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Minister Of State Wallace Opens National Forestry Conference

Speaking at the opening of the National Forestry Conference which took place at the weekend, Mary Wallace TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with responsibility for forestry welcomed the theme of this year's Conference 'Positioning the forestry sector to maximise its potential' saying: "Forestry is an important national resource as it is the basis of significant economic, environmental and social benefits and it would be remiss of us if we did not endeavour to maximise its potential."

The National Forestry Conference, organised jointly by COFORD, the Irish Timber Growers Association and the Society of Irish Foresters, was held in the Johnstown House Hotel, Enfield, Co. Meath. The Conference addressed some of the important developments and initiatives in the sector, with presentations on thinnings, private timber sales, wood biomass and forestry grant schemes.

The Minister of State referred specifically to the report presented to her during the week by Mr John Malone, former Secretary-General of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. John Malone was appointed by the Minister last November to report on the factors affecting afforestation in recent years. The Minister encouraged delegates at the Conference to read the recommendations and forward their comments. She said the proposals were under consideration.

The Minister also mentioned the modifications to the Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS), which she had announced recently. She commented: "From the views expressed to me by the sector, these changes to FEPS should provide a welcome boost to our planting figures. The revised scheme has seen some changes, which will encourage the participation of holders of both smaller REPS farms and larger REPS farms, who will find added incentive to plant under FEPS. I was pleased to be able to deliver this package in fulfilment of that commitment in the Programme for Government."

Minister of State Wallace added: "As we are talking about maximising potential, the farmer, forester and farm planner need to work together to maximise the potential for the whole farm enterprise. To support this co-operation, I understand that the Forestry Development Unit of Teagasc has designed a forestry grants and premium calculator for the E-REPS system. This facility now provides the REPS farmer and planner with full financial projections for planting a woodland on his/her farm. Armed with the facts, the farmer is better placed than ever to make an informed planting decision."

Date Released: 10 March 2008