A stigma among farmers that planting their land with forestry is a failure that must be addressed, according to Minister for State with responsibility for forestry Andrew Doyle.
His comments come as the states national afforestation programme lags significantly behind in its target to plant 10,000ha of forestry per year.
In a debate in the Dail this week, Doyle said the 'fear factor' must be eliminated for landowners so that they can look at options for their land and assess its value.
“Then they can consider whether, for example, if they plant one variety, it will yield them an income that they can use to enhance the rest of the land.
“We need a change in the mindset.
“Parts of Europe have an average of 30pc. Someone who is a forestry owner or owns land for forestry is called a farmer over there.
“It is almost a signal of failure here, and that is something we must address, although I do not suggest that can be changed overnight,” he said.
Minister Doyle said the Department is involved in a detailed mid-term review of that forestry programme and is engaging with stakeholders in its development.
He said It should be noted that each year the Department has provided sufficient budget to fund the stated afforestation targets.
However, he said there is intense competition for planting land driven by a number of different factors, not least expansion in other agricultural sectors and this is affecting demand for the afforestation scheme.
“I am convinced that forestry remains an extremely attractive option for landowners and can serve as a complementary income stream for farmers.
“This is because the Department funds 100pc of the cost of establishing the new forest and guarantees an annual premium of up to €635/ha payable each year for 15 years, tax free.
“Forestry is also compatible with other agriculture schemes and farmers can continue to receive their basic payment on land which is also planted,” he said.
People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, however hit out at the Governments performance in this area describing it as a ‘pathetic failure’.
He said the McCarthy report suggested that Coillte has 0.5m acres that might not be suitable for narrowly commercial forestry but in terms of long-term forestry to meet climate change targets and so on, it is just sitting there and could be used.
“There are young people in my area who are so exercised about the issue of climate change that they have gone to the local council and said they want to get out and plant trees.
“We need programmes to encourage that kind of initiative and the use of public land as well as trying to encourage and incentivise farmers,” he said.