Following the announcement of ‘Project Woodland’ last week – the department’s plan for resolving issues in the forestry sector – one farm organisation has said that the plan doesn’t take account of obstacles to the development of the forestry sector.

Denis Drennan, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association’s (ICMSA’s) Farm and Rural Affairs Committee chairperson, said that if the project “seriously tackled the easily identifiable obstacles” it would be welcome by all stakeholders.

However, Drennan said that the sector “doesn’t need another announcement that does not lead to immediate actions”.

He said it was “notable” that removal of barriers and “proper incentivisation” of farmers did not feature among the four ‘workstreams’ outlined in the plan.

“All we would say is that when we’re involved in the kind of fundamental review that ‘Project Woodland’ would seem to be, it seems a little remiss not to look at the question of how farmers can be incentivised…and how we can remove barriers for farmers who want to plant their land,” he argued.

He continued: “It’s surely a matter of asking how we can make forestry a more attractive commercial option for greater numbers of farmers and then acting on the answers to that question.

The possible danger here is that we continue to overcomplicate it in the same way that we have overcomplicated forestry so far.

“If we remove barriers to forestry, make it commercially more attractive to plant forestry and we make the administration around planting, maintenance and harvesting easier and more straightforward, then our suspicion is that the present problems will work themselves out,” the ICMSA farm and rural affairs chairperson.

However, Drennan said that the ICMSA would nonetheless engage with Project Woodland, highlighting the necessity of “early delivery of change”.