DEAR SIR: It is with incredulity that I read the comments of Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, in the article on page 14 of the Irish Farmers Journal dated 25 September 2021, saying that farmers and landowners do not own forestry carbon credits created in woodlands, established and managed on their own lands.

The minister contends that the credits are owned by the State.

It defies logic that the minister would make such remarks at a time when we are being tasked with the job of promoting afforestation and when society is crying out to get more trees into the ground to meet very challenging climate change, biodiversity and rural development objectives.

The forest industry is already on its knees from the licensing debacle, chronic mismanagement of ash dieback, the failure for many years to reach annual planting targets and the inability of the Forest Service to adapt and learn from the mistakes of the past.

Suggesting that farmers’ carbon credits can be hijacked by the State adds insult to injury and is simply intolerable. The minister’s comments are a kick in the teeth for an industry already in crisis.

Unless I am mistaken, we do not live in a communist state. Farmers own the trees they plant on their land, whether they receive grant aid or not. They own the carbon sequestered by those trees and they own any carbon credits arising from that sequestration.

If the minister has any legal basis for his assertion of State ownership, let him produce it. It will be challenged vigorously.

The minister is clearly unaware of the EU Forest Strategy for 2030, which states: “The Commission is presenting an ambitious vision, building on the strong engagement, motivation and dedication of all forest and land owners and managers. Their role in the provision of ecosystem services is key and needs to be supported. The strategy seeks to develop, among other things, financial incentives, in particular for private forest owners and managers, for the provision of these ecosystem services.”

The minister is either anti-forestry as a land-use option or simply does not understand the incendiary impact of his remarks. If it is the former, then the minister should consider his position as Minister for Agriculture, as he is clearly at odds with the climate policy of his own Government. If it is the latter, he must immediately withdraw his remarks or provide the legal basis for them.