Thursday, 31 March 2022
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
128. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures his Department has taken to ensure afforestation is not only compatible within the next CAP but also encouraged through the environmental schemes in both pillar 1 and pillar 2. [16999/22]
As set out in the Programme for Government, this Government is committed to a new national Forestry Programme for the period 2023-2027, which will be the main implementation vehicle of the new Forest Strategy. This new Forestry Programme will focus on the importance of climate smart forestry and new afforestation will be encouraged in pursuit of climate, water, biodiversity and commercial objectives.
Trees sequester carbon and have significant importance in the fight against climate change. The planting of trees has the potential to play a significant part in our environmental priorities and as a space for nature. In accordance with the targets 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 complementary to CAP. Newly planted forestry will continue to qualify for the new Basic Income Support Payment, subject to the underlying rules for eligibility for the afforestation Single Payment Scheme (SPS). It will also be eligible for an Eco-scheme per hectare payment subject to compliance with that schemes Terms and Conditions. My Department has also proposed in the CAP Strategic Plan that was submitted to the European Commission on the 31 December 2021, that forestry, whether eligible for SPS or not would also be counted in the calculation of a farmer's Space for Nature percentage.
As outlined in the CAP Strategic Plan, tree planting actions have been included in both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2. The new Eco-Scheme (Pillar 1) includes a tree planting option as part of the menu of options that farmers can choose from. The Pillar II Agri-Environment Climate Measure (AECM) includes under the general option various tree planting actions to benefit specific objectives, such as water quality, biodiversity and climate.
Furthermore, the planting of trees or participation on agroforestry or native woodland establishment schemes will qualify the applicant for higher status in ranking and selection thereby giving the applicant a greater chance of being awarded an AECM contract. In addition, the AECM also provides for the preparation of a farm sustainability plan. In the preparation of this plan, farmers can discuss the appropriate actions for their farm with their Agricultural Advisor, including the identification of areas suitable for tree planting actions.
I would also like to point out that it is my objective to increase and encourage interest in small scale planting by removing the licensing requirement for areas not greater than one hectare, which may prove to be a barrier to such planting and be considered onerous and complex. Such an exemption would be available as part of a scheme which my Department intends to design and implement once the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which provides for the required amendment to the Forestry Act 2014 is enacted.