Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Macra under fire on forestry 'bubble' claim

Outgoing President of Macra Sean Finan. Photo: Damien Eagers
Outgoing President of Macra Sean Finan. Photo: Damien Eagers
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Macra na Feirme claims that the current national forestry policy is creating a "bubble" that will damage young farmers' prospects have been dismissed by the main farming organisations and forestry interests.

Last week, the rural youth organisation launched its afforestation policy and challenged the current forestry strategy which it claims is being "bullishly" implemented by the Government.

Although Macra does not oppose forestry, national president, Seán Finan, said levels of grant aid and premiums available are in "direct competition" with the interests of young farmers nationwide.

He called for the current forestry programme to be re-examined. "We don't oppose the afforestation policy, we believe it has a very important part to play in climate change mitigation but, at the same time, we don't want a situation where private investors are coming in buying large tracts of land to avail of lucrative forestry grants."

"Macra na Feirme recommends a strategic land use programme be introduced to create a more sustainable afforestation programme that will complement, and not compete with, the other livestock and arable sectors along with a review of the current level of premiums on offer."

However, farm organisations, political leaders, forestry companies and academic experts have rejected this view.

Andrew Doyle, Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, who met with Macra leaders on the issue last week, said their policy is "flawed".

"There is a seeming unawares of the very competitive incentives available for young farmers that more than compete with the forestry programme."

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"Between taxation incentives and additional payments for young farmers, forestry payments are surely designed to promote farming ahead of forestry on the most appropriate land.

"Look at the statistics, last year 6500 hectares were planted, we planted double that five years ago. There is no bubble, it's an unbalanced argument," he said.

Nuala Ni Fhlatharta, head of forestry at Teagasc said: "The afforestation levels have been the same, and way below target, for many years now. There is no bubble, there has been no stampede into forestry that Macra should be worried about," she said.

Pat Collins, IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, said he is "disturbed" by Macra's policy.

"The lack of knowledge and understanding they have in relation to forestry is quite worrying. There is no clarity, they haven't considered what forestry does for the rural economy, the 12,000 jobs that it creates, the money it creates," he said.

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'Premiums are in direct competition with interests of young farmers'

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