The European Commission and the European Investment Bank have launched a €1 billion loans package targeting specifically young farmers, with the aim of increasing access to keep farming accessible for younger generations.
'Access to finance is crucial and too often an obstacle for young people wanting to join the profession,' said Irish European Commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan.
Agriculture was described as the 'backbone' of the EU economy, with a key role to play in producing healthy food in a sustainable way to preserve the environment.
This loan programme is promised to support growth and competitiveness in the sector, by preserving and creating employment in the rural and coastal regions.
Speaking about dairy farmers and the environment, Cllr Malcolm Byrne said that the farming community is frustrated.
'Farming is the engine of economic activity in rural Ireland. The government must now work with farmers to maintain Ireland's reputation as the green food island,' he said.
'Farmers are crying out for leadership and support so that they can do whatever is necessary to ensure that the quality food that they produce can be done with less environmental impact,' he added.
The new programme will address many of the current shortcomings that farmers face, such as providing lower interest rates, longer time to start repaying the loan (up to five years), longer time to pay back the whole loan (up to 15 years) as well as flexibility with a 'holiday/grace' for farmers facing financial difficulty.
'There are many issues that young people in farming have to face. This should hopefully go a long way to improving the situation and ensure that the future of agriculture in Ireland is sustainable,' said Irish MEP for the South, Deirdre Clune, explaining that the scheme is the largest move ever made in Europe to support farming.
'I believe this scheme will offer rates of about 3%, which is lower than current bank rates. Macra na Feirme has campaigned for this to encourage young farmers to stay in the business,' said Deirdre Clune.
The programme going forward will be managed by each individual EU countries banks and leasing companies, and participating banks should match the amount committed by the European Investment Bank.
This brings the potential total amount to €2 billion, and priority on this should be given to young farmers but start-ups within the agricultural and bioeconomy sector.