IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Collins is concerned that the rate of farmer planting will continue to fall if farmers are not paid on all land they are obliged to set aside for environmental enhancement under the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation.
He said, the level of farmer planting has fallen significantly under the current Forestry Programme 2014 – 2020. In 2013, farmers planted 6,000 hectares compared with 4,095 hectares in 2016. This represents a 32% decrease in farmer planting since the introduction of the programme.
“A lot of farmers who entered into forestry in good faith and adhered to the conditions of the Afforestation Scheme are frustrated that their forestry payments and productive area was unfairly reduced in recent years. This frustration is reflected in the falling afforestation figures,” Pat Collins said.
“Now the Government expects farmers to set good productive land aside for environmental enhancement but they will not be paid a premium on the land if the area they are required to set aside exceeds 15% of the claimed area. It is unacceptable to expect farmers to reduce productive area and not be paid for the environmental services, such as habitat protection and clean water that they provide.”
Pat Collins said he had been contacted by a farmer who wants to plant but would be required to set aside 35%, or over 2 hectares of his land, for environmental measures, on which he would only receive a premium payment on a hectare. This means that were he were to go ahead and plant his land over the first rotation of the crop he would lose in forest premium and timber income approximately €50,000.
The IFA Forestry Chairman said this is completely unacceptable, “Farmers are more aware than ever that their forest is valued based on the productive area, this is classed as land planted with commercial conifers. Buyers of semi-mature plantations put no value on the broadleaves or areas set aside for environmental enhancement. Yet this Government expects farmers to set aside land for environmental protection and enhancement but does not believe they should be appropriately compensated”.
IFA has requested a meeting with Minister of State for Forestry, Andrew Doyle to ensure that farmers are paid on all land they are obliged to set aside under the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation.