The incompatibility of CAP agri-environment schemes and commercial forestry has effectively sidelined farmer planting.

Private forestry firms claimed that the restrictive nature of schemes such as GLAS and REAP were acting as a major barrier to farmer involvement in woodland planting.

A survey carried out by the private forestry body SEEFA (Social, Economic, Environmental Forestry Association) found that more than 90% of respondents agreed that membership of both schemes had effectively closed off land to forestry and contributed to the collapse in planting in recent years.

The survey noted that of the 48,000 farmers in GLAS, just 682, or 1.42%, had planted land under the afforestation scheme.

It also claimed that there was minimal participation in forestry among the 3,740 participants in the REAP scheme.

SEEFA maintained that little has been done to significantly resolve the issues around agri-environment schemes and forestry in the forthcoming CAP programme.

The private foresters surveyed overwhelmingly supported the contention that greater integration between the afforestation and agri-environment schemes will be crucial to halting the recent decline in planting levels, which dropped to around 2,000ha in 2021.

SEEFA members said that greater flexibility was required to allow farmers to opt out of agri-environment schemes and into forestry without penalties being imposed.