Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle.
Andrew Doyle, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Forestry, has welcomed today’s decision by Government to adopt the proposals arising from the Mid-Term Review of the Government’s current Forestry Programme.
The Review was prepared by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to review the implementation of the Government’s Forestry Programme 2014-2020.
Minister Doyle commented: “These measures address some of the key issues arising from our review of the Programme to date and range from improved rates for planting to measures to assist with mobilisation of the significant timer resource from private forest which will become available in next few years”.
The proposals were the outcome of a public call for submissions and a series of consultation meetings with stakeholders and the European Commission and were subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment screening exercise, which was recently concluded. The Report notes that total afforestation figures for the first three years of the Programme show that overall planting is some 7% less than the cumulative target for these years and also that planting of broadleaf trees are falling below the 30% target for this category.
The Minister welcomed the improved rates for planting broadleaves in the report commenting “these significant increases will promote greater species and habitat diversity and will help the Department to deliver on our commitment to achieve an annual broadleaf planting target of 30%. I would also highlight a new second thinning grant for broadleaf forests and drew attention to a new continuous cover forestry initiative which will also contribute to creating richer and more varied habitats by encouraging existing forest owners to develop uneven aged forests.
The most significant improvements in grant and premium rates are aimed at those planting categories that may prove most attractive to farmers – such as Agro-forestry and Forestry for Fibre. Agro-forestry will allow farmers to plant trees while continuing to graze their animals on the same land with this land use system suitable for producing woodfuel or, where appropriate, high quality hardwood timber. The aim of the Forestry for Fibre scheme is also to facilitate production of renewable energy for either domestic or local commercial use. While more traditional forestry has a rotation of approximately 35 to 40 years, the species planted under the Forestry for Fibre scheme have a rotation of up to 15 years, which equates to the number of annual premium payments for Forestry for Fibre – this means that a payment of €510 per hectare is payable each year up to the time the plantation is felled.
Referring to the increased rates now on offer, Minister of State Doyle added: “The higher premium rates introduced under the Midterm Review will make it even more attractive for farmers to plant trees. Farm forestry presents a real opportunity for landowners to increase their income while continuing to farm. Planting part of a farm, perhaps the more remote or more difficult land with trees can introduce a new source of income while allowing landowners to maintain their existing output.”
The implementation of the Governments’ Forestry Programme to 2020 remains a priority, particularly attainment of the national afforestation targets and its alignment with broader Government policy on the environment. For this reason, the Minister is establishing a stakeholder group to assist in monitoring the implementation of the Programme. The Group will be chaired by the Minister and will include representatives of the forestry sector, environmental NGOs and other relevant bodies. Further details will be announced on this in due course and it is expected that the Group will meet within one month of the publication of this review and quarterly thereafter.