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IFA President, Joe Healy welcomed Minister Doyle’s announcement today (Tues) to fund a study to be undertaken by UCD to assess the social, economic and environmental impact of afforestation in Co. Leitrim.

The carrying out of such a study had been proposed by Leitrim IFA and was adopted as policy by IFA’s National Council.

“There are often differing claims reported on the impact of afforestation”, said Mr. Healy. “But one thing that is crystal clear is that local farmers and their families in Co. Leitrim are very concerned about the impact it is having on their communities”.

“There is a real need for this study”, said Mr. Healy, “it will provide much needed information to address the concerns of rural communities, particularly in relation to the increased planting and ownership by people not living in the county.

He continued by saying her hoped that the study would help inform the debate, so it can go beyond broad claims and provide a greater understanding of the effects the expansion of the forest sector has on population, employment, incomes, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, amongst others.

An IFA delegation met with Minister Doyle in early December 2018 seeking support from the Minister to fund an independent study to assess the social, economic and environmental impact of afforestation to address the common claims and perceptions associated with the land use change.

IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Vincent Nally said that forestry is a permanent land use change, so it is very important that there is full understanding of what the shift from traditional agriculture to growing trees means for rural communities”.

“The changes that were introduced in the current programme that removed the farmer premium differential and increased the payment to non-farmers, had significantly increased the level of planting by non-farmers, as well as the negative feeling towards forestry”, said Mr. Nally.

He said that by evaluating the impacts and the common perceptions around forestry in the study, he hoped that it would help to propose changes to improve forest policy and mitigate the adverse impacts for those living in rural Ireland.

Leitrim IFA Chairman James Gallagher welcomed the announcement.

“We need an objective assessment of the impact of forestry in Leitrim”, said Mr. Gallagher. “There are real and genuine concerns about the impact the level of afforestation is having on farming and the wider community”.

Áine Ní Dhubhain, Associate Professor with the School of Agriculture and Food Science in UCD has been appointed to oversee the study. Ms Ní Dhubhain research expertise is in socio-economic impact of forestry, forest policy and farm forestry.

IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Vincent Nally has welcomed the introduction of a grant of up to €500 per hectare to support farmers to undertake second thinning operations in broadleaf forests, under the Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS).

“Many farmers have delayed thinning operations following the Department’s announcement late last February that an additional grant would be introduced,” said Mr. Nally.

He said that the delay in introducing the grant had left many farmers with limited time to get operations completed this winter, as the preferred time for thinning operations in broadleaf forests is from autumn to early spring when the sap is down.

“The Department must work with farmers that have delayed operations pending the introduction of the grant to get applications fast tracked through the system”, said Mr. Nally.

Thinning operations are essential in broadleaf forests to focus growth on the best quality and more vigorous stems and provide the growing space for these trees. Thinning for quality is greatly assisted if potential crop trees (PCTs) are permanently marked early on, by painted bands or spots.

“From a commercial viewpoint the most important part of the tree is the lower section of the stem, this is the portion of the tree that yields the greatest financial return,” said Mr. Nally.

He concluded by stressing the importance of safety in all forestry operations but particularly in tree felling. He said that farmers must ensure that all workers have adequate insurance, have certified training and that suitable personal protection equipment is worn at all times.

IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Vincent Nally said that he is concerned following the discovery of the eight toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) in the south of England in late 2018.

He said the discovery of the eight toothed spruce bark beetle represents a high risk to Ireland where Sitka spruce has been planted widely and comprises 52% of the national forest estate. The eight toothed spruce bark beetle has the potential to cause significant damage to Ireland’s Sitka spruce-based forestry and timber industries if it became established in Irish forests.

“I welcome the commitment from the Department that additional risk-based surveys will be undertaken to provide added assurance for forest owners that the pest is not present or introduced”, said Mr. Nally.

“However, such a serious threat requires a pest specific strategic-level plan to ensure a rapid and effective response to the beetle and the potential risk of outbreak”, said Mr. Nally.

He said, “It is imperative that the Department in consultation with stakeholders develop a specific plan for the eight toothed spruce bark beetle that anticipates and assesses potential threats and a response to either contain or eradicate should the pest be found in Ireland.”

He continued that the beetle is often associated with windblown, damaged and recently felled spruce trees, where it builds up numbers before moving on to attack adjacent live trees. Inspection of trees in this category should be a priority.

“The importation of untreated wood with bark from areas where the pest is known to occur has been identified as a significant potential pathway for introduction. Therefore, the Department needs to intensify the inspections at ports”, said Mr. Nally.

He called on forest owners and the public to be extra vigilant for unusual ill-health in trees and report any concerns to forestprotection@agriculture.gov.ie or by using the Tree Check App which is freely available at: https://www.treecheck.net/.

IFA Farm Forestry Timber Price Survey July – September 2018

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IFA President Joe Healy said the IFA National Council has supported the resolution from Leitrim IFA that an assessment of the social, economic and environmental impacts of afforestation within the county should be undertaken.

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