IFA President Tim Cullinan said Government mismanagement of the sector now means that farmers no longer see forestry as a safe investment. “Without meaningful engagement and action by policymakers, the amount of land planted by farmers for forestry will continue to decline,” he said.
He told attendees at the IFA National Farm Forestry conference in Tullamore yesterday that for the first time, private forest owners, mainly farmers, own and manage 51% of the national forest estate.
“Successive changes in policy and requirements have seen farmers’ productive area eroded without recognition of the loss in timber revenue or their contribution to biodiversity enhancement,” he said.
IFA Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming said, “If we are to restore confidence among farmers in forestry as a land use option and plant at the scale required to meet our climate targets, we must address the issues that are holding farmers back from planting and look at the new opportunities within the sector”.
“Even applying to get a licence to plant or manage your timber crop has become arduous, with unacceptable time delays for decisions now the norm. The current licensing system is unsuitable for farm forests, burdening farmers with excessive regulations and costs. We urgently need a proportionate regulatory framework that reflects the size and type of operation,” said the IFA Farm Forestry Chair.
“It is incumbent on policymakers to take on board all of what they have heard from the attendees and consider it in light of future policymaking,” he said.
The conference, attended by several hundred farmers, heard from multiple speakers, including Marina Conway, Western Forestry Co-op, representatives from DAFM Forest Service and Jim McAdam, Irish Agroforestry Forum. Pippa Hackett, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, delivered the keynote address.
The afternoon session focused on forest carbon and the ongoing work to provide a framework for valuing carbon as well as an example of an operational voluntary forest carbon scheme. Speakers include Pat Snowdon, UK Woodland Carbon Code, Fergus Moores, DAFM and Tom Houlihan, Forestry Specialist, Teagasc.