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Ash dieback plan can ‘restore eroded confidence’ in forestry

Ash dieback plan

Ash dieback plan can ‘restore eroded confidence’ in forestry

The Ash Dieback Action Plan, which received cabinet approval today (Tuesday, April 30) is a “positive step” to restoring the “eroded confidence” of farmers in forestry, according to one senator.

Tim Lombard said that the supports announced today may be a “catalyst to drive the Forestry Programme forward”.

A €5,000/ha payment will be provided to affected forest owners, separate from the clearing and replanting grants.

That payment, officially called a ‘Climate Action Performance Payment’ (CAPP) will be made available to all forest owners who have, or will, “fully engage” with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s ash dieback schemes to clear sites and carry out replanting.

Additionally, the department has confirmed that there will be a 100% increase in the site clearance grant rate, from €1,000 to €2,000, under the Forestry Programme. Enhanced replanting grant rates have also been announced, with approximately 20% additional funding available, depending on forest types.

Lombard, the vice-chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said: “The committee has pushed hard for a resolution for impacted farmers and I’m pleased that we finally have a significant package in place.

“We’ve seen the impact of ash dieback in plantations across the country. We all have neighbours hit by this. It’s been horrendous for those farmers affected,” he added.

“As much as anything, this has been a drain on their mental health, having to stand by and watch trees slowly die on their land.”

Lombard said that the affected forest owners have been “in limbo” for over 10 years.

The support package announced this week is a long time coming and badly needed,” he said.

The Fine Gael agriculture spokesperson added: “Farmers’ confidence in forestry has been eroded and these supports are a positive step forward in restoring confidence. Farm forestry can be an attractive additional option for farmers.

“I would hope that this might be the catalyst to drive the new Forestry Programme forward now,” Lombard commented.

However, other reactions to the action plan were more mixed, with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) saying that the payment “in no way compensates farmers for the financial loss incurred or the emotional toll the disease has taken on them and their families”.

IFA forestry chair Jason Fleming acknowledged that it is the first time that farmers’ financial loss is recognised and that, for some, the payment will provide some financial relief.

The IFA forestry chair said that farmers are waiting to see the terms and conditions attached to the payment, as “a lot of unanswered questions remain”.


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