Farmers and landowners can now apply for financial assistance under the forestry planting programme.

Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships last week, Minister Andrew Doyle announced that those forest owners with valid technical planting approvals may now apply for financial approval under the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme.

“Since responsibility for forestry was assigned to me earlier this year, I have been encouraged by the level of interest in, and enthusiasm for, forestry among farmers and indeed other landowners.

I believe that forestry is a viable land use option either on its own or in combination with other farming enterprises.

“As a Wicklow-based farmer, I am no stranger to forestry and am well aware of its benefits as part of a diverse farming undertaking,” he said.

Minister Doyle also said that the availability of establishment grants for the initial planting of the forest and premium payments for 15 years are widely known but are not the full story.

Those contemplating forestry should also factor in the generous tax incentives for thinning and final harvesting so that both the medium to long term returns from forestry are taken into account.

“And I believe that investment in forestry compares very favourably with investment in other enterprises,” he said.

While noting the socio-economic benefits of forestry, Minister Doyle also said that forestry is posed to play an important role in helping Ireland to meet the European Union’s new proposal on emission targets by 2030.

“My Department, in close co-operation with Teagasc and an industry representative group, is in the process of drafting a new promotion plan for the sector.

“This will involve a co-ordinated approach by the industry as a whole, the core message of which is that forestry is a good option for farmers.

He also said that he was aware of the concerns about forestry in certain parts of the country, but he said forestry can play an important part in the development of rural economies in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

“My personal experience of forestry has been very positive and I would encourage all farmers and landowners to consider forestry as an investment,” he said.