Irish Farmers Claim €1.3B Forestry Plan Is a Lost Opportunity

Five Point Plan proposed to improve the new plan.

Sun 13 Aug 23


The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has hit out at the Government’s new Forestry programme, claiming it is a “lost opportunity” for farmers.

The IFA is the peak industry association for Irish farming, playing an important role in the forest establishment.

According to the Irish Government, more than 23,000 private forest owners, mostly farmers, have driven Ireland’s forest industry.

Earlier this month, Wood Central reported that the European Commission had approved Ireland’s €1.3 billion forestry programme.

The spend includes €308 million to support afforestation investment.

The programme was announced in November 2022. Footage courtesy of @rtenews.

IFA Farm Forestry Chair Jason Fleming has welcomed the commitment but claimed the policy design would turn many farmers off the programme.

“Farmers will be required to reduce their productive area by 32% for areas of biodiversity enhancement and broadleaves with only a 20-year premium despite the loss of timber earnings along with the ecosystem services being provided,” Mr Fleming said.

“This requirement,” according to Mr Fleming, “also extends to the replanting stage with no grant, premium, or compensation for the lost productive area.”

The 2023-2027 programme was announced last year by the then taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister of State with Responsibility for Forestry Pippa Hackett. 

The new programme will see farmers benefitting from increased planting grants and extending annual premium payments from 15 to 20 years. 

Non-farmers will get premia for 15 years.

Ireland is pushing to significantly increase Ireland’s forest cover – lifting cover from 11% to 18% and committed to planting an additional 8,000 hectares of trees per year.

Irish Minister of State Pippa Hackett states that increased forest cover is critical to Ireland’s Climate Action plan.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Minister Eamon Ryan launched the Climate Action Plan 2023 in December 2022. Footage courtesy of @merrionstreet.

“It has been designed so that planting trees can deliver for farm incomes, climate, biodiversity, water quality,” she said, “and for the production of high-quality timber for use in our homes and other buildings of the future.”

The IFA Proposed Changes

Mr Fleming has outlined five changes that the IFA is now pushing to the policy; they include:

  • The Payment for Eco System Services (PES) be amended to pay farmers to manage land set aside for biodiversity enhancement and broadleaves. The PES rate should reflect the income foregone from timber production and must be extended beyond the proposed seven years.
  • The farmer premium differential needs to be improved, with a higher premium rate paid to farmers in recognition of the more comprehensive rural development benefits they provide by planting. Farmer premium rates should be index linked and the increased rate paid to existing forest owners.
  • A proportionate regulatory framework that reflects the size and type of operation that guarantees decisions within the legally required four-month timeframe needs to be urgently introduced.
  • All infected ash woodland must be eligible for a 100% reconstitution grant, a premium paid for 20 years on the replanted land and compensation for the financial loss.
  • The replanting obligation is a key barrier to farmers’ participation in forestry and should be reviewed.


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