Farmers are being locked out of forestry due to new rules, with companies having to walk away from planting 3,140ha across 394 sites since January this year, a survey by Forest Industries Ireland (FII) has revealed.

This is in the context of a total annual planting area of approximately 2,000ha. The research by FII, the forestry and timber trade association within Ibec, among its forestry company members, found this is primarily due to restrictions imposed on lands eligible for planting by the Forestry Programme launched in autumn 2023.

Some 43% reported the main reason for being unable to proceed with an application to the afforestation scheme as the presence of peat or peat soils.

This was followed by 19% who cited high nature value farmland.

Hundreds of farmers, FII said, who wish to plant trees on their land are unable to do so because of a new rule prohibiting planting on any soils with a peat depth of greater than 30cm, as well as other blanket restrictions on eligible land.

FII director Mark McAuley said this is pushing afforestation off poorer agricultural land and trying to force it to compete for better land.

“This simply won’t happen. Realistically, we have to allow new forestry on poorer sites because that is the land that farmers are willing to plant,” he added.