Addressing the Ash Dieback Conference in Thurles this morning, IFA President Tim Cullinan said the treatment of farmers affected by the disease has been hugely damaging to farmer confidence in forestry.
“The level of support offered to the impacted farmers has been totally insufficient, which has added hugely to the distress and frustration of those affected,” he said.
It is over a decade since the first case of ash dieback was detected in Co. Leitrim. Since then, IFA and farmers affected have been campaigning for a support scheme that acknowledges the financial loss incurred.
The lack of an adequate response from consecutive Governments has been central to the decline in farmer planting in the intervening years.
“This must be addressed now. The Minister must introduce a new scheme that provides recognises the financial loss incurred by the disease. Until this happens it is hard to see farmers planting at the scale required to meet our afforestation and climate targets,” he said.
IFA Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming said the lack of recognition in the interim ash dieback scheme for the significant financial loss incurred by farmers is a serious blow to those whose ash woodlands have been devastated by this disease.
“The increased clearance and grant rates announced under the interim scheme are positive developments and reflect the increased cost of getting the work done, but the scheme does not compensate farmers for the loss of timber earnings,” said Jason Fleming.
Under the interim scheme, the site clearance grant rate has increased to €2,000 and grant rates are in line with the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027.
Applicants whose sites are still in premium will continue to receive this for the remaining years, but will be eligible for a premium top up to the new rate of the forest type established.
He said consecutive Ministers have failed to fully appreciate the devastation caused by the disease and the severe financial cost to farmers.
“These farmers have been left with nothing. Until the Government acknowledges the financial loss and provides compensation to farmers by reinstating a 20-year premium on the replanted land, we will never see farmers planting at the rates required to meet our climate targets,” he concluded.