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Forestry Sector

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 29 March 2022

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Questions (836)

Matt Carthy

Question:

836. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of agroforestry plots planted per year since 2012, by county; his proposals to increase same; the targets associated with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15768/22]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Forestry Programme 2014-2020 (extended to end of 2022) introduced Agroforestry as a Grant and Premium Category under the Afforestation Scheme. Agroforestry had not previously featured in Ireland’s forestry support schemes and the measure is mainly targeted at silvopastoral Agroforestry systems which combine forestry and pasture, including grazing and the growing of fodder. The Programme contained a cumulative target of the establishment of 195ha of Agroforestry between the years 2015 and 2020. To the end of 2021, 42 ha of new agroforestry systems were established, as per yearly breakdown given in the table below.

Year

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

Area of Agroforestry established (ha)

0.58

5.07

6.84

0.71

24.95

3.76

It should also be noted that since Agroforestry was introduced, my Department has received 90 applications for a total area of 334ha, of which 18 applications, comprising 42ha, were approved and subsequently planted.

A number of applications were withdrawn by the applicants before the approval process was finished and approximately a third of the applications was approved, but have not progressed to planting, yet. 22 agroforestry applications are currently being processed, comprising an area of 122ha.

The Programme offers substantial grants and premiums for farmers considering agroforestry. These rates were trebled under the mid-term review of the current Programme in order to further incentivise this type of planting.

Due to restrictions in the number of premiums that can be paid for agroforestry in accordance with the State Aid Guidelines for the agricultural and forestry sectors for the 2014 to 2020 programming period, not more than five premiums could be offered under this Scheme. The reduced number of premiums available under the Scheme is seen as the main barrier for increased take-up.

The new Forestry Strategy for Ireland that is being developed under Project Woodland will provide a coherent policy framework within which a new Forestry Programme along with other supporting measures can be implemented. It is envisaged that increasing the options that landowners have for managing their forests sustainably will be a central consideration in the new strategy.

Agroforestry is a land use option that is positive for animal welfare, improves biodiversity, can off-set emissions from other farming practices, and can prevent nutrient runoff when planted in strategic locations. In addition, it is possible to grow quality timber with little impact on existing agricultural production.

Increasing the options and incentives for establishing agroforestry systems on farms will be an important consideration in the design of the next Forestry Programme.

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