I propose to take Questions Nos. 608, 609 and 611 together.
In May 2019, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine decided to establish the CAP Consultative Committee in order to facilitate stakeholder engagement in the CAP reform process, by keeping them updated as the reform discussions progressed and by facilitating a regular exchange of views on the issues arising.
Committee Membership was drawn from a broad range of invited 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. In total, 27 different stakeholders are represented on the Committee. These include all the main farming organisations and a number of environmental and other non-governmental organisations, as well as State Agencies and Government Departments.
It is not possible for all organisations that make requests to be afforded membership of the CAP Consultative Committee. Similar to previous CAP programming periods, the new CAP Regulations allows for the planting of trees as part of the new Agri-Environment and Climate Measures. While the final shape of Ireland’s national CAP Strategic Plan is not yet finalised, it is not expected to include support for forestry planting, although the planting of trees on farms is being considered.
Tree planting under the CSP has the potential to complement forestry and to contribute to our environmental objectives, such as water quality, biodiversity and climate. I would encourage all stakeholders to make their views known on the planned CSP interventions and to actively engage with the upcoming public consultation process
As set out in the Programme for Government, the Government is, separately, committed to a new National Forestry Programme which will cover payments for the planting of forests. Although, the National Forestry Programme is outside the CAP, it is my Department’s intention to ensure there is coherence between this Programme and the CAP Strategic Plan. Tree planting and afforestation clearly offers an opportunity in the land use sector to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, whether funded under CAP or the National Forestry Programme.
The Forestry Policy Group, set up and chaired by my colleague Minister Hackett, provides a forum for stakeholders, state agencies, industry, community groups, farm bodies and NGOs to work together with the Minister and the Department to propose improvements to the current operation of forestry policy and to input into the development of a new national forestry strategy. The group also oversees the implementation of the tasks that have been allocated to the four different Working Groups that are part of Project Woodland.
As you are aware, this project is based on the recommendations of Ms Jo O’Hara who had been asked to advise on the implementation of the Mackinnon Report, and involves a review and refresh of the Department’s processes and procedures through four working groups comprised of a wide range of stakeholders. In addition to reviewing processes and procedures in three of the groups, one Working Group has been tasked with developing a public engagement strategy as part of the development of the new Forest Strategy. It is envisaged that all stakeholders in the forestry sector as well as the general public will be included in this process, and this should help identify both opportunities and barriers to afforestation.
All meeting agendas, adopted meeting minutes and presentations delivered are uploaded on my Department’s website following each meeting of the Forestry Policy Group. The documentation can be downloaded at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/e43d8-forestry-policy-group-chaired-by-mos-hackett/
Various stakeholder organisations have representation on both the CAP post-2020 Consultative Committee and the Forestry Policy Group. Through participation in both groups, these members can actively contribute to further enhance coherence between both policy areas.
I remain committed to integration between the new Forest Strategy and the next CAP to ensure that measures in both will complement each other.