IFA farm forestry chair Vincent Nally has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to introduce and ash dieback scheme as recommended by a report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture.

The report, Issues Impacting the Forestry Sector in Ireland, brings a renewed focus to ash dieback and the forest owners whose woodlands are being devastated by the disease.

Nally suggests the grant should cover the cost of felling infected forests and owners who replant be able to draw a premium for 15 years.

“The treatment of the forest owners affected by the disease has been scandalous. The Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme must be scrapped,” Nally said.

“It’s unworkable and is forcing forest owners to continue to invest in a dying crop and change to a continuous cover forest system, not to mention the serious health and safety risks of managing infected trees.”

Disease importation

The IFA said it is significant that the report recognises that the Department was responsible for the importation of ash dieback.

“I hope that the Department heeds the report and that lessons have been learned that will prevent future disease importation, which is a huge concern for farmers at the moment due the volume of timber and plants being imported.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy has warned that the launch of the report provided “what could be a final opportunity to win back farmers who were a critical component in any forestry policy”.

Carthy said: “A working forestry strategy should deliver for local communities, for the rural economy and for the environment. The Department of Agriculture has allowed a policy to evolve that delivers none of these things.

“If we are to make a success of agro-forestry in this State, the Department must win back the trust of farmers, and make it economically appealing to them.”