When Western Forestry Co-op CEO Marina Conway put up a slide showing what the tax-free premium was and now will be for planting native woodland at a Woodland Creation Open Day this week in Sligo, there was a very audible gasp around the room. Under the old forestry premium scheme, for a farmer planting 10ha of native woodland, there was €99,750 available over 15 years, tax free. From 1 January 2023 this will be €220,600 in total over 20 years.

To convert this to old money, over the course of 20 years the farmer will get €4,500/ac in premiums alone, get a grant to establish and fence it, claim any existing BPS entitlements, and then have a crop of timber to sell. For a farm business with little cash reserves, this becomes attractive.