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Wednesday, 30 Jun 2021

Written Answers Nos. 334-348

Question No. 334 answered with Question No. 332.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (335)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

335. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 358 and 359 of 20 May 2021, if the proposed scheme to plant trees along rivers and watercourses to act as carbon sinks and interceptors of nutrients currently being prepared by the Minister for State will be considered afforestation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35024/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provides grant aid for the establishment of a wide range of tree planting measures which play an important role in environmental protection and removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. Forests which are 0.1 hectares or more in size have the capacity to reach at least five metres in height and, with a minimum canopy cover of at least 20%, are accounted for and reported under Ireland's international reporting requirements.

Any existing and new tree planting measures proposed which satisfy these criteria will be reported and accounted against Ireland's climate change targets.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (336)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

336. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 358 and 359 of 20 May 2021, if the proposed scheme to plant trees along rivers and watercourses to act as carbon sinks and interceptors of nutrients currently being prepared by the Minister for State will facilitate the owner of the land being the beneficial owner of the carbon and environmental services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35025/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There is no inherent private property right to greenhouse gas emissions or removals by forests, whether on lands held by the State or privately owned. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provides grant aid for the establishment of a wide range of tree planting measures which play an important role in environmental protection and removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.

Forests which are 0.1 hectares or more in size, have the capacity to reach at least five metres in height and with a minimum canopy cover of at least 20% are accounted and reported under Ireland's international reporting requirements under the forest land use categories. Any existing and new tree planting measures proposed which satisfy these criteria will be reported and accounted against Ireland's climate change targets by the State.

The EU Green Deal and farm to fork strategy will examine ways to incentivise farmers to encourage carbon farming initiatives. Forests and tree planting measures play a positive role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Any existing and proposed tree planting measures will be targeted at protecting the environmental and removing carbon dioxide form the atmosphere.

Departmental Schemes

Question No. 338 answered with Question No. 337.

Question No. 339 answered with Question No. 337.

Ceisteanna (337, 338, 339, 341, 356)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

337. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he plans to revise the ash dieback reconstitution and underplanting scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35026/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

338. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 544, 545, 546, 547, 548, 549, 550, 551, 552 and 553 of 25 May 2021, if no commitment is given by his Department in the farmers charter or any other Departmental protocol that commits his Department to writing directly to each applicant for the reconstitution and underplanting scheme to update them on their application and the requirements of circular 5 21 on their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35027/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

339. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 544, 545, 546, 547, 548, 549, 550, 551, 552 and 553 of 25 May 2021, if he informed the registered foresters that they are expected to revert to and inform the landowner applicants for the reconstitution and underplanting scheme of the requirements of the circular and the way a specific application may be impacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35028/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

341. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 544, 545, 546,547, 548, 549, 550, 551, 552 and 553 of 25 May 2021, the total area of ash in the country; the estimated area of ash excluded from the reconstitution and underplanting scheme due to age, height and disease infection rates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35030/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

356. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will undertake a needs analysis of forest owners whose forests have been infected with ash dieback; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35064/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 337 to 339, inclusive, 341 and 356 together.

The National Forest Inventory 2017 records ash as approximately 25,280 ha, or 3.8% of the stocked forest area. This includes ash that may be a minor species in a mixed plantation.

The area of ash planted since 1990 is 15,897ha, of which 3,284 is over 25 years of age (planted 1990-1995) and thus not eligible for the reconstitution and underplanting scheme.

The reconstitution and underplanting scheme is not available to owners of ash plantations with low levels of infection (<4%). The level of plantation infection cannot be determined in any way other than through a site inspection and, therefore, it is not possible to estimate the area of ash plantations with low levels of infection. Nor does the Department have data relating to the area of ash plantation by height and scheme eligibility as this information will be determined through a site visit.

All registered foresters have been directly notified of circular 05-2021. This circular is published on the Department website, and is therefore publically available for all landowners and forest owners. As the agent for the landowner, it is the responsibility of the Registered Forester to fully understand the provisions in any Department Circular and to keep the applicant fully informed of any issues that may affect any specific applicant and application.

Since the first finding of ash dieback disease in Ireland, the Department has provided support to owners of ash plantations impacted by ash dieback disease. By the end of 2019, well over 1,000 hectares of infected and associated ash plantations had been cleared and replanted with alternative species at a cost to the exchequer of over €7 million. The nature and focus of the support provided has evolved as our understanding of the scale and nature of the disease has changed. The current scheme provides the forest owner with a broader range of silvicultural and management options.

The Department will continue to support ash plantation owners and will continue to keep ash dieback under review as it evolves over time.

There are currently no plans to undertake a needs analysis of forest owners whose plantation has been impacted by ash dieback disease.

Question No. 338 answered with Question No. 337.
Question No. 339 answered with Question No. 337.

Departmental Schemes

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 337.

Ceisteanna (340)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

340. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 544, 545, 546, 547, 548, 549, 550, 551, 552 and 553 of 25 May 2021, the budget available for the reconstitution and underplanting scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35029/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Department's budget allocation for forestry for 2021 is €103.4m. The Afforestation Programme is the main expenditure from this allocation which also provides for payments for other forestry support schemes including the Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme for Ash Dieback.

It is a demand-led scheme and payments will be in response to approved applications received.

Question No. 341 answered with Question No. 337.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Question No. 343 answered with Question No. 342.

Question No. 344 answered with Question No. 342.

Ceisteanna (342, 343, 344)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

342. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the State has assumed the ownership or beneficial interest or any other rights to all or any of the carbon sequestered in Irish forests both private and public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35031/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

343. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether it is legitimate for a landowner or trust to afforest land under his Department’s afforestation grant and premium scheme and to retain ownership or claim or beneficial interest in the carbon sequestered on the same land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35032/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

344. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether it is legitimate for a landowner or trust to afforest land on a non-grant-aid basis and to retain the ownership or claim or beneficial interest in the carbon sequestered on the same land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35033/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 342 to 344, inclusive, together.

There is no inherent private property right to greenhouse gas emissions or removals by forests, whether on lands held by the State or privately owned. The State does not own it - it is merely accounting for it as part of international reporting obligations.

Under the agreed Effort Sharing and LULUCF regulations, EU Member States must account emissions and removals of greenhouse gases from the land-use, land use change and forestry sector during the 2021 to 2030 period. Where this sector results in a net reduction of greenhouse gases, a limited amount of removals may be accounted by the State against Ireland’s overall emissions reduction target. On the other hand, if this sector results in a net emission or production of greenhouse gases, this too must be accounted by the State.

Agriculture can be a significant source of emissions as well as forests fires, disease and deforestation. These regulations specifically avoid creating an accounting obligation for private individuals or companies to account for emissions and removals individually or on land holdings. The existing regulations set out targets and an accounting framework for EU Member States and do not create a private market for forest carbon credits or debits.

Forest owners and organisations can of course pursue voluntary initiatives in the trading of carbon and other corporate social responsibility mechanisms as long as they do not impact on the State’s reporting and accounting obligations. Such models do exist in other Countries but this is matter for landowners or their representatives to pursue.

The State’s obligations to report greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse gas removals in the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sectors are set out under Regulation (EU) No 525/2013, while its accounting obligations are set out in Decision No 529/2013/EU up to 2020 and Regulation (EU) No 2018/841 (“the LULUCF Regulation”) for the period 2021-2030. These relate to the EU's international commitments and obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the associated Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement.

Question No. 343 answered with Question No. 342.
Question No. 344 answered with Question No. 342.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (345)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

345. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to the attendance by his officials at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Marine on 27 May 2021, if the detailed calculations used by his officials in determining the stated total volume licensed for both 2020 and 2021 in both the private sector and Coillte will be provided; the quantity of the stated volume available for harvesting in both 2020 and 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35034/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In calculating the volumes licensed, the volumes attributed to Coillte are taken from input data received from Coillte. In this way, the Department is aware that over 3.5 million cubic metres has been licensed for harvest by Coillte in 2021.

For the private sector, the formula used has previously outlined both to stakeholders and to the Committee. For clearfells and thinnings plus clearfell sites, a volume of 330 cubic metres per hectare is used and, for thinning only sites, a volume of 70 cubic metres per hectare is used. Licensed volume however does not necessarily translate into volume that will be harvested this year as the licence may be issuing to an applicant who wishes to harvest in 2022 or 2023 or beyond. Likewise, licences that issued in 2018 or 2019 may be realised this year. The weekly volume outputs are published each week on our licensing dashboard.

To best estimate the harvest in any one year, the best source is the COFORD roundwood forecast.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (346)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

346. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to the attendance by his officials at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Marine on 27 May 2021, the person or body who has represented the forestry industry on the CAP consultative committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35035/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The CAP Consultative Committee was established in May 2019, and has met regularly since then. The Committee includes stakeholders with an interest in, or affected by, the proposed changes in the CAP legislative framework, as well as the development and implementation of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan.

As set out in the Programme for Government, the Government is, separately, committed to a new National Forestry Programme, and to ensuring coherence between this Programme and the CAP Strategic Plan.

The relevant officials in the Department are, of course, also in regular contact with the forestry industry, including through the Forestry Policy Group, which was established in October 2020 and is chaired by Minister of State Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the forestry sector.

The Deputy should be aware that the CAP Strategic Plan will be subject to public consultation.

Agriculture Schemes

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.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (348)

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

348. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of unique farmer applicants for the REPS per year while it was in operation or since its launch in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35038/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The attached table shows the number of unique farmer applicants per year for all REPS schemes (ie; REPS 1, 2, 3 and 4).

Year

No of Applicants

REPS Applicants by Year

1994

343

1995

9,879

1996

13,630

1997

9,358

1998

9,097

1999

6,716

2000

3,808

2001

12,802

2002

11,001

2003

10,668

2004

18,547

2005

11,569

2006

24,925

2007

881

2008

11,816

2009

16,557

2010

2,076

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