Farmers are refusing to plant more forestry until Minister for Food, Forestry and Horticulture Andrew Doyle changes the rules on planting marginal land and premium payments on set aside land.

Latest figures from the Forest Service show that planting is down 20%, the IFA has claimed.

The Government’s target is to plant 7,140ha of forestry in 2017. However, farmers claim that based on planting levels so far this year, it could be as low as 5,200ha – 25% behind target.

IFA forestry chairman Pat Collins said the farmers are holding off on planting until Minister Doyle commits to removing restrictions on planting productive marginal land and paying farmers a premium on all land they are obliged to set aside for environmental enhancement.

Collins warned that if farmers hold off their planting, it will result in a 60-year planting low at a time when demand for wood is projected to accelerate significantly.

“Despite the accelerating downward trend, the Minister still refuses to remove restrictions on planting productive marginal land and increase the land available to the programme,” claimed Collins.

He urged the Minister to introduce the changes on marginal land and set aside land as part of the mid-term review process to increase the level of farmer planting.