The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) will hold a forestry rally in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim this evening (Friday, February 17).
The INHFA’s forestry policy, which it said is “in stark contrast to the government’s policy”, will be outlined in detail at the Beepark Community Centre at 8:00p.m.
The association’s policy includes proposals on how Ireland can increase afforestation levels, while achieving higher carbon sequestration, greater biodiversity and improved water quality.
Tonight’s forestry rally will focus on the INHFA’s proposal to only grant premia and supports to those who have owned and farmed the land for a minimum of five years.
The association also wants to promote native woodland and commercial broadleaf forestry with premium support for up to 35 years, INHFA president Vincent Roddy told Agriland.
Under the government’s new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme grants and premia have been increased by between 46% and 66%, and the premium period has been extended to 20 years for farmers.
Commenting that agroforestry supports are good but also very short, the INHFA president said:
“Again, with agroforestry it is critical that this isn’t monoculture forestry by the back door; we need to have it in conjunction with farmers.
“Our position on this it that we don’t want farms planted out of place. If every farm had rows of trees and 1ha or 2ha of trees then we can provide far better for biodiversity.”
Roddy said “the one thing that the state has control over is forestry premium in advance”, adding that semi-state forestry agency Coillte’s deal with Gresham House was a “reflection” of that.
Under the partnership the UK-based investment fund will be allowed to plant and manage 12,000ha of forestry in Ireland, for which it will draw down state grants and premia.
Latest figures by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) show that licences for just 45ha of new plantings were issued in January, which is down by 90% on 2021 levels.
No afforestation licences were issued by the DAFM in the first three weeks of 2023, nor have licences been granted in February yet, according to figures up until February 10.