The IFA farm forestry chair Vincent Nally has urged Minister Hackett to scrap the Reconstitution Underplanting Scheme (RUS) as he feels the scheme has failed to deliver for the farmers affected by ash dieback.

“Minister Hackett must act on forest owners’ issues and review the scheme. It’s not working and the operational costs to carry out the work are increasing,” Nally stated.

“Farmers have had enough and want to see a new scheme introduced that supports all forest owners with ash dieback to support them to remove the diseased crop, to replant and provide a payment in recognition of the loss of timber earnings,” he continued.

Particularly contentious issues arising from the scheme include the management requirements of forestry affected by ash dieback.

Nally explained the costs involved in forestry management are not adequately compensated for under the scheme when lost earnings are accounted for.

“The obligation to maintain diseased forests to a required standard is placing farmers, who are desperately trying to deal with the consequence of the disease, in an untenable position,” the forestry chair added.

“The RUS scheme obliges forest owners to continue to manage and invest in a dying crop; to manage under a continuous forest system that may be contrary to the management objectives; and provides no compensation for the loss of earnings inflicted by the disease. That is if they even qualify for the scheme.”

Planning difficulties

Challenges presenting themselves to foresters in the planning process further hinder the capacity of affected farmers to remain profitable Nally said.

Delays in the issuing of licenses add to the lost revenue from diseased plantations and decrease the overall area replanted he explained.

“This in combination with the excessive bureaucracy associated with planting and management of forests as witnessed with the forest licences crisis must be addressed if the Government is serious about increasing Ireland’s rate of planting,” he added.