IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally said the plan to address the backlog of forestry licences actively discriminates against farm forests and could signal the end of farmer planting.
“Despite the rhetoric about the important role of forestry in our climate mitigation plan, and its prominence in the Programme for Government, particularly forests on farms, the reality is the forest licence plan reduces the rights of smaller forest owners,” he said.
He said the plan is just another example of the indifference shown by the Department to the plight of farmers trying to manage forests at farm scale.
“The costs and bureaucracy associated with getting a licence under the current system means that the vast majority of forests on farms are no longer viable. Under the plan, smaller forests that cannot justify the cost of a Natura Impact Statement (NIS) are being forced to the end of a very long queue of licence applications”.
He said that the Department must seriously rethink what is being proposed if they hope to re-engage farmers in the forestry programme, as this plan completely fails to address the viability of planting or managing forests at farm scale.
“If we want forests on farms, then we need to ensure that the system works for farmers”, he said.
The planting programme in 2020 is expected to be approx. 2,500 ha, which is nearly 70% below the annual afforestation target of 8,000 ha per annum set out in Ireland’s Climate Mitigation Plan.