The requirements of the new scheme could lead to farmers missing out on being paid a premium for land.

The IFA forestry chair Pat Collins said that as a result of the new environmental requirements for afforestation, the area of land that will be set aside for environmental measures has increased for many applications beyond the 15% that can be claimed under the Afforestation and Woodland Creation Scheme.

“This means that farmers are being forced to set aside land to meet environmental requirements and will not be paid a premium on any land in excess of the 15% Areas of Biodiversity Enhancement (ABE).”

Advice to farmers

The advice to farmers from the IFA is to be very aware of the area that they are required to set aside and to only plant if they are paid a forest premium on all land in the Afforestation and Woodland Creation Scheme application.

Collins added that the productive area under the scheme is being eroded as farmers are expected to reduce timber production and the income generating potential of a forest without compensating for the environmental services they are providing.

“Farmers typically plant for commercial reasons to optimise income on the farm and as a result of increased environmental requirements, productive area is being reduced.”

He said that as a result of the increased demand in the market for semi-mature plantations farmers are more aware than ever that only the productive area under Sitka spruce is valued by potential buyers. Farmers must be appropriately compensated for the environmental services they are providing such as water protection, biodiversity enhancement and carbon sequestration.

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