Minister called on to resolve forestry licences logjam ‘before sector collapses’

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has been called on to step in and resolve the current crisis with forestry licences “before the sector collapses”.

Making the calls, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Farm Forestry Committee chairman Vincent Nally said: “The sector is in a state of emergency.

“There appears to be a complete lack of understanding among many in the department about the scale of the problem and the degree of frustration felt by forest owners that are trying to manage their investment,” he said.

“The Covid-19 crisis is putting lots of people to the pin of their collar and farmers are no different.

However, many farmers have money tied up in forestry that they would like to release to help them through the present income crisis, but they are unable to do this due to the delays in the system.

Though acknowledging that the Department of Agriculture has allocated additional resources in recent months, and procedures and systems have been updated, Nally warned:

“However, this is after a backlog of licences in excess of 1,200 had built up. The phrase too little too late, comes to mind,” he said.

The chairman claimed that, despite repeated requests for a short-term plan from the department, no such plan has been forthcoming.

In addition, he said management costs were spiralling out of control, especially for small farm forests that did not have the revenue generating potential of larger forests.

“With farmers being unable to get licences either as a result of bureaucracy or unsustainable costs, is it any wonder that the afforestation programme has ground to a virtual halt.

“As a farmer that has always been an advocate for forestry, I am really beginning to question the viability of farm forestry.

“It has turned into a bureaucratic nightmare that is just piling cost after cost on forest owners and removing any profitability from the enterprise,” Nally concluded.