Forestry growers in need of a champion to challenge confusing stop-start initiatives
It is now almost two decades since I first decided to plant some of my land.
This decision was based on the promise that my forestry income would remain tax free and that I was creating a lasting and valuable asset while enhancing both the landscape and the environment.
For a few years, it seemed all of this was true. During that time thousands of other farmers planted and established the timber resource that is now the basis for our home sawmilling industry and the manufacture of a huge range of products from construction material to home heating fuel, fencing, decking, garden materials, gates, furniture and a host of other valuable items.
However, much of that early optimism evaporated, due to the the failure of past governments to reassure farmers that the various schemes would remain in place and unaltered.
Sadly, for well over a decade, this stop-start approach has continued unabated.
Roading grants have been scrapped and reinstated at a lower rate. Premium payments have been reduced and even the acreage to be planted was capped, depending on uptake.
Taxation was introduced and the regulations regarding planting, tending and thinning have all been altered in a manner that makes life extremely difficult for contractors, consultants and farm foresters.
More recently, we have seen the sterilising of large tracts of land simply because of a perception of a "possible" threat to the hen harrier, despite the fact that this lovely bird is currently breeding happily in areas heavily planted with conifers.