The Irish Farmers Association has called on the Government to take a strong role and defend the interests of Irish agriculture in the ongoing trade negotiations between the EU and the United States.

Launching a new position paper on the negotiations, IFA President Eddie Downey, said it is clear that the US has ambitions for major agriculture exports into EU markets.

He said all US imports should have to meet the same animal health, welfare, traceability and environmental standards that are imposed in Ireland.

He said that the trade deal should not facilitate replacing carbon efficient Irish produce with carbon intensive imports from the United States.

Mr Downey said the agri-food sector is critically important to the Irish economic recovery, with 300,000 jobs dependent on and linked to agriculture across all parishes and towns of Ireland and agri-food exports of €10.5bn in 2014.

He said the IFA will fight to ensure that the interests of European and Irish agriculture are not sacrificed in the TTIP negotiations in pursuit of an overall trade deal.

The IFA will be intensifying its engagement with key stakeholders in the Oireachtas, European Parliament and European Commission in relation to the trade negotiations.

The new IFA position paper is called "Guarding the Interests of Agriculture in the TTIP negotiations".

The Paper says the EU must not reach a trade agreement with the US, which runs counter to EU climate change objectives, by facilitating the replacement of carbon efficient Irish produce on the EU market with carbon intensive US imports.

It also calls for EU beef and pigmeat to be designated as sensitive products and for reduced tariffs to be retained on all EU beef imports.

It points out that there are significant US market access opportunities for high-quality Irish dairy products as part of the trade negotiations.

However, it says that there must be acceptance of equivalence on dairy hygiene standards, between the EU and US systems, to remove a significant barrier to entry to the US market.