For Oral Answer on : 25/05/2023
Question Number(s): 85 Question Reference(s): 25233/23
Department: Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the way he is encouraging and supporting farmers to plant trees on their farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The new and ambitious €1.3bn Forestry Programme 2023-2027 will replace the previous Programme which expired at the end of 2022.
The Programme will benefit farmers, rural communities and the overall climate and environment for many years to come.
Subject to State Aid approval from the European Commission and the completion of the ongoing Strategic Environmental Assessment/Appropriate Assessment (SEA/AA) process, this will support the largest, most farmer-friendly investment in forestry in the history of the State. This funding includes proposed attractive grant and premiums that will support landowners to plant trees in a manner to providing lasting benefits for many key areas including climate change, biodiversity, wood production, employment alongside enhancing societal benefits.
This funding also provides unprecedented incentives to encourage the planting of trees that can provide a valuable addition to farm incomes whilst also helping towards meeting our planting, climate and biodiversity objectives. The Government’s preferred model of afforestation is for farmers to plant trees on their land, which is why the new Forestry Programme was designed in a manner that will pay farmers 33% more in annual premiums than non- farmers, and this is in addition to their single farm payment.
My Department also proposes to introduce a new Native Tree Area scheme under the Forestry Programme to incentivise small-scale tree planting. This is aimed at re-engaging farmers with afforestation. As the House may be aware, an amendment to the Forestry Act 2014 has removed the licensing requirement for the planting of native woodland in areas not greater than one hectare and to remove any barriers for such small-scale planting.
Agroforestry was first introduced to Ireland’s forestry support schemes in 2015 and the measure mainly targeted silvopastoral systems which combine forestry and pasture, including grazing and the growing of fodder. It is proposed to expand this in the Forestry Programme 2023-2027 with pilot schemes for silvoarable and forest gardening systems and an increase in the number of premiums offered.
It is my intention to introduce a programme as soon as is allowable under State Aid rules, to incentivise farmers in particular to re-engage with forestry. I am confident that the attractive increases in grants and premiums will help enable this land-use change over other competing land uses for farmers.