The way has been cleared for negotiations on a new Common Agricultural Policy to begin.

A meeting of the EU Council of Agricultural Ministers in Luxembourg last night reached agreement.

The Irish Farmers' Association said the deal was important, but its president warned the contents of the agreement "would be challenging" for Irish farmers.

It is reported that 20% of Pillar I Direct Payments will relate to so called 'Eco Schemes', which the IFA has said is a significant change.

Tim Cullinan said: "it means that all farmers will have to undertake additional environmental measures to have a chance of maintaining their payments."

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalgoue said that the deal done can allow some certainty for farmers on the outlook of the future CAP programme, which he said forms such an important part of their income.

The minister said the details of the one to two year transition period before the new CAP begins now need to be finalised, along with management of the multi-annual budgets.

He said that there is no doubt that the final CAP agreed will seek to achieve and contribute to climate change objectives and to improving biodiversity in food production.

He said that 'farmers are up for it' and it is an important thing that farmers who are working hard are properly rewarded as custodians of our land and for producing high quality food.

He said the main change is the introduction of an eco scheme and the percentage of this that will be linked to Pillar One payments - he said discussions have yet to agree whether this will fall at between 20 or 30%.

Speaking earlier this morning in Luxembourg, Minister McConalgoue said that the progress made at Council level meant that negotiations could now begin on the regulations, which would apply for the CAP from 2023 to 2027.

The Minister said that he was satisfied that the general approach agreed by ministers provided for "an ambitious vision of a CAP that is in tune with the Ireland and Europe's needs and ensures that member states maximise opportunities in the period ahead".

"It will support farm incomes while helping us build a sustainable agriculture sector contributing to the EU Green Deal."

The Minister insisted that "Ireland's interests have been protected in the agreement reached".

Yesterday, the CAP also cleared another hurdle in the European Parliament when MEPs voted to reject a motion that would have meant that the policy would have to be redesigned by the EU Commission.

Some MEPS have backed the amendments after lobby groups voiced concern that the new CAP did not tackle climate change and environmental issues strongly enough.

However, the vote on 1147 amendment was rejected 503 votes to 166.

Further votes on CAP are due in the parliament later this week, after which the way should be clear for detailed negotiations on the makeup of the vital scheme for the farming sector can begin.