IFA National Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming said that there is a need for information to be provided to farmers on the status of the new forestry programme.
“This delay has taken a toll as farmers have been awaiting clarity around the programme since November 2022,” said Jason Fleming.
“Given the current challenges facing the forestry sector and the need to meet afforestation targets, it’s hard to believe that a full programme is still not in place,” he said.
The afforestation measures under the new forestry programme were officially granted State Aid approval by the European Commission last week.
“Last week, the Minister announced the Commission’s approval of €308 million for the afforestation scheme, a portion of the €1.3 billion funding for the overall Forestry Programme. There is a need for the government to provide an update on the progress of the remaining measures within the programme and a timeline expected for decisions,” said Jason Fleming.
IFA has outlined a number of concerns with the new programme. These are as follows:
- The Payment for Eco System Services (PES) should be amended to pay farmers to manage land set aside for biodiversity enhancement and broadleaves. The PES rate should reflect the income foregone from timber production and must be extended beyond the proposed 7 years.
- The farmer premium differential needs to be improved, with a higher premium rate paid to farmers in recognition of the wider rural development benefits they provide by planting. Farmer premium rates should be index linked and the increased rate paid to existing forest owners.
- A proportionate regulatory framework that reflects the size and type of operation, that guarantees decisions within the legally required four-month timeframe, needs to be urgently introduced.
- All infected ash woodland must be eligible for a 100% reconstitution grant, a premium paid for 20 years on the replanted land and compensation for the financial loss incurred.
- The replanting obligation is a key barrier to farmers participation in forestry and should be reviewed.