Let me state at the outset that all relevant stakeholders, including the farming organisation concerned, were informed in advance of this proposal to increase in the minimum mandatory broadleaf requirement per site from 10% to 15%. No objections were raised at the time.
A specific condition of State aid approval for the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 is to aim for annual planting of 30% broadleaves; at this point in the Programme, this target has not been achieved. The Department carried out a Mid-Term Review(MTR) of the Forestry Programme during 2017 and our analysis showed that the 2018-2020 afforestation target levels and the broadleaf planting target of 30% of overall planting may not be achieved within existing structures.
In response to these issues a suite of proposals were included in the MTR to encourage more landowners to plant broadleaves. In addition to the increase in the minimum mandatory requirement per site for broadleaves referred to in the Deputy’s question, the following initiatives were also included;
- A 7% increase in grants and a 5% increase in premium rates for broadleaf and diverse conifer planting categories;
- Additional support for broadleaf management in the form of a second thinning grant;
- Tree guards and deer fencing grants are being introduced as part of a new “Forest Fencing and Tree Shelter Scheme” to reduce the risk of deer damage for existing broadleaf forests.
- Agroforestry premiums have been increased from €280/ha to €615/ha with the grant rate increased from €3,950/ha to €5,750/ha.
The Department is confident that the introduction of these measures will ensure that Ireland meets its commitment under our State Aid approval to reach the broadleaf planting target of 30% of overall planting.