Written answers

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Afforestation Programme

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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408. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the incentives that are planned to re-engage farmers with forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18046/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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I fully acknowledge that farmers are central to reaching our ambitious afforestation targets and have been the backbone of the afforestation programme in Ireland since its inception. It is clear that there has been a reduction in engagement from farmers and while there are likely multiple reasons for this, one contributory factor is likely the delays in issuing forestry licences. In order to address the twin objectives of addressing licensing issues and encouraging woodland creation, Project Woodland has been set up under the leadership of Minister-of-State Hackett, who has responsibility for forestry.

It involves four different Working Groups reporting to the Minister through a Project Manager and a Project Board. The Working Groups are working concurrently, focussing on different areas. The first will concentrate on the backlog, the second on a vision for forestry, the third on devising a fit-for-purpose organisational structure and communication and the fourth on streamlining the licensing process for the future. Through this framework, it is hoped that a renewed confidence in forestry will be fostered, that communication of its benefits will be more widely understood and that, looking to the future, a new vision for forestry in Ireland will be developed.

In relation to incentives for farmers in future Forestry Programmes, Working Group 2 – "A Shared National Approach" of Project Woodland - has been tasked with developing a new Forestry Strategy and work in this group has started. This work will inform any new incentives to be introduced in the successor to the current Forestry Programme. It will be farmer-centred and will be aimed at re-engaging farmers with forestry.

Forestry has a number of benefits for farmers including on-farm income diversification. Farmers who are interested in receiving information and advice on the available supports provided by my Department are encouraged to contact their Farm Advisor or Teagasc Forestry Advisor. In addition, details on all Forestry Grant Schemes are available on my Department’s website at the following link: .

It remains the case that the afforestation of private lands is the focus of the current Forestry Programme 2014-2020 which commenced in 2015 and has recently been extended to the end of 2022. This programme consists of 11 separate measures to encourage the planting of forests, also with specific supports for farmers.

Measures included in the programme are voluntary and comprise the main Afforestation Scheme which is delivered through the generous grants and premiums available, across 12 different planting categories, covering 100% of the cost of establishing new forests and also providing annual premium payments which are paid for 15 years. In addition, farmers can benefit from supports for the establishment of new forest roads, as well as the thinning of a forest plantation.

Agro forestry is also supported under the current forestry programme which allows for grazing of animals to take place on land that is also planted with trees. The forestry for fibre category provides for the planting of eucalyptus and popular which can be harvested after 15 years, a much shorter rotation than traditional forestry where clearfell could take place between 35 and 40 years from the date of planting. Timber from this type of planting can be used for domestic heating on the farm itself or supplied to local markets to meet a growing demand for firewood.

It is notable that during the course of the current Forestry Programme so far, this approach has resulted in 2,500 farmers planting a total of 16,000 hectares of forestry on their land.

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