Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture Brian Stanley TD has called for an increase in Agro-Forestry through a re-structuring of afforestation grants.
The Laois TD launched the proposal as part of Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget 2020.
Speaking in the Dáil last evening, Stanley said:
“Sinn Féin is committed to an increase in afforestation, as are many farmers.
“Which is why in our Alternative Budget 2020 we have allocated an additional €2m in funding for afforestation grants targeted towards small and medium sized farmers.
“What we want to see is an afforestation strategy committed to long-term thinking.
“Farmers, young farmers in particular, want to commit to an Agro-forestry scheme over a 30 to 40-year period right throughout the planting, thinning and the management process.
“Unfortunately, however, the current ‘Forestry scheme’ as it is structured simply doesn’t work for farmers.
“The first problem with the current scheme is that it is tailored towards farmers in their 50’s or 60’s who are taking up the scheme as a retirement plan. Why? Because the premiums only last for 15 years.
“Why would a young farmer in his 30’s or 40’s convert his land into forestry when it won’t bring in any income after 15 years?
“Secondly, the current scheme is having a detrimental impact on many rural locations through the de-population of farming and an increase in corporate forestry.
“What Sinn Féin wants to see is a forestry policy that doesn’t replace farmers but one that compliments farming with forestry.
“Agro-forestry works best when you have tillage and livestock combined with afforestation.
“This provides increased production, increased carbon sequestration, as well as providing an additional source of income for the farmer.
“Thirdly, farmers should not be penalised for protecting hedgerows, which is what currently happens under the CAP rules.
“Livestock Farmers are incentivised to remove hedgerows in order to increase their hectares under Pillar 1.
“This must be addressed through CAP reform because we all know the positive environmental impact which hedgerows can provide through carbon storage and land drainage.
“Overall, What we want to see is a scheme that works for farmers, that is long term thinking and one that is committed to continuous sustainable broadleaf cover.”