The Minister for Agriculture confirmed that one person received afforestation premium payments in excess of €500,000 in 2015.
hese payments were made to the farmer in respect of forests planted under previous Forestry Programmes.
With the exception of this person, no other persons, companies or legal entities received annual afforestation premiums in excess of €500,000 in 2015 or 2016.
The Minister revealed the details as a result of questioning from Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice.
IFA President Joe Healy recently said that the perception of forestry has been seriously damaged among farmers and the public by the over-concentration of planting within certain counties such as Cavan, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.
“The fact that more than 36% of planting is now undertaken by investors who do not live within the communities in which forests are planted is also damaging to how forestry is viewed.
“This negative perception must be addressed by increasing the land available to forestry across the country and ensuring that all land that satisfies both environmental and productive requirements is eligible under the Afforestation Scheme.
“In addition, forest policy must prioritise supporting farmers to plant, and key to this is the reintroduction of the farmer premium differential.”
Pat Collins, IFA Farm Forestry Chairman pointed out that recent measures undertaken by Government have eroded farmers’ confidence in forestry and many are now reluctant to commit their land, no longer viewing forestry as a safe investment
He said, “Decisions taken by government to cut forest premiums, introduce restrictions on planting productive marginal land, increasing environmental restrictions and enforce new requirements have had a detrimental impact on the number of farmers considering forestry.”
The Forestry Chairman said it is important that the profitability of timber harvesting is maximised, “Forest producers need support to collectively manage and mobilise their wood supply. Supporting cooperation is essential if the small and fragmented forests are to be economically managed and new value added opportunities, particularly in the wood energy market, can be exploited.”