Michael Fleming, IFA Farm Forestry Chairman met with Simon Coveney, Minster for Agriculture, Food and Marine yesterday (Wed) as part of an IFA delegation. At the meeting Mr. Fleming told the Minister that forest owners had taken their fair share of cuts and that Forest Premiums must be maintained in the upcoming budget.
“The priority must be to maintain Forest Premiums. I understand that funding is limited but the Government must pay existing Forest Premium liabilities before funding a new afforestation programme”.
“The Government has a choice and I am asking them to honour existing Forest Premium liabilities before we totally undermine confidence in the programme”, said Mr. Fleming.
The 8% cut to the Forest Premium in 2009 has seriously undermined confidence in the Afforestation scheme, to the extent that in 2011 only 6,600 hectares was planted. This is the smallest private planting programme since 1988. The impact has been so severe that a Land Availability Working Group has been established by the Forest Service to identify suitable lands for forestry.
“Farmers commit their land to forestry forever, if the forest premiums are cut again I could no longer advise a farmer to plant”, said Mr. Fleming.