Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

Relief over rates for forestry grants

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Farmers intending to plant woodland are breathing a sigh of relief this week, following the unveiling of the new forestry grant rates.

The sector had feared the worst when it was announced that the planting budget was to be slashed by 25pc.

The new rates announced by the Department of Agriculture this week show that most establishment grants have been reduced by 16pc on average.

However, farmers will be able to make significant savings by virtue of the reduced stocking densities required by the new Department guidelines. For example, oak- and beech-planting density has been reduced to 3,300 stems/ha, and alder density has been lowered to 2,500 stems/ha.

Crucially, the forestry premia have not been cut any further, following their 8pc reduction last year.

The only alteration is that there will be no differential between premiums according to the area planted.

All new applications will be paid premiums equivalent to current rates for areas greater than or equal to six hectares but less than 12ha.

Unenclosed land has been hardest hit, with both premia and establishment grants reduced.

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"There is a huge sigh of relief throughout the sector, given that we are in a period of deflation, and costs are slightly lower in terms of labour and machinery hire," said forestry specialist Joe Barry.

"The establishment grants are still more than adequate to cover costs.

"The changes reflect a desire within the Department to be seen to encourage environmental demands.

"This is seen in the reduction in rates for unenclosed land, which is increasingly being perceived as of high habitat value."

He added: "There is also a slightly increased rate of premium for areas under six hectares, again valuing small plantations for their habitat and bio-diversity values, despite the difficulty in managing them as opposed to large areas of single species.

"On the other hand, the value of commercial forestry is fully recognised in the acceptance of the need to plant large areas of conifers to supply our thriving sawmilling and manufacturing sector."

Farmers should note that these rates only apply until 2013. For anyone planning on planting, the advise is to apply immediately.

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