October 2, 2023
Answers still needed on the new Forestry Programme – Claire Kerrane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister Hackett to provide clarity on outstanding matters relating to the new Forestry programme.

The new programme received Cabinet approval on 6th September, following months of delays. Applications can now also be made to the new €308m Afforestation Scheme under the 2023-2027 programme.

However, outstanding queries remain about aspects of the programme and representatives from the forestry sector have stated that greater communication is needed with farmers and foresters on their concerns.

Teachta Kerrane said

“It is positive that we finally have approval for the new Forestry programme, despite months of delays.

“However, answers are still needed and there remains a lack of clarity across the sector around key aspects of the new programme.

“For example, representatives from the forestry sector have raised concerns with me around ongoing issues with licensing.

“There appears to be no licence plan in place yet for the remainder of 2023, or for 2024. In addition, there is little sign of clear timelines around licensing improving and no commitments on this matter from the Minister.

“As those representing the sector have noted, the new Forestry programme runs the risk of being plagued by the same issues as the previous programme if licences are still preventing uptake in the scheme. This is really disappointing, and the Minister should prioritise addressing licensing processes, given the impact of significant backlogs on the forestry sector in recent years.

“Linked with this issue, just today we are hearing that some afforestation applications submitted under the previous programme may not be eligible under the new programme. Further assessment will be required and these farmers and foresters will have to wait even longer for a response to their afforestation application.

“Communication around the new Forestry programme also remains a concern.

“I understand that the Department has held a series of information sessions, but confusion remains around the programme and new rules. A lack of clarity will not encourage uptake amongst farmers and forestry landowners, or help us meet the afforestation target of 8,000ha per year.

“These issues need to be ironed out as soon as possible if the new programme is to be a success. I understand that Minister McConalogue and Minister Hackett will be before the Joint Committee on Agriculture this week, and I would expect that they will provide further information on how they intend to address these concerns and challenges.

“It is important that communication is clear and answers are provided if the new programme is to be the turning point it needs to be on Forestry.”

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