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Hayes Secures EU Approval for Forestry Programme

Highlights

  • €482M OF NEW INVESTMENT IN FORESTRY
  • 44,000HA OF NEW FORESTS, 700KM OF NEW FOREST ROADS
  • 20% HIGHER PREMIUM PAYMENTS, 5% HIGHER AFFORESTATION GRANTS, 14% HIGHER ROAD GRANTS
  • NEW SPECIES WITH ROTATIONS OF 10-15 YEARS
  • MORE NATIVE TREES

 

Tom Hayes, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Forestry, announced today that the Government has secured State Aid approval for the new Forestry Programme covering the period 2014 – 2020. This follows a long and detailed process of negotiation with the European Commission, culminating in a meeting between Minister Hayes and the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan to resolve the remaining issues.

Welcoming the approval, Minister Hayes commented that “the new Forestry Programme will involve a commitment of €482 million, this scale of investment will have a real impact in rural communities right across Ireland and it will go a long way towards achieving the Government’s aim for balanced regional development.

The new programme introduces a number of important structural and design changes. Minister Hayes said that “restructuring forestry schemes so that they present real options for landowners in terms of generating alternative sources of income has been an important objective of my Department and one which was factored into the design of the programme from the outset.

These changes will prove attractive to those landowners not previously interested in forestry. For example, a new single rate of premium has been introduced for farmers and non farmers. The new agro forestry and forestry for fibre measures are targeted specifically at farmers providing them with options for grazing livestock alongside forestry and in the case of forestry for fibre, harvesting timber after 10-15 years rather than 30-40 years as is the case with other types of forestry.

One of the principal drivers behind this investment decision is the huge potential that exists for expansion in the Forestry Sector. “The Forestry sector contributes €2.3 billion to GDP annually and employs 12,000 people.  My Department’s analysis shows that the opportunity exists to increase even further the contribution that forestry can make to Ireland’s economy” added Minister Hayes.

The Minister concluded by thanking the stakeholders for their contributions during the drafting stages of the programme saying that “the programme represents a balanced outcome which puts forestry development on a sustainable path for the coming six years.”

Programme documentation will be available over the coming days on the Department’s website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/forestservice/

 

Note for Editors

 

€482M OF NEW INVESTMENT IN FORESTRY

 

The Forestry Programme is 100% funded from the exchequer and is therefore subject to State Aid approval by the EU Commission before the new forestry programme can be formally adopted. This approval is required in order to ensure that the programme is compatible with the single market.   Following an intensive consultation process with stakeholders, and bilateral meetings with representative organisations a draft programme document was submitted to the Commission in October 2014. The Department further engaged with the Commission with State Aid approval finally being granted in February 2015.

Other important areas of expenditure covered by the forestry programme include a scheme for continuous professional development which will encourage professional foresters to adopt a lifelong learning approach to their careers. Knowledge transfer groups will facilitate the transfer of information between groups of forests owners promoting more active forest management leading more productive forests. A new technology scheme will provide assistance for innovative technologies such as variable tyre pressure systems on timber lorries which can play an important role in limiting potential damage to forest and public roads.

 

44,000HA OF NEW FORESTS, 700KM OF NEW FOREST ROADS

 

The programme aims to plant 6,000 ha of new forests in 2015, increasing to 8,310 by 2020. The target is to plant 30% of broadleaves. This level of broadleaf planting will be achieved by the requirement to plant 10% broadleaves in all new plantations where the site permits. Higher grants and premiums are also on offer for planting broadleaves. The new programme also aims to plant more diverse tree species. In this regard the new Forestry for Fibre Scheme introduces new eligible fast growing species such as eucalyptus and aspen. Furthermore higher increases in the premium rate have been applied to Scots pine and Douglas fir to encourage planting these important timber species.

Forest roads are essential for access so that proper forest management can take place. Forests which have been subject to on time thinning prove to be more productive than forests which have not been thinned. . Mobilisation of timber has been a key priority for the new forestry programme. The aim is to support the construction of up to 125 km of forest road each year for the next 6 years. Support is also being provided to for special construction works in sensitive areas. This will reduce the impact that new roads may have on nearby watercourses.

 

20% INCREASED PREMIUM PAYMENTS, 5% INCREASED AFFORESTATION GRANTS, 14% INCREASED ROAD GRANTS

In a major departure from previous programmes, the same premium rate will be paid to farmers and non-farmers. The purpose behind this change is to increase the amount of land that becomes available for planting. Under State Aid rules the total number of premiums that can be paid is 15. The rate of forest premium will be over €200/acre.

In order to cover the cost of establishing new forest plantations the Department has increased the grant rate by 5%. The grant rate for forest roads has also increased from €35/m to €40/m to cover building costs. A higher rate of grant was required in order to meet the increased road building targets which start at 110 km in 2015 rising to 125 km in 2020.  A further grant for special construction works amounting to €5,000 per application is also being made available under the new programme.  

 

NEW SPECIES WITH ROTATIONS OF 10-15 YEARS

The “Forestry for Fibre” scheme aims to encourage the planting of trees that can be grown over a short rotation of between 10 and 15 years as opposed to the normal rotation of 35-40 years for conifers. Eucalyptus and aspen are being introduced for the first time to the species mix under this planting category. Wood from these plantations will go towards meeting the growing demand for renewable energy both from industry where it can be used in Combined Heat and Power installations or to supply local markets.

 

MORE NATIVE TREES

The new forestry programme provides funding for the establishment of 2,700 ha of native woodlands. For the first time this category of planting has been integrated into the main afforestation scheme as opposed to being a standalone scheme. This approach will harness the potential that exists to plant native trees alongside more commercial species. Planting of Native woodland will, for the first time, be required along aquatic buffer zones in sensitive areas such as aquatic Special Areas of Conservation and fishery sensitive areas. Native woodlands are important for biodiversity and play an important role in helping to protect water quality by filtering sediment and slowing down runoff water from upland areas.

 View Press Release as a PDF: DAFMPR 29/2015 (pdf 677Kb) 

Date Released: 23 February 2015