IFA calls for ash dieback scheme for affected farmers

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is calling for a scheme to be established to assist farmers who have been affected by the ash tree disease Ash Dieback.

Vincent Nally, the association’s national farm forestry chairman, accused the Government of “abandoning” farmers who were affected, calling the situation a “disgrace”.

He called on Andrew Doyle, Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, to establish a new scheme “as a matter of urgency”.

It is now nearly a year since the Department of Agriculture closed the previous scheme, and 10 months since submissions were sought to develop a new scheme to support farmers.

Nally highlighted the consequences that Ash Dieback has on the survival, growth and quality of ash tress, saying it was “devastating” on the commercial value of the timber crop.

“Farmers planted ash [after being] encouraged and supported by the department through higher grants and premiums,” said Nally.

He claimed that, as a result of this: “[The farmers] feel very aggrieved at how they have been treated by the department, particularly since it was the department that did not have adequate controls in place to stop the importation of infected plants, that has seriously damaged their investment.”

Nally argued that there was no scientific evidence that thinning an infected plantation has any benefits in the long-term. He suggested that the best course of action is to harvest the remaining commercial timber before value depreciates.

“Farmers must have the option to clearfell and replant with a species of their choice under any new scheme,” insisted Nally.

He called for a scheme that would give aid to farmers to replant trees “that satisfies their management objectives, and provides a forest premium on the replanted land for 15 years, according to GPC rate”.