Radical changes are needed for the next National Forestry Programme to be a success, according to Fine Gael MEP Colm Markey.
The Midlands North-West MEP has said a more effective grant system that incentivises farmers, and major reform to licencing rules must be announced at next week’s National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co. Laois.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Markey said: “The most recent figures show afforestation licences are stalled at around the dozen mark per week, while afforestation rates have dropped dramatically.
“Clearly, farmers have lost confidence in the system and radical reform is needed to incentivise them to plant, which is a win-win for the landowner and for the environment.
“Streamlined licencing rules and a more effective grant system are key to the success of the new programme. If it doesn’t work for farmers, it’s doomed to fail,” he said.
Markey, a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, added that now is the time to step up to the mark.
“We have spent the last number of years identifying the problems and we’re now in a position to do something about it,” he continued.
“The timber and forestry industries are vital for the rural economy, particularly with regards to employment, while they also have a central role to play in the green transition.
“It’s time to restore confidence, reduce emissions and regenerate the rural economy,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, a Shared National Vision for trees, woods and forests in Ireland until 2050 has just been published by Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Pippa Hackett.
The document calls for “the right trees in the right places for the right reasons with the right management – supporting a sustainable and thriving economy and society and a healthy environment”.
It is anticipated that, by 2050, Ireland’s forests will be seen as a key solution to the climate, biodiversity, housing and health emergencies of the 2020s.
The publication is based on Project Woodland’s public consultation carried out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), to find out what the nation wants from Ireland’s trees.