“New €1.3bn Forestry Programme is for our farm families” – McConalogue

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue has said that the new €1.3bn National Forestry Programme will benefit farm families in Donegal and across the country.

Commenting he said “The Government has stepped out the largest and most ambitious forestry programme ever. It has been designed to ensure that farmers will be its primary beneficiaries.

“It is a farmer-focussed Programme that will see premiums increase by up to 66% compared to the last Programme and farmers will be able to draw premiums for 20-years. This is tax-free income. Farmers will also receive single farm payment on afforested land. Non-farmers will only receive premiums for 15-years.

“For example, a farmer planting one hectare of native, broadleaf trees will receive €1,103 per year for 20 years, tax free. This means that farmers will receive over €22,000 for planting one hectare of land,” said the Minister.

The Government has set hugely ambitious climate ambitions. Forestry will play a critical role in the decade ahead where we will need to reach up to 8,000ha of forestry planting each year. Ireland currently has 11.6% of the country under forestry at the moment with a target of reaching 18% by 2050.

The Minister also addressed the recent announcement by Coillte to partner with the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and fund manager Gresham House to establish the Irish Strategic Forestry Fund. The will plant an average of 700 hectares of new forests across each of the next five years, and how the total area of new forests planted through the fund will deliver roughly 3.5% of the 100,000 hectares of new forests Coillte has committed to enabling between now and 2050.

Of the State’s overall national target of 450,000 hectares of new forests by 2050, the fund will plant less than 1% of that total.

However, the Minister again emphasised his and the Government’s preference for the State to purchase land for Coillte to plant on as well as ensuring that Coillte work as closely as possible with farmers to assist them in delivering more forestry across the county and country.

“I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed regarding Coillte’s involvement with the Irish ISIF and Gresham House.

“Coillte has partnered with ISIF to establish the Irish Strategic Forestry Fund as one of a number of models it intends to deploy in order to enable afforestation at a meaningful scale. However, the structure of the deal between Coillte, ISIF and Gresham House is not mine nor the Government’s preferred option.

“Our preferred option is for farmers to plant forest on their own land and that is what we have designed the new Forestry Programme to achieve. I have asked Coillte to closely examine how they can work more closely with the State as well as farmers and local communities.

”Farmers are at the heart of our new Forestry Programme. We want farmers and existing landowners to be the primary beneficiaries of the €1.3bn Forestry Programme and that will be the case.”