Policy makers have been urged to “support farmers rather than blame them” by ring-fencing 40% of carbon tax revenues in the Finance Bill to create a “green farmer fund”.

The calls were made by Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) presidential election candidate John Coughlan, who was commenting following the publication of a report on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Reacting to the report, which found that Ireland has exceeded its emissions budget, with agriculture the largest contributor, Coughlan said a culture of blame and extremism needs to be replaced by one that is solution based.

He added that farmers are ideally positioned to help the country achieve its carbon targets.

Today’s EPA announcement has again triggered a ‘blame game’ with Irish farmers singled out. I totally reject this commentary. Ireland’s farmers are primed and eager to invest in carbon reduction initiatives – and must be supported to do so by Government.

The outgoing IFA Munster regional chairman quoted European Commission statistics noting that Irish dairy is the most carbon-efficient in Europe with Irish beef in the top five.

“Asking Irish farmers, who last year alone saw a 21% reduction in farm incomes and have incomes which are 40% less than the average industrial wage, to invest in green initiatives is nonsensical from Government,” he said.

Coughlan also dismissed “impractical proposals” such as the state forestry programme, which he said “only supports whole farm planting rather than sectional planting”.

“Instead, the mindset needs to shift to a more incentivised, solution-orientated one.”

The candidate added that a green farmer fund “can support farmers to rapidly roll out measures that will benefit the whole country”.

Describing farmers as the “solution”, Coughlan said if every farmer was supported to make changes, the effect would be “transformative”.

“Ministers Donohoe and Bruton can do this in the Finance Bill which is currently before the Dáil.

“It gives effect to the budgetary announcement on carbon taxes, and a green farmer fund would represent meaningful effect.

The Climate Action Plan in its current form only serves to feed the blame culture.

“A far more radical and impactful approach would be to support farmers as we are the ones who can actually deliver through on-farm carbon reduction initiatives,” Coughlan concluded.