There has been a mixed reaction from farmers and forestry growers to the €79.5m support package on ash dieback which was announced earlier this week.

The new Climate Action Performance Payment of €5,000/ha is being paid to plantation owners who have joined the Department of Agriculture’s ash dieback reconstitution schemes.

Announcing the measure, Minister of State Pippa Hackett said the payment addressed farmers’ concerns and meets with the recommendations of the independent review group on ash dieback.

Minister Hackett claimed the Department had now committed €230m to assist growers impacted by ash dieback. This includes the new €5,000/ha payment, the €2,000/ha already provided to clear diseased plantations, and access to higher forestry premiums and afforestation grants.

However, IFA forestry chair Jason Fleming said farmers’ reaction to the payment was “very mixed” and that plantation owners were waiting to see the exact terms and conditions.

“Let’s be clear: this payment in no way compensates farmers for the financial loss incurred or the emotional toll the disease has taken on them and their families.

“But it is the first time within the scheme that a farmer’s financial loss is recognised,” Fleming said.

“Farmers remain concerned that the clearance grant of €2,000/ha and afforestation grants are not sufficient to cover the costs of re-establishing some of these forests, particularly older ones, and these costs will eat into farmers’ payment,” he added.

Varied opinions on the package were also expressed by Irish Forest Owners (IFO) members.

“Some of our members are ready to move on and welcome the payment, whereas other forest owners, particularly those with larger, more mature plantations, feel the payment does not come close to making good the financial loss ash dieback has caused,” said IFO national co-ordinator Olive Leavy.

Simon White, of the Limerick Tipperary Woodland Owners group, heavily criticised the €5,000/ha offer.

It came “nowhere near the €25,000/ha minimum loss of revenue” growers suffered, White claimed.