IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Pat Hennessy said that confidence in the forestry programme would be totally undermined if forest premiums were to be cut again in the upcoming budget.
This follows comments by Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney at the recent IFA lobbying session, where he said that they were looking at all elements of the forestry budget including forest premiums to find the cuts required in the capital budget.
Mr. Hennessy said that the budgetary priority must be to pay existing commitments. Cutting forest premiums again to fund an afforestation programme would show complete disregard for the commitment made by farmers and jeopardise the development of the sector.
“Why would a farmer plant, commit his land to forestry for all time, when there is no guarantee that forest premiums will be honoured? Maintaining the forestry budget makes economic sense. If the Government wants an afforestation programme, then additional funding must be secured.”
Forestry is a truly sustainable indigenous industry that makes a direct contribution of €1.8 billion to the economy. Although the main economic benefits still lie in timber production, the non-timber benefits such as recreation, carbon sequestration and biodiversity also make a significant economic and environmental contribution.
Concluding, he said, “Forestry is a long-term investment and the Government must take the same approach to funding if the sector is achieve its strategic potential and contribute to Ireland’s economic recovery.”