Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Ceisteanna (63)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

63. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to make forestry a more attractive option for farmers. [49107/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I recognise that farmer engagement is vital to the success of the national afforestation programme and that their active participation over the years has increased Ireland's forest cover significantly. The supports currently offered under the forestry programme cover 100% of the cost of establishing new forests and also provides annual premium payments which are paid each year for 15 years. For native woodlands, these annual premiums can be as high as €680 per hectare. We will continue to offer these supports, which can and have been used by farmers as income which supplements their farming enterprise.

It is my firm belief that the concept of "farm forestry" should remain at the heart of our promotion of forestry to farmers. This is to say that forestry becomes part of the farm enterprise alongside other production and not necessarily the sole enterprise. This is key to diversifying the farmer's income.

We also provide generous supports for farmers and other landowners after they have planted. These support measures include funding for the construction of forests roads, thinning of broadleaves and knowledge transfer groups. During the current year, my Department introduced a number of new schemes to further promote forestry. These included a second grant for thinning broadleaves, supports for transitioning to a continuous cover forestry management model and a new Woodland Environmental Fund.

I accept that, in recent times, fewer farmers have opted for forestry. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, some of which relate to competing sources of income and other considerations such as a negative perception of forestry, an attachment to conventional farming and a perception that there are significant administrative and technical barriers to approval.

As regards other barriers to farmers planting, we are currently reviewing the COFORD Forestry Land Availability Implementation Report recommendations in this regard. We will also have an opportunity under the next CAP to integrate forestry more fully across our agricultural schemes and to promote the inclusion of farm forestry as part of a successful farming enterprise.

Finally, I am committed to promoting the many multifunctional benefits of forestry. We are funding 15 promotional projects throughout the country as well as Teagasc initiatives which provide advice directly to farmers on how to incorporate forestry into their holdings and how to manage their forest asset.