IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Michael Fleming has welcomed EU approval for the Forestry Programme and the Government’s commitment to invest €482m in the sector over the next seven years.
He said that it was a very exciting time for the private forest sector, with the planned construction of 700km of new forest roads, giving farmers an income beyond the forest premium for the first time.
“In our negotiations we pushed to secure the best deal possible for farmers”, said Mr. Fleming, “We secured a 5% increase in the Afforestation Grant and 14% increase in the Forest Road Grant, as well as a €5,000 special construction work grant for building on environmentally sensitive sites.
“Overall, the forest premium rate has been maintained, with higher annual premiums but over a 15-year period. The frontloading of the premium will suit some and will also encourage farmers to thin plantations earlier”, said Mr. Fleming.
He said he would advise anyone considering planting to talk to their local Forest Service Inspector or Teagasc Forestry Advisor to understand what is expected and what is the potential return.
“In the new programme, forest premiums are paid for 15 years only, so it is more important than ever that the economic return for the timber crop is considered”, said Mr. Fleming.
“If farmers are planting for commercial reasons, I would advise them to plant conifers, as the markets for broadleaves are limited and the returns are unknown.”
“I would advise farmers to think carefully if planting under the new forestry schemes, Agro-Forestry and Forestry for Fibre, as they are obliged to replant and the land must remain in forestry indefinitely,” said Mr. Fleming. “These are pilot schemes and are untested from a commercial perspective.”