Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has raised concerns around the possibility of further delays to adequate supports for farmers and landowners affected by ash dieback.
This comes following the announcement of a review of the current supports available, an issue which Teachta Kerrane had raised with the Minister in the Dáil just last week.
Minister Hackett today announced the establishment of an independent group to review her Department’s ash dieback support scheme.
The group will review supports available to landowners with affected ash plantations and will make recommendations on these supports to the Minister by September 15th.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“While it is positive that Minister Hackett has committed to reviewing existing supports to address ash dieback as they are inadequate, it is disappointing that she will only review the report and recommendations from September. This really misses the urgency of this issue.
“The Minister’s announcement raises concerns that affected farmers and landowners will have to wait even longer for adequate supports to address this longstanding issue.
“We don’t need a review to tell us the issues outstanding in the current scheme and where it is falling short. Any Forester can tell you what the gaps are and more importantly, what is needed.
“It is clear from engagement with farmers, forestry owners and representative organisations that the existing ash dieback support scheme does not go far enough to address the extent of the issue.
“We already know that the current Reconstitution Scheme is not sufficient to cover the now extensive costs associated with removal of affected plantations, due to how long this issue has been allowed to go on for.
“I asked the Minister in the Dáil just last week if she will look to extending the ash dieback support scheme to meet the actual costs, and look again at the compensation package for those affected, all issues we are hearing from across the sector.
“She confirmed that she will review the supports that are available and that they would be reflected in the forthcoming Forestry Programme.
“There are issues too with roadside ash dieback which is a real safety issue and this needs to be addressed by the Minister.
“None of these issues are new and we don’t need a review to identify them. The Minister should instead engage directly with the Forestry Sector and farm organisations and act on what is needed now.
“The reality is that we are now halfway into 2023 and the Forestry Programme remains non-existent. That farmers and landowners may be waiting until the latter part of this year, or even later, for these much-needed supports to address ash dieback will do little to inspire confidence in the sector.
“Farmers and Foresters need assurances that a comprehensive scheme to address ash dieback will be put in place and that they will receive these supports without delay.”