‘Farmers must be paid on all land set aside or planting rates will continue to fall’

There is mounting concern that the rate of farmer (forestry) planting will continue to fall, if farmers are not paid on all land they are obliged to set aside for environmental enhancement – under the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation.

This is the message from the IFA’s Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Collins.

He said the level of farmer planting has fallen significantly under the current Forestry Programme (2014-2020). In 2013, he, explained, farmers planted 6,000ha compared with just 4,095ha in 2016. This represents a 32% decrease in farmer planting since the introduction of the programme.

“A lot of farmers who entered into forestry in good faith and adhered to the conditions of the Afforestation Scheme are frustrated that their forestry payments and productive area were unfairly reduced in recent years.

This frustration is reflected in the falling afforestation figures.

“Now the Government expects farmers to set good productive land aside for environmental enhancement, but they will not be paid a premium on the land if the area they are required to set aside exceeds 15% of the claimed area,” he said.

“It is not reasonable to expect farmers to reduce productive area and not to be paid for the environmental services, such as habitat protection and clean water, that they provide.”

The Forestry Chairman said this is completely unacceptable.

“Farmers are more aware than ever that their forests are valued based on the productive area; this is classed as land planted with commercial conifers.

“Buyers of semi-mature plantations put no value on the broad-leaves or areas set aside for environmental enhancement. Yet this Government expects farmers to set aside land for environmental protection and enhancement, but does not believe they should be appropriately compensated.”

The IFA has requested a meeting with Minister of State for Forestry, Andrew Doyle, to ensure that farmers are paid on all land they are obliged to set aside – under the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation.