Only a small fraction of the farmer enquiries regarding the Native Tree Area (NTA) scheme are progressing to full applications, forestry companies have confirmed.

A major problem is that farmers are identifying wet sections of ground to plant, but peaty soils are ineligible for the scheme.

It was hoped that the small-scale planting initiative would be extremely popular with farmers, since it is for areas of just 0.1ha to 1.0ha, the scheme is largely exempt from the forestry licensing system and pays a yearly premium of €2,284/ha.


However, the latest figures from the Department of Agriculture’s forestry dashboard show that just 91 applications for 93ha have been submitted since the NTA scheme opened.

Marina Conway of the Western Forestry Co-op estimated that just 15-20% of the farmer enquiries regarding the NTA convert to actual applications.

She said there were a number of reasons why farmers did not proceed with applications, but landowners seeking to plant heavy ground that may be deemed peaty soils is a factor, Conway said.

Natura lands, Annex 1 habitats and areas close to archaeological sites are also ineligible.

“Everybody thought that this scheme was going to be a lot easier and simpler than it is,” Conway said.

Hugo McCormick CEO of Green Belt called for the NTA scheme to be dropped or seriously amended.

“I am of the opinion that the entire NTA scheme in its current form needs to be shelved and a new scheme drawn up, which is workable and attractive to farmers,” McCormick said.


“It is clear from the level of applications to date that it has failed to deliver.

“There is minimal interest from farmers and, furthermore, the majority of enquiries that we get fail to get to application stage as the land does not meet the criteria of the scheme,” he added.