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IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally has called on Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Andrew Doyle to intervene as a matter of urgency to address the crisis with forestry licences.

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IFA and Western Forestry Co-operative announce the “Value Your Forest Asset” roadshow, a series of meetings taking place in October and November. The aim of these events is to increase farmers’ understanding of the value of their forest asset and how best to optimise returns.

IFA Farm Forestry Chair, Vincent Nally said that many farmers planted forestry due to the grants and forest premiums available, but have limited knowledge of the value of their forest as it matures.

The meetings will present the results of specially commissioned forest valuation research that will give farmers an insight into the value of their forest asset, as well as the timber value as the crop matures.

“There has been a significant increase in the demand for semi-mature forests in recent years. It is vital that farmers understand the value of their forest so they can make the best decision for their farm business,” said Vincent Nally.

Marina Conway, Western Forestry Co-operative said good forestry management will be a key focus of the meetings.

“I will be sharing examples of returns to farmers from harvests, as well as the key lessons we have learnt from managing harvesting operations in farm forests,” she said.

Vincent Nally encouraged farmers to attend the meetings to learn more about the value contained in farm forests.

IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally said that the UCD report on the socio-economic contribution of forestry in Co. Leitrim contains some useful information on the value of forestry to the county as well as the social impacts for those living in the county.

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IFA Farm Forestry Chair, Vincent Nally said that farmers that have been affected by the ash dieback disease must be given the option not to replant, without penalties.

“Many of the farmers affected by ash dieback feel abandoned by this Government,” said Mr. Nally.

He said farmers were never been properly compensated for the financial losses inflicted on them as a result of the disease. “The previous reconstitution schemes supported farmers to manage or replant infected woodlands depending on the rate of infection and/or height of trees, however farmers never received any compensation for the loss of timber revenue. This is unacceptable to IFA,” said Mr. Nally.

Ash accounts for over 25,000 hectares or 3.8% of the total forest estate according to the 2017 National Forest Inventory. Approximately 60% of this area is under 30 years of age. The vast majority of these woodlands are owned and managed by farmers.

He said it is important the new scheme makes good on this by compensating farmers for the loss of timber earning and provides a forest premium on the replanted land for 15 years according to GPC rate planted.

“Many of those that planted were dependent on the projected income from the woodland for their pension and the disease has effectively rendered the investment and their land worthless,” said Mr. Nally.

He stressed that the scheme must be open to all infected woodlands, particularly when the experience of forest owners in mainland Europe is considered, which suggests that the majority of ash trees in infected woodlands would decline or die over the next 10 to 15 years.

“Irish ash woodlands fall into a high-risk category since they were established typically in single specie blocks”, said Mr. Nally.

He concluded that the lack of scheme meant that essential management and monitoring of diseased woodlands was not happening which presented a safety risk as heavily infected trees can become brittle and unstable.

“A new scheme with appropriate supports must be introduced as a matter of urgency, with the option for farmers not to replant if that is their preferred choice, “said Mr. Nally.

 

IFA National Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally said that farmers are at breaking point with the delays and additional costs associated with getting grants or licences approved.

“The current system is not working for farmers.  It is unacceptable that some farmers are waiting in excess of twelve months for a decision on their application.”

Vincent Nally said that the Department must address the reasons behind the delays, which are predominantly related to lack of personnel in archaeology and ecology. This has caused a significant backlog in the system.

“IFA is calling on the Department to allocate additional resources to address the backlog in the short term so that farmers’ applications are dealt with in a timely fashion.  Communication with farmers must also be improved, particularly when applications are delayed, so they have indicative timelines to manage operations,” he said.

He said that the request for supplementary documentations or reports, in some instances over six months after the application has been submitted, is infuriating farmers when they would have expected a decision on their application.

“If there is to be a reversal in the afforestation figures, it is essential that those farmers that plant their land have a positive experience as they enter into active management of their forest,” he said.

IFA is hosting an information meeting with the Forest Service on the afternoon of Thurs, June 27th at 2pm in the Irish Farm Centre where farmers will have an opportunity to get an update on the application process, including the changes to the Appropriate Assessment procedures and Natura Impact Assessment requirements.

Mr Nally said he would encourage all farmers with forestry to attend the information meeting and take advantage of the opportunity to meet with the Forest Service in relation to their application.


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