Written Answers. - Forestry Development.

500.

asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he considers that the present administration of the social welfare system discourages farmers from participating in the development of forestry; and if given the vast economic potential of forestry he will consider amending the operation of the social welfare system to provide smallholders with the necessary incentives to participate in afforestation.

The social assistance schemes are designed to cater for people in financial need and any income which a person may have from self-employment is taken into account regardless of the source of income. In the case of smallholders, means for social assistance purposes are assessed by reference to the net income of the farm. Allowance is made for all expenses incurred in connection with the running of the farm including any expenses associated with afforestation where that forms part of the farm enterprise.

In these circumstances, it is not considered that the social assistance schemes constitute any particular disincentive to farmers wishing to participate in the development of forestry. The provision of specific incentives towards the development of forestry in the context of the social assistance schemes would have wider implications and would raise the question of incentives for other areas of activity as well. There are no plans at present to alter the method of assessment of means in this regard.