Concern in Cavan as 53% of forestry is being planted by non farmers
Former Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith has highlighted widespread concerns in communities in County Cavan and elsewhere in relation to the purchase of land for afforestation by persons who are not dependent on farming as an income.
Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed if his attention has been drawn to if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that in many cases farmers who wish to purchase adjoining holdings to make their own farms viable are deprived of these opportunities due to the demand for such land from non-farmers.
Minister Creed said he is aware of some negativity surrounding forestry in County Cavan and neighbouring counties in recent months and particularly the planting of land by non farmers.
The Minister said a total of 24 landowners who classified themselves as non-farmers planted forests in Co Cavan so far during 2016, however he said it’s worth noting that 17 of these had addresses in Co. Cavan itself.
“So far in 2016 there were no private institutional investors approved for payment under the afforestation scheme in the county.
“The total area planted by non farmers represented 53% of all new planting during the year which is above the national average.
The Minister said it is difficult to determine if the 24 non-farmer individuals already owned the land or if they had bought the land specifically to plant.
“It is worth noting that farmers are entitled to sell their land to the highest bidder and if forestry is improving the price that farmers can receive for their land then these landowners stand to benefit,” he said.
The Minister said that according to the CSO Census of Agriculture 2010, the average farm size in Co Cavan is 26.4 hectares while the average forest established by non-farmers in Co Cavan since the launch of the new forestry programme is just 7.2 hectares.
He said this suggests that in situations where non-farmers are buying land for forestry they are not buying entire farms for this purpose.
“In 2016 alone, forestry payments worth over €2.6m were paid by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to just under 430 landowners with Cavan addresses.
“These payments are an important source of income not just for people in direct receipt of these payments but also for local shops, petrol stations and other local businesses which are a vital part of a rural community.
“According to the latest national forest inventory total forest cover in the county is just 8.7% which is well below the national average which stands at 10.5%.
“The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine therefore plan to continue to offer forestry as a land use option for farmers and non-farmers throughout the country,” he said.
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