Farmers ‘disengaged from forestry due to excessive bureaucracy’ – IFA

Farmers have “disengaged from forestry as a viable land use option due to the excessive bureaucracy” according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The IFA Farm Forestry Committee chair Vincent Nally has raised concerns over the forestry sector being “in a state of emergency” because of the backlog of appeals for tree felling.

According to Nally, farmers are “facing delays of up to two years and, in some instances, significantly longer to get licences to plant, build a forest road or thin their forest”.

Applications, which were previously zero-cost, are now costing farmers a minimum of €1,500 where a Natura Impact Statement [NIS] is required…

“This is unsustainable and has enormous financial implications for these farmers, many of whom are being forced into a non-thin policy that will significantly reduce their income during the rotation, as well as at clearfell stage.

“This will have serious implications for timber supply.”

‘Lowest rate of private planting in 36 years’

Nally said that the IFA has heard in recent days of the impact the licence crisis is having on the wider sector and the potential job losses that are predicted due to the shortage in timber supply; along with the “risks to the national estate due to the importation of timber from countries that have been devastated with bark beetle”.

“The majority of farm forests cannot justify the cost of an NIS and are being actively disadvantaged and discriminated against by the department’s policy,” Nally continued.

“The two-tiered system introduced by the department means that these applications could have to wait in excess of two years before a decision is taken.

The plan is not acceptable and disproportionately affects farm forests that cannot justify the costs associated with planting and managing forests.

“If the system is not made more farmer friendly, the proposals set out in the Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan will not be achieved.”

According to Nally, it is “estimated that the afforestation programme for 2020 will be approximately 2,500ha”.

“This is the lowest rate of private planting in 36 years. The reasons are simple: farmers have disengaged from forestry as a viable land use option due to the excessive bureaucracy; ineffective administration; and spiraling costs associated with planting and managing forests.”

SIPTU: ‘Up to 13,000 jobs could be lost in a very short time’ in forestry sector

Trade union SIPTU has called for “immediate action” to resolve problems in the regulatory and licencing system for tree felling that could result in “thousands of job losses”.

SIPTU sector organiser Willie Noone has expressed his concerns for the trade union’s members that are employed in enterprises such as sawmills and nurseries across the country.

Noone said:

“Due to a massive backlog of appeals for tree felling, extra resources must be immediately made available to the Forestry Appeals Committee and this must be followed by legislative changes to the Agricultural Appeals Act 2001.

If this is not done, up to 13,000 jobs could be lost in a very short time-frame.

“The Forestry Appeals Committee [FAC] operated by the Department of Agriculture is processing appeals at a rate of around 20 per month, while hundreds of appeals remain outstanding.

“The process of obtaining a licence for tree felling and then awaiting a decision on an appeal that may or may not have substance has made the current system inoperable.

“This problem is compounded by other delays which occur in attaining necessary road permits.”