IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Collins has welcomed changes to how the area of biodiversity is calculated under the Afforestation Scheme. These changes increase the payment area, while maintaining environmental safeguards.
Pat Collins said that the changes introduced by Minister Doyle mean that the land farmers are obliged to set aside for environment enhancement and protection should not exceed the 15% Area of Biodiversity Enhancement (ABE) payable under the Afforestation Scheme.
“IFA has been campaigning since the introduction of the new Environmental Requirements for Afforestation that farmers must be paid a forest premium on all land they are required to set aside for environmental protection and enhancement, “said Mr. Collins. “The changes to how ABE is calculated are a very positive development and will ensure that the vast majority of applications are within the 15% ABE payable under the scheme”.
The new Environmental Requirements for Afforestation introduced in December 2016 increased the area that farmers were required to set aside for environmental protection and enhancement on certain sites, as a result of increased setbacks, particularly from water features. As a result, some farmers found that the ABE was in excess of the 15% payable under the Afforestation Scheme.
“There is no change to the setbacks distances under the requirement. However the method for calculating the biodiversity areas has been revised so that certain setback can be planted with up to 20% native species and future canopy cover of planted areas is excluded from ABE area,” Pat Collins said.
He said that farmers who had decided not to proceed with application due to excessive ABE requirements should re-engage with their forester now that the issue had been resolved. He added that the changes apply to all grant aided plantations established after the 1st November 2017