Martin Kenny TD challenges Minister on devastating effect of forestry in Leitrim
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Argriculture, Martin Kenny TD, has asked the Minister for Agriculture to stop incentivising non-farmers to plant forestry and to prevent anomalies in land prices that have arisen.
The TD for Sligo-Leitrim said:
“The Minister will be aware of the mid-term review of the forestry programme in respect of which a huge issue arises for County Leitrim and other areas in the North West where there are large amounts of afforestation that are having a devastating effect on communities and society in general.
“I am seeking confirmation from the Minister that in the context of that review, consideration will be given to restoring priority to farmers in relation to grants for afforestation as opposed to the people who buy up the land and get farmers to apply for the grant, which means that for the first 15 years investors, who are very far removed from the communities in which the trees are grown, rather than farmers are getting the grant.
"The Minister responded that reinstating the farmer-non-farmer premium differential is not an option being considered by his Department and the 2014-2020 forestry programme will pay the same premium to all landowners to ensure that the maximum amount of land is available for afforestation.
“I thank the Minister for his reply but it is not what I wanted, nor does it reflect what the vast majority of farm organisations and people involved in the industry, certainly in the North West, want to see happen.
"The Minister referred to a mid-term review. That should be postponed until such time as several issues are dealt with.
"One such issue concerns Coillte, the contracts and the associated problems. Another issue is ash dieback, which has not yet been resolved.
"Large sections of the North West are being taken over by a mono-culture of Sitka spruce forestry. This is having an absolutely devastating effect on communities and farmers trying to buy adjacent land.
“These farmers may be competing with farmers from very far away who are buying the land to obtain carbon credits from forestry to offset against other activities.
"They are legitimately entitled to do this but, from the point of view of the people who live in the areas where the forests are being planted, it is devastating.
“The Government needs to halt the review, go back to the drawing board and come up with solutions. The existing solution is not working for the communities.”