IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Hennessy said that any further cuts to forest premiums will risk the future of the afforestation programme as farmers will no longer be able to trust Government guarantees on forest premiums. “The 8% cut to forest premiums, the introduction of an income levy as well as considerable reductions in management supports have shattered the integrity of the programme.”
Pat Hennessy said, “The cuts do not take into account the commitment made by farmers. Forestry is like no other agricultural scheme. Once the land is planted there is a legal obligation to keep the land in forestry forever while the value of the land is also significantly reduced.”
“Farmers have sterilised their land based on promises from Government that the forest premiums were guaranteed. They have satisfied increasingly rigorous environmental and biodiversity requirements, which has reduced production potential and they have been rewarded with cuts to premiums.”
Mr Hennessy said the Government had targeted cuts at a most vulnerable group of farmers that had very limited recourse options available other than repayment of full establishment grant and premium.
Ireland’s forest industry is already significant – it currently contributes close on €2 billion to the economy annually, employs over 22,000 directly and indirectly and supports an additional 14,000 farmers and is a significant exporter of high quality wood products. However, enhanced Government support is vital if the challenges are to be overcome and the industry’s contribution to economic growth and environmental performance maximised.