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Minister Killeen Defends Budget Announcement to Reduce Forestry Premia and Governments Commitment to Forestry Policy

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with special responsibilities for forestry, Tony Killeen TD, today defended the Budget announcement to reduce forestry premia by eight per cent.

Minister Killeen said that the decision had to be seen against the background of unprecedented pressure on the public finances and the necessity of taking difficult decisions and making choices with limited resources.

Minister Killeen said he acknowledged that an eight per cent reduction in premia levels would have an impact on some 15,000 recipients but emphasised that this decision was " balanced by the decision to maintain the establishment grant scheme, which is the lifeblood of planting and employment in the forestry sector."  The Minister also pointed out that the establishment grant is a 100% grant scheme and the premium is guaranteed for 20 years.

The Minister said that "notwithstanding this reduction in premia levels, I am confident that, with the 100 per cent establishment grants and the maintenance of further significant expenditure on support schemes, the overall forestry package still provides an attractive land-use option for farmers."

Commenting further on the decision to maintain funding for the planting programme ensures that "we are preserving and adding to employment in rural areas in a labour intensive industry which has the potential to create significant job opportunities in rural Ireland."

Minister Killeen also pointed out that, despite the financial pressure on his Department, "the total amount of funding being made available for forestry and bio-energy is still almost €120 million, which is only marginally over 1 per cent less than that provided in 2008."

Concluding, the Minister said that he would be meeting with industry representatives and looked forward to continuing what has been a very constructive engagement in relation to the future of an important industry, not least given its role in relation to climate change and rural job creation.

 

Date Released: 09 April 2009