MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 23 Samhain, 1972
Thursday, 23rd November, 1972.
The Committee met at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY E. COLLINS in the chair.
Mr. E. F. Suttle (An tArd-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste) called and examined.
Mr. M. J. Barry called and examined.
931. Chairman.—Paragraph 53 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:—
“Subhead C. 4.—World Food Programme (Grant-in-Aid)
Including the £200,000 grant in the year under review £1,100,000 has been made available for the World Food Programme. From these moneys a total of £1,086,103 has been paid to 31 March 1970, comprising £302,661 in cash and £783,442 for food supplied. An account of receipts and payments in the year is appended to the appropriation account.”
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph summarises the contributions made to the World Food Programme up to 31st March, 1970. The payments £240,758 shown in the account appended to the Appropriation Account included £174,058 in respect of food supplied from this country and £66,700 paid in cash to the organisations towards their expenses, mainly transport, etc., charges.
932. Chairman.—Paragraph 54 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead D.9.—Additional Grants to University Colleges
The charge to the subhead includes a payment of £48,000 to University College, Dublin towards capital works arising out of the purchase and development of land and premises at Celbridge, Co. Kildare for the Faculty of General Agriculture.”
Mr. Suttle.—The development of lands and premises at the Lyons Estate, Celbridge, for the Faculty of General Agriculture, University College, Dublin, was dealt with by the Committee in its report of 12th November, 1970, on the 1968-69 Appropriation Account. The Minister for Finance in his minute dated 25th June, 1971, commented on the Committee’s report. In my reports on the Appropriation Accounts for the years 1970-71 and 1971-72 I shall be keeping the Committee informed regarding progress on developments for the Faculty.
933. Chairman.—Paragraph 55 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead H.—Small Farm (Incentive Bonus) Scheme
This new scheme aims at encouraging farmers with small holdings to improve the level of farm income by planned development. It provides annual incentive bonuses over a period of four years of £50, £75, £75, and £100, successively, to farmers who achieve approved stages of development leading to a specified final target of production. The scheme is operated by the County Committees of Agriculture on behalf of the Department.”
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for the information of the Committee. The scheme, which came into operation in the year under review, is aimed at encouraging the small farmer whose holding is capable of providing a reasonable income for himself and his family, to carry out planned development, so as to improve the present level of the farm income and adopt a planned and businesslike approach to farming.
Deputy MacSharry.—Will these things be coming up later?
Chairman.—You may ask any questions at this stage or when we come to the subhead on the Vote itself.
934. Deputy Tunney.—Was this in anticipation of Mansholt?
Mr. Suttle.—I do not think so. This was a question of encouraging young farmers to make the best use of the assets they have. It was a question of planning a scheme of farming to improve the income, year by year, and the Department supplemented the income on that basis. According as the farmer improved his income he got something from the Department.
935. Chairman.—Has this scheme been effective or of benefit to the farming community?
—Yes. It arose basically out of the experience we had in the pilot area scheme. The basic idea, as Mr. Suttle said, is to give those small farmers who seem to have the potential and the desire to get on—an incentive to make the most out of the resources they have. When we started it we figured that there were about 20,000 farmers or more who could benefit from this scheme. In the early days it came on slowly, but it has got more popular. We think it is extremely useful for those farmers who are in it: they have all benefited to some extent. To answer the question in regard to Mansholt, it would be correct to say that this scheme is basically no different from the EEC concept of what they call the development farm. Theirs is more complex and requires more accounting, and so on. But in essentials our small farm scheme is on the same lines as the European farm development scheme.
936. Chairman.—The money involved is relatively small for such a gigantic task as improvements for small farms.
—This is quite so. In 1969-70 we were dealing with the scheme at its very beginnings. Today we would probably have 13,000 farms actively in the scheme and there is scope for many more to come in. It is up to the farmers themselves to decide, with the encouragement of the advisory services, whether they want to participate.
937. Is it money well spent?
—Yes, I should say it is.
938. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Have you any figures for those who have completed the four years?
—I have not figures for those who have completed schemes. There may be very few who have actually finished yet.
Chairman.—The year under review was the first year in which the scheme was in operation.
939. Deputy MacSharry.—Who is the final arbiter in relation to whether or not the farmer qualifies for the grant?
—The advisory officer who comes to him and the Chief Agricultural Officer for the county. If there are cases in dispute then one of the inspectors of the Department who is on that kind of work would help to decide whether or not a particular grant is to be paid. In certain circumstances they may have a programme laid out and for one reason or another—an animal might die—that might deprive the individual of his £50 or £75 grant.
940. Such things should be taken into account?
—In fact, this is taken into account. In certain circumstances the four years can be extended to six years, if the kind of situation described by the Deputy does occur.
941. There is scope for all these things?
—Yes. In a general way, the scheme is liberally interpreted to give the farmer who is willing to stay in it every opportunity to get the maximum out of it.
942. Deputy Treacy.—What yardstick is applied to determine what is a small farmer and what is expected of him to qualify for these grants?
—The yardstick is rather technical. We talk about gross margins and his ability given the kind of land he has and his capacity, to increase his income very considerably on what he is now earning. Gross margins is a matter of taking fixed figures as standard measurements, deciding what he is getting out of the activities he now has. For instance, a cow is valued at, say, £50—taking the milk and the calf into account—and this is added up to give a gross margin of, say, £700. The idea is to raise that gross margin to £1,000. This is the programme the farmer works out with his adviser; he works at this programme and increases his stock annually and his activity, thus raising his margin and his income.
943. What acreage or valuation would be required?
—We started out with not more than 50 acres and not more than £25 valuation.
944. Would you include a cottier with an acre or two?
—It would be very exceptional as he would not have a potential with an acre or two to get the kind of income we are talking about.
945. Chairman.—Paragraph 56 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.3.—Payments to the Agricultural Credit Corporation, Limited, in respect of loans
It was decided to revive the scheme of loans for the provision of additional drying and storage facilities for grain in accordance with the provisions of the Grain Storage (Loans) Act, 1951. The new loans are administered by the Agricultural Credit Corporation, Limited, and advances from the subhead for this purpose amounted to £439,455 including a sum of £130,000 for anticipated loans which were in course of negotiation at 31 March 1970. In reply to my inquiry I have been recently informed that, of the £130,000—£32,200 had been lent, £15,350 refunded to the Department and £82,450 held for loans which were in the process of finalisation by the Corporation. Difficulties in regard to title, etc., have been responsible for much of the delay.
Loans under the Grain Storage (Loans) Act, 1951 issued in the years 1954-55 to 1958-59, inclusive, amounted to £596,200.”
Mr. Suttle.—Since the date of my report this matter has resolved itself. Of the £130,000 advanced to the Agricultural Credit Corporation £101,450 has been paid out by way of loans for additional drying and storage facilities for grain and the balance of £28,550 has been refunded to the Department in 1970-71.
946. Chairman.—Paragraph 57 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.9.—Land Project
The payments made in the year under this head are as follows:—
An occupier of land who undertakes an approved scheme of reclamation work on his holding is entitled, when the work has been completed to the satisfaction of the Department, to a grant amounting to two-thirds (in Gaeltacht and certain pilot development areas three-quarters) of the estimated cost subject to a maximum of £50 per statute acre in western and north western counties and £45 per acre elsewhere. Grants to farmers amounted to £2,877,828 in the year as compared with £2,609,963 in the previous year.”
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph gives the usual breakdown of the land project expenditure for the year. Compared with 1968-69, expenditure in the year increased by £267,825, that is about 7.5 per cent.
947. Chairman.—This scheme is rather a successful one and is still being availed of to a large extent?
—Yes. The demand for the land project services is increasing all the time.
948. Deputy MacSharry.—In regard to the delay in the payment of these grants and as to who decides that the work is done properly, there are many cases where the lowest grade officer passes the scheme but a senior officer will not pass it; a case may therefore lie for many years. Is there any better way of streamlining this particular type of investigation after the work has been done?
—The normal pattern is that when the work is finished it is inspected. If approved, payments are made fairly readily. The kind of exception we meet is where the work is not finished to the satisfaction of the inspector. There have been odd cases where the farmer might say “I think it is all right”, the inspector says “It is not according to specification”, and that gives rise occasionally to an argument which may go on for some time. By and large, we do not have many of those and we try to sort them out on an ad hoc basis depending on the merits of each case. If the Deputy has cases in mind that have been unsettled for any appreciable time, I would certainly like to know about them, because it does not suit us to have unfinished business too long in the books: it makes work all round.
949. Are you telling me then that you cannot give reduced grants for work that may not be completed according to your satisfaction and specifications?
—This is not a specific instance, and without being specific——
950. There are the specific instances that I am referring to.
—Yes, but that would be a reduced grant for work which is not in our view properly finished. Without going into the technicalities of this I would say that this is the kind of case we are not very keen on dealing with on the basis of a reduced grant. It may transpire that the work which has been done and left unfinished may be of no real advantage to anybody. It is either well done and works or it may be badly done and not work at all. However, we have had cases where we may have been able to reach some compromise solution.
951. Deputy Treacy.—In a situation like that who is held responsible, if the work is not carried out to the satisfaction of the officers of your Department? Presumably the contractor will be, and how does the farmer stand in that situation?
—The farmer’s deal is with the contractor. Between the contractor and the farmer we are rather out of it. What we say, in effect, is: “We want the job done to this specification. When it is finished to our satisfaction, we will pay a grant”.
952. So the onus is on the farmer?
—Between the farmer and the contractor to produce a job in accordance with the specification.
953. We have scope here to penalise the contractor in that there are direct payments to the contractor?
Mr. Suttle.—That is only a remnant of the old system where the contractors work directly with the Departments.
—That is quite right. We had earlier in this scheme section (a) and section (b). In the case of section (b) we undertook to do all the work directly for the farmer. We were involved a great deal in those cases with the contractor. Some years ago section (b) was dropped and this left only section (a) where the farmer takes on the contractor or, if he chooses, he does it himself. Very few farmers do this kind of work themselves—it is mainly done by contractors.
954. Chairman.—In relation to reclaimed land, does any percentage of it revert to its undeveloped state?
—There is a certain amount of land which always reverts. About three years ago we carried out a survey in certain counties: we got a team together consisting of agricultural advisers, representatives of the Land Project staff and somebody from Central Statistics Office, to have a look at what had been done down through the years to see how it looked now. They were generally satisfied with the way the maintenance had been done except in a percentage of cases where the land had reverted. We think this will always happen, because there are some types of land which require very careful maintenance, even when they are drained, and for one reason or another the owner is not able to provide this maintenance and the land reverts.
955. Would it be 10 per cent?
—Off the cuff, I cannot remember. I think it would be more than 10 per cent, it would be somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent. I can provide the Committee with figures on this*: a report was made at the time.
956. Is there any evidence of the land project scheme tapering off?
—No, there is no evidence of that. The demand for it continues to be steady.
957. You do not envisage it reaching saturation point?
—We are gradually encouraging farmers to look not merely at the field they would like to have drained: we are encouraging them to look at the farm, as a whole, and see if there is some other work they could do that would be of greater benefit to them and maybe less expensive for them on the whole farm before we would come to an expensive drainage job on a relatively small area. The advisers are encouraging farmers to look at the management of the farm as a whole.
This is being availed of?
958. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Arising out of that, would you accept mole drainage, as an answer to some of the problems?
—I think so. However, this may be a technical area in which I am not very well equipped.
959. Chairman.—Paragraph 58 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.10.—Lime and Fertilisers Subsidies.
The expenditure under this subhead is made up as follows:
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for the information of the Committee. The charge to the subhead is about £249,000 higher than the previous year—mainly under the ground limestone delivery subsidy heading.
960. Chairman.—Does this mean a more active involvement in the subsidy?
Mr. Suttle.—A greater use of lime.
—The distribution of lime under this scheme goes up each year. I shall take some figures for comparison: in 1965-66 there were 1¼ million tons distributed; in 1970-71, 1.6 million tons were distributed and in 1971-72 it was still higher. We are dealing with larger quantities and in recent years there has been a slight increase in transport charges, but mainly it is a matter of quantities.
961. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On the question of lime, it is alleged that when liming land you soften it and thus reduce its utility, particularly during winter. There seems to be an endless controversy about this and nobody seems to have a definite answer. I wonder would it be possible to make a report to the Committee on this aspect of liming?
—Certainly, we can get it.* Your point is that if land is made soft through the excessive or the liberal use of lime, it has disabilities for carrying stock.
962. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Yes. About two years ago An Foras Talúntas asked the Leitrim research station for views on this and I am wondering if there is anything more definite available now. In discussion nobody seems to agree on this.
—I would expect that not only to be the position now but to continue, because it relates back to the kind of soil we are dealing with. What might be good medicine, in say, Leitrim might be bad medicine in East Cork, because they are different types of soil with different usages and so on.
This is a question I would like to see documented.
Chairman.—Perhaps the question is more suitable for An Foras Talúntais or the faculties of science in the universities.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—We shall leave the responsibility with Mr. Barry.
963. Chairman.—Paragraph 59 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.13.—Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme
59. The expenditure is made up as follows:—
Receipts amounting to £1,834,639 were credited to appropriations in aid in the year on account of the sale of cattle slaughtered under the scheme.
The gross cost of the scheme from its inception in September 1954 to 31 March 1970 was £69,080,668 and receipts from the disposal of cattle for slaughter were £22,255,013. The net cost was, therefore, £46,825,655.”
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph is for information. There was a large increase in the number of reactors purchased, 32,995 in 1969-70 as against 23,500 in the previous year. This was responsible for an increase in expenditure on compensation of almost £1 million. The receipts from the sale of reactors show an increase of £732,000 compared with 1968-69. The average return realised per animal by the Department was about £53 compared with £47 in 1968-69.
964. Chairman.—The number of reactors seem to have risen radically in the year under review. The effect of the retesting has apparently not been effective.
—There are two issues here. One is the increase in the number of cattle in the country, and the other is the incidence of disease. Between 1968-69 and 1969-70 there was a slight increase in incidence, but equally there was an increase in the number of cattle being tested and between them the two issues result in an increase in the number of reactors.
965. Deputy Tunney.—Reference was made to this before. The relationship between the compensation paid for the cattle as against the fees paid to veterinary surgeons strikes me as being rather strange. The veterinary surgeons got more than half in fees what the farmer got in cattle. I am thinking, too, of a situation where, say, this year there is some restriction on the number of veterinary students who are being accepted. Would that not indicate that we certainly need more veterinary surgeons?
—There are a number of parts in this one. The fees to the veterinary surgeons are determined by the total number of cattle tested. If the total number of cattle tested goes up because the cattle population is going up, then the veterinary surgeons’ fees reflect that. The compensation for reactors reflects only the number of wrong cattle which are identified and paid for. Therefore, the veterinary surgeons’ fees can go up and the cost of the compensation can go down, as the incidence goes down. As regards the testing of cattle, veterinary students are not allowed to test cattle: that is done by qualified veterinary surgeons. A certain amount of testing is done by the Department’s veterinary surgeons at the same time. This is particularly true when problem herds are turning up with reactors year after year. We like our own staff to test those to see what is radically wrong with the situation and then try to put it right.
966. Deputy Tunney.—I appreciate that only a veterinary surgeon should do this, but it appears to me that there would be need for more qualified vets. You cannot have that if you are restricting the entry into veterinary medicine.
Chairman.—I do not think that the Accounting Officer is responsible for that.
—This question arises regularly. The agreement about the entry of students to the veterinary college is an agreement between the two universities, and is not imposed on anybody by the Department of Agriculture. This arrangement arises from the fact that the facilities in the College in Ballsbridge are rather limited, and that is why the number entering the veterinary faculties reaches about 60 a year.
967. Deputy MacSharry.—That has been the case for the last ten years?
968. Deputy Treacy.—Appreciating that the Estimate we are dealing with is now two years old, could you indicate to us if you are satisfied with the progress being made up to the present in respect of the eradication of bovine TB?
—We are never really happy with the progress being made. Over the past three years we have been considering ways and means by which we could get the incidence down still further, because we think it ought to be lower than it is now. We requested a group of veterinary surgeons on our own staff to go out and test in these problem areas; this is not a national problem—it is mainly one in a limited area.
969. Deputy MacSharry.—I am glad you brought out the fact that it is only in limited areas throughout the country where the incidence is high.
—That is right. In the northern half of the country the incidence is much lower than what would be indicated from any national figure. Recently we have been having discussions with farmers’ organisations and the practitioners to see if between us we can agree on more effective ways of coping with the problem.
970. Deputy H. Gibbons.—It is necessary to keep in touch with the county medical officer of health in those areas, in order to prevent infection passing from the human being to the animals.
—Yes, I think there is contact made with the county medical officer of health in all areas.
971. Chairman.—Paragraph 60 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.15.—Brucellosis Eradication Scheme
The expenditure under this subhead is made up as follows:—
Receipts amounting to £83,667 were credited to appropriations in aid in the year on account of the sale of cattle slaughtered under the scheme.
The gross cost of the scheme from its introduction in 1964-65 to 31 March 1970 was £1,665,241 and receipts from the disposal of cattle for slaughter were £371,377. The net cost therefore, £1,293,864.”
Mr. Suttle.—I have no comment to add to this.
972. Deputy Treacy.—I should like a comment as to the progress in connection with the brucellosis eradication scheme?
—Generally, the figures before you indicate really the beginning of a scheme which has since been accelerated. At this stage all the border counties are cleared and there are compulsory measures in another group of counties—Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Roscommon and Longford— which are now under compulsory eradication measures. I do not think they will be finished next year but if not, they will probably be finished in the following year. Then we shall move south and take another group of counties. We are finding that this will be a slow and expensive job, as the numbers and value of cows go on increasing. Therefore, it will be some time before we shall be able to tackle the south with compulsory measures.
973. Deputy Treacy.—Can we take it that the incidence of brucellosis is increasing?
Deputy MacSharry.—The awareness is.
—The incidence may be stationary but there will be more wrong cows as the number of cows keeps increasing. In recent years the cow herd increased from about 1¼ million to nearly 2 million and will go still higher. So even if the percentage incidence stays steady the number of brucellosis infected cows will obviously be higher.
974. Chairman.—Perhaps with the increase in the value of cows the farmers will be more anxious to have their herds tested?
—Yes, but there are difficulties for individual farmers, particularly in the south. One man might be very anxious to do something about it but for him it is a rather hopeless job unless his neighbours are prepared to go with him. We are contemplating voluntary arrangements in the south and we think that the farmers are ready to partake in some voluntary scheme, but it will need to be widespread if it is to be effective.
975. Chairman.—Are the farming organisations interested?
—Yes, they are keen to do something on a voluntary basis.
976. Chairman.—Paragraph 61 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.16.—Scheme of Grants for Calved Heifers
The total cost of the scheme from its introduction on 1 January 1964 to 31 March 1970 was £11,346,148 comprising £10,795,185 grants for 719,679 calved heifers and £550,963 for travelling and incidental expenses. The scheme was discontinued as from 30 June 1969, but remanets of expenditure will fall to be made in 1970-71.”
Mr. Suttle.—This scheme was introduced to achieve progressively an expansion in the country’s breeding stock by 1970, with a view to raising annual output of cattle. It terminated by Government direction on 30 June 1969.
977. Chairman.—It was replaced by the beef cattle incentive scheme?
978. Chairman.—Paragraph 62 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.20.—Payment to Pigs and Bacon Commission
The payments of £3,600,000 to the Pigs and Bacon Commission are accounted for in the accounts of the Commission which are audited by me.”
Mr. Suttle.—The accounts of the Commission for the years 1969 and 1970 have been audited and presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas. Of the payments of £3.6 million mentioned, £3.2 million was applied towards the cost of support for bacon exports and £400,000 was applied towards the cost of supporting pork exports.
979. Deputy MacSharry.—I should like to ask one question in relation to the area of responsibility. Who is responsible for implementation of the rationalisation—is it the Pigs and Bacon Commission or the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries?
—The responsibility begins with the Minister and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, but the implementation of it is largely the responsibility of the Pigs and Bacon Commission in the sense that they are the agency through which this rationalisation programme is being managed.
980. Chairman.—Paragraph 63 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.21.—Losses on Disposal of Wheat, etc.
The total loss incurred by An Bord Gráin on the disposal as animal feed of approximately 90,000 tons of wheat of the 1968 crop which was surplus to milling requirements has not yet been determined. Payments on account of the loss on this grain amounted to £1,400,000 including £500,000 paid in the year under review.”
Mr. Suttle.—The accounts of Bord Gráin for the year ended 31 August 1971 show that the loss incurred by the Bord on the disposal of surplus millable wheat of the 1968 crop amounted to £1,754,336. The Department of Agriculture contributed £1,750,000 towards the loss as follows:— 1968-69, £900,000; 1969-70, £500,000; 1970-71, £275,000; 1971-72, £75,000.
981. Chairman.—Paragraph 64 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.22.—Beef, Mutton and Lamb Export Guarantee Schemes
The cost of supporting export prices of beef, mutton and lamb amounted to £2,051,498 in the year under review.
Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement the provisions of the United Kingdom fatstock guarantee payments scheme are applied annually to limited quantities of Irish carcase beef, mutton and lamb imported into the United Kingdom. In accordance with this agreement sums totalling £1,050,000 were received from the United Kingdom Government during the year, being £150,000 as a further payment on account for 1968-69 and £900,000 on account for 1969-70.”
Mr. Suttle.—Receipts from the United Kingdom Government from the inception of the scheme to 31 March 1970, amounted to £4,244,779 so that the net cost of the scheme at that date was £8,392,734.
982. Chairman.—This scheme would, of course, be phased out due to our entry into the EEC?
—Yes, but in fact it is hardly operating this year because of the high prices in stock.
983. Chairman.—Paragraph 65 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.23.—Córas Beostoic agus Feola—Contribution towards expenses
In paragraph 46 of my previous report I referred to Córas Beostoic agus Feola, Teoranta whose primary object is to undertake promotional work for the development of exports of livestock, carcase meat and meat products. A sum of £115,000 was contributed in the year towards its expenses. The accounts of the company will be audited by me.”
Mr. Suttle.—The accounts of this company for the period 4th February, 1969, to 31st March, 1970—in fact, the first accounts—have been audited by me.
984. Chairman.—Paragraph 66 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.28.—Marketing of Oats
Paragraph 59 of my previous report referred to the scheme to encourage the production of certain western counties of good feeding quality oats. The total loss incurred by An Bord Gráin on the disposal of 2,700 tons of the 1968 crop acquired by An Bord amounted to £20,395 towards which it received £15,000 in the year 1968-69 and £5,395 in the year under review. The balance of the charge to the subhead, £8,000, was paid to An Bord towards the estimated loss on resale of 2,300 tons of the 1969 oat crop.”
Mr. Suttle.—The accounts of Bord Gráin show a loss of £12,000 at 31st August, 1970, in disposing of the 2,300 tons of the 1969 oat crop and this amount has been recouped from the Vote.
985. Deputy H. Gibbons.—How successful is this scheme in encouraging the growing of oats in western counties?
—If you simply measure it by acres, it has not been successful at all, because despite the assurance given through this guarantee, the acreage under oats continues to decline. We think that this will continue to be the pattern because we find that even in some traditional oat-growing areas, such as parts of Donegal, farmers are tending more and more to grow barley instead.
986. Chairman.—Paragraph 67 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead K.29.—Beef Cattle Incentive Scheme
The expenditure from this subhead is made up as follows:—
The scheme was introduced in February 1969 to encourage an expansion in the output of good quality beef cattle. A grant of £12 is paid for each qualifying cow-calf unit to owners of approved breeding herds who are not engaged in commercial milk production.”
Mr. Suttle.—This scheme, which was set up in substitution for the calved heifer scheme, was started this year.
987. Deputy MacSharry.—Regarding that point I wish to refer to the breakdown of the figure—salaries, wages, etc., £32,187. Where are the people who receive these salaries stationed?
—In the main, they are dispersed throughout the country, working from district offices.
988. Deputy MacSharry.—Are there two different subheads from which people are paid? I do not see a breakdown of figures in the bovine tuberculosis or brucellosis eradication schemes.
—This is a difficult one. In some of these schemes you will find that throughout the Votes for Agriculture and Fisheries some subheads provide for salaries and others do not. For example, the whole of the land project costs are carried in the land project subhead. I, myself, am not sure what is the origin of this. There is likely to be a certain amount of confusion in it where some subheads carry salary costs and others do not.
989. Chairman.—Paragraph 68 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General reads:
“Subhead N.1.—Milk Production Allowances, Marketing of Dairy Produce, etc. (including Grants-in-Aid)
The expenditure is made up as follows:—
The payments to An Bord Bainne are accounted for in the accounts of An Bord which are audited by me.
The creamery milk price allowance continued until the 31 August 1969 at a rate of 7d. per gallon supplemented by an additional allowance of 1d. per gallon on suppliers’ deliveries up to a limit of 7,000 gallons per year. A retrospective increase of 1d. per gallon was granted in respect of deliveries of up to 1,000 gallons per supplier for each of the months May to August 1969. From 1 September 1969 creamery milk price allowances at rates on a tier or differential scale were introduced. The additional allowance of 1d. per gallon was also increased to 2d. per gallon and will accrue for payment as a lump sum at the close of the milk year ending 31 August 1970.
The special allowance for high quality creamery milk continued at a rate of 2d. per gallon. I understand that 70 per cent of the milk supplied to creameries qualified for this allowance.”
Mr. Suttle.—This paragraph itemises the cost of support for the dairy industry. Expenditure increased by about £5.4 million compared with the previous year.
990. Deputy MacSharry.—Regarding the amount of £30,820,086 shown, is that the extent of the moneys being taken over by the EEC Fund?
—I think not all of it, because some items, such as the contribution to the National Dairy Council, would not be.
991. Deputy MacSharry.—Is that the only one?
—I may need advice on this, but if there is an element of subsidy for home-consumed butter in this, that would not be taken over by the EEC Fund.
992. Chairman.—I take it that a subsidy for home-consumed butter would not be allowed under EEC regulations?
—It will be phased out.
993. Chairman.—In subhead A.—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—have you any difficulty in recruiting staff? I see there is a shortfall there in the expenditure of £57,543.
994. Deputy MacSharry.—Apart from the small expenditure, is there a difficulty in recruiting staff in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries?
—It is difficult to give a categorical answer because it varies. At present we are able to get the grades of staff we require, but I am not sure that in 1969-70 we were able to get all the people we wanted. I would guess, for example, that in the case of veterinary surgeons there was a shortage at that time.
995. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead C.1.—Seed Testing, Propagation and Certification—is this a separate activity carried on by the Department as distinct from An Foras Talúntais?
—Yes, this is correct. This is not exclusively research: it includes testing, propagation and certification and that brings us into the areas of commercial activity where there are certified seed producers and people who propagate seed and that kind of thing. What the Agricultural Institute is doing is agricultural research.
996. Deputy MacSharry.—On subhead C.2.—Veterinary Research—does this refer to veterinary laboratories throughout the country?
—This is the veterinary laboratory at Abbotstown and also, if we had them in operation in 1969-70, the veterinary laboratories which we now have here and there throughout the country. I am not sure how many of them were in operation in 1969-70.
997. They are open from Monday to Friday, and there is no provision at all for Saturdays and Sundays. This means that if anything occurs on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, there is absolutely no way of testing in the laboratory. Can anything be done about this?
Chairman.—What type of activity are you referring to?
Deputy MacSharry.—The examination of specimens and so on. I know of a case that happened only last weekend where two animals arrived from Donegal. One of them died: the owner brought them on Monday morning and it was too late. Anything could have been wrong with those animals but there was no way in which to have them tested over the weekend.
—I think it is generally true that the offices close on Sunday.
998. I do not want them to open on Saturday and Sunday, but could any provision be made? I hold the veterinary people responsible for this: they should take the specimens and hold them over. It is so easy now to send the animal to the laboratory and let the laboratory do the work.
Chairman.—I do not think we should apportion blame.
Deputy MacSharry.—No, I am just asking the question.
—Since the Deputy has raised the question, I should like to mention that the regional veterinary laboratories are diagnostic institutes more than anything else. They are not intended to cope with animals that people might bring and say: “Look at the cow”. They are intended to deal with specimens sent in by practitioners. It is open to a practitioner, say, on a Friday afternoon to say: “I have something very urgent for you tomorrow, would you look at it?” In that case the veterinary laboratory chief would agree to stay on. Likewise, it is open to the practitioner to put the specimen in the refrigerator until Monday morning and then go to Sligo or to the appropriate laboratory. It is a matter of liaison between the practitioners and the district laboratory.
999. The point I am making is that the awareness is not there and the animal is brought to your laboratory. There is an incinerator there to dispose of it and I do not think that should be the case.
1000. It is a service for the vets, and the post mortem should be done by them, and then the specimen should be sent in to the laboratory for tests. The people in the laboratories should not have to do all the work. I know of cases where a dead animal was waiting outside the gate. This should not be so and there should be more of an awareness among the veterinary profession as to the use of these research institutes. I know this is out of order, but the expense is there and I am questioning the expense.
1001. Chairman.—Perhaps we could get a note in regard to that?
—Yes, I can do that.*
1002. Deputy H. Gibbons—On subhead D. 1.—Agricultural Schools and Farms— I know that in the past there did not appear to have been any guarantee requested from students that they remain in agricultural work. Is there any intention to do so in the future?
—I do not think so. For a number of reasons it is almost impossible to enforce that kind of guarantee. For another reason, many men go through the colleges and take posts in services connected with agriculture, so the college training is extremely useful. I have in mind jobs in the food industry, fertiliser industry and so on. It would be a pity if any guarantee were demanded from them obliging them to continue in farming if they go to an agricultural college. It could not be enforced in any case.
1003. Chairman.—I see there were some staff vacancies. Is there any reason for this?
—There is no special reason. Sometimes there is a delay in filling staff vacancies due to the procedures in the Civil Service Commission.
1004. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead D.5.—Trinity College, Dublin; Annual Grant for School of Veterinary Medicine —I presume that the matter of integration here is not a matter for the committee?
Chairman.—I would say it was a matter of policy. It would be a matter of a Dáil Question or for the Estimate and I do not think any Minister would give an indication due to the fact that the Government are at present considering the matter.
Deputy H. Gibbons.—Fair enough.
1005. Deputy Treacy.—On subhead D.9. Additional Grants to University Colleges— have the grants for scholarships to these colleges been increased proportionately in recent years?
—The matter is under review.
1006. Could we not get an indication as to the position?
Chairman.—It would be a matter for a Dáil question.
Deputy Treacy.—I was merely asking for an indication. The accounting officer may have the information.
—This comes up mainly in D.6., where we deal with scholarships in agriculture: this is where the grants come in. The maintenance allowance per student was £200 a year and I think that within the past couple of years it has been raised to £235. I think this answers the point you raised.
Deputy Treacy.—Thank you.
1007. Deputy Tunney.—On the note to subhead D.10.—Farm Apprenticeship Scheme (including Grant-in-Aid)—I take it to be in respect of two students with over £1,000: could we have a brief word in regard to this scheme? To whom does the youth serve apprenticeship?
—The apprenticeship scheme lasts over a number of years and there is a corps of selected farmers, whom we describe as master farmers. In effect, the apprentice works successively with a number of these farmers on different types of farms. He is also in touch with the adviser and along the way he probably does short courses at Athenry or one of the schools, so that he is working under supervision during his apprenticeship.
1008. Yes, but the matter, say, of £1,000 in respect of two more apprentices—£500 per apprentice—to whom is that money paid?
—The £500 is an award given to the successful apprentice on completion of his apprenticeship.
1009. He only gets this when he has completed his apprenticeship?
—Yes, he has to go through the hoop before he gets it.
1010. Deputy H. Gibbons.—How many master farmers have we?
—I am not sure. I know that they are spread over the different counties and are selected by the advisory service. They are men who have different types of enterprise, so that the apprentice will get a fair spread of the different kinds of farming.
1011. Deputy Treacy.—What is the duration—four or five years?
1012. Chairman.—On subhead E.1.—Improvement of Live Stock, Milk Production, etc.—I take it that the adequate stock of stallions for hunter breeding is cared for under this subhead. I see that fewer were bought: has this been rectified?
—One can take different views on this. Some people would say there never is an adequate number of suitable hunter type stallions. Another view is that it is very difficult to get the kind of animal required for this job. However, I think the numbers purchased have been increasing in recent years.
1013. On subhead E.2.—Improvement of Poultry and Egg Production—the poultry and egg industry has been going through a very difficult period during the last few years.
—Yes, this is quite true.
1014. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead I.5. —An Foras Talúntais—Grant-in-Aid for General Purposes—I understand that in connection with other moneys spent on veterinary research and matters of that kind, we can presume that there is pretty regular consultation between the vets from An Foras Talúntais, the Department and the universities.
—Yes, this is quite correct and it is considerably aided by the fact that the units of the different institutions are all centred close together. The Department’s place is at Abbotstown in Castleknock, the Institute do their animal husbandry work at Dunsinea, which is nearby. The universities’ veterinary field station is also nearby. They have a liaison committee and work well together.
1015. Chairman.—On subhead J.—Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin—is there some question of pollution in the river Tolka?
—It keeps coming. There have been occasions when it was particularly bad, but there is always some pollution in the Tolka.
1016. Can the source of the pollution be identified?
—This is difficult because there are many sources from which the pollution can come. Sometimes it may be effluent from a factory but it could be coming from a number of other sources. It is very difficult to trace it and say who is responsible at any given time.
1017. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead K.2.—Fees for Reports on Agricultural Conditions—to whom are those paid?
—To advisers throughout the country. This information is part of the general flow of information that enables the Central Statistics Office to build up their statistics of various agricultural conditions.
1018. On subhead K.4.—Improvement of the Creamery Industry, etc.—could we have an explanation of it?
—It is a survival from earlier days and the subhead is kept open in case some payment should be made under it. It is not a subhead under which there is active work done or payments made.
Mr. Suttle.—I think this was the subhead from which the Dairy Disposals Company grew up. The original moneys were supplied from this subhead.
1019. Chairman.—On subhead K.5— National Agricultural Council—what are the functions of the National Agricultural Council?
—It was set up some years back to advise the Minister on different aspects of the agricultural economy. It met over a few years and then was allowed to fall into abeyance.
1020. Deputy Treacy.—On subhead K.7 —Western Agricultural Consultative Council —I take it that these councils have regard to the expenditure involved?
—There is no expenditure involved.
1021. If there is no expenditure, I take it that these councils are not operative?
—In the case of the Agricultural Production Council (K.6) I think this was set up originally under statute, and to meet statutory requirements the subhead was kept alive, but the council has not been meeting for a number of years.
1022. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead K.8 —Farm Buildings Scheme and Water Supplies—with regard to farm buildings is there any scheme for grants for the improvement of existing buildings? I am conscious of the existence of semi-derelict galvanised structures which appear very frequently along many of the main roads. I was hoping that there might be a scheme where the farmers in question might be encouraged to improve the appearance of their farms. From the tourism point of view, they could be quite injurious to the economy.
—The farm building scheme which we operate extends to modernisation, reconstruction and improvement of existing buildings. The kind of building you describe may be obsolete, and the farmer probably does not need it. In that case, especially along roads in tourist areas, it would be a better job to demolish them altogether. Many of these old derelict buildings are not used at all.
1023. Deputy Tunney.—The ones to which I refer are being used and that adds to the lack of attractiveness, together with the manure heaps along the side of the road. With regard to the construction of new buildings, is it left entirely to the farmer to indicate where he proposes building them, or is he encouraged to build them somewhat away from the main road?
—If he is within close proximity to the main road he would require planning permission. However, if he is not close to a main road I do not know if the ordinary farm building would require planning permission. Our advisers talk to farmers about their new buildings but I do not know if they keep aesthetic considerations in mind. What they are really concerned about are problems such as possible effluent, so the siting of buildings today reflects that sort of worry. I do not think we are in a position to say: “You must not put it up there because it would look ugly.” I do not think the farmer is obliged to look for planning permission to erect a building unless it is near a main road.
1024. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Is it correct that there are no grants available for an improvement required towards the front of the house?
—I would not like to say there were no grants available. I do not think that we would encourage a farmer who had a semi-derelict building almost on his doorstep to put up another building there.
1025. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead K.12.—Artificial Insemination of Livestock —under what circumstances may an applicant for artificial insemination be refused the service?
—Offhand, I cannot think of any. The artificial insemination service is run by nine stations—six of them are co-ops and the other three are owned either by the Dublin District Milk Board or the Dairy Disposals Company. As to what their relations would be with any individual farmer, I could not say. In the normal way they are only too happy to have new clients.
1026. Chairman.—On subhead K.17.— Scheme of Grants for Forage Harvesting Equipment—I take it that this has been a rather successful scheme?
—This is operated through the county committees of agriculture. They choose the clients and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries recoup the amount the committees spend. It is fairly successful.
1027. Deputy Treacy.—On subhead K.18. —Grants towards the Cost of Co-operative Projects—what kind of projects are involved?
—This is intended to be a marketing help. The sort of project in mind was a packing or grading premises run by a co-operative group.
1028. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead K.19—Grants to Bacon Factories—is this another obsolete heading that is being continued?
1029. Would this be covered under K.20 —Pigs and Bacon Commission?
—Speaking from memory, it goes back to the early 1960s when we were encouraging bacon factories to do some modernisation work that was not major in the sense of being appropriate for an IDA grant. We were then giving them grants to encourage them to get on with this modernisation. This subhead was kept open in case there were payments to be made. In recent years all this has been caught up with the extension of IDA grants for modernisation.
1030. Chairman.—On the note to subhead K.27—Milk Coolers Scheme—I take it that normal applications have since risen again?
—Yes, there is a demand for milk coolers. This scheme was intended to apply only to the smaller milk producers. Now we have moved into a new phase and some of the bigger co-ops especially in the south, are speaking in terms of bulk tanker collection This scheme does not apply to the type of bulk tank a farmer would need in an area where there is tanker collection. I do not know how fast that would spread or whether in fact it can spread in areas where the average supplier is dealing with only relatively small quantities of milk.
1031. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead K.29 —Beef Cattle Incentive Scheme—what is the period between the first and second inspection under that scheme?
—Ideally it would be about six months but in practice we have to vary it a bit to get the major part of these inspections done before the end of the calendar year. Therefore, it may be less than six months in some cases.
1032. I was hoping that you would refer to the value of the money. I came across cases where if the initial inspection was rather late and the farmer had to wait another six months, at which stage the calf was no longer sucking, the heifer had now moved into beef. For the purpose of availing of the scheme the farmer had to hold on to his heifers—he could only sell them now as beef. For the purpose of availing of the appropriate grant he was holding on to them, when he might have more correctly been grazing other cattle. I would be happy to hear that the period might be less than six months.
—This is a rather special aspect of this scheme. The Deputy is referring to the kind of farmer who would normally get one calf from the heifer and then fatten the heifer for beef. If he lets us know at the time of the first inspection, or preferably before that, that he is doing what we call the “once calved heifer job”—i.e. fattening the heifer for beef—we can arrange to give him a second early inspection to ensure that we do not hold him up. However, there are not very many farmers doing this particular job.
1033. Chairman.—On subhead M.3.— Agricultural Produce (Potatoes) Act, 1931, Flax Act, 1936 and Destructive Insects and Pests (Consolidation) Act, 1958, etc.—has this experimental farm been purchased?
—Yes, I think the farm was purchased in County Donegal last year.
1034. Deputy H. Gibbons.—What is the position in regard to flax now? Are people encouraged to grow it? Is there any point in doing so?
—There is only one area to my knowledge where flax is a commercial proposition now and that is in County Wexford, where a co-operative has tried to produce flax on a modernised basis. There is an element of experiment in what they are doing but it has some promise.
1035. Chairman.—On subhead M.8.— Agricultural Wages, etc., Acts, 1936 to 1961—has the staff position been rectified?
—Yes, the staff position is all right.
1036. Deputy H. Gibbons.—On subhead O.—Technical Assistance—what does this cover?
—This refers to a system introduced some years ago, under which funds were provided to enable the Department to send people abroad for special training, or to bring consultants to this country for special purposes.
1037. Deputy Tunney.—On subhead P.—Appropriations in Aid—No. 12, Rent of lands and premises occupied by Comhlucht Groighe Náisiúnta na hÉireann, Teoranta, by whom is that rent paid?
—This is a rent paid by the National Stud to the Government.
1038. Deputy H. Gibbons.—Do the Department subsidise the National Stud?
—It is not in receipt of an annual subsidy: the National Stud is more or less self-supporting. Once in a while the capital has to be increased. If, for example, the National Stud is going to the market to buy more expensive sires the company’s capital has to be increased, but it does not receive an annual grant in the same way as other semi-State bodies.
Mr. M. J. Barry further examined.
1039. Chairman.—On subhead C.—Sea Fisheries Development—I see the number of boys who were selected as suitable for training as fishermen was much less than expected. Has this situation altered?
—It has. There are now more lads interested in fishing.
1040. Two exploratory fishing vessels were laid up for long periods while undergoing repairs and overhaul and consequently the scientific programme had to be reduced. Has this position been remedied?
—No. In fact, it is probably worse now because one of those vessels was badly damaged by a fire last August.
1041. Have the exploratory fishing vessels been used for research?
—Yes, the work is very much orientated towards practical things such as finding new sources of fish.
1042. How old are the vessels?
—One must be near the end of her life: I think she is quite old. The one that was damaged was relatively more modern. One is practically at the end of her tether.
1043. Is that the one which went on fire?
—The more modern of the two was the one damaged by fire.
That does not help.
Mr. Suttle.—You bought the two, did you not?
—I am not sure which is which. There are the Cú Feasa and Cú na Mara. I think it is Cú Feasa that is the older of the two.
1044. Chairman.—Have you any further plants?
—First we have to decide whether the damaged one is to be repaired or written off.
1045. Perhaps you would let us have a note on the position?
—The position in 1970?
I suppose so.
—We shall be coming up again and I can send you a note bringing the position up-to-date.*
Mr. Suttle.—The fire is really a current position. It is not relevant at this stage.
1046. Chairman.—On subhead E.—Inland Fisheries Development—how is this progressing?
—It is going quite well. There are two parts to this: the section of the work which the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries does directly, and the balance of the work which is carried out by the Inland Fisheries Trust. These are parallel developments and do not overlap, but on the whole the job is progressing well.
1047. Chairman.—I think that completes the examination of the Fisheries Vote. I see that a balance of £586 of a loan made to an applicant for the construction of a demonstration fish farm was written off?
—Yes, there are a couple of fish farms in operation. In order to get this going some demonstration units were set up and grants were given to get this fish farming activity started. A grant of £80, or 25 per cent of the cost, which ever was the lesser, was given. Some of them failed and that is why this comes up here.
1048. Could we have a note on this scheme?
The witness withdrew.
The Committee adjourned.