Farmers must be paid on all land that they are obligated to set aside under the Afforestation Scheme, the Irish Farmers’ Association has insisted.
The IFA maintain that the new environmental requirements for afforestation introduced in December increase the Areas of Biodiversity Enhancement (ABE) on certain sites beyond the eligible 15pc that can be claimed under the Afforestation and Woodland Creation Scheme.
“The Government cannot expect farmers to set aside land for the enhancement of the environment and not be compensated for the provision of environmental public goods,” said Pat Collins, IFA forestry chairman.
“Farmers are obligated under the scheme to set aside a minimum of 15pc to ABE. These are non-productive areas — they cannot be required to set aside additional areas and get no premium payment,” he insisted.
He said that the commercial value of forests is continually being eroded and this is making the scheme less attractive. He said it is well documented that the primary motive for farmers planting is timber production. These requirements have the potential to reduce productive area and forest premium payments for farmers.
“Farmers must be paid on all land under the scheme”, said Mr. Collins, “Farmers are obligated under the scheme to set aside a minimum of 15% to ABE, these are non-productive areas, they cannot be required to set aside additional areas and get no premium payment”.
Pat Collins has written to Andrew Doyle, Minister of State for Forestry to outline IFA’s position that farmers must receive a payment on all land to compensate them for the loss of earnings and additional management costs that they will incur due to these requirements. He said that IFA is also opposed to the requirement to hire external experts at pre-application stage on certain sites, when there is no guarantee the application being approved.
“The requirement to hire a consultant is likely to act as a barrier to farmers considering forestry as a land use option”, said Mr. Collins. “A grant needs to be introduced under the scheme to support farmers who are required to hire a consultants are pre-application stage.”