Outsiders investing in forestry 'threat to fabric of rural life' claim farmers
Payments for forestry plantations should be restricted to residents or businesses who live within a 50km radius of the land, according to a radical proposal from the hill farmers.
With interest in woodland investments on the rise amongst farmers and businesses, hill farmers have claimed forestry expansion is threatening the "fabric of rural life".
However, the proposal for a major overhaul in Afforestation Premiums that the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) plans to raise with the Department of Agriculture has come under fire from forestry companies.
Paddy Bruton from the private firm Forestry Services said national buyers account for the vast majority of purchases and there were in fact not that many international buyers or so-called vulture funds buying into woodlands.
Mr Bruton described a 50km radius as "ludicrous", warning it was infringing on property rights.
"If they want to apply it to forestry then apply it to every farm sector. So should anyone leasing the 700ac Roscommon farm only be allowed to lease it if they are within 50km?" he said.
"A person selling their land wants to get the best price possible. If that is payable by someone from Wexford for land in Roscommon than why should the seller not avail of that price?"
The INHFA's Gerry Loftus claimed forestry expansion threatens the "very fabric of rural life and unless radical changes are made to the premium and the establishment grant then this threat will become a distinct reality throughout western seaboard counties".