The Minister for Agriculture has said he will refuse nominations to state boards for which he is responsible, if women are not sufficiently represented on them.

There are 12 state bodies under the Department of Agriculture and the target for female representation is 40%.

The Minister's comments come as the first National Dialogue on Women in Agriculture takes place in Portlaoise later today.

Historically women have been key workers on farms in Ireland but have not been as visible as their male counterparts.

Today's conference is the first National Dialogue on Women in Agriculture and it will hear that better gender balance is needed.

Currently, 27% of farm workers are female but just 13% of Irish farm owners are women.

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue is due to address today's conference and will warn state boards that more women need to be appointed.

The Minister says he will block nominations to the 12 boards under his responsibility if the Government gender target of 40% females is not being achieved.

He says the female under representation on state boards must be addressed and women interested in being appointed need support and encouragement from their employers - especially in the agribusiness sector.