The Irish Farmers’ Association is organising meetings across the country in the next fortnight, at which farmers will challenge election candidates on their commitment to defend agriculture.

Meetings will be held in every rural constituency, with the first of the 30 meetings taking place next Monday (14 February) in Cavan, Roscommon/South Leitrim and Kerry.

IFA President John Bryan has encouraged all members to turn out and hear what the candidates and political parties in their constituency have to say about the future of agriculture and the policies they intend to pursue.

He said the Food Harvest 2020 targets of increasing farmgate output by €1.5bn and growing exports by 50% to €12bn will only be achieved if the next government pursues policies at home and in Europe that provide the right framework for farming.

Mr Bryan said farmers have firmly set their sights on further growth so that our agri-food sector can realise its full potential to meet the rising global demand for food.

However, escalating input costs are a real worry for the sector and the new government must address the country's competitiveness.

For example, he said, there must be no further increase in the carbon tax, as this would cause more damage to the exporting, farming and food sector.