IFA Farm Forestry Chair, Vincent Nally said that farmers that have been affected by the ash dieback disease must be given the option not to replant, without penalties.
“Many of the farmers affected by ash dieback feel abandoned by this Government,” said Mr. Nally.
He said farmers were never been properly compensated for the financial losses inflicted on them as a result of the disease. “The previous reconstitution schemes supported farmers to manage or replant infected woodlands depending on the rate of infection and/or height of trees, however farmers never received any compensation for the loss of timber revenue. This is unacceptable to IFA,” said Mr. Nally.
Ash accounts for over 25,000 hectares or 3.8% of the total forest estate according to the 2017 National Forest Inventory. Approximately 60% of this area is under 30 years of age. The vast majority of these woodlands are owned and managed by farmers.
He said it is important the new scheme makes good on this by compensating farmers for the loss of timber earning and provides a forest premium on the replanted land for 15 years according to GPC rate planted.
“Many of those that planted were dependent on the projected income from the woodland for their pension and the disease has effectively rendered the investment and their land worthless,” said Mr. Nally.
He stressed that the scheme must be open to all infected woodlands, particularly when the experience of forest owners in mainland Europe is considered, which suggests that the majority of ash trees in infected woodlands would decline or die over the next 10 to 15 years.
“Irish ash woodlands fall into a high-risk category since they were established typically in single specie blocks”, said Mr. Nally.
He concluded that the lack of scheme meant that essential management and monitoring of diseased woodlands was not happening which presented a safety risk as heavily infected trees can become brittle and unstable.
“A new scheme with appropriate supports must be introduced as a matter of urgency, with the option for farmers not to replant if that is their preferred choice, “said Mr. Nally.