It is hoped that the trebling of payments to grow forestry crops for fuel to support renewable heat and electricity generation will attract more farmers to take up the opportunity, according to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten.

Minister Naughten confirmed that the Cabinet recently approved the increase in payments per hectare.

This change arose as part of the Government’s decision to adopt proposals arising from the Midterm Review of the Forestry Programme 2014-2020.

This increase will result in the overall grant support received by farmers under the Forestry for Fibre scheme rising from €4,250/ha over the lifetime of the scheme to €11,465/ha, the minister said.

Summary of changes for the Forestry for Fibre scheme:
  • Number of premiums increased from 10 to 15;
  • Premium rate per hectare increased to equal Grant and Premium Rates (GPC) 3 (from €180 to €510);
  • Grant per hectare increased to match that of GPC 3 (from €2,450 to €3,815).

According to Minister Naughten, these increases send “out a clear message that Government is determined to support the development of locally-grown crops for the renewable sector”.

Speaking in Shannonbridge on the border of counties Offaly and Roscommon this week, the minister said: “There are significant improvements in grant and premium rates for the Forestry for Fibre scheme, which is aimed at making the scheme far more attractive for farmers to take up.

“The objective of this enhanced support is to facilitate, in particular, the production of renewable energy crops for local commercial heat use under the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat – which I launched before Christmas – and also to supply biomass to Shannonbridge, Lanesboro and Edenderry peat-fired power stations.

Working with Bord na Mona Bioenergy, we hope to see as much of the fuel required for these power stations – as they convert from peat fuel to biomass – grown locally; thereby supporting the 1,400 families that have been dependent on those jobs throughout the midland counties.

“I would like to thank my colleague Minister Andrew Doyle who – along with his officials in the Department of Agriculture – has been working on these enhanced supports for some time.

“It now sends a clear message from Government that we are prepared to support farmers growing crops, assist them in harvesting and transporting the crop, as well as putting a guaranteed outlet in place to use the crops,” Minister Naughten concluded.