A recent poll of Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) farm advisors found a zero level of interest in forestry among their farmer clients.
Speaking at the ACA AGM held in Portlaoise last week, ACA president Noel Feeney issued the warning to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue who was in attendance.
“The ACA is of the view that there is no interest among farmers for forestry. This is a great pity because it is a very positive societal, environmental and economic land use,” Mr Feeney said.
He insisted that forestry must be attractive and easy for farmers, offering three recommended actions.
1. The forestry regulations are unworkable and Project Woodland has not succeeded on this issue. The current regulatory framework needs to be completely revamped.
2. Forestry must be mainstreamed into farming. Since its inception 30 years ago, it has been ignored. Farmers must see it as a credible farm enterprise.
3. The crisis of ash dieback must be tackled immediately and fairly to begin to restore confidence.
Mr Feeney said that resources, similar to what is available in the public advisory service for forestry, must be channelled towards ACA and “allow us the opportunity to assist you and this sector.
“There is huge potential within our forestry and agri-consultant members through engagement with our farmer clients to help your Department with the forestry targets and programmes.”
In his address to the ACA AGM, Minister McConalogue said that the €1.3bn draft forestry programme is currently being assessed by the European Commission.
“We believe that everything is in place for a formal submission of the application. We are all disappointed by how long this process has taken but I am confident that we are nearly there,” Minister McConalogue said.
“In order to achieve our ambitions under the new Programme, farmers must see tree planting as an integral part of their farming business and the ACA has a vital role to play here in encouraging your clients to consider tree planting.”
The Minister described forestry as the “ace up the sleeve” in meeting the country’s climate targets.
“It will be a key income driver for our farm families and it will help drive a healthy and balanced economy.
“We are increasing premiums for planting trees by between 46% and 66% and extending the premium period from 15 to 20 years for farmers.”