40% of Ireland’s forestry planting target for 2017 yet to be completed
Approximately 40% of Ireland’s forestry planting target for 2017 has yet to be completed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, confirmed.
Minister Creed revealed the most up-to-date planting figures for the current year – as well as targets and results as far back as 2010 – in a recent parliamentary question from Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue.
In 2017, a target of planting a total of 7,140ha of forestry was outlined in the Forestry Programme 2014-2020, the minister explained.
Commenting on the targets, Minister Creed said: “The National Development Plan 2007-2013 set out planting targets for the period 2007-2013 at 10,000ha per annum.
“The figure for 2014 is based on the maximum planting level achievable within the budget provided that year, which was 7,000ha. Targets for 2015-2020 are set out in the Forestry Programme 2014-2020.”
Since 2010, the only time a target was ever achieved or surpassed was in 2015. During that year the target of 6,000ha of additional forestry being planted was exceeded by 293ha or just 5%.
Last year, the target was missed by just 160ha or 2%. Previous to both of these years, the target had been missed by considerable margins, ranging from 12% to 37%.
‘Vast bulk of forestry payments remain in rural Ireland’
In response to a further parliamentary question tabled by Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae, Minister Creed explained that the current forestry programme does not differentiate between a “farmer” and “non-farmer” – but targets funding at all landowners who wish to convert lands to forestry.
It is important to note that the non-farmer category also includes recently retired farmers and the family members of existing farmers, and on that basis I am satisfied that the vast bulk of forestry payments remain in rural Ireland.
“Reinstating the farmer/non-farmer forest premium differential is not an option being considered by the department. The reintroduction of such a differential could only be achieved either by an increase in the farmer rate or a reduction in the non-farmer rate.
“An increase in the premium rate for farmers is no guarantee of increased planting levels by farmers. The other option of reducing the non-farmer rate to create the differential could impact significantly on overall planting levels.
“This is borne out by planting figures in 2016, where the proportion of land planted by landowners classifying themselves as non-farmers was 36%,” he said.
The Forestry Programme 2014-2020 will continue to pay the same premium to all landowners to ensure that the maximum amount of land is available for afforestation, Minister Creed added.
Concluding, the minister said: “All lands proposed for afforestation are assessed to the same silvicultural and environmental criteria irrespective of who owns the lands.”