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New FEPS a major boost for the Planting Programme, says Wallace

The Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Mary Wallace TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has announced a number of significant changes to the Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS). The changes follow a full review of the pilot scheme which was launched in 2007 and detailed discussions with the various stakeholders. There is good news for both holders of smaller REPS farms and for holders of larger REPS farms, both of whom will find new incentive to plant under FEPS.

Under the new terms, a landowner will receive a FEPS premium of €200 for each hectare of woodland planted, regardless of farm size, subject to a minimum of eight hectares being planted. For owners of farms of 30 hectares and less, the minimum plantation size has been reduced to five hectares, attracting a corresponding FEPS premium of €150 per hectare for plantations between five and eight hectares in size. The FEPS premium is payable in addition to the existing Afforestation Scheme grants and premium, meaning that a farmer planting eight hectares could, for the duration of FEPS, earn an annual tax-free forestry premium of up to €6,000 without affecting his/her Single Payment.

Minister Wallace said she was very pleased to be able to deliver this package. It represents an exciting development in the Government's commitment to forestry as a positive force in the areas of climate change, rural development and agri-environment, and follows a specific commitment to roll-out FEPS fully in the Programme for Government.

The Minister said: "The FEPS pilot in 2007 demonstrated the considerable appetite that exists amongst active farmers for planting trees. We watched with interest the profile of farmers who did and didn't plant under FEPS. We could see that there was good scope for additional planting on larger REPS farms but the degressive premium under the FEPS pilot was off-putting. I have addressed that now. We also saw how difficult it could be for REPS farmers with smaller holdings, particularly in counties such as Mayo, to present 8 hectares for planting. I have also remedied this and will accept plantations of 5 hectares from this group now."

The changes come into immediate effect. The Minister said she believed this would be a major boost to the planting programme and she urged farmers to look afresh at the opportunities for planting part of their land. "Demand for timber has never been higher and thousands of farmers are now, literally, reaping the rewards of planting," Minister Wallace said. "Forests bring options for farmers and those who think seriously about the future should think seriously about planting."

13 February, 2008

Note for Editors

The Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS) was designed to complement the existing Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme and provides incentives for landowners to combine the establishment of high nature-value woodland with their participation in REPS. The scheme focuses on the creation of woodlands that can contribute more to landscape character, biodiversity enhancement, the retention of local habitats, promotion of native species, protection of water quality, and further protection of our archaeological resource through a variety of silvicultural, biodiversity and other measures.

Date Released: 13 February 2008