage and quick-freezing facilities for poultry, rabbits and eggs

200,000

6. Grants for the purchase of equipment for the cultivation and cooking of potatoes

50,000

7. Grants to assist Muintir na Tíre, Macra na Feirme and the Irish Country women's Association

30,000

8. Technical assistance

350,000

We have now in operation a total of seven main artificial insemination centres and 28 sub-stations, and the intention is to increase this number. In 1952 there were 76,000 inseminations as compared with 32,000 in 1951 and 11,000 in 1950. About 50 per cent. of the [1357] total inseminations were of dairy shorthorn cattle.

This brings me to what I might call the cattle controversy, which has been occupying a considerable amount of space in the columns of newspapers over the past year. A few months ago I reconstituted the Live-stock Consultative Council, to which I nominated as many as I could of the foremost authorities on cattle breeding. On my meeting with this body I found very considerable divergence of opinion on the live-stock breeding policy this country should follow—one set of views tending to cancel out the other. I am satisfied that the best breeding policy is to improve the milk-producing qualities of the shorthorn cow without impairing the beef-producing qualities. At the same time it should be recognised that no one is compelled to keep shorthorn, or predominantly shorthorn, stock. Farmers are free to keep Ayrshire or Friesian herds if they so choose. I think, however, that too great a switch-over to milk production would not be in the country's best economic interests.

It can be definitely, forecast, I think, that the external market for our meat products will be more stable than that for our milk products. We are going to have to meet much greater competition in milk products than in beef. I consider the shorthorn is the animal best adapted for our policy. It is capable of giving a reasonable quantity of milk, good calves, good stores and good beef.

Up to now I have dealt mainly with production achievements, problems and practices. The farmer, like every other producer has, however, to take into account and adapt himself to, market requirements. That brings me to one of the most important aspects of the agricultural industry, namely, the markets available to the farmer for his products. About 30 per cent. of our total agricultural production or 46 per cent. of the net sales off farms have to be disposed of in markets outside our control. We in the Department and the farmers themselves must keep these markets under constant review. There is a steady trend away from price control and bulk purchase [1358] in our main market—Britain. For some time poultry and tinned beef have been freed from price control and bulk purchase, while price control on eggs in Britain has recently been removed. It would be unwise to think that this is the end of the process. Accordingly, we are facing a position in which the farmer's returns tend to be determined by the quality he can offer the individual consumer abroad and the level of his own production costs. Markets outside Britain, particularly the American meat market, have in general contracted for a variety of reasons during the past 15 months. The question of our trading relations with Britain has been under discussion for some considerable time and I hope to make an announcement on this subject to-morrow.

Mr. Dillon: Why to-morrow? If the Minister has anything to tell us could he not tell us now?

Mr. Walsh: If I gave it to-night you would have nothing to say to-morrow. You have enough to go on with to-night. Every farmer can rest assured that a prime objective of Government policy will be to secure from other countries the best possible prices for agricultural exports.

I would not wish to conclude without referring to the subject of milk. In an endeavour to ascertain, as far as costings will allow, the production costs of milk, I have provided the Milk Costings Committee, which commenced its work on the 1st October last, with the staff and other facilities requisite to its task. The committee is going ahead with its work but, for obvious reasons, it will need to ascertain figures for a full 12-monthly period. It is therefore unlikely that a report will be ready before early 1954.

Without prejudice to the report of the committee I should like to remind Deputies that the saturation point of demand for butter in this country and for other milk products abroad may well have been reached at present prices. There is no export market at present or in sight for butter at our present costs of production and the home market is now consuming per [1359] head of the population more than any other country in the world. Up to the present we have been fortunate in obtaining satisfactory prices on the limited export market for our other milk products but competition from other countries is expected to become more severe in the future. The difficulty already experienced in disposing of any substantial quantity of fresh cream in the British market should be a warning.

If the dairy farmer wants to assure his income from milk he must produce it more economically and this can best be done by increasing milk yields. It is quite feasible to increase milk yield by another 150 gallons per cow by the better feeding and management of stock.

This afternoon, at Question Time, Deputy Dillon put me a supplementary question regarding the bonus on spring lambs. I would like to give this information to Deputy Dillon and the House because at Question Time the Deputy did not seem to be satisfied with the answer which I gave him. Pending completion of the proposed new annex to the 1948 Trade Agreement, the schedules of prices for fat cattle, and fat sheep and lambs as well as carcase beef, mutton and lamb exported to Britain during the year mid-April, 1953 to mid-April, 1954, have not been settled. As regards live fat cattle and fat sheep and lambs the Ministry agreed as an interim measure to apply, as in previous years, the increases granted in the prices for British home-bred stock under the February price review. In the case of sheep and lambs there was a general increase of ½d. per lb. carcase weight for all grades. As regards carcase meat, the Ministry are paying interim prices of the same actual amount as last season pending settlement of the appropriate carcase differentials. The Ministry had agreed in principle last autumn to apply to Irish fat lambs in 1953-54 the variable spring lamb bonus then fixed with the representatives of the National Farmers' Unions in Britain for home-bred fat lambs. The bonus is for a short period up to about mid-July [1360] and applies only to first-grade lambs not over 16 weeks old but yielding carcases not less than 26 lb.

Following reports recently that, because of payment of the bonus in the Six Counties, large-scale export of lambs was taking place from here across the Border, and that the direct exporters to Britain could not compete, the British Ministry of Food was specially asked to pay the spring lamb bonus right away for Twenty-Six County fat lambs exported to Britain. The Ministry agreed to do so as a provisional arrangement pending the detailed price discussions for the 1953-54 season to follow on completion of the new annex. The prices paid since mid-April for fat stock and meat exported to Britain have not, of course, been published by the Department pending completion of the annex.

The type of lamb affected by the spring lamb bonus now introduced would normally be exported to Britain in carcase form only. Those being marketed here until the Ministry agreed to apply the bonus to cross-Channel exports were, in fact, getting the benefit of the bonus by reason of the trade taking place with the Six Counties so that the producer was not suffering. What was happening was that the direct exporters in the Twenty-Six Counties were unable to compete for such lambs for export to Britain, and all that the payment of the bonus now for cross-Channel exports does is to enable the direct exporters to operate at the current price for such lambs.

An Ceann Comhairle: There is a motion to refer the Estimate back.

Mr. Dillon: I move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. I find it hard to believe my ears. Last Monday week the carcase of any lamb exported from this country to London procured for the exporter the published price for lamb, plus 6d. a lb.

Mr. Walsh: No.

Mr. Dillon: The seasonal bonus of 6d. per lb. became payable on last Monday week.

Mr. Walsh: Not Monday week.

[1361] Mr. Dillon: On June 12th. I believe it was last Monday week.

Mr. Walsh: That was not June 12th.

Mr. Dillon: The Minister ought to know. Perhaps he will tell us. Was it June 8th? Was it not payable from last Monday week?

Mr. Walsh: No, last Wednesday.

Mr. Dillon: Last Wednesday. Lamb to be slaughtered, dressed and consigned to the British market, arriving there on Wednesday, was purchased presumably in this country on Monday or before. The information that that extra bonus was available was made known to the Live-stock Exporters' Association. The information about that extra price per lb. for lamb was made known to every meat packer. If the average weight of a carcase was 40 lb. it represents approximately £1 per lamb. Now to my knowledge there were eight special buyers out from one packing firm for lambs in the course of the last ten days, and there were lambs brought to the fair in the course of the last week. Now I ask every Deputy in this House, if you got 25 ewes last year and went to the trouble of weaning 30 lambs and a fellow turned up at your holding and paid you for the lambs, or if you went to the trouble of taking them to the fair and you sold them, and you then discovered that you had sold them £1 cheaper because he knew from the Minister for Agriculture something that you did not know——

Mr. Walsh: That is all wrong.

Mr. Beegan: You were not so interested in that at one period.

Mr. Walsh: It is a pity you did not go to some of the fairs over the past week.

Mr. Dillon: It leaves me speechless to think that a futile incompetent like the present Minister could so disgrace his office. Did any Deputy in this House ever believe it could be told that in respect of the price receivable for live stock in this country the only section of the community which was [1362] not informed of it would be the farmers when the Minister for Agriculture was the informant? The packer was told, the dealer was told; he did not bother about the farmer.

Why is the price schedule for live stock published whenever it is changed in the public Press for everyone to read? Why is that not communicated by confidential letter to the packer and the dealer? Why is every change in the price schedule for cattle, sheep and meat published in the advertisement columns of the Irish papers by the Department of Agriculture if it is not necessary? What Deputy in this House says that the farmers should not have been told of this change? What remedy had a farmer to whose land a man came last week and offered to buy his lambs, he not having sold lambs at a fair for 12 months? What comfort is it to him now to know that if he had been attending fairs in preparation for his sale he would have discovered that the market was stiffening? All he knew was that somebody came to his land and offered to buy the lambs. All he knew was the last price a neighbour told him he got for lambs. Did the payment of this bonus last Wednesday make any difference in the price of lambs? It increased the price of lambs, did it not?

Mr. Walsh: No.

Mr. Dillon: Yes, yes. I warmly congratulate the Minister for Agriculture on getting that increase. Is there something wrong with me if I feel that if I were Minister for Agriculture and got that increase I would have gone down to Wicklow in the middle of the by-election delighted of the opportunity of telling the farmers? I would not have given a damn about the dealers or the packers. I would have told the farmers and not the dealers and packers—I would leave them find out from the man who owned the lambs that the price had gone up.

Mr. Walsh: They will go up next week. You will see that they will go-up.

Mr. Hilliard: They were anxious to get them over the Border before the [1363] prices rose and they gave them so much for lambs.

Mr. Dillon: Upon my word, are we in Grangegorman or in Dáil Éireann? Have we reached the stage now that the only person who should not be told is the farmer? Have we reached the stage now of securing this benefit and not telling him? Upon my word there are follies and extremes to which Fianna Fáil can go which baffle me.

I have heard a Minister for Agriculture of the Fianna Fáil Party boast that he would buy all the machinery he could get and all the tractors he could get and spend plenty of money and muster ten fields of inspectors, to smash down the fences and break down the gates of the farmers; but I did not think I would live to see the day that any Minister for Agriculture answerable to this House would boast that, in respect of the price payable for live stock, he conceived it to be his duty to inform the packer and the dealer, but quite unnecessary to mention it to the farmer. I think they are the first people who ought to know of it. It is an unprecedented outrage that a Minister of our own Government should have been the instrument of the exploitation of small farmers by middlemen, battening upon them and collaring for themselves profit to which the producer was entitled.

Mr. Walsh: The farmers have been getting it since 1st May.

Mr. Dillon: It is a monstrous thing that the small farmer with 30 or 35 lambs should be £30 the poorer to-night because the Minister who ought to be his protector, his defender, who ought to be most deeply interested in the small farmer's welfare, considers it unnecessary to tell him that the price of his lambs has gone up, and that he would have the effrontery to grin in this House in recollection of what he had done. This unfortunate man looks to me like the Punch in a Punch and Judy show. Every colleague he has whacks him over the head and then he is sent in here to laugh at his own grotesqueness. I hear this unhappy man getting up in the House to-night gently [1364] to rebuke his colleagues for having slandered the farmers so energetically during the last 12 months. He is quite right; his colleagues, in declining degrees of ignorance, have devoted themselves to a slanderous campaign for the past 12 months to demonstrate that the Irish farmer is lazy and incompetent, that he has failed to produce in comparison with the continental farmer. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs had it to tell us that the Belgian trade unionists said to him in explanation of Ireland's distress: “Mais, monsieur, nous travaillons.”

Did the Minister for Agriculture until to-night intervene in that chorus to tell his colleagues what he thought of them? Did he tell the Minister for External Affairs to stop bumbling about what he did not understand? Did he tell the ridiculous Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to trouble himself with telephones and not with cattle? Did he warn the Minister for Industry and Commerce to stop interfering in the business of the live-stock industry — and to mind his manners when he went to Carrick-on-Suir to announce the resurrection of the warble-fly inspector? Did he ever ask the Taoiseach when his colleagues in the Cabinet would be stopped telling him how to do his work in public? I understand that more than one of his colleagues has acquired the prerogative of intervening in private in the administration of the Department of Agriculture. That is a disagreeable aspect of the domestic affairs of this Government into which I have no desire to intrude; but in public, at least, the Minister might be spared the humiliation and indignity of being kicked about by his own colleagues. I welcome his late gesture of defiance, which emboldened him to claim that the Irish farmers are not as lazy, not quite as lazy and incompetent as his ministerial colleagues have been proclaiming up and down the land. I would be grateful if the members of the Fianna Fáil Party would take note of this revolutionary declaration by this Minister for Agriculture.

A Deputy: You are a jealous man.

Mr. Dillon: No. There is very little [1365] said by the Minister to-day that I do not endorse. As to his reference to the land rehabilitation project, the increased acreage dealt with and the increased grants made, I congratulate him from the bottom of my heart. I never had a doubt of it. I knew from the beginning there was not a day lost or a moment wasted, and that just as soon as it was physically possible for the most high-minded public servant to get the work done and the money distributed amongst the people it would be done.

I knew there were some contemptible frauds who hoped to bewilder the public mind by protesting that the work was not going ahead sufficiently rapidly. Whenever that allegation was made in this House I repudiated it and said the ground work had to be done and no diligence or zeal on the part of officers of the Department could avoid that, but that the House would yet see that when the project was under way it would reflect boundless credit on all those responsible for initiating it and putting it into operation. My cordial congratulations to the Minister for having the tale to tell that he told the House to-day.

Mr. Blaney: And the money to spend.

Mr. Dillon: Yes, and the money to spend.

A Deputy: Our own money, not American money.

Mr. Dillon: I would ask the Minister, at some stage, to look back on some of the things he said himself after he had taken charge of the Department, on some of the things he was sent in here to say by his brilliant colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, on some of the things he came in here to say and for which he now has to apologise by implication. Did he see that his colleague the Minister for External Affairs was repeating recently the falsehood that land costs £200 an acre to rehabilitate under the project? Does he remember my bringing him to this House to stigmatise that statement as a falsehood? Has he taken any steps to tell his colleague, the Minister for External [1366] Affairs, not to repeat that falsehood? He dare not, he might lose his job if he did, for he holds it on the sufferance of the Minister for External Affairs. Let me say this to the Minister—he would enhance his personal dignity, he would be a better man, if he told the Minister for External Affairs to mind his own business, even if it cost the Minister his job. One can sometimes pay too much even for so exalted a position as Minister for Agriculture in this country.

Where are we going, Sir, if a day has dawned when the Minister for Agriculture, introducing his Estimate on a Tuesday, should casually announce to the House that a trade agreement was being completed but he will not tell us what it is all about? If he is going to say it to-morrow, where is he going to say it?

Where is he going to make the announcement? Surely this House and the humblest Deputy in it has the right when the Agricultural Estimate is introduced and the Minister tells us the substance of a trade agreement is available, to hear it. Why will he not tell us? Is there something in it that he does not want us to comment upon? Have not the people got the right to know? If an agreement has been made, finished and completed, which affects the people, have not they the right to know? Have not they the right to know through Parliament? How do we function if the Minister feels free to say that he just will not tell? I think it turns our proceedings in this House into something less than they ought to be if this is not the first place the tale is to be told in an affair of that kind. If we, the members of Oireachtas Éireann, do not pay the Oireachtas that respect, how can we expect our neighbours to do as much and, if they do not respect the Oireachtas of which we are members, it will be too much to ask them to have much respect for us.

I think it is an insult to this House to tell us, on the occasion of the Minister's Estimate, that he is going to tell to-morrow what must be of prime interest to every Deputy who is concerned for the matters for which this [1367] Estimate makes provision. Is there any precedent for the Minister announcing that he will not tell the Dáil, but that he will publicise the facts to-morrow?

Mr. Hilliard: There was an announcement made in Ottawa.

Mr. Dillon: Oh. Are these the agreements that were made by Mr. Lemass?

Mr. Hilliard: No. An announcement that was made by Deputy Costello.

Mr. Dillon: It is little embarrassing to find that everything one does is subsequently quoted as the perfect alibi by Fianna Fáil. There is some distinction, I think, between the announcement of a Government's intention to adopt a certain course and the announcement of the terms of a trade agreement, the existence of which was first revealed, typically enough, by the Minister for Lands, in Mitchelstown, the completion of which is mentioned by the Minister for Agriculture to-night, but the revelation of which is postponed to another occasion.

I can do no more than protest. I would be most happy to congratulate the Minister if an agreement advantageous to our people has been made.

Mr. Walsh: You will probably be embarrassed.

Mr. Dillon: I would not.

Mr. Walsh: I am afraid you will.

Mr. Dillon: I am delighted that you got an improved price for lambs. I hope you get an improved price of enduring quality for every live-stock product that our land is capable of producing. Note the qualification—a better price of enduring quality. I could not think the Minister would ever dream of selling our sheet anchor for a painted figurehead.

Deputies on this side of the House have very often reiterated the agricultural policy in which we believe, and it can be crystallised in a phrase—one more cow, one more sow, one more acre under the plough.

Mr. Walsh: I think you might leave [1368] out the acre under the plough. You dropped that many years ago.

Mr. Dillon: We aimed, and will shortly aim again, to expand the live-stock population of this country to the point where all the live-stock food the land of Ireland is capable of producing would be fully employed and that thereto will be added an ever-expanding supply of additional feeding stuffs whencever they can be got at best value, further to maximise production for export. Remember, we never thanked God that the British market was gone forever and we never believed that the farmers of this country could prosper by keeping an Egyptian bee. I heard the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party exhort the people of Ireland in the County Cavan to join with him in thanking God that the British market for live stock was gone forever and telling them that he understood that an alternative practice which might help them to overcome their temporary embarrassment was the production of honey and that the most prolific source, he understood, was the Egyptian bee.

Mr. Cogan: Is this repetition?

Mr. Dillon: There are things even more loathsome than an Egyptian bee.

Mr. Morrissey: His sting will soon be extracted anyway.

Mr. Dillon: Is not there a kind of a bee that is good for nothing, not even stinging? I have forgotten the name of it. Yes, it is good for one thing: it buzzes louder than any other bee and that is the only thing it does.

Mr. Walsh: Now you are talking.

Mr. Dillon: I do not think any member of the Fianna Fáil Party will apply that description to me. Too many of them are rubbing their stings. It has been ever our policy—and I make no apology for repeating it——

Mr. Fanning: Is that when Fine Gael expelled you?

Mr. Morrissey: Fools rush in.

Mr. Dillon: They know I am growing more charitable as I grow older. I am [1369] doing my best not to be drawn on these poor chaps but if they keep sticking out their necks they will get hit— verbally, of course. I exhort members of the Fianna Fáil Party not to draw upon themselves acrimonious rejoinders. I have no desire to hurt anybody's feelings but, like the animal in the book, I have a wicked nature and tend to defend myself when attacked.

We believe that the land of this country may be most advantageously used for the purpose for which it was given us by God, that is, to get for the man who is living on it the best return possible for himself, his wife and family, always provided he leaves it in autumn a little better than he found it in spring by walking his produce off his land. The figures provided for us by the Minister to-day emphasise the soundness of that general policy. He has rejoiced, rightly rejoiced, in the steady increase in the numbers of our cattle, of our sheep and of our pigs. He will be anxious, I know, in his characteristic generosity, to point out that these remarkable increases began after the 1948 Trade Agreement which provided a remunerative and long-term market for live stock in this country. Is there a beast or a carcase being sold out of this country at the present time to Great Britain except under the terms of that agreement? Is there a beast or a carcase being shipped from this country at the present time except under the terms of that agreement?

Mr. Walsh: What about the 1937-38 agreement?

Mr. Dillon: I will tell you. The agreements made by the Fianna Fáil Party created a situation in this country resulting in the dramatic fact that in February, 1948, there were fewer cattle in Ireland than at any time since 1847.

Mr. Blowick: And the farmer was selling them at a lower price.

Mr. Dillon: There were fewer pigs than at any time since the Famine of 1847. There were fewer sheep. Something happened in between.

Mr. Walsh: There is an explanation for all that. Give the explanation.

[1370] Mr. Dillon: There were more cattle last year than at any time in the history of this country, except 1921. As the Minister said, the sheep population is practically back to pre-war and there are 750,000 pigs. Why?

Mr. Walsh: If you do not give the explanation, I will.

Mr. Dillon: What is it? Pray let me give way. I would be interested if the Minister would give it.

Mr. Walsh: I can give the explanation.

Mr. Dillon: Why not give it now?

Mr. Walsh: I will give it in my own time. You know it as well as I do.

Mr. Dillon: He has got good counsel. Deputy Hilliard of Meath says: “Give it in your own time”. Wise Deputy in your generation.

Mr. Walsh: It will take a lot of explaining.

Mr. Dillon: Sheep, cattle, pigs, beef, mutton, pork and bacon are all being sold under two trade agreements, one negotiated in 1948 and the other in 1951.

Mr. Walsh: Pork is not being sold under that.

Mr. Dillon: Yes, under the 1951 Trade Agreement. Those agreements had this dynamic quality, that they did not fix a price. They fixed a price relation which has resulted in five increases in the price of live stock over the last three and a half or four years without any fuss or bother, except this, that on the day any increase began to operate the Department of Agriculture did not communicate with the packers, did not communicate with the dealers. They put a notice in the public Press addressed to the farmers to tell them what the new price for stock was to be.

I congratulate the Minister heartily on that expansion in our live-stock population. I agree with him entirely that, so far as cattle are concerned and, particularly, dairy cattle, their basis and foundation must be grass; grass growing for the longest period [1371] it is possible to get it to grow in any calendar year and grass ensilage for the dormant months. I wonder does the Minister's Party now realise that the milk costing cod has gone up the spout?

Mr. Walsh: Not at all.

Mr. Dillon: That fraud was good enough to fool the farmers while they were being led up the garden path. Now they are called in and the Minister is preparing to break the news to them that he is washing his hands of the whole business. But, as he is washing his hands, he is preparing them for the news that we are reaching saturation point in this country for butter at 4/2 per lb. Deputy Collins of Limerick, a very knowledgeable man, is sitting behind him. What does he think the Minister means by that? I will listen with great interest to hear Deputy Collins on that statement. Does Deputy Collins ask himself now what the Minister thinks will happen when we reach saturation point in the consumption of butter at 4/2 per lb.? Will Deputy Collins ask the Minister in the course of this debate what he proposes to do with his, Deputy Collins's, constituents if and when that point is reached? I will ask him. The Minister has warned us that in his judgment we are fast approaching saturation point in the consumption of butter at 4/2 per lb. and that there is nowhere in the world he can find a market for butter at that price. I thought he was going to say “so we have decided”. I sympathise with poor Deputy Collins's disappointment when the situation at that stage is left in the air. I hope the members of the Fianna Fáil Party will intervene in this discussion to give us their opinion of what will happen when we reach that saturation point. The interruptions are not so fast and furious now.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair is very pleased.

Mr. Dillon: So am I, but I do not think they are.

Mr. Hilliard: Deputy Dillon does not expect to be Minister.

[1372] Mr. Dillon: It often makes me shiver at the thought of cleaning up the Augean stable they are all very shortly to vacate. We did it once, and we will do it again, even if we have to wear gas-masks and fire-proof clothing.

I want to refer to another dirty fraud. The Minister for Agriculture announced, for the purpose of misleading his own colleagues, in my opinion, that he proposed to increase the maximum grant payable under Part B of the land rehabilitation project.

Mr. Walsh: I do not think so.

Mr. Dillon: That part of the project under which the farmer does the work himself—Part A. He deceived some of his unfortunate colleagues into the belief that this new departure represented a concession which would offset the decision to sell the rehabilitation project machinery. A great many of the less sophisticated members of the Party understood the Minister to say that he proposed to increase the grant payable to farmers under Part A of the scheme by £10. Some of them still believe that. Do they not? That is not what he said. What he said was that he was going to increase the maximum grant payable to £30. What is the actual grant payable? Two-thirds of the estimated cost.

Mr. Walsh: Maximum £30.

Mr. Dillon: Before you could qualify for a grant of £30 you would have to prove to the Department that you were going to spend £45 on the acre you reclaim. I have got the figures for the average that the Department paid per acre laid down under that part of the scheme up to the day I left the Department of Agriculture. What was the average? Eight pounds.

Mr. Walsh: In your time.

Mr. Dillon: Yes, and that represents an estimated cost for the work, and the Minister will not deny that the work was properly done on £12 per acre. Suppose it had been £20, £24 or twice or three times what, in fact, it was an acre, the maximum grant which a man whose reclamation costs £24 was [1373] £16. How does it benefit him to tell him: “You are going to get £16, but if you manage to spend more we could give you up to £30.” There is not a single farmer in Ireland who would benefit by this arrangement. He could just as rationally have said that he was going to increase the maximum grant to £40, £50, £100 or £1,000 an acre. Was not that a mean and fradulent thing to do? Was it not a mean and fraudulent thing to mislead the people in that way? Was it not an unworthy thing to do? It was done to cover up the selling of the land reclamation project machinery. What did that involve?

So long as the Department had machinery at its own disposal the position was that under the land reclamation project any farmer, however small or poor, could, by sending a postcard to the Department of Agriculture, put upon them a statutory duty to come and drain or rehabilitate his land, move ditches, provide fences, carry out drainage or any other work requiring to be done and where the work was of a character that it was not physically possible to do it with spade and loy to bring to him whatever machinery was requisite to get the work done. The same privilege accrued to the wealthiest farmer in Ireland. As the situation worked out and as we foresaw it would work out we provided under the original project that where anybody was prepared to engage in the contracting business he could get a grant of one third the cost of his machinery from the Department and the Department would sponsor a loan of one third of the cost and he would have to put up one third of the cost of the equipment himself.

Many fellows did that. I know of one fellow who brought home £2,000 that he had earned on the ground nut scheme and on other colonial work in Africa. He combined with three other fellows who had come from England with their savings and they constituted themselves contractors under this scheme. Inevitably, when the officials of the Department went down to the various farmers and asked them to get the business done the larger wanted [1374] 20 or 30 acres done. That was a good substantial job. Then you came down to Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Kerry and the small farmer, doubting it could be possible that he was to be treated on precisely an equal footing with the sort of farmer for whom he usually worked as a migratory labourer, eventually summoned his courage, took the project at its face reading and called on the Department of Agriculture to come and do his couple of acres or roods and there was no contractor who would undertake the work. You could not get a contractor to bid for the job but the law continued to operate and the fact that you could not get a contractor to bid for the job did not cancel the statutory duty of the Department to go to the smallest farm in Ireland if it was summoned there under the project and so long as they had their own machinery they had a statutory duty to go and they went.

They gave scandal to some Fianna Fáil Deputies, and Deputy Bartley was quite shocked at the idea of sending great machines down to the little patches of land in Connemara. He thought it grotesque and, as he says, a great many of his Fianna Fáil neighbours thought it was quite shocking, and that the spade and the loy were good enough for these people. Were they not getting the dole and what more did they want? I took a different view. I thought there should be at his disposal exactly the same facilities that were put at the disposal of the wealthiest men in Ireland. That was a point of view. It was at the disposal of everybody who owned land in Ireland from the wealthiest landowner down to the poorest farmer on the smallest farm.

Mr. Cogan: Starting with the wealthiest.

Mr. Dillon: The more they did the more land they reclaimed which required rehabilitation, and not an acre could be touched that the officers of the Department did not think stood in need of it. The more it produced the better pleased I was. The Department of Agriculture had exactly the same duty towards the wealthiest farmer and the smallest. If no contractor was available the duty remained on the [1375] Department to go with their own machinery and do the job themselves.

What is the position now? The position now is that the wealthy farmer can still put that statutory duty on the Department, and there will be contractors prepared to do the job. Is not that so? Has the small farmer got that right any more? The Department has no machinery to do it. If they find no contractor prepared to take the job what can the small farmer do? He will do what the Minister means him to do, put on his nailed boots, get out his spade and his loy and do the best he can and put it out of his mind for ever that he has any right to demand from his own Government the amenities which are now only available to the big man. Do the Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party want that? Do they now think that that is right? I am astonished.

I always thought that our aim and purpose was to bring within the reach of our people the amenities and facilities that were withheld from them in the past—and Deputy J.J. Collins thinks that that is all wrong. I understand that we can agree to differ, but it is good to know that what Fianna Fáil have done they have done with their eyes open. Some day they will learn that our people do not agree with them. I think that is a disastrous decision and I am happy to tell the House that it is a decision they may expect to see reversed in the course of this financial year.

Mr. J.J. Collins: What a hope.

Mr. Blaney: Dreaming again.

Mr. Dillon: I should like to ask the Minister for Agriculture when we may expect to enjoy the benefits of artificial insemination in the province of Connaught. It is rather odd that there is not a single station in Connaught unless you concede us the County Clare again.

Mr. Walsh: Next week, in Clare.

Mr. Dillon: I know, but Clare, of course, does not always concede that it belongs to Connaught.

Mr. Walsh: We will keep near you.

[1376] Mr. Dillon: But, to the rest of Connaught I do not think these facilities are available at all.

Mr. Walsh: They are extending.

Mr. Dillon: When you bring them to us I hope the Minister will have thought better of the folly of introducing Hereford bulls into the stations. Has he seen the records of some of these stations where 40 per cent. of the insemination has been done by Hereford bulls? Does the Minister ask himself why the artificial insemination centres were started at all? They were not started just for fun. They were not started primarily to spare people the trouble of driving the cow down the road to the bull. They were started for the purpose of improving the live stock of the country and bringing within the reach of the farmers the services of the best pedigree bulls that could be procured. It must have been to some end if it was designed to improve the live stock of the country. I cannot imagine how we could improve the live stock of the country by breeding cross-bred cattle. None of the heifers or cows going to those stations are Hereford cows.

Surely the original purpose of the scheme, and the only justification for the scheme, was to make accessible to farmers the services of bulls which it would have been impossible to bring within their reach except through the medium of artificial insemination? Was not the ultimate end of the whole plan to ensure that there would be nothing in these artificial insemination centres but proven bulls and that the whole purpose of the Department's activities would be to keep records and and procure proven bulls in greater numbers as the years rolled by so that ultimately we would have nothing in the stations but proven bulls? The very essence of that whole plan was that you could concentrate on shorthorns, Kerrys and, perhaps in certain areas, Friesians.

The Minister said there was no compulsion in regard to the breed you want to keep in this country if certain people wanted Friesians or otherwise. Personally, I would have adhered strictly to Shorthorns.

[1377] The Minister agrees with me that the foundation stock of the country must be the dual purpose Shorthorn cow. How, then, can he justify creating a situation in which 40 per cent. of the services in an artificial insemination centre are by a Hereford bull? What useful purpose is done to the live-stock industry by that? Far from being a help, in my opinion, such an artificial insemination centre is doing serious damage. I do not for a moment wish to say that the Department of Agriculture should claim the right to tell a farmer what bull he will bring his cow to. But if the Department is providing at great expense, both of money and skill, the facility of an artificial insemination centre, then the Department has the right to say: “While not desiring to restrict a farmer from bringing his cow to an Aberdeen-Angus or a Friesian bull, and so forth, the primary purpose of our artificial insemination centre is to improve the foundation stock of the country.”

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Beegan): That accounts for the reason why we have not one in Connaught. We should have a Hereford there if we can.

Mr. Dillon: Deputy Beegan does not understand. I do not want to get rid of the Hereford or to restrict anybody, but why should you set up an artificial insemination centre to induce a farmer to bring his cow to a bull which will result in a cross-bred beast, if your purpose is to help to improve the foundation stock of the country. Deputy Beegan will not argue that a cross-bred beast will make a serious contribution.

Mr. Beegan: In a great part of Connaught the farmer will insist on the Hereford.

Mr. Dillon: Let him. He is welcome to it. Nobody wants to restrict him in any way. But somebody must provide the farmer with a shorthorn cow to bring to the Hereford bull. If there is one living creature in the world that will not provide a shorthorn cow to bring to the Hereford bull, it is the Hereford bull. Is that not so? Whatever brand of bull is provided in an [1378] artificial insemination centre should function to provide the small farmer of Connaught with a class of cow that he can profitably bring to any bull—I think Deputy Beegan would agree with me that there is one way to do that through an artificial insemination centre and that is to make accessible to the farmer the best strain of shorthorn blood available, so that he will risk bringing his cow there in the belief that if she has a heifer calf she will be worth keeping and if she has a bull calf he will be readily saleable.

If there are farmers who, having a good foundation stock of shorthorn cattle, feel that for two or three generations they want to cash in on the calves as they are dropped, then by all means bring their cows to the neighbour's bull, be it black or white face. But why use an artificial insemination centre to that end? I am sure the Minister was gravely wrong in that decision. I cannot but think that in taking it he lost sight of the principal purpose that was in mind when the scheme was set up.

The Minister spoke of a new tile factory for drainage which I understand is to be set up in Clare with the co-operation of Dutch interests. I wonder will we want the tile. Is the Deputy sure of that?

Mr. J.J. Collins: Quite sure.

Mr. Cogan: Deputy Dillon will be on the tiles.

Mr. Dillon: I think it right to pause while the joke registers. Now, if everyone has had time to laugh heartily, we can proceed. My advice to the firm who contemplate establishing that factory is to go ahead, but that advice is based entirely on the assumption that we win both by-elections and put the present Government out.

Mr. Blaney: They down tools on Friday so.

Mr. Dillon: I ask the Minister to tell us what are the Groups G and H referred to on page 109. I believe there was a scheme to set up three divisions of the Department under a senior inspector to deal with plant breeding, soils, fertilisers and so forth, but I do [1379] not recognise the form set out there and I should be glad to know if it is an implementation of that scheme.

I was struck, in listening to the Minister's statement, by his reference to the soil testing facilities provided at Johnstown and if Deputies will look at the White Paper which he was good enough to provide us with, they will find that he describes it as being a development of facilities which were initiated in 1947. I think the House should know the scope of the facilities which existed in February, 1948. The total soil testing facilities of the Irish Republic on that date consisted of one man and a boy in a back room in Ballyhaise who were employing as their agitator for the samples submitted a disused medicine bottle tied to an abandoned bicycle wheel, which it was the boy's function to turn with the first finger of his right hand.

That splendid equipment in Ballyhaise may indeed have been germinal of the institute at Johnstown which, I think, we may claim to be a fair rival of any similar equipment on the Continent of Europe, but, if it is true that it may be so properly described, I can only say that the parable of the mustard seed fades into insignificance because, if the tree that grows from the mustard seed is the greatest tree from the smallest seed, then the laboratory grown from the Fianna Fáil provision for soil testing in 1947 is an even greater miracle; but I am glad that my successor appeciates what is now there and thinks of extending it.

I read with emotion in the Book of Estimates on page 109 of the veterinary inspectorate. I wrote a note opposite it: what has become of the scheme for the reorganisation of the veterinary services? That is a classical problem in the Department of Agriculture. When I assumed office in 1948, that scheme for the reorganisation of the veterinary services was coming up the mountain, and in fact I spent quite a considerable time in eager anticipation of the door flying open any day and at least a draft scheme being laid before me, but the draught was all I ever got in the three years I was there. I wonder does the Minister have the [1380] same experience now. I want to say this quite deliberately that, if he has, it is time to do something about it. There is something wrong with a division of the Department which is in labour for five years and does not produce even a mouse. I should be glad if the Minister could tell us what if any progress has been made in the investigation of the oedema disease in pigs and the copper and cobalt deficiency in calves which was under investigation in the veterinary research station.

Before turning to wheat, I want to ask the Minister why he has decided on a reduction in the money appropriated for agricultural leaflets and whether the Baldwin's rural reader will shortly be published? I think there ought to be a substantial increase in the appropriation for leaflets because the plain fact is that there ought to be a committee of scientists set up to rewrite 90 per cent. of the leaflets. Most of them are grotesquely out of date. There is very little of the Department of Agriculture of which I would ever feel tempted to say I felt ashamed, but I am sorry to say that the leaflets are something which, I think, reflect little credit upon us in their present state. Many of them are so grotesquely out of date as to be positively misleading and they are still being issued. I know that it is not an easy task to undertake the rewriting of these leaflets, but the sooner it is undertaken, the better it will be for everybody.

I understand that there has suddenly turned up in the bacon factories a new genus of inspector the exact nature of which nobody knows but whose principal function as I understand, is to sit doing nothing. They take certain records, and I think they are in some way associated with the Pigs and Bacon Commission, but the scarcity of work which they are required to undertake is, I understand, a source of embarrassment to the firms in whose premises they attend, because the ordinary employees of these firms find it extremely difficult to be as diligent as they would wish to be when they are perenially attended by a public servant whose primary function seems to be to twiddle his thumbs.

[1381] The Minister spoke of the Grain Storage Loans Act. I was glad to hear him speak of it but he did not tell us much about it. I would like to know what provision is being made or what storage is in contemplation.

There is a feature of the situation that lies ahead of us which requires consideration. I believe the whole of the people of this country depend for their survival on the land and unless that land yields a profit for those who work it, everybody in Ireland will ultimately be doomed. The Minister rightly pointed out that in our circumstances greater and greater regard must hereafter be had to our foreign markets because the capacity of our domestic market to absorb the output of agriculture is strictly limited. There are between 10,000,000 and 12,000,000 acres of arable land in this country. I do not think we can afford to leave a single rood of that land unprofitably employed. The present price payable for wheat grown in this country works out on the average of 88/6 per barrel for dry Irish wheat. Wheat of comparable quality and moisture content fell 10 cents on the Chicago wheat pit yesterday and, on the basis of that price, 1 dollar 88 cents a bushel, is probably purchasable delivered here in Ireland to-day, at somewhere in the region of 77/- as compared with 88/6. I think we may assume that in respect of every bushel of dry Irish wheat taken into an Irish mill this year the consumer and, in our circumstances, the treasury, must provide a subsidy of from 15/- to £1 per barrel.

Now we are planning to extend that acreage. We worked up the acreage here to 662,000 in 1945. If the present acreage should rise to 500,000, on the basis of our present yield we might easily have 8,000,000 cwt. delivered into the mills here. Two-fifths of that would be 3,000,000 barrels. That would be approximately our entire requirements, and at present prices would involve a subsidy from the Exchequer of some £4,000,000.

If the standard of living of all our people depends on the profitable user of the land and if there is a market, as the Minister tells us and as I quite agree, for all the live stock and live-stock [1382] products we can produce and process in this country, how long is it proposed indefinitely to expand the acreage under a crop the production of which, far from earning a profit, engenders an annual loss which grows greater with every increase in yield? I think it is time the House took it under review. I should like to see every acre of land in this country producing crops, cereals, roots and grass on which to build up the live-stock industry of this country so that we might export live stock and the products of live stock in ever-growing quantities. I would like to see the farms of this country recognised for what they truly are, the most valuable factories the Irish nation has. In those factories I would like to see processed, not only all we are able to produce from the soil but as much additional raw material as the occupants of those factories were capable of processing, so that we might send out an ever-increasing quantity of agricultural produce to whoever was prepared to pay us a remunerative price.

Mr. Walsh: Hear, hear!

Mr. Dillon: I take it it is our aim to drown in eggs and bury in bacon or in beef anyone who is prepared to pay a remunerative price.

Mr. Walsh: Hear, hear!

Mr. Dillon: I would like to see that end expedited by bringing within reach of our people—the Minister has succeeded in bringing within their reach so far the land project or that rose by any other name you agree to call it——

Mr. Walsh: That is a sweet smelling rose, too.

Mr. Dillon: I am glad the Minister has come to recognise it. I would like to see being brought within reach of our people the lime, whencesoever it may come, and the fertilisers, at a price people can afford to pay. However, there is one thing all of us know is still lacking and no multiplication of the county agricultural instructors will put it right, and that is the education in modern methods and the liaison with [1383] the departmental schemes which are there if he would only get the people to avail of them. I know of no means whereby that can be done but by bringing a parish agent into close contact with the people at their request in their own homes, who will know his way to the Department and will bring the resources of the Department to the immediate and proximate service of those who need them; and who will make available to the people amongst whom he permanently lives the scientific knowledge and know-how which only a parish agent can effectively demonstrate under the conditions and on the holdings where the people actually live. If the Minister should ever awake to the fact that that concept is a rose and smells sweet let him call it by another name, but let him operate it all the same. He knows just as well as I do that the instructors under the county committees, no matter how hard they try, do not get the chance effectively to do the job that wants doing. That is not the way to go about it. The peripatetic instructor storming around the country on a bicycle or car covering an area far too great and having no direct responsibility for any particular area of his own, just leaves little or no trace after him.

A man with exactly the same qualifications and no greater zeal, functioning as parish agent—to my knowledge in three parishes in Ireland —produced in 18 months results which other methods and instructions and advice have not produced in 20 years. I would exhort the Minister, seeing that he has come so far to agree with me in other things, to come this far and agree with me in that as well.

I see on page 3 of his White Paper where he says:—

“The total home production of meat and bone meal is readily disposed of and it is expected that the supplies position will improve considerably in the near future when an additional plant in course of construction comes into operation.”

I take it that is the plant at Ballinasloe?

[1384] Mr. Walsh: Yes.

Mr. Dillon: They are taking plenty of time to establish it.

Mr. Walsh: They will have it properly equipped, I hope.

Mr. Dillon: They have been at it for three years.

Mr. Walsh: It is not so long since they started building there.

Mr. Dillon: More power to their elbow. I hope they will hurry up. I am glad to know that alternative uses for milk can be found—and profitable ones at that, notably chocolate crumb. The Minister will recollect with satisfaction the opportunity afforded him of collaborating with me in that enterprise.

Mr. Walsh: Not being permitted to collaborate.

Mr. Dillon: Is that it?

Mr. Walsh: That is it.

Mr. Dillon: Anyway I want to say I hope the Minister will realise the circumstances of the establishment of the industry.

Mr. Walsh: It would have been more successful if you did not intervene.

Mr. Dillon: It could not have been. The last thing I want to say is this. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, with characteristic impudence, went to Carrick-on-Suir recently and there he was received by a Czechoslovakian gentleman who has done us the honour of coming to work among us; and it was reported to him that the quality of the Irish hides which were being delivered to his premises fell below his requirements on account of warble fly infestation. And the Minister for Industry and Commerce read the farmers of this country a lecture on that matter and clearly implied, in the course of his observations that if exhortation from him did not produce results, the resources of civilisation were not exhausted and that he would re-institute the warble fly inspector.

Now, that Minister fixed a price for [1385] Irish hides of 4d. per lb. when the tanners of this country were paying the Argentinians 3/6 per lb. That is the Minister who fixed a price of £1 sterling for an Irish hide at a time when tanners were paying the Argentinians £9 a hide.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: How is the Minister for Agriculture responsible for this?

Mr. Dillon: Is it not a strange day that would dawn in this country when the Minister for Agriculture is no longer responsible for the hide of a cow? I do not wonder that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle expresses amazement that the Department of Agriculture has sunk so low that it claims to have nothing to say about the hide of a cow. May I make the submission, Sir, that there was a day in this country when no part of a cow was a matter of indifference to the Minister for Agriculture and if that time is past may I exhort the Minister for Agriculture to let us have a renaissance in Upper Merrion Street. I want the Minister for Agriculture to tell me is he prepared to do this. Will he tell his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that the best steps he could take for the eradication of warble fly would be to disinterest himself in the fate of the hides of our cows? He, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, has fixed a price for cow hides in this country. The world price for cow hide is 1/8 per lb. The price that a man gets who has hides to sell if he lives in Ireland and has his cow slaughtered for consumption or export from Ireland is 8d. per lb. There are 60 lbs. on an average in a cowhide. Eight times 60 is 480 pence. There is is a levy of £2 per hide on every beast slaughtered for consumption or export out of the country. And who gets the proceeds of the levy? Is it the taxpayer? Is it the poor? Or the agricultural community? Is it an institute for agricultural education or something like that? No, it is not. It is the tanners. And it is the tanners who boast that they never made profits such as they are making now. One of them found himself in the position of being able to distribute a bonus—not of 100 per cent. shares, but of 166 per [1386] cent. shares—and maintain his dividends. Now, is it designed to procure cheaper boots for poor people in Ireland? Oh, no. It is designed to facilitate the man who gives himself a bonus of 166⅔ per cent. shares and maintains his dividends, encouragement to compete in foreign markets.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If the Minister for Agriculture has no function in this matter, I cannot see how it can be discussed on this Estimate.

Mr. Dillon: I think he has a function and I am going to tell you what the function is. It is to tell the Minister for Industry and Commerce to go to blazes, to tell the Minister for Industry and Commerce, on behalf of the farmers of this country that, in respect to the warble fly, the farmers of this country will do sweet Fanny Adams in order to earn profits for the tanners, to tell the Minister for Industry and Commerce that the warble fly can be got rid of overnight if he will mind his own business and make accessible to the farmers of this country nothing more than the price that is available in the world for the hides they have to sell.

I shall undertake within one year, on the basis of a fair price being paid for Irish hides, to set in motion steps which over a quinquiennium will virtually end the warble fly pest in this country. Certainly, as an Irish farmer, I would not walk a yard to involve myself in expense or trouble to prevent the warbling of a hide for the benefit of tanners whose prime concern is to plunder the agricultural community of this country. It ill-becomes the Minister for Agriculture to sit by like a dummy while his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, proclaims the virtue of the tanners. I think the time has come when his voice might with advantage be heard on this subject so as to remind us all, including the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that the hide of a cow is not an article in which the Department of Agriculture has no interest.

I would not move to refer this Estimate back if I had no better reason for referring it back than the words of the Minister's speech. There is very little in what he said here to-day with [1387] which I do not find myself in complete agreement. That is the plain fact, but I confidently ask the House to refer this Estimate back to mark the Dáil's disapproval of the contemptuous way in which the Minister for Agriculture is habitually treated by his own colleagues; to mark our disapprobation of the impudence of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in swaggering around the country as an authority on agriculture when he would not know the difference between a sheep and a goat; to mark our disapprobation of the grotesque spectacle of the Minister for External Affairs having the impudence to intervene in the administration of the Department of Agriculture; to mark our strong disapprobation of the action of the Minister for Agriculture and of the Minister for Lands in telling our people that there is a trade agreement, the contents of which the British know and the contents of which these Ministers know, but the contents of which the Minister does not think he has any duty to communicate to Dáil Éireann; to mark our emphatic condemnation of the conduct of an Irish Minister for Agriculture who agrees on a price for lambs produced by farmers on the small-holdings of Ireland and who accepts the proposition that while he has a duty to keep the canner and the dealer up to date, the farmer can learn it through the Press, can learn it from his losses, can learn it from the bitter experience of seeing someone else getting a profit on the work he did.

I would be distressed for the future of agriculture in this country if I felt that the impetus of the work our Government did would have time to run down before the people grew tired of our most unworthy successors. I am happy to say that Cork and Wicklow are about to create a situation in which that imminent danger will be removed. I think it right for the record that we should reject this Estimate but, as I say, it really does not matter a damn what we do about it. He will not be there next autumn.

Mr. Blowick: Stripped of its trimmings, the Minister's speech really boils down to praise of the land reclamation [1388] scheme, a bit of very modest boasting about the increase in the numbers of live stock and a little bit of boasting about the increase in agricultural exports from this country but there is quite a considerable amount of very careful disregard, a very careful shying away from certain aspects of the agricultural industry that certainly the Minister should not fight shy of and about which he should give the House a full account. One of the most remarkable statements that he threw in just casually was the fact that he was going to make an announcement about a trade agreement some time to-morrow, presumably at some dinner, presumably in the company of people who mean nothing to the farmers and who are interested in nothing in this country. Why, this House here is not only beneath the notice of the Minister but is too contemptible to be favoured with an explanation or at least some hint of what the agreement contains. All I say on that subject, pending the Minister's release of the terms of that trade agreement, is that I hope that the new trade agreement will not be any less favourable to Irish farmers than were the terms of the 1948 trade agreement. I hope also that the Minister will have made a much better contribution towards securing a sound and solid trade agreement than his predecessor, Deputy Smith, did in 1947, five or six months before he went out of office, when Deputy Smith was Minister for Agriculture.

In the course of his remarks the Minister cross-questioned Deputy Dillon in regard to some aspects of the 1948 agreement. He asked did Deputy Dillon know about the 1947 agreement and the previous agreement in 1941. Whether or not Deputy Dillon knows about those agreements the Irish farmer certainly knows all about them because one of the disastrous results of the 1947 agreement was the fact that the Irish farmer was compelled to sell his produce to the English consumer at a lower price than the English consumer was willing to pay had he been made pay it. The increase in the price of live stock, in poultry and so on, details of which the Minister gave the House to-night, has been due directly [1389] to the favourable terms of the 1948 trade agreement.

The terms of that agreement are still in force. Let the Minister try to convince any farmer down the country to the contrary. He will not succeed because the man who pays the piper knows at least a little bit about the tune. Looking back over events it is not very pleasant to remember that since 1939 the Irish farmer has been selling his produce on the English market at a lower price than could have been obtained had there been a firm bargain made with the British Ministry of Food. That bargain was made in 1948, somewhat late but better then than not at all.

During the course of the Budget debate apparently a statement made by me aroused the ire of Deputy Moran. That statement was that the increased agricultural exports were due not so much to increased production but to the fact that our own people were denied the purchasing power at home by the Minister for Finance. They had to go without the things they were accustomed to buying during the inter-Party régime. I repeat that statement now. The Minister for Finance told us—the Minister for Agriculture did not give us the exact—figure that increased agricultural exports during the last financial year amounted to approximately £22,000,000. He told us that at the same time production had increased by approximately £2.4 million. I am firmly convinced of the argument I put forward during the Budget debate. A good deal of the increased agricultural exports went across the water because our own people were denied the power to purchase them at home through the budgetary policy of the present Government. That is exemplified in the price of butter, one of the commodities used most extensively in the ordinary household. I am beginning to wonder somewhat at the conflicting statements of the Minister and his colleagues as to what the situation will be by September, the end of the peak milk producing season. The Minister is hinting at a surplus despite the fact that last year we had to purchase 93,000 cwt. of New Zealand butter.

[1390] Mr. Walsh: 120,000 cwt.

Mr. Blowick: I saw the figure 93,000 cwt. somewhere. It now seems this year that we are drawing near to producing our own requirements and that we will have an exportable surplus.

Mr. Walsh: Nobody can forecast any such thing.

Mr. Blowick: The Minister has forecast it.

Mr. Walsh: No.

Mr. Blowick: The Minister has hinted at it.

Mr. Walsh: He has not hinted at it. I said if certain things happen.

Mr. Blowick: If certain things happen the sky will fall and crush the whole lot of us.

Mr. Morrissey: The Minister said saturation point.

Mr. Blowick: Call it anything you like. Saturation point is reached when we are in the position of meeting our own requirements rather than having to import 120,000 cwt. of foreign butter. Surely it is logical to conclude then that the next step will be a surplus over and above saturation point.

Mr. Walsh: The Deputy is not getting the saturation point right. We are the highest consumers of butter in the world.

Mr. Morrissey: What did the Minister mean in his statement by saturation point if he did not mean what Deputy Blowick says he meant?

Mr. Walsh: That we could not go any higher in consumption. We are practically the highest consumers in the world.

Mr. Blowick: That is a twist. The Minister was referring to production and not to consumption.

Mr. Walsh: No.

[1391] Mr. Blowick: The Minister might in his public pronouncements—I say this by way of rebuke—at least speak clearly. The Minister led everyone to believe that he was speaking of increased production and not of consumption.

Mr. Morrissey: What he meant was increased production and the consumption of margarine. That is where saturation point will be reached.

Mr. Walsh: No, no.

Mr. Blowick: At the present price of 4/2 per lb. the Minister will shortly have a surplus on his hands.

Mr. Morrissey: He knows that.

Mr. Walsh: We have no evidence of it.

Mr. Blowick: There will be evidence of it by the end of this year's peak milk producing season in September or October. Before the autumn frosts set in there will be plenty of evidence of that in the cold stores all over the country. We can then sit back and say we have a surplus of our own butter for the first time for years and we will have achieved that by one means and one means only, namely by increasing the price to such an extent that our own people can no longer afford to buy it.

Mr. Walsh: Does that mean the Deputy wants to depress the price of milk?

Mr. Blowick: Certainly not. The Minister should not be talking through his hat.

Mr. Walsh: That is the alternative.

Mr. Blowick: We gave an increase in the price of milk but not at the expense of an increase in the price of butter.

Mr. Walsh: At the expense of the taxpayer.

Mr. Blowick: The Minister is going back on his words now.

[1392] Mr. Walsh: It does not matter who paid it. It had to be paid.

Mr. Blowick: The Minister's colleague, the Minister for Health, is at the moment piloting a Health Bill through the House which is supposed to leave everybody fighting fit so soon as the Bill has been steamrolled across the House, across the Hierarchy and over the country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Health Bill is not under discussion now.

Mr. Blowick: At the same time the Minister for Agriculture is denying our people and, in particular, the children of the working classes, butter at a reasonable price. Remember, butter is the best safeguard where health is concerned. It is superior to any Bill the Minister can bring in to fight disease and tuberculosis.

Deputy Dillon is right in everything he has said. He said that every two Ministers in the present Government seemed to be engaged in a tug-of-war. Quite clearly, the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Health are pulling the people to pieces between them so far as health is concerned. The Minister for Finance goes a step further and denies our people the ordinary essentials. I suppose all the Ministers must dance to the tune that we are, as a nation, living beyond our means, eating too much, drinking too much, smoking too much, dressing too well and travelling too much. The policy of the present Government is that we must tighten our belts. The talkative Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, talking on subjects he does not really understand, has to make his own contribution to the general slashing down. The Minister for Agriculture has to make his contribution. The Minister for Agriculture has charge of the most important industry in the country. He should tell his colleagues to keep their fingers out of his pie. Irrespective of what he may think of Deputy Dillon, his predecessor in office, there is a leaf he could take out of Deputy Dillon's book in relation to the way in which Deputy Dillon managed the Department of Agriculture. He was not hampered or hamstrung [1393] by his colleagues. The Minister should keep his colleagues out of the Department of Agriculture. If he tells them straight out that he will not tolerate their interference they will have more respect for him. He should manage the Department of Agriculture in his own way.

[1394] I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 17th June, 1953.