IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Michael Fleming has welcomed the Land Availability for Afforestation report launched today, and called on Minister Tom Hayes to adopt the recommendation to assess land on productive capacity to grow timber as a matter of urgency.
Mr Fleming stated that this would reopen the more productive marginal land that has been restricted from the Afforestation Programme since 2010.
“The report estimates that there are nearly 180,000 hectares of productive marginal land that have a yield class greater than 14 – a requirement of the Afforestation Scheme – that are not currently being farmed. It is this land base that we need to be targeting to achieve our Afforestation Programme and maximise farm incomes,” the Farm Forestry Chairman said.
The Site Classification for Irish Forestry (SCIF) system assesses site suitability for afforestation from a productivity perspective, utilising soil and vegetation data to determine productivity.
“The report also identifies 1.8 million hectares of land that are classified as being “limited” for agriculture but with forestry presenting a viable alternative land use option, particularly when you consider that the returns from forestry are comparable to cattle and sheep systems”, said Mr. Fleming.
Mr. Fleming said he would encourage all farmers to consider forestry as a land use option and familiarise themselves with the available grants and premiums, particularly in light of the changes in 2016 Budget that return the income tax free status of forestry income.