Afforestation figures show that farmer planting has declined by 67% under the current programme, according to IFA farm forestry chair Vincent Nally.
“The figures make for stark reading and clearly show that farmers are disengaging from forestry, at a time when we need more farmers to consider forestry as a viable option as part of their overall farm enterprise. It is clear they have lost confidence in the programme,” said Nally.
He acknowledged that the permanent land use change may be to blame for the decline in the uptake of forestry planting.
“This is a major barrier to planting, particularly in light of the rapidly changing legislative framework, which is significantly increasing management costs and reducing productive forest area. Without greater flexibility in the replanting obligation, planting targets will not be achieved.”
The new government must address the land-use obligations
He said that if Ireland is serious about achieving the Climate Action Plan target of 8,000ha/year, then farmers must start planting again, adding that the new government must address the land-use obligations; that the land must stay forever under forestry.
“A lot more is needed if we are to restore farmer confidence,” said the forestry chair. He called for the 8% cut to forest premiums to be reinstated and reintroduce the premium differential.
According to the IFA, this has caused “huge local opposition” to forestry and, in turn, has increased the scale of investor planting. This type of planting now accounts for over half the annual planting programme.
“In addition, the spiralling costs associated with managing small farm forests must be addressed. These farmers cannot afford to pay for costly natura impact statements to undertake thinning operations, which are considered good management practice from both a timber production and ecological enhancement perspective,” said Nally.
“Is it any wonder the forestry sector is grinding to a halt with the costs and requirements being heaped on farmers trying to manage a family forest with an average size of less than 8ha?”