Forestry ‘will yield the second highest level of returns’ for farmers

The importance of forestry is recognised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in terms of its commercial, environmental and social values, according to the newly-established Forest Industries Ireland (FII).

Speaking at the launch of the Ibec group for the national sector yesterday (Wednesday, January 9), the director of FII Mark McAuley noted that the department recognises the sector as yielding the second highest-yielding level of returns for the average farmer over the lifetime of the commodity.

The director explained: “We met not that long ago with the department; we’re meeting with the ministers this afternoon [January 9].

“And the department has a pretty clear view of where forestry stands with farmers in Ireland. Obviously it’s providing over €100 million a year into the forestry programme, and most of that is spent with farmers clearly in the forestry premiums that they get the first 15 years after establishment.

And it sees where it sits in the hierarchy – and if I recall the core analysis is for the average farmer on the average piece of land, forestry will yield the second highest level of returns over its lifetime after dairy.

“It will outperform beef; it will outperform sheep; it will outperform arable – that’s where it stands.”

McAuley added that the department also recognises that the dairy industry is having to look very closely at the issue of climate change.

He noted that there are active discussions between FII and Dairy Industries Ireland (DII) on how the two sectors can work together going forward, something which Teagasc chairman Liam Herlihy has also previously alluded to.

‘Complementing the farm’

Veon managing director of forestry Darragh Little meanwhile stressed that forestry is not there to replace farming; it’s there to complement the farm.

He noted that he has seen many farmers seeking to diversify their enterprises and use their land most optimally.

“Forestry takes a part of that. That could be whatever species the farmer wants to plant on the land if he wants to do if for nature purposes or flood protection or commercial reasons, the state forestry scheme is designed to help.”

Little also commented on the upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), noting that all the talk coming out of Europe at present points to a new policy very much focused on climate action in the face of climate change – with tree planting one of the major solutions to this challenge.

“I think the next CAP will probably have a much more diversified palate of forestry solutions for farmers: soil protection for example would be one of them; water protection would be another with a second water frame directive coming through in the next couple of years as well.

So I think that there’s going to be a lot of forestry going that way. There’s going to be carbon forestry as well and, while forestry already does that, there’s going to be specific goals within farms.

“The single farm payment – it’s very early to say how CAP’s going to pan out – but the single farm payment may well be linked to actions that farmers undertake in relation to climate action or climate change.”