Forestry social enviromental and economic

 Thu, 9th Sep, 2010

News paper editorial

Forestry – Social, Economic and Enviromental. By Fearghal Kealey
The total forest area in Ireland to the end of 2009 is estimated to be over 733,500 hectares. This represents over 10.5 per cent of the total area of the country. Of this, privately owned forests now account for 45.5 per cent of this area with over 14,000 planting some of their land in recent years with many more now considering forestry as an alternative land use option and a way of increasing their farm income.
It has emerged from a recent Teagasc survey that there are two main reasons why farmers plant there land;
• The grant and premium level.
The average premium paid to a farmer is about €450 per hectare. This payment runs for 20 years and is income tax free. Farmers who are in reps 3 or 4 can avail of an extra €200 per hectare.
• Forestry as a better alternative for marginal land.
This has never become more obvious than over the last few summers where marginal land could only facilitate a couple of months summer grazing.
While the above represent the two main reasons for farmers entering into forestry, there are other Economical, Environmental and Social reasons.
Farmers are used to dealing with the harvesting of crops on an annual basis; very few farmers take into consideration the long term timber profits into account when making a decision to plant. Conifer thinning’s may start when the crop reaches 15 years of age, on productive ground. First thinning is now capable of covering its own costs and producing an income. The trees may be thinned 4 – 5 times over the rotation and continue as a growing asset providing a future farm pension.
The Irish forestry sector has a key role to play in addressing climate change through carbon sequestration and through the development of renewable energy resources. Already some of our peat powered energy stations are co-firing there plants with locally grown forests material.
The government pays in the region of 70 million in forest premium payment each year to farmers in the rural areas. These monies help to sustain rural jobs by farmers spending their money in local shops, co-ops, post offices, etc. Total employment, primarily in the rural area, within the indigenous forest industry is estimated to be in the region of 20,000.
Forestry is a long term growing resource with many opportunities and income creation potential. However it is critical to establish your plantation with firm roots by putting the right tree in the right place and getting sound professional management advice. If you would like to receive a free consultation or find out more please contact me, Fearghal Kealey, (086) 3207800. (057) 9320621.