IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally has welcomed the report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on ‘Issues Impacting the Forestry Sector in Ireland’.
“Given the attention in recent times on the licensing crisis, I would like to commend the Committee for bringing a renewed focus to ash dieback and the forest owners whose woodlands are being devastated by the ash dieback disease,” said Mr. Nally.
“I would call on the Minister to act on the recommendation in the report and immediately introduce a new and properly-funded ash dieback scheme”.
He said that one of the most important recommendations is something IFA has sought since the disease was first confirmed, which is the introduction of a grant to cover some of the financial loss incurred by forest owners. The grant should cover the cost of felling infected forests and owners who replant must be able to draw a premium for 15 years.
“The treatment of the forest owners affected by the disease has been scandalous. The Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme must be scrapped. It’s unworkable and is forcing forest owners to continue to invest in a dying crop and change to a continuous cover forest system, not to mention the serious health and safety risks of managing infected trees,” he said.
He said it was significant that the report recognised that the Department was ultimately responsibility for the importation of ash dieback, as this has been a bone of contention with farmers for years.
“I hope that the Department heeds the report and that lessons have been learned that will prevent future disease importation, which is a huge concern for farmers at the moment due the volume of timber and plants being imported,” he said.
Regarding the forest licence recommendations, he welcomed the Committee’s support for a number of IFA proposals, including that farmers must have certainty on timeframe for when they will receive a decision on their licence and that forest road and thinning licences should be included as a condition of their afforestation licenses rather than individual applications.