A change in Government policy on forestry is needed to ensure the sector can reach its potential to create jobs and help Ireland to meet its climate change and renewable energy targets, while ensuring a balanced regional spread, IFA President Joe Healy has said.
The IFA President was speaking as IFA launched a Five Point Plan to Revitalise Farm Forestry at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore.
He said, “Government must take a serious look why Ireland is failing to meet its forestry targets and address the barriers that exist to planting, some of which are a direct result of current policy.”
IFA has analysed the reasons Ireland is failing to meet forestry targets and identified that to change the situation, Government must:
- Remove restrictions on planting productive marginal land
- Reintroduce farmer forest premium payment differential
- Compensate farmers appropriately for all land they are obliged to set aside for environmental enhancement
- Reduce red tape in the forest Road Scheme
- Provide funding to establish a network of Forest Producer Groups
Joe Healy said, “The perception of forestry has been seriously damaged among farmers and the public by the over-concentration of planting within certain counties such as Cavan, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. The fact that more than 36% of planting is now undertaken by investors who do not live within the communities in which forests are planted is also damaging to how forestry is viewed.
“This negative perception must be addressed by increasing the land available to forestry across the country and ensuring that all land that satisfies both environmental and productive requirements is eligible under the Afforestation Scheme.
“In addition, forest policy must prioritise supporting farmers to plant, and key to this is the reintroduction of the farmer premium differential.”
Pat Collins, IFA Farm Forestry Chairman pointed out that recent measures undertaken by Government have eroded farmers’ confidence in forestry and many are now reluctant to commit their land, no longer viewing forestry as a safe investment
He said, “Decisions taken by government to cut forest premiums, introduce restrictions on planting productive marginal land, increasing environmental restrictions and enforce new requirements have had a detrimental impact on the number of farmers considering forestry.”
The Forestry Chairman said it is important that the profitability of timber harvesting is maximised, “Forest producers need support to collectively manage and mobilise their wood supply. Supporting cooperation is essential if the small and fragmented forests are to be economically managed and new value added opportunities, particularly in the wood energy market, can be exploited.”