Motorists across the country faced major traffic delays today as hundreds of angry farmers held tractor protests in 29 towns and cities.
The slow-moving motorcades clogged up roads highlighting concerns about falling farm prices and Government cuts to the sector.
The Irish Farmers’ Association said families were facing the worst crisis in a generation, with many struggling to stay in business.
President Padraig Walshe said: “Almost every town throughout rural Ireland is dependent on agriculture and the income collapse will lead to significant downturn in business across the rural economy.
“The Government must take immediate action to address this issue.”
Mr Walshe said farm incomes were expected to fall this year by up to 25% and 35% over a two-year period.
He said the average farm income was below €15,000 this year.
But a spokesman for Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith said the Government had been consistently working to ease the plight of those in the sector.
“Minister Brendan Smith... fully acknowledges the difficulties facing the farming community this year and said he has been consistently working both within Government and at EU level, to alleviate the current difficulties being faced by the sector,” he said.
AA Roadwatch warned motorists in Waterford were facing 30-minute delays as tractors clogged up the county’s roads.
Up to 250 tractors were travelling through parts of Kilkenny while 400 poured into Portlaoise causing major tailbacks.
Mr Walshe said agriculture was vital to the rural economy of all counties and was the largest indigenous industry in Ireland.
Up to 300,000 people are employed in the farming and food sectors.