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Ash dieback: Higher clearing and replanting grants to be available


Ash dieback: Higher clearing and replanting grants to be available

The cabinet has formally given its approval to an ‘Ash Dieback Action Plan’, which will provide increased grant rates for clearing and replanting on affected ash plantations.

As reported earlier, 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.

For example, forest type 12 (conifers) will receive €3,858/ha, while forest type 1 (native trees) will receive €6,744/ha, and agroforestry will receive €8,555/ha.

Those applicants whose sites are still in premium will continue to receive the premium due for the remaining years. They will also receive a once-off top-up payment equivalent to the difference between the existing premium and the associated new forest type premium under the new programme.

For example, a farmer with seven years remaining premium who enters into the Reconstitution Scheme to plant native forest will be entitled to receive a lump sum payment of approximately €3,336/ha.

According to the department, the total funding available to ash plantation owners under the new plan is over €230 million.

Commenting on the plan, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said: “This Action Plan demonstrates the determination of my department to deal definitively with the ash dieback issue, and to fully address the concerns of farmers and other landowners, as outlined in the Independent Review Group’s report.

Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, said: “[The] department will now put the necessary arrangements in place to follow through on the actions as outlined. Indeed, much of this work is already under way.”

Minister Hackett also confirmed that she would be establishing a sub-group of the recently-convened Forestry Strategy Consultative Committee, which is compromised of relevant stakeholders, to facilitate a coordinated response and a “swift implementation” of the action plan.

That subgroup, which Minister Hackett referred to as a “taskforce”, will meet in the coming weeks, she said.

‘Mixed reaction’ to ash dieback payment

Reacting to these developments, Jason Fleming, the chairperson of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Farm Forestry Committee, said that there is a “very mixed reaction” to the details.

“Let’s be clear. This payment in no way compensates farmers for the financial loss incurred or the emotional toll the disease has taken on them and their families. But it is the first time within the scheme that a farmer’s financial loss is recognised,” he said.

Fleming said that many farmers with ash were relying on the income of these forests for their pensions and this payment is only a “drop in the ocean”. However, for others, the payment will provide some financial relief, he said.

“Farmers remain concerned that the clearance grant of €2,000/ha and afforestation grants are not sufficient to cover the costs of re-establishing some of these forests, particularly older ones, and these costs will eat into farmers’ payments.”

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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