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Minister of State Wallace urges farmers to plant forestry now

Ms. Mary Wallace T.D., newly appointed Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with responsibility for forestry, today highlighted the benefits of forestry and encouraged farmers to consider forestry as an alternative land use and to avail of the current funding package which the Government has committed to afforestation.

Minister Wallace outlined her concerns that only 10% of Irish land is under forestry as against the EU average of 35% and indeed 17% in neighbouring Scotland. At present the planting figures of approximately 10,000 hectares per annum falls well short of what is needed to achieve critical mass of planting up to 2035.

She particularly wanted farmers who already had approval to plant to proceed as soon as possible.

She pointed to the record allocation of €137m of public funds to the sector this year as evidence of the Government's continuing commitment to forestry. With 16,000 employed in the forestry sector Minister Wallace asks the farming community to work with her in 2006 to increase the acreage under afforestation.

Minister of State Wallace commented "These funds will support not just the afforestation and premium schemes, but also capital development work such as roads, reconstitution, native woodland development, amenity schemes, woodland improvement as well as research and development".

In order to encourage farmers to plant in 2006 the Minister has drawn attention to the comprehensive range of incentives and supports which are available including

a) Grants covering 100% of planting costs - it costs landowners no up front outlay to invest in forestry
b) 2006 is the final year under the current scheme entitling farmers to a 20 year premium of up to €500 per hectare (€200 approx per acre) depending on the species planted. Therefore forestry premiums started in 2006 will continue to be payable up to 2026.
c) Income earned from forestry is exempt from tax
d) Under the single Payment Scheme up to 50% of land can be planted without affecting the single farm payment. This stacking entitlement is of considerable value to farmer-foresters.
e) Supports are also available for the shaping of broadleaves and pruning of conifers

Minister of State Wallace added "I am aware that the current afforestation programme is ending this year and, I look forward to the drafting of a new Programme, in consultation with the sector, which will guide the development of Forestry up to the year 2013. This new Rural Development Programme for 2007-2013 will continue to provide generous supports for forestry in terms of both afforestation and improving the competitiveness of existing forests. The Governments commitment to forestry is ongoing".

She concluded, "I encourage farmers to take a serious look at the current package on offer, to work out the potential returns, both short-term and long-term, and to avail of this package and to go ahead and plant. Forestry has a real and lasting benefit not only for our community but for the incomes of farmers in the foreseeable future".

20 February 2006

Date Released: 20 February 2006