WITH the ever growing list of summer chores, probably the last thing on your mind is making a forestry grant application.
Forestry is an excellent land use option on suitable land complementing other farming activities. It has the capacity to enhance family farm income, improve the farm environment and contribute significantly to the local economy.
As it takes time for the application to be assessed, summer is a great time to consider your options ensuring that planting approval is in place by the time the planting season starts next winter. It is a good idea to have all the trees planted by the end of March.
On the contrary, if you apply over the winter, approval may come through very late in the planting season. This in turn will lead to very late planting and is a high risk strategy leading to high tree mortality.
So, where do you start? Well, your first port of call is your local Forestry Adviser.
He or she will be able to indicate if your land is likely to be eligible for forestry grant aid, guide you through the maze of options, their pros and cons, the effect on other farm schemes, explain the various steps in the process and how to ensure that the job gets done right first time.
Once you understand what is involved and the implications, the next step is to choose a 'Registered Forester'.
This is an important decision as the Registered Forester will act as your agent and make the grant application on your behalf.
If the application is successful and you decide to go ahead; then this person will continue to be involved by coordinating some or all of the work.
Registered Foresters work in the private sector, either as consultant foresters or attached to forestry companies, with a list of Registered Foresters available from your local Forestry Adviser or from www.teagasc.ie/forestry.
How do you choose the 'right' forestry consultant/ company? Well, I think it is a good idea to discuss your plans with a number of consultants or companies.
This gives them an opportunity to explain to you what they can offer but it is equally important that you explain clearly to them what you have in mind. This will help to avoid misunderstandings later on.
Walk the land in question with each consultant or company and ask for references so that you can visit some of their projects in your area.
It is also a good idea to ask your neighbours about their experience.
Check if the consultant or company will insure your forest against potential hazards. If not, I would recommend that you take out such insurance yourself.
The next step is to make a forestry grant application once you have decided who you wish to work with.
Include any areas you are unsure of in the application, as you can plant as much or as little of the area that receives approval afterwards. The application may take as much as a couple of months before approval is issued.
Once the approval has been issued, you need to decide if you wish to go ahead with establishing a forest on the farm.
If you decide to go ahead, ensure that you have a written contract in place before any work begins.
It is also a good idea to refer the contract to your solicitor.
Planting land is a major decision as forestry is a one way street but that's a topic for another day.
Steven Meyen is a forestry advisor with Teagasc