IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Pat Hennessy has told Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture with responsibility for forestry Shane McEntee that the protection of the forest premiums was paramount in the upcoming Budget. He said farmers had committed their land to forestry and they expected the same commitment from the Government.
“The foundation of the forest sector and the future afforestation programme is based on the commitment that forest premiums will be honoured. Forestry is like no other agricultural scheme; once a farmer commits land to forestry, it is in forestry for perpetuity,” said Mr. Hennessy.
He said that the uncertainty in relation to forest premiums had contributed to the 50% reduction in afforestation applications this year.
The forest sector is worth €1.8 billion to the Irish economy. The economic benefit of the sector both in terms of income and employment are centred in disadvantaged areas, where unemployment rates are significantly higher then the national average.
Pat Hennessy said that if the forest sector is adequately supported, employment both direct and indirect could be almost doubled by 2025 to 40,000. “Already employment had increased as more farmers construct forest roads and bring their forests into production. So far this year, the private sector had applied to harvest nearly 10,000 hectares, up over 2,000 hectares on last year.”