A Green Party MEP has said that he should not have singled out the agricultural sector in letters he sent to banks suggesting young farmers not be given loans if they proposed expanding their herds.

Ciarán Cuffe accepted that it was "wrong to single out young farmers" as the whole economy needs to reduce emissions.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Cuffe said: "I certainly shouldn't have singled out agriculture when the entire economy needs to reduce its emissions and in fairness to what my colleagues are doing in Government, they are working to incentivise organics, biomethane, forestry, and all of these have a role to play in reducing our emissions.

"But I do think that we are reaching limits in some areas and an area that has seen a real explosion in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years has been dairy farming."

The former TD and junior minister said he is concerned about the impact the "rapid expansion" in dairy farming is having on the environment.

"Of course, it was wrong to single out young farmers because the entire economy needs to reduce its emissions, and as An Tánaiste said last night, we need to tackle emissions in aviation, we need to tackle fossil fuels, and we need to bring the entire Irish economy towards a low carbon future and that doesn't just require action in agriculture.

"It means action in construction, in energy, and in transportation as well.

"I was concerned about the rapid expansion of dairy farming in recent years.

"The output has almost doubled, which is good news for farmers, but it is putting huge pressure from an environmental perspective and the Environmental Protection Agency has said that almost half of Irish rivers and lakes are not in good condition and that agricultural runoff is a main contributory factor," Mr Cuffe added.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night that it was wrong to single out this sector, adding that Fine Gael wants to encourage more people into farming.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences