Factory owners have a responsibility to take action to improve their reputation, according to Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness.

Speaking at the Macra annual conference she said farmers who produce beef fundamentally believe they are not getting a decent price for what they put into the product. “We need decent relationships in the food supply chain.”

She also said that farmers need to be rewarded for the environmental measures they implement. “The public act differently when they go into supermarkets – they look for value and cheap products, regardless of what they say in surveys. So, farmers are not rewarded for the environmental measures they take.”

She said the environmental clothes were stolen by the non-govermental organisations (NGOs) and young farmers need to take them back and start wearing them again.

“There should never have been a split between environment and farming. That is up to young farmers to put back together. The environment is key to sustainability and 30% of farmers’ payments are linked to environmental issues.

“You as young farmers will be key to ensuring people you deal with know the issues of farmers around sustainability and having a decent income.

“Young farmers will not just talk about environmental sustainability but will implement it. Farm operators know what needs to be done. There is a huge amount that unites the environmental and farming organisations just as there is a huge amount that unites farmers and consumers.”

She also said that there is huge pressure on the CAP budget and that is a challenge for Ireland’s Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan. “Maintaining the budget will be key.”