IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Pat Hennessy has raised concerns that the flat premium rate introduced for each category of new planting will act as a disincentive to farmers considering planting areas greater than 12 hectares.
He commented, "Forest policy should actively support farmers to plant larger forests, as they are more economical to manage and provide a greater return to both farmer and State. Under the previous Afforestation scheme farmers were encouraged to plant larger areas by rewarding them with an additional 5% premium for planting 12 hectares or more."
Another change to the Afforestation scheme that has caused much concern among farmers is the restriction of unenclosed areas to a maximum of 20% of the overall application, as well as 30% reduction to the premium rate to €115 per hectare.
Unenclosed land is defined as land that was never improved and enclosed by man-made boundaries for agricultural use other than extensive grazing.
Mr Hennessy stated that he is totally opposed to planting non-productive land, however, he stressed that large areas of land classed as unenclosed are suitable for growing commercially viable trees.
"Land that has a productive capacity of 14m3 per hectare per year should be eligible for grant-aid, the restriction is counterproductive to the expansion of the sector and unnecessary. Grant approval should be based on ability to produce a commercial crop," he said.