Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Ceisteanna (347, 352, 370)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

347. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers who planted and afforested in each of the previous five years to GLAS, that is, 2010 to 2014, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35037/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

352. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that planted and afforested in each year for the duration of REPS in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35060/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

370. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that planted and afforested in each year for the duration of AEOS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35105/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 347, 352 and 370 together.

The Department publishes a range of statistics on its website, including a breakdown of farmer/non-farmer applicants. Whilst there is data for the five years preceding GLAS i.e. 2010 to 2015, the Department does not have full data for farmer participation in forestry for all the years the Rural Environmental Scheme (REPS) and the Agri-environment Options Scheme (AEOS) were in place i.e. 1994 to 2016, as this information is only available from 2009.

Statistics are available for the Forestry Environmental Protection Scheme (FEPS) which opened in 2007 and was available only to farmers who were also participants in REPS. These figures are shown below but this would not represent all farmers with forestry in the years 2007 and 2008.

Farmer participants in the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme from 2009 to 2020:

Year

Farmer

2009

745

2010

926

2011

815

2012

883

2013

890

2014

950

2015

852

2016

652

2017

536

2018

309

2019

206

2020

100

Number of participants in FEPS (farmers only) in 2007 and 2008:

2007

41

2008

170

In terms of GLAS, applicants had the option of choosing parcels for GLAS and also the opportunity to join the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme on other parcels. The GLAS terms and conditions outline that afforestation is fully compatible with GLAS and is recognised as contributing to the creation of a valuable landscape mosaic at farm-level. The Scheme also had the “Planting a Grove of Native Trees” action which has been chosen by over 3,600 farmers and resulted in the planting of over 1.5 million trees.

It is clear that there has been a decline in farmer participation in forestry in recent years. There could be many reasons for this as farmers have many options open to them to manage their land, including the lease or sale of lands. Non-farmer applicants may also be a relative of a deceased farmer, who have chosen to plant inherited land instead of continuing to farm.

Along with Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who has overall responsibility for forestry, I am anxious that farmers re-engage with forestry and acknowledge that current licensing difficulties are likely a contributory factor in terms of reduced interest. This is a priority issue for me and the Department and is being dealt under Project Woodland.

Furthermore, the Department is working to ensure that there is integration between Agri-Environment schemes in CAP and the new Forestry Programme. It is intended that tree planting measures will form part of the new Agri-Environment schemes. The transitional REAP scheme (a results-based payment approach for grasslands) has, for instance, complementary tree-planting actions.