Too much land is currently excluded from forestry in order to entice farmers to plant trees, Fianna Fáil TD and chair of the Oireachtas agriculture committee Jackie Cahill has said.

Deputy Cahill was speaking during the opening day of the 'Finding Common Ground' festival in the RDS on Thursday 2 May, where forestry was the main focus on day one.

He maintained that a lot of land which would be quite suitable for forestry can't be planted and land which isn't excluded from afforestation is making too much as grassland.

"At the moment, we have an awful lot of land excluded from afforestation. We have made changes to peat land that can be afforested, unenclosed land and designated land.


"The reality is that that is the land that is most suited to afforestation in this country. It is extremely hard to compete with more arable land and the prices that are being paid for it," he said.

These exclusions need to be examined by Government, Deputy Cahill said, and the "blanket ban" tweaked to allow a certain level in afforestation.

"If you were a farmer contemplating forestry at the moment, in a reasonably good farming area - you've the option to lease land for a period of five or 10 years and get the income tax free or you can make a life-changing decision to get into forestry. When most people do the sums, they're opting for leasing with the prices they're getting at the moment," he said.

Ash dieback scheme

Deputy Cahill welcomed the ash dieback scheme which was announced this week. Forestry owners, he said, have suffered huge losses because of the disease, which came into the country and was beyond their control.

"Thankfully, they've got some recognition, it's not going to fully compensate for the loss, but at €5,000/ha, it signals that the Government recognises what happened here," he said.