IFA Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming said there are a lot of learnings to be taken from the Ash Dieback report, but of critical importance to farmers is the urgency with which the recommendations are implemented.
“The publication of the report is a positive step forward. It is a vindication for the farmers that the Government’s response, particularly between 2018 to 2023, was ineffective and did not meet the needs of forest owners,” said Mr. Fleming.
“The findings are in line with a comprehensive submission made by IFA to the review group. We do feel that, at last, someone is taking our concerns on board,” he said.
He acknowledged the comments from Minister Hackett that her and the Department are now working to implement the recommendations in the report.
“The speed at which the Government respond on the foot of this report will be critical to rebuilding trust and confidence in forestry and will be fundamental to how farmers judge the attractiveness of forestry as a land-use”.
He said that the focus must be now on implementing the recommendations within the report in full and keeping stakeholders informed on progress. Of particular importance for forest owners will be:
- a simplified approval process for site clearance.
- the full cost of site clearance and regeneration should be covered by grant aid, with additional support available for clearance of challenging sites.
- a review of re-establishment and maintenance costs, taking account of need for more intensive and regular maintenance associated with re-establishment forests.
- the introduction of a be-spoke re-establishment annual payment consistent with the general rates available under the new Forestry Programme.
- explore the potential for a one-off ex gratia payment in recognition of the absence of an effective scheme between 2018 and 2023.
He concluded that there are important learnings from this report, particularly around the need to develop a new partnership and risk-sharing approach, to plan for future disease and invasive alien species risks.