Dáil Éireann - Volume 250 - 02 December, 1970

Committee on Finance. - Vote 37: Agriculture.

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. J. Gibbons): I move:

That a sum not exceeding £65,534,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1971, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain subsidies and sundry Grants-in-Aid.

The sum of £65.5 million will not in fact be enough to meet total expenditure in 1970-71. The 1970 Budget introduced increases in milk prices and pig prices and moreover improved rates of grants under various schemes, such as the beef incentive scheme, the sheep and lamb headage payments scheme, et cetera. Towards the end of this speech I shall be referring to the further measures to improve agricultural incomes which I announced yesterday. More funds will thus be required in 1970-71 as well as, of course, next year. If this Estimate is agreed to it is proposed to bring in a Supplementary Estimate to provide an additional amount of the order of £4 million over and above the amount in the main Estimate.

Deputies will note that the format [254] of the Estimate for 1970-71 has been recast to show more clearly what the money is being spent on. The change in the format has been made with the approval of the Public Accounts Committee.

The customary notes on the main activities of my Department have been circulated to Deputies giving facts and figures which, I trust, will be of help to them in the debate.

The Estimate total of £65.5 million includes £35½ million for price support, of which milk accounts for £30½ million. It also includes £17 million for agricultural production and development aids; £3½ million for livestock improvement and disease eradication and £5 million for agricultural education, research, and advisory services.

I do not propose to deal in detail in this speech with the implications for agriculture of our membership of the European Communities since this subject, which is of such vital importance for the whole future of agriculture, was very fully discussed before the Summer Recess during the debate—still to be concluded — on the Government's White Paper. As the House knows, the initial meeting between the four applicant countries and the Communities took place in Luxembourg on 30th June, when formal statements were made on behalf of the Governments of the applicant countries, the Communities and the Commission of the Communities. The Minister for External Affairs, who was accompanied by senior officials of the four Departments mainly concerned including my Department, made the introductory statement on behalf of Ireland. There was a further Ministerial meeting in Brussels on 21st September between an Irish delegation led by the Minister for External Affairs and the Communities, which initiated the detailed negotiations for our entry. Since then there have been two further meetings at official level, on 20th October and 27th November. There will, of course, be further regular meetings in Brussels at Ministerial and official level. While we have a number of senior officials servicing the meetings in Brussels for my Department, these will be supplemented as the occasion arises by other officials and I expect that, as the negotiations [255] proceed, most levels of my Department will at one time or another be involved. I have made arrangements for regular consultations between my Department and representatives of agricultural organisations on the agricultural aspects of the negotiations. Consultations have already taken place with a number of these organisations and it is the intention that these consultations should continue throughout the negotiations.

There is one aspect of our EEC membership application on which I feel compelled to comment here. I refer to the unbalanced and distorted arguments which are being promulgated by certain groups and personalities against membership. Well-informed and constructive criticism is a welcome and essential part of the total debate on and assessment of our future in the enlarged Community. The groups and personalities I refer to, however, appear to be neither well-informed nor constructive and, so far as agriculture is concerned, are completely out of line with the views of informed agricultural opinion in this country. They have tried to paint a grim picture of the future for our small farmers and forecast a massive reduction in farm population. There will, of course, be some movement off the land. This is happening all over the world, both inside and outside the Common Market. The movement here will not, however, be on anything like the scale forecast by these prophets of doom. Our structural problems are far less than those in most of the existing member states and indeed the average size of farm here is significantly higher than that in the present Community. Outside the enlarged EEC the plight of our small farmers would be very serious indeed, whereas inside the Community they would have the prospect of much better prices for their produce and an orderly and stable marketing system. Moreover, within the EEC, those people who would be leaving the land in any event would be assisted in doing so in a humane and comprehensive way through the Community's proposals for the structural reform of agriculture. It is highly significant that the opponents [256] of Ireland's entry into the EEC have failed completely to put forward any kind of worthwhile or practicable alternative to EEC membership.

I would now like to say a few words on the objectives of our agricultural policy and the progress being made in achieving them. It was only natural that on my appointment as Minister responsible for agriculture I should take a close look at the overall picture as well as the individual sectors. Even as one familiar with the practical aspects of farming, I was struck by the diverse and complex nature of the industry, the difficulties inherent in its administration and the problems internal and international with which it has to cope.

The broad objectives of our agricultural policy are set out in the Third Programme. I am quite satisfied that they are soundly based. I can see no reasonable person taking issue with the aims of increasing efficiency in the production, processing and marketing of our farm products, of improving the structure of agriculture and of aiding the smaller farmer. The aim of maintaining a reasonable relationship between farm and non-farm incomes is justified on both social and economic ground's. If this relationship is to be maintained without imposing an undue burden on the Exchequer it is essential that we continue to do everything possible to secure improved access to, and better returns from, the external markets on which we depend for the disposal of a high proportion of our agricultural production.

There has been no shortage in the past of criticism of our agricultural policy and I do not expect that this position will change. All I ask is that such criticism be positive and constructive. The facts about agricultural progress speak for themselves and refute those critics who like to assert that the Government's agricultural policy is ineffective. As a result of this policy and more advanced techniques, the ability of farmers to produce efficiently has greatly increased and there can be no doubt about the potential for a big expansion in production. One of the main factors hampering the exploitation of that potential is the difficulty of obtaining adequate remunerative market outlets.

[257] In the last three years 1967, 1968 and 1969 agricultural output, prices, income and exports all increased. The high volume of output achieved in 1968 was maintained in 1969 and with a further rise in prices the value of output rose to the record figure of £318 million, an increase of £14 million over 1968. Despite the continuing upward trend in operating expenses, total family income in 1969 was £3 million higher than in 1968 when it rose by £23 million to the record figure of £169 million. With growing modernisation, agricultural labour requirements are diminishing so that this income is being shared among fewer people. I will be speaking about the outturn in 1970 later in my speech.

There is no clearer illustration of the benefit of agriculture to the community than in the figures for agricultural exports. Over the years these have continued to climb and in 1969 reached almost £163 million, compared with £155 million in 1968. Agricultural exports in the first nine months of 1970 show an increase of 10 per cent on the corresponding period of 1969. While with expanding industrial exports the percentage of total exports represented by agriculture has been falling, agricultural exports still account for nearly half the total and their contribution to economic progress is greatly enhanced by their low import content.

In view of the serious export trading difficulties which exist and the inherent tendency for the prices of agricultural products to lag behind those of other products, substantial State support for agriculture continues to be necessary. In fact, the amount keeps on growing. The proportion represented by price support is considerable. Of course, price support does more than simply help to augment farmers' incomes. It strengthens farmers' confidence, encourages production and provides extra money for reinvestment in farms. Farmers are as much entitled to an equitable price for what they produce as anybody else, though the budgetary problems of providing such a large sum in price support are formidable.

As is well known, the barriers to agricultural trade are rooted in the measures taken by importing countries to protect their own producers. Efforts [258] made by international bodies to improve the situation have not so far been very successful. There is a tendency for some of these bodies to deal with agricultural trade without making adequate allowance for the relative importance of agricultural exports in the economies of different countries. Agricultural exports of highly industrialised countries which can afford large scale support for their agricultural production tend to be considered on an equal footing with the agricultural exports of countries like Ireland where agriculture is far more than an adjunct to a highly industrialised economy.

After these general remarks, I shall now deal with the main sectors of agriculture, beginning with cattle.

The cattle trade continued buoyant throughout 1969 and demand this year has also been steady Our exports of store cattle to the UK in the first nine months of 1970 have been somewhat down on the same period in 1969. Export slaughterings of bullocks and heifers rose last year and this upward trend has continued this year. The British guaranteed price for cattle was increased by 7s 6d per live cwt. for 1970-71 and the Government decided to increase the level of support for our carcase beef exports to Britain by an equivalent amount, that is to say, 1½d per Ib. deadweight. More recently— from 12th October last—the British Guaranteed price was increased by 10s per live cwt. for 1970-71 which works out at an average of about 20s per live cwt. for the remainder of the year. A similar increase was sanctioned by the Government in respect of our carcase beef exports to Britain. The net effect of these two increases, after taking into account some savings resulting from good market conditions in Britain earlier this year, is to increase net estimated expenditure on support payments on beef from £1.4 to £2.6 million. Provision is being made in the Supplementary Estimate for the additional amount.

The allocation introduced by the US Government early in 1968 for imports of beef into the United States continue during 1970. Ireland's original allocation for 1970 was 29,240 tons, an increase of 1,000 tons on the allocation [259] for 1969, and was subsequently increased by 1,205 tons to bring the total allocation to just on 30,500 tons. The beef exports to the US consist almost entirely of frozen boneless beef for manufacturing purposes, mainly cow beef.

Due mainly to the high level of the import levies the EEC market has remained virtually closed to our beef. However, in recent months, when import levies were at a reduced level, we were able to export some quantities of beef and also some live cattle to that market.

Córas Beostoic agus Feola have been engaged, since their inception early last year, in promoting the sale of Irish store cattle in Britain by staging exhibits at the principal shows there and have undertaken promotional campaigns for Irish beef in selected areas in Britain. The commission were also active in investigating the potential of other markets and in generally promoting Irish livestock and meat abroad.

During 1969 over one million cows were artificially inseminated representing about 62 per cent of the total cow population. Herefords and Friesians were the breeds in greatest demand, accounting between them for over three-quarters of all inseminations. A notable feature has been the growth in demand for Charolais from 7,400 in 1967 to 31,000 in 1969. The most recent figures available for 1970 indicate no significant changes in the total number of inseminations or in the pattern of demand for the various breeds.

The policy of trying out new breeds under Irish conditions is being continued. The South Devon and Luing breeds have been introduced from Britain while Limousin cattle imported from France are at present in quarantine on Spike Island together with a further consignment of Charolais cattle. Arrangements are currently being made for the importation for experimental purposes early next year of Friesian and Simmental cattle from Germany and Austria subject to the animal health position in each country being favourable.

Some concern has been expressed [260] about the quality of our store cattle exports because of the decline in recent years in the numbers of Shorthorn cows. To correct this trend, I introduced in September a special scheme for Shorthorn cattle. Under this scheme, a herd book will be established confined to specially selected stock of the old Irish Shorthorn type. Grants of £10 per head will be paid for suitable progeny but provision for these payments will not arise until 1971-72. The Irish Shorthorn Breeders' Association are co-operating with my Department in the operation of this scheme.

The Third Programme provides for the establishment of a central station for the performance testing of beef bulls. I am glad to say that the initial planning work for the erection of a station on the most up-to-date lines is under way in consultation with the Office of Public Works. A suitable site has been acquired at the National Stud farm at Tully, County Kildare, and I am hopeful that it may be possible to bring the station into operation towards the end of next year. The station will have an initial throughput of 100 young bulls a year from which a pool of tested animals will be provided for the AI service and for leasing to pedigree breeders.

The beef cattle incentive scheme introduced last year is aimed at encouraging beef production by providing grants to herdowners who do not sell milk or milk products. In deciding to introduce this scheme the Government were influenced by several facts— firstly, that it was impossible to find even reasonably satisfactory export outlets for the rising milk production; secondly, that there were better export prospects for beef; and thirdly, that up to then beef producers had not received from the State financial incentives comparable to those provided for milk producers.

The grant was fixed at £12 for each qualified cow, in excess of two, accompanied by a calf. Around 34,000 herdowners received a total of over £1,800,000 in grants under the scheme in 1969-70.

The original provision of £2,400,000 for the scheme in 1970-71 was based on [261] a £12 grant. However, following representations by farming organisations during the course of the pre-Budget talks and in view of the promising future for cattle and beef exports, the Government subsequently decided to give a substantial additional impetus to beef cattle production. The rate of grant under the scheme was increased to £21 for the first qualifying cow— that is the third cow in the herd—£19 for the second qualifying cow and £16 for each subsequent qualifying cow. These higher rates are of particular benefit to owners of the smaller herds.

As a result of the higher rates of grant there has been a considerable expansion in the number of herdowners now participating in the scheme. In the current financial year a total of £4,750,000 is likely to be paid to around 54,000 herdowners. Provision is being made in the Supplementary Estimate for a sum of £2,350,000.

Support for creamery milk is by far the most costly item in the Estimate, and accounts for a sum of £30.5 million.

The total supply of milk to creameries in 1969 amounted to over 526 million gallons. This was about six million gallons more than in 1968 and would have been higher but for the drought conditions of the autumn of 1969. It is likely that the creamery intake this year will be lower than the 1969 level.

While there have been some minor improvements recently in price on certain export markets for dairy produce, one cannot be certain that these improvements will be maintained. In general existing world market prices for dairy products are not satisfactory. While this situation obtains, substantial support for milk will continue to be necessary.

Economic pressures in the form of rising operational and marketing costs and poor returns on export markets accentuate the need for the most modem and efficient equipment and facilities throughout the milk processing industry. This leads me to the urgency with which the problem of reorganising the creamery industry must be tackled. The prospect of entry into the EEC makes it imperative that [262] the creamery industry should be placed on the best possible economic footing so that it will be in a position to make the most of the export opportunities that will arise in the enlarged Community and retain the valuable home market. In a number of areas some progress has already been made in regard to reorganisation but a great deal more remains to be done.

I appreciate the problems that have to be faced by individual creamery societies but, if the industry is to prosper in the years ahead, these problems must be tackled and overcome. The vast majority of creamery societies should find it possible to reorganise into large-scale groups in such a way as to serve not only the interests of the individual societies but also the overriding interests of the creamery industry as a whole. In view of the continuing upward trend in costs, it is now more important than ever that the creamery itself should take all possible steps to rationalise the creamery organisation and so enable better prices to be paid to the milk producers.

While the general state of export markets for dairy products continues to remain so weak and unsatisfactory and even with the increased quota for our butter exports to Britain in 1970-71, there is a continuing need for ensuring that as much milk fat as possible is used at home. The Exchequer contribution towards the promotion of dairy products on the home market is being more than doubled this year, and this permits of a more vigorous and sustained promotion campaign than was possible with the resources previously available. In the campaign particular emphasis is being placed on the promotion of butter.

Sheep numbers have been declining but there is evidence to suggest that this period of decline is now ending as a consequence of our improved production incentives and of the satisfactory level of sheep prices.

The mountain sheep subsidy schemes were continued this year. The subsidy rate for both lambs and hogget ewes was increased from £1 to 30s and the hogget ewe scheme was extended to all areas of the country. In round figures [263] farmers will benefit to the extent of £1,300,000 in subsidy. While a breakdown as between mountain and lowland areas is not yet available, indications are that the numbers of sheep presented in mountain areas are slightly higher than last year. It seems that the number of hoggets from lowland flocks presented this year for subsidy was of the order of 200,000. Now that farmers in the lowland areas have the support of the hogget ewe subsidy, it may be hoped that next year more hoggets will be retained for breeding in those areas.

The British guaranteed price for sheep was increased by 3d per lb carcase weight for 1970-71 and the Government decided to increase the level of support for our carcase lamb exports to Britain by a similar sum. Following the British price increases of October last the level of support was increased further by an average of 3d per lb for the remainder of the current financial year. These measures should help towards bringing about an increase in sheep production.

In passing I should like to mention that the administration of these headage grant schemes for cattle and sheep is very demanding on staff. To carry out the inspections over a reasonable period it was necessary to withdraw some staff temporarily from other work, notably the land project and farm buildings schemes. This has caused delays in making inspections and payments under these schemes and the position is not yet quite up to date. I would ask farmers, and Deputies who may be approached by them, to accept the necessity for such delays.

Regulations under the Wool Marketing Act were made earlier this year on the advice of An Chomhairle Olla. These prescribe a bonus and deduction system related to quality and faults to be applied to wool purchased from producers. The regulations also prescribe the standards for premises, plant and machinery which a buyer must meet to gain registration under the Act. The register of wool buyers will be set up prior to the 1971 season and for this purpose Department inspectors are now making regular visits to wool buyers to guide them on the standards. [264] These measures mark the first stage in improving the efficiency and operation of the marketing arrangements for wool in this country. I should like to stress the importance I attach to the role of An Chomhairle Olla, both in their function of advising me on steps to improve the marketing situation and in pursuance of their tasks to promote wool exports and secure the maximum use of Irish wool by our manufacturers.

As regards horses, an important development was the enactment of the Horse Industry Act, 1970, which implemented the recommendations of the survey team on the horse breeding industry in relation to the establishment of a Horse Board and the licensing of riding establishments. On the subject of the Horse Board I have been in consultation with interests concerned and I hope to announce their establishment shortly.

The national mare nomination scheme continued in operation this year and was very successful. Under the scheme the value of a nomination is a flat £7 in all cases irrespective of whether the sire selected is a thoroughbred or an Irish draught. This year about 8,500 mares were presented for inspection and about 6,100 nominations were awarded; the figures for 1969 were 6,100 mares inspected and 4,300 nominations awarded. Premiums are awarded to nominated mares which produce live foals—£25 if both dam and sire are registered Irish draughts and £15 in any other case. About 2,100 foaling premiums were paid this year on the crop of foals from last year's nominations.

For pigmeat support in the current year the Estimate provision is £3.4 million. The year 1969 was a record year for deliveries of pigs to bacon factories and deliveries this year may be of much the same order and marketing prospects seem to be reasonably good.

Pig prices have been firm over the past couple of years and there has been a fair measure of stability in the industry. Early this year we increased the guaranteed minimum prices of good quality pigs by 10s per cwt. deadweight. On the marketing side, in addition to supplying bacon against [265] our quota for the British market, we are sending fairly substantial supplies of pork regularly to Britain and getting a premium price for the product. There have also been some useful exports of pork carcases and pork cuts to a number of continental markets.

Broiler production in 1969 amounted to about 14.8 million, an increase of over 1 ½ million birds compared with 1968. With the increase in prices of red meat, some further expansion of consumer demand for broilers may be expected. There was a further increase in 1969 in the use of turkey hatchery poults, sales of which rose to 700,000. There was a continued improvement in the quality of turkeys marketed.

I now turn to measures to combat diseases of livestock. It is now estimated that a sum of £2,625,000 net will be required for the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme this year, that is, £625,000 more than the amount provided in the main Estimate. The additional amount required is being included in the Supplementary Estimate. The net expenditure on the scheme in 1969-70 was about £2,500,000.

Last year, my Department initiated some special measures to reduce further the incidence of bovine tuberculosis. These measures have been continued and intensified this year and, as anticipated, greater numbers of reactors have been identified and removed. While it is difficult to be precise in the matter it is expected that the number of reactors this year will be about the same as last year but, in accordance with market trends, the prices will, on average, be higher. We hope that the special efforts made this year and last year will soon pay off in a substantial reduction of the disease. The original estimate for brucellosis eradication was £1,500,000 net but it is likely now that the actual net expenditure will turn out at not more than £1,250,000. The saving is being taken into account in the Supplementary Estimate.

There are now five counties in the brucellosis free area—Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan. Testing, of course, continues in the area to remove any remaining pockets of the disease. During the year we have extended [266] the eradication scheme to counties Mayo, Louth, Westmeath, Roscommon and Longford and I intend shortly to include County Meath. The operation of the scheme in these counties will be a further safeguard for the brucellosis free area and I hope that these counties will, within the next few years, also reach brucellosis-free status. The early certification of the midland area, from which most of our live cattle are exported, is most important in view of the intention to start brucellosis eradication on an area basis in Britain next year and the possible accession of this country and Britain to the European Economic Community.

Shortly, therefore, a total of 11 counties will have come under the brucellosis eradication scheme. In the remaining 15 counties, a scheme is now operating whereby herdowners who are considered to have a reasonable chance of clearing their herds of the disease can get grants for every brucellosis reactor sent for slaughter. Grants of up to £75 for pedigree animals and £25 for non-pedigree animals are payable when the herd is certified free of the disease. Herds which qualify for the grant could then be taken on to the brucellosis (certified) herds scheme. Another important scheme operating in the II main dairying counties of the south and east is the heifer vaccination scheme. I am glad that this scheme has met with a very good reception. Of course, vaccination will not cure or eradicate the disease but it will give substantial protection to many herds in the dairying area over the next few years until we can commence the eradication programme there.

It is regrettable to have to advert to a further increase in the number of outbreaks of sheep scab—86 in 1969-70 as against 65 in 1968-69. This unsatisfactory position is all the more to be deplored because the total eradication of the disease could be readily achieved if all the sheep in the country were effectively dipped over a period of two to three years. The obligation on claimants under the sheep subsidy schemes to produce dipping certificates will, I hope, bring about full compliance with the dipping requirements.

Field and laboratory trials were initiated [267] last year under the guidance of the expert advisory group which is studying the highly complex problem of liver fluke. These trials are continuing. They consist of, firstly, field trials with a molluscicide in Counties Cavan, Louth, Meath and Monaghan, in which the county committees of agriculture, herdowners and the veterinary profession are co-operating and, secondly, a research project on the economics of liver fluke in beef cattle during their first two years of life. The Agricultural Institute and the veterinary faculties of the universities are co-operating with my Department in this project and Shell Research Ltd. are contributing towards the cost. To all these bodies I express my appreciation. Generally, the weather conditions in the past couple of years have been such that the incidence of fluke has been below normal.

Under the arrangements whereby warble infestation is a notifiable disease and notified animals are treated free of charge about 400,000 animals were treated in 1969. Provision for the treatment of a like number of animals in 1970 was included in the Estimate but in the event almost 800,000 animals were dealt with before the notification period terminated in August, involving an excess on the estimated provision of a further £33,000 which is being sought by way of the Supplementary Estimate.

In view of the rising level of warble infestation I decided in May last that a national dressing campaign would be undertaken in the autumn through the agency of the AI bodies and on the basis of the cost of treatment being met by herdowners as in the case of the previous national campaigns. Discussions were held subsequently with the different interests concerned to work out detailed arrangements and a scheme was duly formulated which the AI bodies were ready to operate from the 1st September. As in the case of previous national schemes, farmers were asked to pay a small charge per animal dressed—an amount which was negligible in relation to the advantages. I regret that in the event, however, the AI bodies found it impracticable to operate the scheme in the form visualised because of opposition by some [268] farming organisations. The AI bodies have, however, provided a voluntary service under which about a million cattle will have been dressed before the end of the dressing season.

In view of the situation that has developed it will not be practicable to continue the spring warble dressing service which my Department has operated for the past few years and it will be necessary to amend the legislation under which the presence of warbles in cattle has been compulsorily notifiable. It seems that in future treatment of the warble fly will have to be on a voluntary basis.

A diagnostic and advisory service for controlling mastitis continues to be provided by my Department's central and regional veterinary laboratories and by certain co-operative societies and the Dublin District Milk Board.

The ban on the importation of dogs and cats from Britain which was imposed as a precaution against the introduction of rabies following cases of the disease in that country has been removed with effect from the 1st December. Dogs and cats from other countries may be imported only under licence and subject to six months post-importation quarantine and two anti-rabies vaccinations during quarantine.

Four of the five new regional laboratories to supplement the diagnostic, investigational and advisory service provided by my Department's Veterinary Research Laboratory at Abbotstown have now been completed and are fully operational. The fifth laboratory, at Kilkenny, will be completed next year.

Turning to tillage, I am glad to say that in 1970 there was an overall increase in the area under cereal crops as compared with recent years. Most of the crops were harvested satisfactorily although weather conditions deteriorated towards the end of the harvest.

The area under wheat in 1970 was 231,000 acres as compared with 204,000 in 1969. While yields were on average somewhat lower than in 1969, growers still got a satisfactory return.

The area under feeding barley continues to increase and in 1970 was 419,000 acres which is 12 per cent higher than the record figure for 1969.

[269] The area under oats has been declining for a number of years and in 1970 there was a further decrease of some 19,000 to 171,000 acres. I am continuing the floor-price scheme for oats grown in western counties as I believe that in its absence the decline in oats would have been far greater.

My Department is continuing with its highly successful research work in cereal seed breeding thus ensuring an ample supply of cereal seeds most suited to our requirements. Our crop yields from seeds produced in the Department's cereals stations compare very favourably with those of other countries.

The year 1969-70 showed a continued increase in the high level of demand for the facilities of the land project general scheme. The amount paid out in the year by way of grants to farmers was £2.8 million and the area improved was 108,700 acres as against 97,000 acres in the previous year.

Following the improvement in November, 1969, in the rates of grants under the fencing scheme for mountain grazings and the mountain grazings (supplementary keep) scheme the number of applications received in 1969-70 showed an increase of 22 per cent over the previous year. The number of approvals issued in 1969-70 was 759, for the enclosure of 19,220 acres. The total amount being provided in 1970-71 for grants under the general scheme and the mountain grazings scheme is £2.5 million.

Under the fertiliser credit scheme, which provides long-term credit to farmers at a low interest rate, over 35,000 acres were treated with lime and fertilisers during the year 1969-70, at a cost of £255,000.

In Subhead D. 3, I am providing £2.3 million for grant expenditure under the farm buildings scheme and £500,000 for the water supplies scheme, a total of £2.8 million as compared with £2.71 million for 1969-70. These schemes are kept under review to ensure that they continue to cater for agricultural requirements and steps are being taken to rationalise and improve them this year. The changes will include a common scale of grants for housing for [270] cows and drystock involving increased rates for the latter. There will be a revised grant system for buildings required for general or miscellaneous farming purposes such as the storage of grain, potatoes and other agricultural produce, and machinery. There will also be revised scales of grants for hay-barns, silos and concreting, and new grants for storage for flax, whey and skim milk for feeding. In the case of the water supplies scheme the maximum grant will be improved. It is hoped to announce full details of the changes in the near future.

The milk cooler grant scheme has been improved by raising the grant for ice-bank coolers from £40 to £75. The scope of the scheme has been extended by raising the maximum valuation qualification from £25 to £60 and the maximum milk gallonage qualification from 7,000 to 14,000 gallons per year. In addition to the original Estimate provision of £10,000 for the scheme, a further £10,000 was provided for in the Budget for these improvements. Since the changes were introduced in May, however, the demand for these grants has increased beyond expectations and it is now estimated that a total of £33,000 will be required this year. This involves a supplementary provision of £23,000.

Ground limestone consumption for the year ended 31st March, 1970, was in the region of 1.7 million tons, the highest on record. This is a welcome improvement on the position in recent years, when the annual consumption remained around 1.5 million tons. The total amount being provided for the ground limestone transport subsidy in 1970-71 is £1,150,000.

Consumption of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium over the four fertiliser years 1966-67 to 1969-70 increased by 124 per cent and 68 per cent respectively. The total amount being provided for subsidy on phosphatic and potassic fertilisers is £5,720,000.

There is a provision of £400,000 in the Estimate for grants for glasshouse nurseries. This is sufficient, at the rate of grant—33 ⅓ per cent—and at the present level of costs and prices, to provide for the construction of about [271] 50 acres of fully-equipped modern heated glasshouses, with a production potential in excess of £500,000 per annum.

The number of applications for grants continues to run at an exceptionally high level. It was originally envisaged that during the five years of operation of the scheme, which was introduced in March, 1967, a sum of £500,000 would be expended by way of grants. In fact, grants totalling slightly over £1 million have been paid in the first three years of the scheme. It has become necessary, as already announced, to restrict the grant available to any one applicant to £25,000 and to draw up a system of priorities as between applicants. I regard this as the most equitable way of allocating the available grant funds among applicants with a background in the industry, while at the same time securing the best possible return on the State's investment.

In view of the growing importance of our export trade in tomatoes, which has increased in value from £187,000 in 1967 to an estimated £600,000 in 1970, I made an order, the effect of which was to require that any tomatoes exported on and from 15th June, 1970, be graded and labelled in accordance with internationally accepted standards. The introduction of special legislation which would cover the grading of such agricultural, horticultural and fishery products as may be desirable, whether for export or for the home market, is in hands.

The prospects of expanding horticultural exports and the question of how best to develop exports to the United Kingdom have been examined by an independent horticultural economist and a summary of his findings has been conveyed to the trade.

As in the case of many other bodies, expenditure by committees of agriculture has increased in recent years. In 1958-59, total expenditure by committees was £600,000 but is now in the region of £1,800,000. This increase is attributable mainly to an increase in the number and cost of the advisory staffs employed by the committees. Between 1958-59 and 1968-69, the total [272] number of advisers increased from 328 to 509. During the past year an additional 60 advisers were employed by committees. This increase in staff has arisen from farmer demands for better educational and other services operated by committees and is a highly desirable development. As one who has served on a committee of agriculture, I am well aware of the increasing reliance of farmers on their instructors for good and impartial advice.

The basic organisational structure of the advisory services operated by committees has remained the same for very many years. While the structure served as well in the past it has been evident for some time that it no longer meets modern requirements. Deputies will be aware of the suggestions made regarding the restructuring of the service in both the Jones/Davies Report of 1967 and the more recent Devlin Report.

I am at present considering the recommendations made in these reports and elsewhere and, of course, in-end to have consultations with the parties concerned. From such discussions as have already taken place and he submissions made to my Department, it is evident that there is a high degree of agreement on giving the service a unified national structure, and that any new structure should be such as to provide reasonable opportunities of advancement of staff to senior positions. Whatever form of unified national structure may be finally decided upon, it is apparent that advisers should be associated with the fundamental changes that are occurring in agriculture whether these be scientific, economic or social and, moreover, that there should be arrangements for full consultation with farmers. Also, in order that the advisory service be fully aware of the latest developments in research, there will need to be a suitable working arrangement with An Foras Talúntais and other research bodies.

In the meantime the service is being called upon to expand, particularly its educational activities. The Estimate contains a provision of £100,000 for grants to county committees of agriculture towards the cost of farm training centres. It is gratifying to see a [273] demand arising for courses not only in agriculture, but in horticulture, farm home management and poultry-keeping as well.

Under subhead B.5 a sum of £1,950,000 was originally provided towards the non-capital expenses of An Foras Talúntais but an additional £265,000 will now be required to meet the cost of applying national salary and wage awards to the institute staffs. A sum of £80,000 is being provided under subhead B.6 to finance capital expenditure by the institute. The total State contribution towards the cost of the institute's work in the current year is thus almost £2.3 million. This sum brings to £14 million the total amount of State grants made to the institute since its foundation in 1958.

I should now like to say a few words about the Government's policy in relation to small farms and small farm areas. Among the various measures in operation to help small farmers an important one is the small farm incentive bonus scheme. This scheme aims at helping those many smaller farmers in the potentially viable category to get across the threshold of viability. The scheme continues to make steady progress. More than 7,000 farmers are now working on farm development plans under the scheme. Over half of these have already been paid the first instalment of £50 of the bonus grant and a number have completed the second stage of their farm development plan thereby qualifying for the second instalment of £75. The advisory officers, who have done excellent work in operating the scheme on behalf of the Department, regard it as a very important feature of agricultural advisory work, particularly in the 12 western counties which account for two-thirds of the participants. The scheme is two years in operation and it is intended now to review its working in the light of experience during that period to see whether any changes may be desirable.

Another measure designed to benefit this section of our farmers is the pilot area development programme. The scale of the programme was increased three-fold since its initiation five years ago and considerable progress has been made under it.

[274] Experience in the pilot areas has shown that smaller farmers can achieve considerable expansion in a relatively short time. This has proved to be the case when they work closely with their agricultural adviser and when they avail of the aids and incentives open to them, many of which are differentiated in favour of the smaller farmer. The value of a close relationship between the small farmer and his agricultural adviser has been clearly demonstrated. This has helped farmers greatly in their efforts to intensify production through the adoption of modern planning and management practices. In view of the importance of the advisory service in helping farmers in small farm areas to improve their position, the intensification of the service in these areas has been a primary aim of agricultural policy in recent years; the service has in fact already been considerably strengthened in most of these areas.

A full appraisal of the pilot area development programme has recently been carried out and a report thereon has been prepared. This report, in addition to showing what the programme has achieved in the physical improvement of farms, highlights the lessons to be learned from its operation and will help to guide the direction of future developments.

Even with the wide range of agricultural measures which operate to help the smaller farmers, it must be accepted that there will be a proportion of farms which cannot be brought up to a viable level. As the Third Programme emphasises the approach to the problem of small farms cannot be based on agricultural measures alone. A comprehensive programme of development of all sectors is necessary to preserve a reasonable balance of population and activity in the various regions. This increases the opportunities for supplementary earnings by small farmers who cannot achieve a reasonable income from farming alone. This policy has the merit of assisting those who wish to continue farming in a part-time capacity as well as those leaving farming to take up outside employment. I believe that our policy is consistent with the thinking on this question in the EEC as it has so far evolved.

[275] Subhead A.5 includes a provision to cover the expenses of participation in the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission including the operation of the National Codex Committee which was set up in December, 1969, to advise the Government on the acceptability of international food standards formulated by the commission. This commission are an international body operated under the joint auspices of the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and are engaged on the formulation of standards for foods moving in international trade. They have the dual purpose of safeguarding health and facilitating trade in the commodities concerned. The implications of the acceptance of international standards are of considerable importance to us not only from the health point of view but also from the point of view of our trade and the Government will need the advice of this expert committee on the many complex questions involved.

Looking at the overall position in 1970, it is very satisfactory to see that cattle numbers showed a further increase. In June last, they were 154,000 higher than in June, 1969. Cow numbers at 1.7 million were 42,000 higher. Cattle and beef output this year is expected to be above last year's level but milk production is expected to be somewhat lower than in 1969. There was a significant movement out of milk into beef under the stimulus of the increased grants under the beef cattle incentive scheme. Furthermore the weather in May and June were not favourable to milk production. Pig numbers in June last were nearly 40,000 up on 1969 and output this year is expected to compare favourably with 1969. While sheep numbers have been declining the period of decline now seems to be ending. The increase in both the wheat and barley acreages was substantial but, with somewhat lower yields, production is estimated to be about the same as last year.

Operating costs have increased considerably during the year, particularly the cost of feedingstuffs, fertilisers and wages. The increase in operating costs, coupled with the increase in living costs, to which the rapid increase in [276] earning outside agriculture contributed, had led to a deterioration in the relative income position of farmers. On present trends we estimate that income per person engaged in agriculture should increase this year by some 6 per cent to 7 per cent which in normal circumstances would be reasonably satisfactory. Taking into account, however, that non-agricultural incomes are expected to rise by 13 per cent to 14 per cent, it is obvious that something more needed to be done for farmers if their incomes are to be kept in reasonable relationship with incomes outside agriculture. I have been discussing this problem with farm organisations and the matter has been under consideration by the Government for some time.

The Government have now decided on the following series of measures to improve the income position of farmers. The price of creamery milk is being increased and the tier system of payments restructured. The rates of Exchequer milk price allowance payable to creamery milk suppliers are being increased, with effect from 1st September, 1970, to 11d per gallon on the first 7,000 gallons delivered by each supplier per annum, and 7d per gallon on his deliveries between 7,000 gallons and 30,000 gallons. Compared with the present rates, these new rates give an increase of Id per gallon on deliveries up to 14,000 gallons per annum, and an increase of 3d per gallon on deliveries between 20.000 and 30,000 gallons per annum. The rates for gallon-ages in excess of 30,000 remain unchanged but, of course, those supplying over that amount will receive the increase in price I have announced for their first 30,000 gallons.

The effects of the price increase and restructuring of the tier system are two-fold. Not only is the price of creamery milk increased for all producers but the increased and uniform rate of 7d per gallon for the 7,000-30,000 gallon range will be a new incentive to the smaller producers to expand their output to a more efficient and economic level. The cost to the Exchequer of these increases in the rates of creamery milk price allowance will amount to more than £2 million in a full year. The increases I have [277] just announced are of course in addition to the increase announced in the Budget last April of Id per gallon on the first 7,000 gallons delivered by each supplier.

The guaranteed minimum prices for top-quality pigs will be increased by an average of 10s per cwt deadweight as from 7th December, 1970. The floor price for feeding barley of the 1971 crop will be increased by £2 10s a ton to £26 10s and an appropriate consequential adjustment will be made in the price of pigs from the autumn of 1971.

The sugar beet acreage will be increased by 6,000 acres next season.

As already mentioned, the rates of support payment under our beef and lamb export guarantee scheme have been increased by amounts equivalent to the weekly increases made in the British guaranteed prices for fat cattle, sheep and lambs—including Irish store animals fattened for at least two months in the UK.

It will readily be appreciated that these measures extend over a wide range of commodities—cattle, sheep, milk, pigs, barley and sugar beet— and should have a very significant effect on the income and continued prosperity of the farming community. It is estimated that these measures will cost the Exchequer an extra £4 million in a full year. Total State expenditure in relation to agriculture in 1971-72 is at present expected to approximate to £100 million.

Mr. Bruton: I move :

That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.

I do so on behalf of our spokesman on agriculture. Deputy Creed, who, unfortunately, is not here at this time. However, I am sure that in due course he will make a detailed contribution to the debate which, no doubt, will fill many of the gaps that will be left by my contribution.

It is commonly accepted from examination of the recent history of relations between the farming industry and the Department and, indeed, from an examination of the whole question of the progress of agriculture in this country, that one of the most important factors [278] is trust and mutual confidence between the farming organisations and the Department and, in particular, the Minister. It was partly because the leaders of the farming organisations considered themselves to have been deceived by the then Minister that they found themselves some months later sitting in the gutter in Merrion Street.

Trust in the individual personality of the Minister is absolutely vital. I regret, therefore, that the office of Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries is held currently by a man who is on record as having deceived the Dáil on two occasions.

I regret too, to some extent, the short notice we received as to the timing of this debate. For my part I was not aware until quite recently that the debate was about to take place. This document concerning the main activities of the Department might well be called a bible. I regret that this bible was not circulated to Deputies until yesterday morning. Therefore, I had less than 48 hours in which to prepare my script on the basis of the up-to-date information contained in the document. This is very unfair and it is a severe reflection on the House. If Deputies are to make a useful contribution to a debate they should have essential information considerably in advance of making their contribution.

I note that last year the corresponding document was circulated in the month of October. This year the document was not circulated until 1st December. Therefore, there appears to have been a great delay this year and this has had a bad effect on my own particular situation in preparing a speech on the Estimate. I sincerely hope that such delay will not occur again and that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will ensure that the information contained in such documents is available to Deputies well in advance of the Estimate debate taking place.

Mr. Andrews: If the Deputy had been following the whole course of agriculture, he should have been up to date on the situation.

Mr. Bruton: Perhaps if the Parliamentary Secretary had read the document, [279] he would realise how essential it is that the information be supplied well in advance of the debate.

Mr. Andrews: In fact I have read it twice. Although the subject is outside my area, I was interested enough in the contents of the document to have read it.

Mr. Bruton: I am delighted to hear that.

Acting Chairman (Sir Anthony Esmonde): Deputy Bruton, without interruption. The Parliamentary Secretary will have every opportunity of making his contribution later on.

Mr. Andrews: The Deputy's criticism in relation to the planning of the debate is a little unfair. I do not wish to be contentious. Perhaps the Deputy would consult with his own Whip.

Acting Chairman: Deputy Bruton, without interruption.

Mr. Murphy: Other business during the month of October had to have priority over this. It appears that the Parliamentary Secretary is much too thin-skinned. He is long enough here now to have become thick-skinned.

Mr. Andrews: The Deputy is wrong on that.

Mr. Bruton: In relation to this document concerning the main activities of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, it is my opinion that the document should contain not only the figures for the previous year but also, to a greater extent, the estimates for 1970. Also, it should contain the targets set out for 1970 in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion, so that we would have some measuring rod to help us determine how agriculture has progressed in relation to the thinking which we had on agriculture in the early 60s.

There has been a calculated effort to bury the Second Programme so that we might forget how dismally agriculture has performed in relation to the target laid down in that programme. [280] I note that between 1967 and 1968 the gross output of agriculture increased by £39 million whereas from 1968 to 1969 it increased by only £14 million. It is apparent, therefore, from the figures contained in this document, that there has been a slackening off in the increase in agricultural output. This is a fact with which the Department should be concerned.

I notice, also, that the number of persons employed in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has increased from 878 in 1960-61 to an estimated 2,710 for 1970-71. In other words, the staff of the Department has been almost trebled in that time. It is interesting to set this against the gross target in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion for increase in agricultural production. The increase in production was projected to be in the region of 62 per cent whereas the staff has almost trebled in that time. Of course, the fact is that production increased by only 24 per cent from 1960 to 1968 and I do not expect that the increase will be more than 30 per cent for the full period up to 1970.

Therefore, we can see that the number of persons looking after farming production, those serving in the Department, has increased threefold while production has increased by a figure in the region of 30 per cent. This ratio must be taken into consideration when we are examining the cost effectiveness of Government intervention in the field of agriculture.

The year 1968-69—the one for which the latest figures are available-was a particularly bad one. I note here that the increase in family farm income, as set out in Appendix I, was £3.2 million between the years 1968-69 whereas the average yearly increase over the period 1961 to 1969 was £7 million, so that during the period 1968-69 there was a considerable slackening off in the rate of increase in farm family income, and that includes inflation.

In relation to Appendix II, it would have been valuable for comparison purposes if the value of gross agricultural output and family farm income for the years 1968 and 1969 had been [281] given to us in constant money terms for 1960 or constant money terms for 1970 going backwards, considering the value of what can be bought for £1 now and what could be bought for £1 in 1960. In fact the figures here are quite deceptive because as far as I can see they do not contain any adjustment for inflation, and Deputies trying to make any real assessment of what has happened are at a grave disadvantage. Even against this background I notice that as between 1960 and 1969 there has actually been a fall in the output of wool: £3.5 million worth was produced in 1960 and only £2.2 million worth was produced in 1969. This indicates that even in regard to sheep there is considerable cause for concern. Again I notice a drop in gross agricultural output in relation to oats from £1.4 million in 1960 to £1 million in 1969. Incidentally the increase from 6 per cent to 7.9 per cent in sugar beet is very poor indeed. There has also been a drop in relation to horses from £3.5 million to £3.2 million. All these figures indicating decreases must give us cause for great concern.

In relation to external trade, which is the next heading in the notes on the activities of the Department, the exports of certain commodities have fallen between 1968 and 1969. For a start there is live cattle and beef. Perhaps this decrease can be explained by the transfer to carcase meat, so I think we need not worry too much about that. However, under the headings of sheep and lambs and mutton and lamb, both live and dead, there has been a fall in exports between 1968 and 1969. There has also been a fall over that period in the exports of butter, cheese and greyhounds. There should be some statement explaining why this has taken place. There should also be in this document which was circulated an estimate of the gross exports for 1970. We are near the end of the year and it should not have been beyond the wit of the Department to give us an estimate for 1970 so that we would not have to work on 1969 figures in relation to an Estimate which is for 1970-71.

In relation to Ireland's participation [282] in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs there is a note which says:

An Arrangement has recently been concluded between a number of countries for the observance of minimum prices for skim-milk powder traded internationally. Ireland has not adhered to the Arrangement because of certain disadvantages which it would involve for our export trade in skim powder.

I do not know much about this subject, and it would be helpful if the Minister could give us some information in this regard. If an agreement has been concluded, surely it must be something which takes into account the interest of member countries of GATT; and it is rather strange therefore that we should not be in a position to adhere to this agreement. I am sure there is a good reason but I should like to know what it is.

The next heading relates to the EEC and I do not propose to say very much specifically about that subject. However, there has been a considerable amount of debate in relation to the sale of lands to non-nationals and a definitive statement of the Minister on this matter would be helpful.

Under subhead C.I (1) of the Estimate for 1970-71 the amount for the purchase of stock cattle, sheep and pigs is £34,000. The figure for 1969-70 was £50,000 and, in fact, this estimate was exceeded during that year and it was necessary to spend £60,000 under this heading. It surprises me therefore that when last year's estimate was exceeded, this year's estimate should be lower than both last year's estimate and the actual expenditure; it is almost half what was spent in 1969-70. I wonder what has happened here. It may be there has been a shift in departmental policy away from buying the very best of bulls in the British market for our AI stations, our Department of Agriculture buyers being the very highest bidders for the choicest bulls in these sales in England. If that is the case, I think I can welcome it, because perhaps we have been spending too much there. If we had proper progeny testing of the bulls we have—and we have accumulated a stock of very good bulls because we [283] have been buying expensive bulls in foreign markets for a long time—we could possibly make a saving here. I should like to know if that is the case and why there has been this decrease in this estimate.

In relation to the meat export guarantee scheme, I am pleased to note that the Minister recently announced that he proposed to follow the increase which took place in Britain. However, some time ago there was an increase in Britain which was not followed here and as a result Irish factories are not now getting the same amount under the scheme as British factories are getting under the equivalent scheme there. This puts our factories at considerable disadvantage in relation to factories in Northern Ireland. If this lack of parity continues there is a danger that at some stage it will result in a loss of employment in southern Irish factories because meat will either go across the Border or cattle will be exported on the hoof to be slaughtered in British factories. The Minister has gone some way by following the most recent British increase and I hope he will take the logical step and restore parity with the British rate of grant.

The provision for subhead C.I (7) relating to progeny testing is no greater this year than the provision made last year. This is rather surprising in view of the fact that a new revised testing programme is coming into effect as well as the introduction of performance testing. I wonder if the sum of £24.000 will be sufficient in the light of the welcome innovations which have been introduced by the Department in this field. In the notes on the main activities of the Department, on page 7, there is a statement on bovine progeny testing:

So far, 212 dairy bulls have been fully tested, of which 156 were classified as satisfactory and the remainder removed from service.

How many of the 156 classified as satisfactory are still alive? If they are dead there is no point in putting that figure in here. I have a suspicion that a number of those 156 are dead, because on 10th March, 1970, I received [284] a reply at column 3, volume 245 of the Official Report, which stated:

Out of the 265 dairy bulls used in the AI service in 1969, 63 were fully progeny tested . . .

Sixty-three out of a total of 265 is a very poor number. In other words, we have no objective evidence to measure how good the progeny of most of the bulls in the AI service is. As far as possible all bulls should be progeny tested. I should like to know if it is the practice in AI services in other countries for such a small proportion of those in the AI service to be progeny tested. No one knows how much harm is being done by using the semen of bulls which have not been progeny tested; they might be entirely defective for all we know. We have no real evidence that they will be good progeny. I wonder if we could reduce the usage of bulls which have not been progeny tested and concentrate to a greater extent on those which have. I do not think enough use is made of freezing and increased dilution which are modern scientific methods of getting more inseminations out of those bulls which have been properly proved. I wonder if these methods are used to the extent they should be. I understand that research and experience in New Zealand has indicated that the number of inseminations which can take place from one bull by the use of these methods is two or three times as much as is being done here. I should be grateful if the Department would look into these matters.

I notice in 1969 that 39 bulls were progeny tested for dairying characteristics and only 17 for beef combined with dairying characteristics. More should be tested for combined characteristics and less for dairying characteristics. I should like to know how many are being tested for pure beef characteristics. On 10th March last the previous Minister expressed doubts as to whether some bulls which had failed the progeny test and had been shown to be unsatisfactory, even under the loose requirements in force at that time, would be immediately withdrawn. They might have remained in service even though their progeny test had shown they had bad characteristics [285] which they would be transmitting. I should like an assurance from the present Minister that this is not the case and if, in fact, it is the case the matter will be rectified. It is very bad that we should continue to use bulls which have failed.

I welcome the development announced on page 8 of the notes on the main activities of the Department, which state:

Under the revised testing programme, which came into operation in 1969, the AI Stations increased the intake of young bulls to enable a selection intensity of one-in-four to be applied on the basis of the progeny test results.

This should have been done long ago. Our breeding is not up to the standards which obtain in most European countries. The figures on page 7 indicate that of those tested prior to the introduction of this one-in-four scheme 75 per cent were accepted and only 25 per cent rejected. While I welcome the selectivity which is to be enforced, I think we are rather late bringing it in.

I welcome the setting up of a central performance testing station for bulls at the National Stud Farm at Tully, County Kildare. This is about to be established but it is not yet in operation. It is instructive to note that on page 48 of the Second Programme for Economic Expansion, published in 1964, it is stated:

A performance testing service will be started initially for bulls of the beef breeds; it will provide the breeders with facilities to test bulls for stock purposes and will also identify bulls for leasing to the AI service.

It was decided to set this up in 1964 and in 1970 we have at last specified where we are going to set it up; but when is it going to be set up? Why has there been this enormous delay? What breeds are going to be performance tested? There is mention of 100 young bulls. What breeds will they be?

There is some concern in agricultural circles about the recent link-up between the B & I and British Rail in [286] regard to the shipping of Irish cattle to Britain. The port of Birkenhead may be closed to Irish cattle and the concentration will be on Dublin and Holyhead. Irish cattle will have to go out through Dublin and into Britain through Holyhead. A strike in either port could put a stop to cattle exports. An unofficial dispute over some minor matter could hold up the export of Irish cattle. I would deplore putting all our eggs, so to speak, in one basket. It is essential that our cattle should be shipped out through a number of ports and in through a number of ports to Britain. I hope this proposed link-up will not result in a monopoly situation and lead to exploitation of the Irish farmer and Irish cattle exports, rendering them more vulnerable in the case of a strike in either port.

The preliminary statement on cattle numbers in the 1970s is that there will be 5,841,500 cattle. If the target set in the Second Programme had been reached cattle numbers would be somewhere in the region of 6,600,000. In other words, we are short of the Second Programme target by almost 1,000,000 head. This is something which causes concern since cattle have been the most successful agricultural enterprise over the past ten years.

I am a little disappointed with the recently announced increase in the price for creamery milk. The multi-tier system, which has been so persuasively argued, operated against efficiency and against expansion. The Minister has fiddled about with it. He has made it a little less onerous on some farmers but, nevertheless, has left it practically intact. This multi-tier system militates against progress and expansion in the dairying industry. It should have been withdrawn, not fiddled around with.

I am disappointed that there has been no increase in price for quality milk. At the moment 2d per gallon is paid by way of bonus. An increase would not have cost all that much and it would have had a very useful effect. I should like to know why there has been no increase. As a result of the multi-tier system supplies have gone down considerably. Small farmers, whom the multi-tier system was supposed to [287] encourage in milk production, have gone out of milk production and it is their withdrawal which has been the biggest contributory factor in the reduction of supplies of milk to the creameries. The multi-tier system is an obvious failure from the point of view of encouraging milk production by the small farmer. I should like the Minister to comment on that.

In the past two years there has been a decline in creamery milk production. This may be the greatest cause for concern that we have. We do not yet know what the arrangements in the EEC will be; it is possible it will be on a quota basis. It is likely the quota will be arrived at on the basis of the actual production in the year of entry. Any policy therefore which reduces creamery milk production is very dangerous in that it could result in our having a very low quota in the EEC. I am not saying it will be on a quota basis, but it is on a quota basis in regard to sugar. There is a quota system in operation. It is possible that in the complex negotiations which take place a quota system may be found to be the right system for creamery milk as well. If that happens we shall be in trouble if our policy results in a decline in creamery milk production. It is generally accepted that creamery milk production is one of the areas in which we stand to gain most and any policy which discourages production and weakens our position from the point of view of opportunities for creamery milk production in the EEC is very dangerous.

There have been two increases this year in liquid milk, Id increase in February and 2d per gallon in May. There was no increase for two years prior to that. These increases were based on increased costs up to 31st December, 1969, and they were increases which were overdue. They should have taken place in 1969 but they were deferred until 1970. Since the beginning of 1970 there have been very big increases in the costs of liquid milk production and the Minister should now examine the position to see whether or not there should be another increase in the price of liquid milk. Agricultural wages have [288] gone up by 25 per cent; feedingstuffs have increased in price by 15 per cent and fertilisers by 10 per cent. There is a special exception in the Prices and Incomes Bill for liquid milk which will permit an increase to take place between the period October to January. This was probably put in to benefit the bottlers. The Minister should consider using it to benefit the liquid milk suppliers as well. Subhead B.11 (1) (a) refers to a grant to the IAOS of £20,000. I should like to know when this grant was last increased. The IAOS are doing useful work for the farming community and if the grant has not been increased recently consideration should be given to providing them with more money.

There is evidence of inefficient budgeting in relation to subhead D. 12 (2) for milk coolers. In 1969-70 the amount spent on this scheme was £20,000. However, in the Estimate for 1970-71 only £10,000 was allocated. I should like to know why it was decided to reduce the amount. It was proved within a short time that this amount was totally inadequate and special provision had to be made in the Budget to increase the sum by another £10,000. Was this deliberate underestimation in order to give the Minister for Finance an opportunity to make up the deficit in the Budget and thereby appear to confer great benefits on the milk industry? The result was that not only will the £20,000 be spent but it will cost £33,000 if the Minister's statement is to be believed. The original estimate of £10,000 has been proved inadequate to the extent of £23,000.

I should like to refer to the recent increases in the creamery milk price. It should be stressed that no increase will be given to those people who are producing in excess of 30,000 gallons per annum although there are increases for those producing below that level. People are being discouraged from increasing production above 30,000 gallons. This seems to be unwise, particularly if one takes into consideration the yields obtained in the EEC countries. The annual yield per cow in the EEC countries is 900 gallons which is probably a little better than the yield obtained in Ireland. However, this is the competition we shall meet in the [289] EEC. At that rate, the 30,000 gallons would be produced by 32 or 33 cows each year. If we are to take modern dairying standards this would be sufficient to employ one man. In England on the farms of people like Mr. Rex Patterson and Mr. Eckberg they have the situation in which one man can handle 80 cows. Therefore, taking a conservative estimate no increases have been granted for production in excess of 30,000 gallons.

I understand that the general objective of agricultural policy is to aim at a situation in which a farm will employ one man and a helper. If we are to be consistent with that objective, surely the ceiling should be higher than the present figure of 30,000 gallons. I should like the Minister to explain this position to us. The same position may not obtain in Ireland as in the more modern farms of Britain and Europe but we should have regard to the objectives at which we are aiming. This ceiling figure of 30,000 gallons is most undesirable.

Mr. Murphy: It would cost a considerable amount of money to subsidise the 30,000 gallons and from the Deputy's observations it appears that only one man would be employed.

Mr. Bruton: Perhaps we should examine the whole structure of support for the creamery milk industry because it appears we may be misspending a considerable amount of money. The objective of Exchequer intervention in agricultural production should be primarily to increase efficiency and incomes. Any system of Exchequer support that discourages efficiency and expansion is hardly desirable. However, I concede readily to Deputy Murphy on the subject of creamery milk because I am not resident in an area that is primarily involved in the production of creamery milk. What I say may be wrong but I should like to put it forward for consideration.

The rationalisation of creameries has been bungled to a great extent. In 1966, the IAOS, who had been entrusted by the Government with responsibility for encouraging co-operative creamery societies to reorganise [290] their structure, published proposals to illustrate a possible form of reorganisation of the industry involving the amalgamation of existing societies to form a considerably reduced number of large-scale units. That was the first stage. At the second stage this need was underlined in the report on the Irish dairy industry organisation prepared by two US consultants and published by the Government in 1968. Two study groups reported on the rationalisation of the industry and in April, 1970, the Minister announced the personnel of the group to advise him, from the economic and social aspects, on specific proposals for creamery reorganisation. In other words, we have had three study groups to recommend on creamery rationalisation. Surely the time for recommendations and studies has passed; it is now time to make decisions. I hope the Government will not shirk their responsibility to take decisions if they think that the taking of any decision might mean a loss of political prestige in any area. I hope this process of setting up ineffective study groups to make recommendations which are not followed up will be discontinued.

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

An Ceann Comhairle: Business is suspended until 9.30 p.m.

Business suspended at 9.10 p.m. and resumed at 9.30 p.m.

Mr. Bruton: Before the suspension of business I referred to the case for consideration by the Minister for an increase in the liquid milk price. This year, the bottlers have been able to get the Minister's agreement for an increase, as from 1st December, of Ida pint per bottle of milk: this comes to 8d per gallon. The producers of milk have been able to get an increase in this year totalling only 3d while, in the previous two years, they were unable to get any increase at all. It seems to be much easier for the wholesalers to get increases—which are borne, of course, by the housewife—than for the producers. Surely that is putting the cart before the horse because the bottlers [291] are getting priority over the producers in this matter?

Let me turn, now, to the question of pigs and pigmeat. The number of pigs delivered in 1969 to bacon factories was 1,936,000. It is instructive to compare that figure with the target set for 1970—the year immediately following. Paragraph 129 states:

As regards the future, an output target of 2,030,000 has been set for 1970 representing an increase of about 20 per cent or 350,000 over the 1963 output. It is not expected that any great difficulty should be involved in achieving this.

All we have been able to reach is 1,936,000. The difference between the figures is not very great but it indicates that we are not, apparently, reaching the targets set out in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion.

Another matter can be somewhat aligned with what I was saying earlier about the Government's attitude towards the rationalisation of the creameries. There has been delay and indecision, arising from sensitivity to political losses which might occur locally, and no hard decisions have, in those circumstances, been taken. This phenomenon has again occurred in relation to the departmental report on the bacon and pigmeat industry of seven years ago. It was stated at that time that the capacity of the factories in the industry was too great and that a rationalisation should take place. It is very wrong that decisions have not been taken here. We are leading the employees of these factories up the garden path. If, in EEC conditions, some form of rationalisation is forced upon us, we shall be unprepared for it. Possibly we shall not then be able to do as much as we could do now in the matter of retraining employees who will be laid off by the enforced acquisition of these factories which will inevitably occur in EEC conditions. By the time we get into the EEC—and if we fail to take decisions now—a large number of employees in these factories will be too old to train for other jobs. We are not taking a decision. We are allowing the consumer to suffer. We are allowing the producer to suffer. The consumer [292] gets a more expensive product. The producer does not get as good a price. All that is the result of the Government's not taking decisions on this report. Do they, or do they not, accept this report? What do they intend to do about factory rationalisation? What do they intend to do to protect the interests of those employees in factories which must inevitably come under very grave pressure in the EEC? Now is the time to take the decision, and not when the problem is upon us, particularly as the recommendation was made seven years ago.

Under subhead E.3—bacon and pork exports : payment to Pigs and Bacon Commission—I notice that the provision is down on that of last year by £200,000. Why is the Department confident that there will be no necessity for the same amount as last year? Under subhead D.5 I note that a sum has been set aside £53,000 less than the amount spent last year under the scheme of grants for farrowed sows : last year, £153,000 was spent on this. An estimated provision of £125,000 was made but this year the estimate is only for £100,000. I find this very difficult to understand. There is no indication in the note on the scheme of grants for farrowed sows for western counties where the savings will occur which justify the lower estimate. If this type of budgeting is inaccurate, it should not take place.

Let me turn now to sheep production. It is instructive here, also, to look at the Second Programme targets and to compare them with what is actually the case in 1970. There are approximately 3,975,400 sheep in this country. The target outlined in the Second Programme, if it had been fulfilled, would have meant that we would have 6.6 million sheep—almost twice as many sheep—in 1970. The House deserves an explanation as to why this has not happened. It will be said by the Minister, no doubt, that other lines of production have become more attractive but that could hardly justify so great an underestimation and so great a failure to reach our targets as has taken place. In fact, there has been a steady decline through 1968, 1969, and 1970. Sheep numbers in 1970 [293] are lower than they were in 1969 and lower than in 1968. The Minister in his introductory speech spoke about having evidence that this process is being reversed and that sheep numbers are beginning to pick up again. He did not produce that evidence but I think he should produce it if he wants to make that assertion.

This is a very serious position because there are very great opportunities in the EEC for the sale of sheep. It is probably true to say that sheep are the commodity with the greatest prospects of all in the EEC. It is worth noting that the annual consumption of mutton and lamb in France is only 6 lbs per head per annum whereas in Ireland and England consumption is 23-24 lb per head of population. Obviously there are great prospects, with intensive marketing arrangements, of greatly increased consumption of mutton and lamb in the EEC. An aggressive sales programme on our part could do much to increase consumption in that market which is almost entirely untapped. Against that background, while we are preparing for EEC membership we are allowing our sheep numbers to drop drastically.

It is also worth noting that it has been worked out that in an enlarged EEC the self-sufficiency of the Community, even based on present consumption levels, will be only about 60 per cent as regards mutton and lamb which means that there will be 40 per cent of consumption to be filled from outside the EEC. Clearly, this indicates great prospects for expansion within the EEC of our mutton and lamb exports. It is also probable that present imports of mutton and lamb from New Zealand to Britain will be reduced if not cut off in the EEC era which again will give us opportunity to expand to meet the consequent deficit in that market. What preparation are we making to take advantage of this? We are allowing our sheep numbers to continue to drop. I have no ready solution to this problem to offer but it is a problem that certainly needs to be solved.

The sheep situation must also cause concern in regard to our balance of payments. In 1966, total exports of [294] sheep to Great Britain were 165,000 approximately and total imports were 109,000. In 1969, total exports were only 85,000 and total imports 127,000. From being in a position where we had a surplus of exports of sheep and lamb over imports of 56,000 in 1966 we had a deficit in 1969 of 41,000. This is something which should be of much greater concern to the Government than it seems to be. Action should be taken immediately to arrest the decline in sheep production here.

The Minister said :

The British guaranteed price for sheep was increased by 3d per lb carcase weight for 1970-71 and the Government decided to increase the level of support for our carcase lamb exports to Britain by a similar sum.

So far as I know, the Government's decision in this matter means literally nothing because our exports of carcase lamb have not, to my knowledge, reached the level where the Government would be making any contribution. Therefore, the Minister's statement is worthless. We should set ourselves a target to increase sheep numbers by approximately one million over the next five or six years. I hope the Government will take positive measures to reach that target.

In the Government's White Paper in relation to the EEC and in general Government statements on the matter there is no indication as to how the future of mountain lamb will compare in the EEC with the future of fast flesh producers in lowland areas. Mountain lamb producers who are getting considerable incentives at the moment may have cause for concern that they will not derive the same benefits as lowland people. Now is the time to tell them what will happen and to help them to prepare, not when we get into the EEC.

Probably the most drastic decline of all in agricultural products—I have not the figures at the moment—over the past ten years has been in wool production. Yet, in the Government's document on Ireland's position in the recent Government statement anticipating the prospects for our agricultural EEC which is probably the most [295] industry, there is no mention of wool, if I am not mistaken. What will be the prospects for wool in the EEC? We are entitled to know. We have introduced a Wool Marketing Act and we are taking steps to standardise the grading of wool. That is all commendable but we should know what will be the prospects for wool in the EEC. I do not think the Department have done any work on this subject or if they have it has not been published, to my knowledge. The Wool Marketing Act was passed in 1968 but the wool grading system which was to come into effect under it is not yet fully effective, as far as I know. This is a delay of two years. I wonder what is the reason. Two years is somewhat longer than can be explained by normal administrative problems. Surely the difficulties were seen before the Bill was introduced and steps could have been taken then to deal with them instead of having to try to meet the problem after that. I should like to know what has happened.

In the EEC we shall face considerable problems in relation to egg production. The main threat, strangely enough, will come from Northern Ireland where there is much greater egg production in relation to the population than there is here. There is a danger that in the EEC, if all barriers are removed, our market could be flooded with eggs from Northern Ireland. I am glad to see that a council is being set up on the initiative of certain farming organisations, with the support of the Government, to deal with this problem. The Department are to be commended on the co-operation they have given in the setting up of this council. I hope they will continue in that vein and bear in mind the problem I have mentioned about the danger of the flooding of our market in EEC conditions.

Mr. Murphy: What council is that?

Mr. Bruton: I do not know the name of the council. I am assured there is such a council. Is that right?

Mr. J. Gibbons: The council has just been formed.

[296] Mr. Bruton: I mentioned in the Dáil earlier this year a problem in relation to egg production. To be honest, I have forgotten the intricacies now. It was an extremely intricate problem. It related to the fact that at certain times of the year we were not in a position to export eggs to Britain without paying a levy imposed by the British Government on all foreign egg producers. It was specifically written into the agreement that we would be exempt from that levy but I understand from certain exporters of eggs that we had to pay the levy which was equal to the difference between the price at which we were exporting and the price obtaining on the UK market at that time. It came to about 6d a dozen in most cases. I know the Minister at the time denied that any such levy was being put on our eggs in effect. I am not in a position to state categorically that he is wrong but I have it on good authority from a member of the industry that this is the case. I would be grateful if the Minister would keep a particularly wary eye on this next year to ensure that it does not happen again. If it did it would be entirely against the spirit of the Free Trade Agreement which was much lauded by the Government.

I should like to move now to the question of cereals and feeding stuffs. I have not very much to say about this except to comment on the increase in the floor price for feeding barley which was announced last night by the Department. I think there is a typographical error here—maybe it is not a typographical error; I do not know—but I think it recurs in the Minister's brief and in a press statement. It says that the floor price for feeding barley for the 1971 crop will be increased from £2 10s per ton to £26 10s per ton. Is this true?

Mr. J. Gibbons: By £2 10s per ton.

Mr. Bruton: I am sorry. I got it implanted in my mind that it was “from” instead of “by”.

Mr. J. Gibbons: Do not let it bug you.

Mr. Bruton: I am unbuggable. I understand [297] that this is not quite adequate and I should like to know if the Minister is certain that this increase in the floor price will be enough to ensure that all our needs for feeding barley will be met by home producers of feeding barley. I hope this will be the result but I have heard that it may not be.

In relation to sugar beet the Minister also granted an increase in the acreage of 6,000 acres. I am inclined to think this may be adequate. I know the organisation involved were asking for more but it may well prove to be enough. I do not know; it remains to be seen. I hope it is enough to ensure that everything that can be produced at home will be produced at home.

I should like now to pass to the question of soft fruits. I want to refer to a letter which I received from a constituent recently who is engaged in this activity. He wanted me to ask the Minister if he is aware that there is over-production of soft fruit in this country, that gooseberries were sold in County Wexford at £20 per ton and picking costs alone were £16 per ton; that gooseberries and blackcurrants will be unsaleable next year and that raspberries may be unsaleable in two or three years time; and if he is also aware that raspberries were imported in 1969-70, some of them from Bulgaria, and what steps he intends to take to remedy this situtaion as a number of people depending on soft fruit growing for their living will have to go out of production.

I should like to know the Minister's attitude to the facts outlined in that letter. From independent investigations I understand that what is stated is entirely true. The production of gooseberries, blackcurrants and raspberries and all the soft fruits has suffered very badly in recent times. There is a need for much greater guidance by the Department in relation to soft fruit production. We have county committees and various bodies willy-nilly encouraging people to go into soft fruit production without being fully aware of the prospects at the end of the season. There is no real guidance and people do not know where they stand when they go into soft fruit production. [298] The Department should be able to give an adequate forecast at the beginning of the season about the prospects at the end of the year if a certain quantity is planted. There should be some co-ordination. I know the difficulties are great but if something is not done in this field, gluts and scarcities are likely to continue and there will be hardship all round. I am not against the principle of free trade. Indeed, I think it is a very important principle but we should ensure that no soft fruit is being dumped on the market to the detriment of our producers.

Under the heading “Horticulture,” in the document “Main Activities of the Department” it is stated:

Consideration is being given, following discussions with the interests concerned, to the establishment of some suitable type of promotional body for the horticultural industry.

We should have some more details about this. What will this body do? To what extent will producers be represented on that body? Will the scope of their activities be confined to Ireland or will they cover the whole world?

I turn now to potatoes. It is stated in “Main Activities of the Department”:

The downward trend in the area under potatoes continued in 1969 and the total area cropped was 136,300 areas as against 146,500 acres in 1968.

Has this downward trend the Government's approval? If not, what do they intend to do about it? I also understand—and I am now speaking a full hour after this could have any effect on the results of the by-election in Donegal—that there have been particularly serious problems in relation to the failure of the potato crop in Donegal this year due to flooding. It may be that there is an emergency situation up there now and that certain aid should be given on a priority basis to the people in Donegal. I understand that when flooding affected farming very badly in Roscommon some years [299] ago special low interest loans were extended to farmers in that area to meet the problem.

Mr. Murphy: We will be hearing more about that tomorrow evening, I suppose.

Mr. Bruton: I would say we will. I wonder if the Minister would investigate the possibility of doing something to help the farmers in this area.

I welcome any expenditure on fertilisers and ground limestone. It is one of the most important bases of all agricultural production and without it agricultural production would be much lower than it is. I hope the Government will continue the fertiliser and ground limestone subsidies. What will happen to those subsidies in the EEC? Will we be able to continue them?

I should like now to move to farm buildings and water supply schemes. I read at page 31 of the notes on the Department's activities :

In May, 1969, the maximum grant for livestock houses was increased from £75 to £200 per holding, grants for cow-kennels were introduced, the silo capacity eligible for the highest rate of grant was increased from 100 cubic yards to 150 cubic yards and the rate of grant for concrete bases for silage making in the open was increased.

I notice, too, that the Minister is in the process of introducing proposals to equalise the treatment of dry stock and dairying enterprises in relation to farm building grants. This is only right as both of these forms of agricultural production are equally important in our endeavour to take full benefit of the EEC. Farm buildings are very important and I welcome the Department's attitude to this question. I hope that in the new scheme particular note will be taken of what I consider to be certain silly requirements which must be met in order to qualify for grants. Some of these requirements have no economic value. They are utterly meaningless. They are Civil Service formulae applied with such rigidity that they become almost absurd. I know of one case [300] where a man who was building a silage installation was told he would not be given the grant unless he removed the existing fence, which was perfectly all right, and replaced it with a tubular steel fence or concrete walls. The producer in question, who is a reasonably knowledgable farmer, knew that this was entirely unnecessary. He did not bother with the grant because he felt it would cost him so much to replace the fence that the grant would be worthless to him. These are the sort of silly requirements which, in a minority of cases, can spoil the effect of the schemes.

I should like now to move to the small farm incentive bonus scheme. On 3rd March, 1970, column 1879 of the Official Report—I asked in relation to the last three months of 1968 and the last three months of 1969 the number of applications and the number of acceptances by farmers in each county. The reply I received was quite worrying. It showed that in the last three months of 1968 the number of acceptances was 1,646 and for the corresponding period in 1969 it was down to less than half that number, to 621. What it will be for the last three months of 1970 I do not know yet, obviously. This is very disquieting particularly as the Minister tells us that the scheme continues to make steady progress. This is steady retrogression. I should like to know what the Minister is doing about this. The total bonus grant has been increased from £200 to £300 but we need concrete evidence that the scheme has been successful. If it has not, the whole scheme should be reviewed.

A point worth noting is the relativity between different counties in regard to applications. In Donegal, in the last three months of 1969 there were only 13 acceptances even though there are 12,500 farmers in that area of whom 77 per cent have less than 50 acres. In Mayo—and the Mayo County Committee of Agriculture are to be commended for it—the number for the same period, although the number of farmers is not that much greater, was 163. I notice also that in Meath there was only one acceptance in that period in 1969 whereas there were 31 in 1968. [301] This is very low indeed. Although Meath is not considered by some people to be a small farm county I think the Acting Chairman will agree with me that it is a small farm county. I have here figures which indicate that according to the last census there were 5,782 farmers in Meath and 3,500 of these had under 50 acres. Against that background, it is very disappointing that only one farmer should have been accepted in that three months period in 1969. We need to reconsider not only the scheme as a whole, which is obviously proving unattractive, but also the promotion of the scheme in particular counties. There is an obvious imbalance between certain counties on the western seaboard, not all by any means, and other counties like Longford, Monaghan, Kildare, Roscommon —which is particularly bad—Meath and most eastern seaboard counties where the scheme does not seem to have got off the ground at all.

I hope steps will be taken to ensure that the scheme is improved and made more effective because I believe that the concept of the scheme is very good: the idea that a farmer should plan in advance his production over a number of years, should keep accurate accounts, should have targets to meet and if he meets them he gets the grant. That is the sort of farming which will put small farms back on the map in this country. The idea of the scheme is a very good one but I am very sorry that it appears to have been a failure to date. I hope something will be done to put it back on the right track. I also think it could be extended; eligibility could be widened. It says here:

. . . those eligible to take part in the Scheme are farmers whose system of farming, in the latest calendar year, gave an estimated growth margin of less than £700 . . .

In the light of inflation and also in view of the fact that many larger farmers could well benefit from participation in a scheme of this nature the gross margin should be increased to £1,000. In other words, farmers whose system of farming in the latest calendar year gave an estimated growth margin of £1,000 should also be eligible.

[302] In relation to starting this scheme, too, I understand there has been difficulty in some areas in getting advice and help from the advisory services. In a southern county there are 28 farmers who, since February last, have got together and agreed to enter into some form of enterprise that would qualify under the small farm incentive bonus scheme but this effort has not got off the ground because the adviser has not had time to go down and see them. I hope this sort of delay and lack of enterprise on the part of the advisory service in some areas will not continue. Of course, I do not know the background to this case in Cork but I hope sincerely that this whole question will be considered in a critical way in order to ensure that the scheme is improved.

The small farms pilot area development scheme has 'been something of a flop. The areas have been extended but I am not aware that there have been any discoveries as a result of the scheme or that anything learned from the scheme, which has been in existence now for some time, has been applied usefully in other areas. This scheme was intended to be one which others would follow but how many have followed the scheme? As far as I can see, all that has been done is that the scheme has been extended a little in the areas where it is already in operation so that, perhaps, another parish would be included. However, there are many small farmers living in areas which are not pilot areas. I should like to know what is to be done to extend the effect of the scheme. I am not saying that the same amount of money should be spent on every part of the country as has been spent in these areas because that would probably not be worth while but, at the same time, we should reassess what has been done so as to ensure that the scheme will in fact operate as a pilot scheme.

The most important aspect of the advisory service is the building up of mutual trust between the adviser and the farmer. However, there is a feature which is operating against this, namely, that advisers seem to be moving rapidly from one area to [303] another. At least some of them do not remain very long in any one area. This is because they realise, and rightly so, that in the present situation their chances of promotion are probably greater if they move around. They may find that promotion is closed to them in a particular county and so they move to some other county.

Since this confidential knowledge and relationship between the farmer and the adviser is so important perhaps an additional increment in salary might be given to advisers who remain in the same county for a specified length of time. This would discourage them from moving around and would compensate them for any lack of promotion brought about by their staying in the same county. It would ensure that the confidential relationship between the adviser and the farmer would be maintained.

In relation to agricultural education I note there is an increase towards agricultural schools and farms. This is to be commended in general. However, I understand that we are still far behind other European countries in the field of agricultural education. So far as I know, to enter farming in the EEC countries, particularly in Holland, it is necessary to have a qualification from an agricultural college. Therefore, it would appear that the level of agricultural education in those countries is much higher than it is here. Possibly, then, the allocation here for the Estimate for agricultural education is inadequate.

It must also be borne in mind that many of the people who receive an education in agriculture do not afterwards take up farming but, instead, go into some allied occupation where they use the skills they have acquired but do not practise farming as such. I saw a figure recently which, as far as I can remember, indicated that only about 2 per cent of UCD graduates in agriculture actually went into farming. I am aware that the figure is not quite as low as that for some agricultural colleges but even there, there are large numbers who do not go in for farming. Therefore it will be seen that if a [304] specified number of graduates is mentioned in the Estimate for Agriculture, it cannot be taken that all these people will go into farming. It is obvious that more money is needed in this field.

Recently I was looking through the Book of Estimates and, in so far as I can remember, under subhead B.I (1) (c)—University Grants—last year £510,000 was provided whereas this year the figure was only £350,000. Therefore, there has been a reduction in the additional university grants being given to UCD in 1970/71 as compared with 1969/70. Why is this the case? Is the Minister dissatisfied with the work being done in UCD? Was there some particular project carried out in 1969/70 which required a particular grant? We should have an explanation. The figures available to Deputies do not indicate the answer.

To go back for a moment to the advisory service, there is a point I wish to make in relation to a paragraph on page 37 of the notes on the activities of the Department which reads:

In order to ensure a high standard of expertise among all members of the Advisory Service, the Department, with the help of An Foras Talúntais, the Universities and others, arranges comprehensive in-service training. In addition, national, regional and local in-service courses in all facets of agriculture are held. Educational tours to other countries are also provided.

That is a welcome development but I would like to have more details as to how often these take place. How many times a year would a particular adviser go on one of those courses? There would not be much point in having a multiplicity of courses if the number attending were very few. What proportion of the total number of advisers actually receive some in-service training each year? That information would enable us to assess what is being done in this respect. A litany of the various facilities, if they cover only a small number of persons, is not very useful.

In relation to research and the grants to An Foras Talúntais, I understand they have very interesting ideas at the moment for the development of feeding [305] systems for beef cattle, but these cannot be developed to the extent of making any solid recommendation to farmers because of lack of finance. I would ask the Minister to take a careful look at this. As beef is a very important product in the EEC we should ensure that the most modern techniques are available and An Foras Talúntais should not be starved of finance in relation to beef products. There may be other areas where economies could be made but not in beef.

I have not yet referred to the very broad and important topic of animal health and veterinary research on page 39 of the notes on the main activities of the Department. The Minister in this document and also in his speech starts off on a very bad note in regard to the warble fly eradication scheme. At page 39 of the notes it is stated:

As a result it was decided to reintroduce a general autumn dressing campaign in 1970 but because of opposition by some farming organisations this was not practicable.

I am not in a position to say that farming organisations were entirely without blame in this matter but for the Minister to put the entire blame on them, as he does in this document and also in his speech, is quite unfair. Apart from being quite unfair, it is one way of ensuring that the Department do not get the co-operation of the farmers next year in eradicating the warble fly. It is clear from the Minister's own statement that the most important thing in relation to eradication of the warble fly is the co-operation of the farmers and of the farming organisations network. If the Minister is going to start abusing farmers' organisations he will not get that co-operation.

I do not want to go back over why the warble scheme went a bit wrong-it has been said often in this House-but the real blame goes back to the fact that the Department and the Minister refused to reintroduce the general autumn dressing in 1967. That is the real reason why infestation rose from I per cent in 1966 to 12 per cent in 1970. Another reason for the difference between the Department and the farmers in relation to the general autumn dressing in 1970 was the fact that farmers [306] were asked to pay 4s per beast for a dressing. In view of the fact that this reintroduction of the general autumn dressing might not have been necessary if the Government had not taken the wrong decision in 1967, the Department should have borne some of the cost of the dressing and not ask the farmers to pay the full 4s. Apart from that, there is the point that nobody knows how this charge of 4s per beast was arrived at. The farmers certainly were not consulted. As far as I can see there was some sort of “confab” between the Department and the AI stations and they arrived at the figure of 4s. For all we know it could be a figure pulled out of the sky. Therefore it is quite understandable that certain farming organisations referred to by the Minister——

Mr. Lemass: Wait till you get the figures tomorrow.

Mr. Bruton: I shall be looking forward to them.

Mr. Lemass: You may get a fright.

Mr. Bruton: Nothing would frighten me. There will be a little more reason for fright on the Parliamentary Secretary's side tomorrow and it will not be due to warbles. I do not know how they arrived at this figure. I would not agree with the policy in relation to the warble fly scheme expressed by the Minister in this way:

It seems that in future treatment of the warble fly will have to be on a voluntary basis.

In other words they have entirely given up the idea of its being an eradication scheme. If you have a scheme entirely on a voluntary basis you might as well cease to call it an eradication scheme because a scheme which is carried out on a voluntary basis will not succeed in eradicating warbles, and it is ridiculous to think that it will. The Minister accused me of denigrating the farmers because I suggested this in the House some months ago, but it is only being realistic. In every community— and the farming community is no exception—there are a small number of people who will not abide by the rules. Warbles are highly contagious—they [307] fly across the fence into another field-and if there is one man in the area who does not dress his cattle they can become infected with warbles and foul up the whole area.

My approach would be that we should have a compulsory dressing scheme next autumn, that the price per beast should be set at some figure involving a contribution from the Exchequer and from the farmer, that the change would be something lower than 4s, maybe 2s 6d or 3s per beast. Some figure should be arrived at which would ensure at least that the farmers would not feel they were being put upon by being asked to pay 4s. This should be followed up in the spring by some system of spot checks on farms which are suspected of not having the cattle dressed fully and there should be penalties for farmers who have not done so. Obviously there would need to be warnings well in advance that these spot checks would take place and that, in default, penalties would result. If farmers were warned in time that this would happen, within one year we would probably be very nearly in the position in which we could say the warble fly had been eradicated from this country.

Mr. Lemass: We are very near it.

Mr. Bruton: Because the Department withdrew the general autumn dressing the infestation went up from I per cent in 1967 to 12 per cent in 1970. That was entirely the Department's own fault. The Parliamentary Secretary was perfectly right to say we were very near eradication but he seems to have forgotten that when we [308] were near it we then went back to being almost as bad as we always had been.

Mr. Lemass: We cannot blame farmers in the Deputy's constituency.

Mr. Bruton: I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to make that statement, and I knew it all along, but we have to deal not only with Deputies in my own constituency but with Deputies in every constituency. A scheme must be devised which will cover all that; the voluntary scheme referred to in the Minister's brief will cover nothing.

Another matter referred to here is the question of sheep scab. At page 39 of the Department's notes it says:

Notwithstanding the measures outlined above, reported cases of sheep scab have been on the increase over the past couple of years and the question of securing full compliance with the dipping requirements continues to engage the attention of the Department.

We have been trying to get rid of sheep scab since about 1900. It is very good that the problem is continuing to engage the attention of the Department, but nothing is happening and things are getting worse. There is an argument that we should deal with it on the same basis as the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 3rd December, 1970.