New Forestry Programme a Lost Opportunity – IFA

Following the EU Commission’s approval of the afforestation scheme under the new Forestry Programme today IFA Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming has described it as a lost opportunity.


“The funding for the scheme is very strong but unfortunately the way the scheme is constructed will turn many farmers off the programme. It is a lost opportunity,” Jason Fleming said.


IFA National Farm Forestry Chair said that IFA has consistently raised several issues with the programme, but the government has not acknowledged these concerns. As a result, the programme won’t meet the needs of farmers and lacks reassurance for farmers regarding the commercial viability of forestry investments.


“Farmers will be required to reduce their productive area by 32%, for areas of biodiversity enhancement and broadleaves with only a 20-year premium despite the loss of timber earnings along with the eco system services being provided. This requirement also extends to the replanting stage with no grant, premium, or compensation for the lost productive area,” he said.


He continued to say that the organisation would continue their campaign to seek changes to the new Forestry Programme until farmers concerns are heard. IFA has outlined a number of concerns with the new programme. These are as follows:


  1. The Payment for Eco System Services (PES) should be amended to pay farmers to manage land set aside for biodiversity enhancement and broadleaves. The PES rate should reflect the income foregone from timber production and must be extended beyond the proposed 7 years.
  2. The farmer premium differential needs to be improved, with a higher premium rate paid to farmers in recognition of the wider rural development benefits they provide by planting. Farmer premium rates should be index linked and the increased rate paid to existing forest owners.
  3. A proportionate regulatory framework that reflects the size and type of operation, that guarantees decisions within the legally required four-month timeframe, needs to be urgently introduced.
  4. All infected ash woodland must be eligible for a 100% reconstitution grant, a premium paid for 20 years on the replanted land and compensation for the financial loss incurred.
  5. The replanting obligation is a key barrier to farmers participation in forestry and should be reviewed.

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