A voluntary exit scheme for dairy farmers will be put in place next year, the Minister for Agriculture has indicated.

Charlie McConalogue told the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action that he has already said the scheme would be based on milk production levels in 2022, to avoid anyone increasing production with a view to participating in the scheme when it is established.

He said he is now going to engage further with stakeholders so that by the third quarter of this year, things will be clarified and next year "we will have the follow through on that."

The minister also said a voluntary exit scheme was one of the recommendations of the Food Vision Dairy Group that he set up.

Its brief was to find ways to stabilise and then reduce emissions from the dairy sector.

He was responding to Green Party Senator Pauline O'Reilly, who asked if the scheme will be in place by the start of 2024, to which he replied "that would be my intention, pending the engagement with stakeholders".

Mr McConalogue also told the committee that without controlled burning of land during the legally permitted period, you could have a potential high risk of burning at the height of summer which you cannot control.

It comes after fire crews in Kerry have responded to 56 hill fires in the last three days.

A ban on burning land and cutting hedgerows came into effect yesterday and will last until the end of August.

The Fianna Fáil TD said burning can also help provide habitat renewal, which can be important for bird life as well.

He was respondng to questions from Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore who said 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are released in Ireland annually through wildfire practices, legal and illegal.

She said fires also cause many issue with air pollution, water pollution, public safety and a risk to firefighters and asked if its time to review land burning practices.

The minister said that where controlled burning takes place there has to be an application to the local authority and it has to be approved.

However he emphasised that burning is illegal from 1 March until 1 September and said the Goverment will take a no nonsense approach to it.

Earlier, he told the committee that the 25% greenhouse gas reduction target set for the agriculture sector is a hugely challenging one and one that will see the sector change over the coming decade.

He said agriculture was the first sector to have a credible roadmap for achieving climate ambitions and scientific and technological solutions are evolving all the time.

Mr McConalogue said the target for agriculture is anything but business as usual and will require transformational change and described the changes that are taking place in terms of fertiliser use, rearing of animals, diversification into organic farming and forestry and energy production.