The EPA-commissioned report has been a red rag to frustrated farm leaders.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said the report “realises farmers’ worst fears and outlines scenarios without consideration for farmers, families and communities. Real sustainability is based on three pillars, economic, environmental and social. If implemented, it would effectively wipe out communities outside of large urban centres”.

Macra president John Keane warned that the proposals would cut land for food production, saying: “We see again another State body telling farmers and farm families what to do without even a mention to farmers and surprise, surprise, no mention of young farmers.”

‘Trolling’ farmers

ICSA boss Dermot Kelleher said that the report was in line with the “constant trolling of livestock farmers by a small minority of people”. “[Farmers] are not going to lie down and take extreme proposals that would destroy their livelihoods and potentially create a food security crisis.”

INHFA president Vincent Roddy warned that it is “vital that we only act on science conducted in Ireland and we should hold off on making any major decisions until this data is available”.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack suggested that the EPA report “bins” December’s Climate Action Plan. “We have different agencies of our Government coming out with ever more unrealistic and unachievable ‘plans’ and targets – all overtaking or even contradicting plans that were announced just 10 or 12 weeks ago.”

Rural and backbench TDs reacted furiously to the report. Independent TD Michael McNamara said farmers are being “scapegoated” by being told to cull a national herd back to numbers lower than when Ireland joined the EU.

Fellow Independent, Michael Fitzmaurice TD warned of an “ethnic cleansing” where “we’re getting rid of family farms in the west, northwest, southwest and the midlands if this is going ahead”.

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