IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Hennessy said that the 2% cut to the forestry budget was acceptable in the current economic situation, and brought the forestry programme funding back to 2009 levels. He welcomed the Governments commitment to an afforestation programme but stressed that funding for the forest support schemes must be increased significantly in 2011.
“Such was the demand for the Forest Road scheme in 2010 that the funding was exhausted within four months and farmers were not able to take advantage of the high timber prices”, he said.
Mr. Hennessy recommended that at least 15% of the capital forestry budget should be allocated to support the mobilisation of the private forest resource. He stressed that the timber resource in the private sector was under utilised and funding must be increased if the timber production and income generation potential of the resource was to be realised.
The Forest Service estimate that approximately 30,000 hectares of private forests in now ready for thinning but without an appropriately funded supports programme, this timber will not be harvested, which will have serious repercussions for future production forecasts.
He said that the priority must be to support existing forest owners to access and mobilise the private sector resource. He questioned the value of expanding the forest resource further, if proper supports are not in place for forest owners to manage and add value to the resource.