Written Answers. - Forest Premia.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

165 Ms Clune asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources if he has succeeded in securing Exchequer funding for increases in the rates of forest premia for those who planted prior to 1 October 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7915/01]

Following discussions with the European Commission, the Minister of State, Deputy Bryne, announced, in March last, significant increases averaging 30% in the rate of afforestation grants and premiums for those planting from 1 October 1999.

The afforestation grant is a once-off payment, made in two instalments, which is aimed at compensating farmers for the costs associated with the establishment of the plantation. I do not intend to extend increased grants to those who planted before 1 October 1999. I am, however, attempting to secure increases in the level of annual forest premiums for those who planted prior to 1 October 1999. Despite protracted negotiations, the European Commission refused to agree to co-fund similar increases in the forest premiums paid to those who planted before that date.

I am now considering possible funding from the Exchequer for those who planted prior to 1 October 1999. The estimated annual cost of such is £3.4 million. In view of the State aids aspect, any decision to have the cost borne by the Exchequer would also require European Commission agreement.