The government has hosted a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) on agriculture and rural development.

The government was represented by the two Irish ministers responsible for those policy areas, namely Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys.

The meeting allowed the Irish ministers to discuss areas of mutual interest and cooperation with their counterparts in the Northern Irish executive.

They met with Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Andrew Muir, Junior Minister Pam Cameron; and Junior Minister Aisling Reilly.

This was the first North South Ministerial Council sectoral meeting on agriculture and rural development since the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive in February.

The council meeting discussed cooperation on issues including animal and plant health, farm safety, rural development, research and innovation.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the council agreed that engagement on these issues should be progressed, as well as agreeing that further opportunities for collaboration on climate change and biodiversity challenges should be explored before the next meeting of the council later this year.

The council also considered and agreed conclusions in respect of rural development issues.

Commenting after the meeting, Minister McConalogue said: “I and my department are fully committed to further enhancing engagement with our Northern Irish counterparts on a wide range of policy areas which present common challenges and opportunities for farmers, food producers and communities across the island.

On the issues of climate change and biodiversity, Minister McConalogue said: “Our farming communities stand ready to continue to play their important role in contributing to the achievement of positive change in these areas.

“The council meeting today recognised these challenges and has tasked our officials to explore and identify how we can improve cooperation in addressing these issues, supporting our farmers and agriculture producers in contributing to solutions which benefit them and the environment across the island,” Minister McConalogue added.