The announcement of the new afforestation grant and premium rates in the Forestry Programme (2023-2027) is now supplemented with a range of support measures.

While the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine states that “further details on these [support] schemes and implementation dates will be advised by circular shortly”, there is sufficient information available now to allow afforestation to proceed based on revised planting grant and premium rates, and backup measures.

Afforestation grants (intervention one) cover ground preparation, planting and fertiliser application, as well as the purchase of plants and fertiliser, if required.

The support measures (interventions two to eight) cover a broad range of activities that directly and indirectly impinge on afforestation and the subsequent management of forests right through to forest road construction, harvesting and possible changes in silvicultural practices during the forest rotation or subsequent rotations under woodland improvement incentives.

The support measures can be broadly categorised as follows:

  • Fencing and tree protection.
  • Environment report grant.
  • Agroforestry.
  • Forest access.
  • Ecosystem services.
  • Woodland enhancement.
  • Reforestation.
  • Education and awareness.
  • Technology.
  • Fencing and tree protection

    Fencing rates have been increased by up to 40% in the case of stock/sheep and other fence types (Table 1).

    The differential between grant rates for IS436 and non-IS436 fencing posts continues to widen. Farmers who are planning to plant should insist on IS436 material. This fencing post standard was approved by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) in 2007 and accepted by the Forest Service in the Department for grant approval in the 2015-2020 Forestry Programme.

    Stakes and strainers complying with this standard are required to have the IS436 label on each bale of stakes and on individual strainer posts. This has information such as the bale number and registration number of the treatment company, ensuring traceability and a service life of at least 15 years compared with non-certified stakes and strainers, which can often decay within a few years.

    In addition to deer fencing, the support measures also contain four deer tree shelter schemes (DTSs).

    Funding ranges from €1,600 to €2,800/ha for presumably forest establishment DTSs, while funding is also available for two upgrade DTSs.

    Environment report grant (ERG)

    The objective of the ERG “is to increase the quality of afforestation applications, in particular as they address environmental aspects, to increase the throughput of applications by the Department and to ensure applicants and their agents are reasonably reimbursed for the additional costs associated with the required standard and scope of environmental reports,” according to the Department circular.

    It states that reports “that are required for afforestation in addition to the current mandatory application requirements may include”:

  • A pre-screening report.
  • A habitat description and map.
  • An ecology report covering non-Appropriate Assessment (AA) ecology requirements.
  • A Natura Impact Statement (NIS).
  • Archaeology Impact Assessment.
  • Archaeology Monitoring Report.
  • Other reports may be required “such as bird surveys, archaeology reports and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

    Grant aid is weighted to take account of the scale of afforestation application: €450/ha for the first hectare; €400 for the second; €350 for the third; and €50/ha thereafter up to a maximum of 20ha.

    Agroforestry systems

    Agroforestry is being promoted under the current programme as the premium rates have been increased, while the premium period has been increased from five to 10 years.

    Including the main agroforestry scheme (announced in November) the following schemes – with annual premiums – now apply:

  • Silvopastoral systems incorporating trees and grass – grazing and hay/silage (€975/ha).
  • Silvoarable systems featuring trees and crops (€829/ha).
  • Forest gardening or small-scale food forests (€829/ha).
  • Schemes two and three are being piloted at this stage. Minister Hackett stated that parcels of land afforested under agroforestry will also be entitled to enter the Organic Farming Scheme.

    Access – forest road construction

    Support for forest road construction has been increased to €55/m at a density of 25m/ha, while up to €10,000 for special construction works will be funded.

    There is also a €1,000 grant for an “ecologically enhanced forest road”, €1,000 under an “engineering design support measure” and €10,000 for a “temporary road access solutions scheme”.

    Ecosystem Services (ES)

    ES promotes the longer-term sustainable management of forests, including maximisation of environment benefits. There are six schemes with grant rates varying from €90/ha to €500/ha.

    These premiums aim to promote the longer-term sustainable management of forests, in particular encouraging forest owners of productive forests to manage their forests with a view to maximising carbon sequestration, water purification and regulation of flow, soil formation, fuel, food and forest genetic resources.

    Woodland enhancement

    Intervention four contains the following schemes that broadly deal with woodland improvement (WI), Native Woodland (NW) conservation and environment enhancement schemes:

  • WI general – grant aid €1,200/ha, no premium.
  • WI continuous cover forestry (CCF) – grant aid €1,200/ha, seven annual premiums @ €150/ha.
  • WI coppice and coppice with standards – grant aid €1,200/ha, no premium.
  • WI seed stand management – grant aid €1,200/ha and seven annual premiums @ €500/ha.
  • NW conservation for private owners – maximum grant aid €6,000/ha and seven annual premiums @ €500/ha.
  • NW conservation for public owners – maximum grant aid €6,000/ha, no premiums.
  • Environment enhancement – maximum grant aid €1,200/ha and annual premiums @ €150/ha.
  • There is also a grant (€1,200) for producing a forest management plan under this intervention.


    There are four piloted grant-aided climate resilient reforestation (CRR) schemes listed under intervention seven with seven yearly premiums as follows:

  • CCF receives a grant of €1,800/ha and a €150/ha premium.
  • Native woodland high ecological area receives a grant of €6,000 and €650/ha premium.
  • Native woodland, which receives a grant of €2,225/ha and €650/ha premium.
  • Forest-water scheme receives a grant of €2,500 and a €350/ha premium.
  • Education and awareness

    Intervention six covers education, training and increasing awareness of the value of forests and woodlands.

    It includes diverse schemes including grant aid for knowledge transfer groups – participants and organisers – and a NeighbourWood programme (with a seven-year premium of €90/ha), as well as heritage forests and forest classroom pilots.


    While the support schemes place strong emphasis on woodland improvement, protection and other silvicultural aspects, there are also initiatives to cater for production forestry such as the aforementioned forest road schemes.

    The importance of investment in forest and nursery technology, innovation and machinery is also acknowledged in the following grant-aided schemes:

  • Forest machinery grant (€50,000).
  • Investment aid for forest tree nursery sector (€50,000).
  • Central tyre inflation systems (€20,000).
  • Forest technology challenge grant (€100,000).
  • Conclusion

    The support measures impact directly on every element of forest and woodland management, and on the wider environment. The eight interventions are subdivided into 45 individual elements and more may be on the way.

    For example, Minister Hackett is committed to revisiting the ash dieback reconstitution and underplanting scheme (RUS) which could surely fit under a new woodland or forest improvement scheme with premiums to match.

    The afforestation and support schemes will require a major national education and awareness programme which is planned in the new year.