IFA Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming said the ongoing delay in securing State Aid approval for the new Forestry Programme 2023 to 2027 is causing major concern within the sector as the planting rate fell by 75% on this time last year, with only 94 hectares of new forests established in 2023.
“The new Forestry Programme was announced last November. Four months later and we are still waiting on approval. The sector has been in a state of flux for too long. We need the Minister to step up and get the programme approved,” said Mr. Fleming.
He said that the sector has seen radical regulatory changes in recent years, with all applications being screened to determine if an appropriate assessment is required, of which approximately 75% of afforestation and felling applications are screened in for appropriate assessment.
“This means that 75% of applications are examined on a case-by-case basis for the implication of a project for a Natura 2000 site and its conservation objectives, so it is clear that Ireland’s forest sector is highly regulated,” Jason Fleming said.
“If we are to start to restore confidence and increase planting to meet our targets under the Climate Action Plan 2023, we cannot see more regulation placed on farmers that want to plant, or additional suitable land being restricted from the programme,” he concluded.