Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said he does not support a move by Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe to write to banks in Ireland on their lending policies.

Cuffe, an MEP for the Dublin constituency, recently wrote to banks here, citing concerns about loans being approved for young farmers within a carbon-intensive sector, it is understood.

Minister McConalogue was asked about this issue at the AGM of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) today (Friday, December 3).

When queried by ICMSA president Pat McCormack if he supported Cuffe’s move, the minister responded: “No, certainly not.”

“That’s the answer we needed,” McCormack then remarked.

Despite his rebuke to Cuffe, the minister did tell the ICMSA AGM that the “stark reality” is that total emissions from the dairy sector herd continue to increase, something he said needs to be addressed.

“The Climate Action Plan has set a target of a 22% to 30% reduction in emissions from the sector. Let me be clear, this is a challenging target. However, it is a target that I believe is achievable.

“It is a target that is in line with the Programme for Government commitment of recognising the importance of agriculture as well as the science behind our sector. It is a target that is significantly lower than other sectors in the economy,” Minister McConalogue highlighted.

He also reiterated his stance on cow numbers.

“The old trope of cutting livestock numbers is something that I have never wanted to do and is not government policy,” he said.

“A cut to numbers has never been on the table and I will never allow this to be anything other than empty rhetoric. We must reduce our emissions, yes. But that doesn’t mean reduction in livestock numbers.”

“It is crucial that we also recognise the positive environmental action engaged in over many years by farmers. The government does recognise this and supports you in taking the further steps required to meet our increased ambition now,” the minister added.