The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has confirmed that his department will not reintroduce forestry payment differentials which would see farmers paid more than non-farmers.
The reintroduction of the policy was suggested by Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae as the current forestry programme does not differentiate between a “farmer” and “non-farmer” but targets funding at all landowners who wish to convert lands to forestry.
However, the Minister said that it is important to note that the non-farmer category also includes recently retired farmers and the family members of existing farmers.
“On that basis, I am satisfied that the vast bulk of forestry payments remain in rural Ireland.
“Reinstating the farmer/non-farmer forest premium differential is not an option being considered by the Department.
The Minister also said that the reintroduction of such a differential could only be achieved either by an increase in the farmer rate or a reduction in the non-farmer rate.
“An increase in the premium rate for farmers is no guarantee of increased planting levels by farmers.
“The other option of reducing the non-farmer rate to create the differential could impact significantly on overall planting levels.
“This is borne out by planting figures in 2016 where the proportion of land planted by landowners classifying themselves as non-farmers was 36%,” he said.
On a separated forestry issue about compensation for farmers who are obliged to set aside for environmental enhancement, Minister Creed said he believed that the existing provisions to pay landowners for areas left unplanted for environmental reasons are proportionate and adequate.
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