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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

This morning, along with Senator Lombard and other members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, we launched a report on the future of the tillage sector. As was rightly said at the launch, this document is a starting point for debate and discussion on a sector that is in severe crisis. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House so that we can initiate that debate by bringing the report before the House as soon as possible. As a number of speakers have said this morning, I would like on that occasion to have a debate as opposed to statements. I agree with what has been said; I do not believe we get the best value out of statements especially on issues of importance. It should be a question-and-answer session or a debate as opposed to statements.
The irony for the tillage industry is that, as we are all aware, the drinks industry has probably been the success story of the economy in the past ten years, yet the farmers who supply the malting barley for distilling and brewing are in major crisis. It is not that the sector is without money. It has the money, but it is not filtering down to the base supplier. Brexit is on the horizon, which gets plenty of air time in here, and inclement weather is very detrimental to the agriculture sector. Irrespective of Brexit and the inclement weather, however, this is a sector in crisis. Brexit will only compound that as has the weather over the past two years.
We need a debate on the matter and we need to look at the possibility of diversification. We need to look at fairness in the sector where the exorbitant amount of money made by the drinks industry is not filtering down to the suppliers. Climate change can also be incorporated into this sector. We have an ongoing debate on climate change. Farmers are prepared to produce grain on the island of Ireland if they can get a price for it. Rather than pay them the price, we are importing grain for feed and malt from as far away as Russia. One can only imagine the carbon footprint on a tonne of grain coming from Russia to Ireland even though our farmers are prepared to produce it if they can get a reasonable price for it.