Calls made for the annual publication of forestry premium payment details

Calls have been made for the details of forestry premium payments issued in the Republic of Ireland to be published annually.

The publication of the information on the individuals who receive the afforestation premium has been sought by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

The INHFA’s spokesperson on forestry, Gerry Loftus, pointed out how the payments received by farmers through various farm schemes are available for the public to view.

Similar rules should apply to those receiving afforestation premiums, he added.

According to the INHFA, all afforestation premiums are paid directly by the state. This is unlike farm payments, which have an EU involvement.

This may explain why recipients of afforestation premiums have not had their payments made public, the INHFA added.

Loftus said: “It is absolutely crazy how the tiny payments many farmers receive remain open to public scrutiny, while substantial payments received by multi-nationals and others through afforestation premiums are kept secret.”

He believes that an annual publication of those that receive these premiums should be issued.

The publication should include: the recipient’s name; address; the total amount of money received; and the county or counties the forest is located in, Loftus said.

Meanwhile, for companies, the address should be that of the main office, he added.

“These premiums are funded from the public purse and, as such, need to be transparent; the general public is entitled to know if Irish taxpayers are subsidising the profits of multinationals and absentee landowners,” he concluded.

‘Forestry expansion threatens the very fabric of rural life’

Previously, Loftus has also claimed that the level of forestry expansion is threatening the very fabric of rural life.

The INHFA has recently called for a radical overhaul of payments under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme; it has proposed the introduction of a 50km radius limit for forestry premium payments.

“The INHFA is proposing that the payment of any future premium and establishment grant for forestry would require that the recipient’s main residential residence is within 50km of the forestry site.

“For companies this rule would also apply for their main headquarters,” he said.