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Speaking at the launch of the climate report in Dáil Éireann today, IFA President Joe Healy said the Teagasc Plan is the basis for further climate action in agriculture and is far better than the unrealistic proposals put forward by the Citizens’ Assembly. This included an unjust and inequitable tax on Ireland’s carbon efficient food production model.

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IFA National Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally said the Department of Agriculture must honour afforestation contracts if planting rates are to recover.

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IFA National Farm Forestry Chairman, Vincent Nally has said that the way that farmers affected by ash dieback have been abandoned by the Government is a disgrace and he is demanding that Minister of State Andrew Doyle introduce a new scheme as a matter of urgency.

“It is now nearly a year since the Department of Agriculture closed the previous scheme and ten months since submissions were sought to develop a new scheme to support farmers,” said Mr. Nally.

Mr Nally said that ash dieback has a devastating consequence for the survival, growth and wood quality of ash trees, and therefore has a devastating consequence on the commercial value of the timber crop.

“Farmers planted ash encouraged and supported by the Department through higher grants and premiums. They feel very aggrieved at how they have been treated by the Department, particularly since it was the Department that did not have adequate controls in place to stop the importation of infected plants, that has seriously damaged their investment,” said the IFA Farm Forestry Chairman.

He continued, “The management of ash dieback is very challenging and there is no scientific evidence that thinning infected plantations is beneficial in the long-term when ash dieback is present. In fact, when dieback is severe, research suggests that the best approach is to harvest remaining commercial timber before value depreciation and to replant the area with other tree species.”

Vincent Nally said, “Farmers must have the option to clearfell and replant with a specie of their choice under the any new scheme. All infected plantations must be eligible for a Reconstitution Scheme (Chalara), which would grant aid farmers to replant with tree species that satisfies their management objectives and provides a forest premium on the replanted land for 15 years according to GPC rate.”

He concluded that an option not to replant, without penalties, must also be available under certain circumstances.

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.

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