Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture Matt Carthy has said comments made by Minister McConalogue regarding the ownership of carbon credits resulting from forestry, were "deeply concerning", especially in the midst of a forestry participation crisis.

Carthy said that if farmers are to be encouraged to enter forestry then they must have ownership of the associated carbon credits.

The Cavan/Monaghan TD commented: “Minister McConalogue’s suggestion that farmers will not own carbon credits will drive potential participants further away than ever from afforestation.

"To announce in a throw-away remark that farmers do not own these credits and that there will have to be discussion on the matter is deeply concerning.

“He now needs to immediately outline the basis on which he believes that farmers do not own these credits and also outline how he intends to lead ‘discussions’ with the most important stakeholder in the sector."

Carty added: “Many farmers are refusing to enter the programme because of the negative experiences of existing participants. The comments from Minister McConalogue regarding carbon credits will potentially make the situation worse.

“It is apparent that carbon credits will play a role in our response to the climate crisis. This can act as an incentive for new farmers to engage in afforestation.

“The contracts that farmers have signed with the state have no mention whatsoever of carbon credits.

“The Minister should be examining ways to encourage additional farmers into forestry, not exacerbating those who are already participating,” he insisted.

Poor communication

Carty said that this was the latest example of incredibly poor communication and consultation from the department.

He highlighted that there is a crisis within forestry sector, with the licensing system and in terms of new afforestation levels.

“Unfortunately, he [Minister McConalogue] has introduced a new area of concern for those who might be considering an entry into forestry."

Carty concluded by saying that the Minister is presiding over the forestry crisis and he has to be the one to sort it.