Minister of Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett have met this morning with a group of farmer protesters representing the forestry sector.

The protestors have called for the introduction of emergency legislation to address issues experienced by farmers in the forestry licensing process and who believe recent delays in the issuing of licences are damaging confidence in the sector.

We gave them good news on recent improvements

“We met today with members of the IFA who were protesting the rate at which forestry licenses are being issued to individual farmers by our department,” the ministers commented in a joint statement which followed the meeting.

“We gave them good news on recent improvements, and also told them that while we accept there are issues, we believe we are addressing them robustly, indeed with their help and co-operation, through Project Woodland.

“In terms of figures, we explained that in June of this year 411 licenses were issued. Eight per cent of those were private, the highest number of private licenses issued in one month in five years,” the statement continued.

Before the meeting, IFA president Tim Cullinan had hit out at the Government over his belief that the Department’s inaction on the licensing issue has cost the forestry sector hundreds of jobs.

Licencing review

The joint statement also addressed the topic of an independent and external review of the forestry licencing system, which Minister Hackett has asked Project Woodland to commission some weeks ago.

Such a review had also been called for by the Oireachtas Committee and stakeholders

“One of the early asks from one of the groups was that Minister Hackett would undertake a fundamental regulatory review of the licensing system, as well as of the processes pursued by other member states.

“Such a review had also been called for by the Oireachtas Committee and stakeholders. And Minister Hackett has asked the project board to progress that immediately,” the two concluded.