A new forestry programme has been announced by the Department of Agriculture to cover 2014-2020.

Tom Hayes, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, said the new forestry programme will consist of 11 separate measures and will involve total new spending of €262 million and a further €220 million in future commitments from 2020, mostly in relation to premium payments.

Welcoming the Government’s approval of the Forestry Programme, the Minister at the Department of Agriculture said that the approval of the new programme is an important milestone for the future development of the sector and a vote of confidence in an industry which contributed €2.3 billion to GDP in 2012.

“The new programme strikes a balance between meeting the needs of a growing export led processing sector and the need to maximise the environmental and social benefits that can be delivered by forestry and enjoyed by society.”

The objective of the programme is to support the planting of over 43,000 hectares of new forests which will make an important contribution towards meeting climate emission targets through carbon sequestration and fossil fuel replacement.

The new afforestation scheme in particular will be welcomed by both landowners and the forest industry as significant improvements have been made to the original proposal which was circulated for public consultation back in September 2014.

The new premiums are now 20% higher than those in the previous programme when compared year on year. Establishment grants have increased by 5% across the board and roads will now be supported at a rate of €40 per linear metre representing a 14% increase over the previous rate, the Department of Agriculture said.

Support will also be made available for the construction of up to 690 kilometres of new roads to provide the necessary infrastructure for greater timber mobilisation as well as improving overall access for thinning and other management operations. An important feature of the new programme is the €7 million of funding that is being made available to protect and enhance Irish native woodlands.

Under the Native Woodlands Conservation Scheme, almost 2,000 hectares of these forests will be eligible for support. This includes a special measure for ‘Emergent Native Woodlands’ which can now be conserved, enriched with suitable new planting and grown to high forest.