Government ‘stifling’ progress in forestry sector – ICMSA

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that the government’s own regulations and procedure were actually “stifling the very forestry sector that the government claimed to want to get going”.

Commenting on ongoing delays in relation to forestry approvals and felling licences, the chairperson of ICMSA’s Farm & Rural Affairs Committee, Denis Drennan, said: “We now have a situation where farmers will have to regrettably conclude that forestry is no longer a viable option having been stifled and suffocated by regulation.

Denis Drennan ICMSA

“There is a clear and urgent onus on the government to address the highly visible bottlenecks in the system because government press releases highlighting the benefits of forestry and proposing various initiatives are completely pointless if we cannot get the basics right – as is demonstrably the case right now,” he added.

Farmers’ Charter

The association said that if the forestry sector is to be “rejuvenated and energised”, the government must get back to basics in a way that meets the Farmer Charter commitments on approvals and licences.

It’s calling for the resources to be put in place to deliver these commitments, cuts out the “pointless” delays and simplifies the regulatory process.

Drennan continued:

The whole success of the forestry programme depends on a strong economic case being put to farmers on why they should plant some land.

“Our current regime doesn’t see that and neither does it recognise the duration of the commitment involved.

“The government has to stop thinking and acting on a short-term basis and begin really working to convince the farmers planting forest will deliver a strong economic return on a predictable basis because if it doesn’t do that and the present chaos continues, we just won’t meet our planting targets. It’s literally as simple as that,” he concluded.

Last month it was revealed that less than half of the targeted figures for private forestry licence application approval, that were submitted to ecologists in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Forestry Service, were met in the last five months of last year.

Of the targeted figure for approval of applications that were referred to department ecologists in August, September, October, November and December 2020, only 46%, or 339, were approved from the target of 735.