Tuesday, 14 December 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
773. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ensure afforestation is complementary within the next CAP to re-engage farmers in forestry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61440/21]
As set out in the Climate Action Plan, the Government will continue to promote afforestation to increase planting to a rate consistent with realising our 2030 climate ambition and to contribute to achieving carbon neutrality no later than 2050. To achieve this, my Department fully recognises the need for afforestation to be complimentary to CAP.
As set out in the Programme for Government, this Government is committed to a new national Forestry Programme. This new Forestry Programme will aim to highlight to farmers that forestry can represent a valuable and complementary income stream to an active farming enterprise.
The new Forestry Programme will again be funded nationally and will be subject to State Aid approval by the European Commission.
There will be close alignment between the CAP and the new national Forestry Programme.
Significant tree planting measures are proposed under both the annual Eco-Scheme and the multi-annual Agri-Environment Climate Measure for the next CAP. In addition, agricultural land with an agricultural activity, that is afforested under the next CAP will continue to qualify for Direct Payments. This will include payment under the Basic Income Support Scheme and the Eco-Scheme.
To further encourage farmers to consider afforestation, it is proposed that forestry land it will be allocated an appropriate weighting so it will also count towards a farmer’s “Space for Nature” requirement under both Conditionality and the Eco-Scheme.
The new Forestry Programme and the new CAP will provide opportunities to further align agricultural support schemes and forestry, to better integrate planting into the farming system, and to remove any barriers to uptake.
774. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of afforestation licences issued and the number of Coillte felling licences issued since the assistant secretary of his Department informed the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 29 January 2020 that afforestation needs to be the clear focus for 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61441/21]
775. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way the Forestry Service within his Department plans to reach its own planting afforestation target given it only issued 49 afforestation planting licences in a five-week period from 1 to 29 October 2021 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61442/21]
778. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the current weekly and monthly number of Coillte felling, private felling, road and afforestation licences issued by type; if a more ambitious target will be adopted in 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61464/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 774, 775 and 778 together.
Tackling the backlog in forestry licenses remains a key priority for my Department and I am pleased to report the significant progress has been made in the past year, particularly on felling and road licences. Since that Oireachtas Committee meeting on 29thJanuary to 10thDecember, my Department has issued a total of 447 afforestation licences for an area of just over 3,700ha, as well as 1,298 Coillte felling licences, 1,207 private felling licences, and 583 forest road licences.
Along with Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the sector, we accept that in terms of afforestation, outputs are not where I’d like them to be but there are signs of improvement.
My Department is prioritising the assessment of afforestation licences on hand, using the same system as was applied to felling licences. Ten ecologists are now dedicated to afforestation, with more to be recruited. In addition to recruiting new staff I am also reallocating existing Administrative, Forestry Inspectorate and Ecology resources to afforestation licensing files. I expect these changes to result in a higher level of output of afforestation licences than before.
Improvements in afforestation licences should help encourage more planting. However, there are 5,000 hectares of approved forestry licences issued and ready for use. I would encourage anyone with a valid afforestation licence to plant their land, thereby accessing generous annual premiums and 100% establishment grants.
As regards recent licensing output, in the last 14 weeks, we have issued on average 118 licences per week.
A monthly breakdown of licences issued YTD is in the table below.
|-||Private Felling||Coillte Felling||Total Felling||Afforestation||Forest Roads|
We will reach this year's target of 4,000 licences and my Department is currently working on projections across all licence categories for 2022, which will be published before year end. This will be a more ambitious target.
We will build on this year’s momentum in 2022 and will implement any and all practical process improvements which result from the review and analysis in train under Project Woodland. I remain fully committed to delivering a licensing system which meets the needs of farmers and other land owners who wish to plant trees, as well as delivering for the wider forestry sector and society as a whole
776. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 291 of 20 October 2021, if the afforestation scheme is classed as an environmental scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61443/21]
The afforestation scheme under the Forestry Programme 2014 - 2020 provides a range of multi-functional benefits which contribute to our national economic, environmental, recreational and societal objectives. The afforestation scheme provide for funding for different types of forests including productive forests, agroforestry, forestry for fibre, and native woodland establishment.
It has, of course, strong environmental credentials and is part of the Government's direct response to our national environmental priorities through its inclusion for example in the Climate Action Plan 2021. It is for this reason that we are planning for a renewed National Forestry Programme to replace the current version and which is currently under development along with a new national Strategy for Forestry to 2050.