Farmer planting drops by 67% under ‘forestry programme’

Afforestation figures indicate that farmer planting under the current forestry programme “has declined by 67%”, the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) forestry chairman Vincent Nally has outlined.

In an statement issued today, Friday, February 14, Nally said: “The figures make for stark reading and clearly show that farmers are disengaging from forestry at a time when we need more farmers to consider forest as a viable option as part of their overall farm enterprise.

Forestry is a permanent land use change – once a farmer plants their land, it must remain forever under forestry.

“This is a major barrier to planting, particularly in light of the rapidly changing legislative framework, which is significantly increasing management costs and reducing productive forest area.

“Without greater flexibility in the replanting obligation, planting targets will not be achieved.”

Nally outlined that consecutive policy reviews have identified the replanting obligation as “a major barrier to farmer planting”.

If Ireland is serious about achieving the Climate Action Plan target of 8,000ha per annum then we need farmers to start planting again.

“A lot more is needed if we are to restore farmer confidence,” Nally noted.

He said a first step would be to reinstate the 8% cut to forest premiums and reintroduce the farmer premium differential, which he explained “has created huge local opposition to forestry and significantly increased the scale of investor planting which now accounts for half the annual planting programme”.

“In addition, the spiraling costs associated with managing small farm forests must be addressed.

Farmers cannot afford to pay for costly Natura Impact Statements to undertake thinning operations, which are considered good management practice from both a timber production and ecological enhancement perspective.

Concluding, the IFA’s farm forestry chairman said: “Is it any wonder the forestry sector is grinding to a halt with the costs and requirements being heaped on farmers trying to manage a family forest with an average size of less than 8ha?”