The European Commission approved new afforestation measures this August, and with these measures, we in CALL are looking into alternatives for planting: through the purchase of land, the establishment of community forests (like Callacoon) and encouraging people to plant their land. If you have land available, keep reading: you can plant it for free, you can make money from it through government premiums plus enjoy the additional benefits a forest can provide.
The issue: The area covered by forests in Ireland is estimated to be 770,020 ha, only 11% of the total land area of the country, this is one of the lowest forest covers in the EU. We need forests to mitigate climate change by sequestering and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide and to promote air and water quality and biodiversity.
Top-down solution: The government is investing €1.3 billion in Irish forestry for the next five years. This new programme is huge, and offers premiums for planting trees of up to €1,142 per hectare for up to 20 years (at an annual rate up to 66% higher than previously). The programme offers supports that vary according to the species planted. In addition farmers receive an annual premium for 20 years, non-farmers for 15 years. Forestry is a lucrative option to complement the existing farming enterprise. You can find the full press release about the programme here.
Why to plant your land? There are many good reasons to plant your land:
1- Get income for the land: the government offers income-tax free premiums payable for 15-20 years
2- Farming and planting can go hand by hand, they are not exclusive! It is possible to continue to receive BISS payments on afforested land.
3- You remain 100% owner of both the land, the crop and any derived benefits of planting (e.g. firewood, honey, mushrooms, tourism)
4- You don’t need a large, continuous area for planting. The area may consist of multiple smaller blocks (such as the corners of fields) provided these blocks are not less than 0.1 hectare for broadleaves and 1 hectare for conifers.
5- Afforestation grants cover full costs of planting. If a forester does the planting for you, there are usually no upfront costs involved.
6- Trees on your farm offer additional benefits to you such as shelter for livestock, enhanced water quality, recreation value for your family, a firewood source etc etc.
How does it work?
The grants cover all of the costs associated with the establishment and early management of the forest. The first instalment of the grant (75%) is payable after the planting stage and includes operations such as ground preparation, drainage, fencing and planting. The Second Instalment (the remaining 25% of the grant) is paid four years after planting. This payment covers maintenance works that will often be required (e.g. vegetation management, the replacement of failures).
If you are interested in planting your land, follow the steps:
1- Contact us for help! Navigating the information can be cumbersome. We would love to give you a hand, our only interest is seeing Mayo afforested! Please contact us if you want to chat about your options. Email us at email@example.com or give a call to either of two CALL Members: James Ryan (0872416177) or Paul Butler who is also a Teagasc Forestry Liason Officer (0871999182).
2- Make an appointment with a local Teagasc Forestry Adviser for free advise. You can find a list of advisers here. The Teagasc Mayo Forestry Advisor is Noel Kennedy and he’ll be happy to answer you call (0879090504). This is optional, but the adviser will help you know if your land is suitable for planting and what type of forest would be ideal to plant. There are 12 forest types available for planting, each have different associated grants and premiums (see table below). There is also the possibility of planting one hectare without any requirement for a licence under the Native Tree Area scheme.
3- Choose a registered forester. All paperwork must be prepared and submitted by a ‘Registered Forester’, you can find a list here. Foresters will come and give you a quote for free. Foresters will also apply for an afforestation license (needed for any afforesting endeavour of more than 0.1 Ha, or 1 Ha in a farm). You’ll need to decide if you want to do the planting yourself or you would like the forester to do it. If the former, you’ll need to pay the forester a fee, purchase the trees, materials, hire the machinery, do the planting and pay for everything upfront (unless you’re very motivated we do not recommend it!). If the latter, no payment needs to be done upfront usually, and the forester will get paid directly when the grant comes through.
4- Sign a contract. Your Registered Forester will put together a contract and you need to sign it.
5- Make an application. Your Registered Forester will submit the application on your behalf. The forester might need to consult an ecologist at application stage, and there may be a cost associated with this. These costs however can be covered by a separate grant. The DAFM forestry inspector will assess the site of site at pre-approval stage.
6- Wait until you get technical and financial approval.
7- Plant! Once planting is completed, the first grant is payable to cover the costs associated with establishing the forest. The DAFM forestry inspector will assess the site at post-planting stage.
8– Apply for your forestry premium. The first premium is payable directly to you once planting has been completed, you can apply for premiums online.
9- Monitor progress.
10– After 4 years. The DAFM forestry inspector will assess a sample of sites at year 4 stage. If everything is in order (stocking rates etc), you or the forester will receive the balance of the grant.
– It’s possible to get a Fencing Grant to protect the newly established forests from browsing animals.
– You can also get an Environment Report Grant up to €2050 if a report from an ecologist or archaeologist is required.
Teagasc is offering a free webinar on Tuesday 26 September @8pm entitled “The New Forestry Programme – New Opportunities for Forest Creation”. You can find it here