Farmers who planted forestry on their land with State funding do not own the carbon credits on that land and cannot sell those credits, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has confirmed.

He told an Irish Farmers Journal webinar on Tuesday night that a balance will need to be struck in terms of the public investment in forestry and where credits might go.

“There’s a balance to be struck between where the State is investing and providing funding and how those [carbon credits] are accounted for,” he said. Under the Afforestation Scheme 2014-2020, farmers and foresters could apply to plant trees on land which was previously not under forestry.

Grants of over €6,000 were available for the establishment, fencing and maintenance of forestry plantations with annual premiums paid of up to €680/ha available.

Under that same scheme, land must remain under forest cover and therefore is subject to a replanting obligation for all grant categories.

When asked if a farmer will be able to claim carbon credits for land they might replant without State funding, Minister McConalogue said there will have to be a discussion on it as the “situation emerges and evolves”.

The move is likely to provoke the ire of farmers and foresters who signed forestry contracts which had no mention of carbon credits and the ownership of those credits.

Commenting on the forestry licence crisis, the minister said the Department is on course to deliver over 4,000 licences this year.

“Our [planting] targets are 8,000ha per year. We’re coming in at just over 3,000ha last year, so we have massive progress to make in relation to that. We have to get the licensing right to do that. We are gradually getting on top of that.”