Farmers fear new forestry bill

Caitriona Murphy

Proposed new forestry rules that the IFA claims would give the Minister a carte blanche to change forestry contracts post-planting could turn farmers away from forestry, the IFA has warned.

The organisation claims the draft Forestry Bill 2013 would allow the Minister to dictate what species and density of trees to replant after felling without making any reference to the forest owner's right to generate an economic return from the land.

The IFA objects to proposed rules that would allow the Minister to change forestry contract terms, attach unspecified conditions to grant licences and attach burdens to forestry land.

"The draft legislation, if passed, would be extremely detrimental to the expansion of the sector and greatly reduce farmer involvement in the afforestation programme," the organisation said in a submission to the Department of Agriculture. "It is IFA's opinion that the property and contract rights of farmers are not respected in the draft Bill."

Speaking to the Farming Independent, IFA forestry committee secretary Geraldine O'Sullivan said the unspecified conditions created huge uncertainty for farmers.

"Forestry is a long term investment and the fact that after trees are planted, the Minister could subsequently change the terms and conditions of a contract or revoke a felling licence or approval causes us grave concern," she insisted.

Among the other proposals in the draft Forestry Bill are fines ranging from €200 to €1m and prison terms of up to five years for the unlicensed felling of trees.

The bill would allow for the introduction of fees for felling licences. It is expected to return to the Dail again next week before moving to committee stage.

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Irish Independent

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