The Cabinet has given Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue the green light to start the legislative process to establish an agri-food regulator, which he said will bring "a much needed transparency to the sector".

The regulator will have "real teeth" and will "ensure fairness, transparency and equity in the supply chain", the minister said at a press conference.

Its powers will include tackling late payments to farmers and primary producers, the misuse of trade secrets and unfair contract changes.

The regulator will act as "a strong advocate" and "a guardian for the industry", the minister said, adding that this is "a good day for food producers".

The Government wants to demonstrate that it is putting "maximum pressure on" to ensure that farmers are fairly paid.

In a year of "unprecedented inflation", pricing "needs to be responsive, needs to be fair", the minister added.

When a company is found to have engaged in malpractice, the regulator will be authorised to levy fines of up to €10m, or 10% of turnover.

A €4m budget has been set aside to establish and run the body in 2023, and the search has begun for a chief executive, with interviews set to take place shortly.

The minister also said that "agriculture is still largely a male-dominated sector" and that the contributions made by women are not fully understood, and so the Government is establishing a national dialogue on women in the industry to be held on St Brigid's Day next year.

"It is very much time to take the role of women farmers out of the shadows and put them firmly in the spotlight," he said.

The topic was part of a packed Cabinet agenda today as the Government aimed to pass several pieces of legislation before the end of the Dáil term on 17 December.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris was given approval to significantly increase the supply of student accommodation.

Today's proposal would see the State partially fund the construction of student accommodation comprising of 700 beds in Maynooth, Limerick and Galway

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys brought a memo seeking to extend the payment of the Christmas bonus to people in receipt of Illness Benefit for 12 months or longer.

The Christmas bonus, which is a doubling of weekly payments, is due to be paid in early December.

Ms Humphreys was expected to tell the Cabinet that while most people remain on Illness Benefit for a short period of time, there are currently around 17,500 people who are in receipt of the support for 12 months or more.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien was seeking approval to increase the social housing income eligibility thresholds for local authorities by €5,000 from the start of 2023.

This is expected to make an additional 16,000 households eligible for social housing supports.

Minister for Education Norma Foley was due to update Cabinet on the provision of a once-off €90m in additional funding for schools to meet energy and cost-of-living increases.

This funding will be paid before the end of this current school term and €10m of extra funding is also being provided to bus contractors on the School Transport Scheme.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was due to bring an update on the Shared Island Initiative to Cabinet.

He was due to outline the €132m spent to date on cross-border initiatives such as the Narrow Water Bridge and Ulster Canal projects, and further upcoming plans.

The Government was due to be asked to consider expanding the devolved capital grant to allow any college access funding to repurpose a vacant building in their area for accommodation purposes.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath was due to bring a report by economic consultants Indecon to Government on how money raised through the National Lottery for good causes is dispersed.

Since its inception, the National Lottery has raised more than €6bn for areas such as sport, arts, culture, heritage and community projects.

It is understood the report recommends ensuring a greater acknowledgement of the National Lottery brand by beneficiaries and the creation of an open fund to which applications can be made by organisations and community groups.

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane