Joe Healy says the next 12 months will be a 'defining year' for farming in Ireland
Farmers are being warned that Brexit is the most serious threat facing the sector for half a century.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) says other challenges include climate change, retail prices, potential competition from the Mercosur South American trade bloc, and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms.
Speaking at the IFA AGM, the association's president Joe Healy argued that 2018 will be a 'defining year' for farming in Ireland.
He observed: "Never before have such major challenges as Brexit, the CAP Budget, Mercosur and climate change converged in a single year. IFA will be there to represent the interests of all farmers.
"The next 12 months will be a test of the European Union's commitment to our sector. We expect Europe to stand by farmers and acknowledge the support Irish farmers have shown towards the European Union."
On the subject of Brexit specifically, Mr Healy said that negotiations are now entering a 'crucial stage'.
He argued: "In Brussels, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, must make the retention of free trade in agriculture and food products between the EU and UK a priority.
"Post Brexit, we cannot have a scenario where the UK Government can do as they please as regards agricultural trade with 3rd countries. If the UK wants continued access to the EU market, the EU must insist that the UK will not be free to open their markets to low standard or low value products from outside the EU."
He stressed that maintaining trade with our UK neighbours is vital: