A long-awaited proposal to provide funding for forest owners affected by ash dieback is to be brought to cabinet today (Tuesday, April 30).

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett, are set to seek a €79.5 million package for farmers and landowners impacted by the disease.

The funding will be used to provide for a €5,000/ha payment to farmers who clear ash sites and re-establish new forests in their place.

The average payout under the scheme is expected to be €15,000, based on an average ash plantation size of 3ha.

A forest owner with 10ha of ash will be eligible to receive up to €50,000.

These payments are separate to further grants covering the cost of clearing and re-establishing the site.

Farmers who have already cleared and re-established sites under previous ash dieback schemes will also qualify for this €5,000/ha payment.

It is understood that responses to this development from industry stakeholders is set to be somewhat mixed, with news of a new scheme being broadly welcomed, but with some questions over the value of ash plantations that have been lost.

A scheme of this type has been in the works for a considerable period.

Minister Hackett had previously said that a scheme was being finalised and would be published in the “very near future”.

However, no concrete timeline was ever put forward until today.

The apparent delay to the publication of the scheme drew the ire of forestry stakeholders and opposition politicians.

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on agriculture, food and the marine, Claire Kerrane, said earlier this month that there was “a lot of pulling in different directions” from government on what should and should not be included in the scheme.

The Roscommon-Galway TD had made the comment after meeting with the Wexford county executive of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Kerrane said that, from speaking to farmers with affected ash plantations, ash dieback was “really impacting” their mental health.

“They, and many other farmers across the state, are at their wits’ end and have waited long enough.

Last October, an independent review of support for farmers impacted by ash dieback had said that the tree disease “needs to be treated as a national emergency”.

The review – which was commissioned by Minister Hackett – said that ash dieback requires a state-led national and rapid coordinated response.

The review suggested a once-off payment to be made to each affected landowner “as recognition of the absence of an effective scheme between 2018 and 2023”.

According to the review, it should be made clearer that the cost of site clearance and regeneration should be borne by the state, with any remaining value from the timber staying with the landowner.

The review said that the current clearance grant of €2,000 is reasonable, but additional “exceptional costs” should be considered for particularly challenging cases.