Press Release 02 August 2023
European Commission approves afforestation measures in Forestry Programme 2023 -2027
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. and Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Forestry, Senator Hackett Pippa Hackett, have welcomed the European Commission’s announcement today that it has granted State Aid approval to the afforestation scheme under Ireland’s new Forestry Programme. The Forestry Programme is a €1.3 billion investment by the Government in Irish forestry for the next five years from 2023-2027 which required State aid approval by the Commission.
Welcoming the Commission decision, Minister Hackett said “The Commission’s approval of our afforestation programme is a hugely significant milestone in our longer term vision out to 2050 to increase our forest cover as a critical part of the State’s Climate Action Plan. The new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme is the best-funded, most environmentally friendly programme in the history of the State. It has been designed so that planting trees can deliver for farm incomes, for climate, for biodiversity, for water quality, for recreation, for rural economies, and for the production of high quality timber for use in our homes and other buildings of the future.”
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, commented:
“Farmers are absolutely central to the success of our overall forestry strategy. Reflecting that ambition, our new Forestry Programme is designed to attract and reward farmers ahead of any other landowners. This Government’s policy is to provide farmers with the biggest opportunity to benefit from the forestry payments this programme can deliver.
I fully appreciate that confidence in the sector has been damaged but this Programme, that will see farmers get 20-year premiums at an annual rate up to 66% higher than previous programmes, will reinvigorate the sector and support our climate action targets.”
The new Programme provides for increased premiums for planting trees of up to €1,142 per hectare depending on the forest type, as well as extending the premium period from 15 to 20 years for farmers. Others will receive premiums for 15 years. It offers a broad range of planting options and the rates are 46%-66% higher than the previous Forestry Programme. The total budget for the Forestry Programme 2023 – 2027 is €1.3 billion. This includes establishment grants for afforestation as well as annual premium payments for 20 years for farmers who sign up to the Programme between 2023 and 2027, and 15 years for non-farmers who do so.
The Minister continued “Our priority now is to study the detail of the Commission’s decision, complete the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment process and open the afforestation scheme for new applications in the coming weeks. My Department will conduct a series of information and training workshops for stakeholders so that all those submitting applications will be fully aware of the benefits of the new Programme, as well as the terms and conditions of the new Programme resulting from the Commission’s decision.”
The Minister concluded, “A huge amount of stakeholder and public consultation has gone into the preparation of the new Forestry Programme, and I believe we will look back on it in years to come as a key point in the history of Irish forestry, with newer practices like agroforestry and continuous cover forestry becoming mainstream, and farmers choosing to plant native, mixed broadleaf forests at a much greater scale than ever before. I would encourage farmers to look seriously at forestry as an option to complement their existing farming enterprise, and I look forward to engaging with all interested parties to make this new Programme a huge success.”