The Government is planning to re-engage farmers in afforestation by increasing premiums for planting trees.
A package of €1.318 billion has been secured for Irish forestry, it has been announced today.
The next national Forestry Programme represents the largest ever investment by an Irish Government in tree-planting.
It was announced today by Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry, Senator Pippa Hackett, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D.
The programme will now be the subject of state-aid approval by the European Commission.
Minister McConalogue said: “Today we commit to providing unprecedented incentives to encourage the planting of trees that can provide a valuable addition to farm income and help to meet national climate and biodiversity objectives. This funding guarantees continued payments to those forest owners who planted under the current scheme and who are still in receipt of premiums. It also offers new and improved financial supports to those who undertake planting and sustainable forest management under the new Programme. We intend to increase premiums for planting trees by between 46% and 66% and to extend the premium period from 15 to 20 years for farmers.
“We are approaching a new and exciting period for forestry in Ireland. The new Forestry Programme will drive a new and brighter future for forestry, for farmers and for our climate.”
Senator Pippa Hackett said: “I’m delighted therefore to be proposing a new 20-year premium term exclusively for farmers, as well as introducing a new small-scale native woodland scheme which will allow farmers to plant up to 1 hectare of native woodland on farmland and along watercourses outside of the forestry licensing process.”
The new Programme is built around the principle of ‘right trees in the right places for the right reasons’ with the right management. It aims to deliver more diverse forest which will meet multiple societal objectives, economic, social and environmental. Higher grant rates for forest establishment are also proposed with increases of approximately 20% to reflect rising living costs. The new one hectare native tree area scheme will also make it easier for landowners who wish to plant small areas of trees on their farm.
The proposed new Forestry Programme is currently out to public consultation as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment process. The Programme is the main implementation mechanism for the new Forest Strategy (2023 -2030) which reflects the ambitions contained in the recently published Shared National Vision for Trees, Woods and Forests in Ireland until 2050. The public consultation closes on 29th November, 2022 and any changes which result from this process will be incorporated into the Programme and the Forest Strategy.
The new Programme will be 100% Exchequer funded and is subject to State Aid approval from the EU Commission. The Department is in contact with the Commission in relation to this approval which is a rigorous process.