The Forest Service has recently complained about the number of farmers who do not apply for permits to plant trees.
unchanged so that our Forest Service complains about farmers rather than vice versa. But to be fair, I can understand their frustration after taking so long to validate applications, especially given the complexity of the task.
However, they need to take a closer look at why this is happening, because the fault is theirs.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that if a landowner had to sacrifice 30pc of his land for both native wide waves and biodiversity – and after planting, the value of this land is plummeting – then he/she needs to carefully consider the viability of the whole business.
We have come to a point where we need to change the mindset that has been in place throughout the forestry program.
We need to decide, once and for all, if we want the landowners to plant the trees to make a financial return for them or we just want to abandon the whole project.
I’ve written in the past about how we can easily grow crops while farming on our land for commercial purposes and at the same time, provide huge benefits in terms of air quality, flood prevention flood and provide habitat for wildlife.
In the current economic context, food and wood are essential.
All it takes to provide both is some common sense and workable reforestation plans.
So why don’t farmers plant? The main reason is the level of bureaucracy and the huge amount of time involved in application submission to licensing.
Second on my list is the relatively recent 20-year premium reduction for farmers to 15. The 15-year premium is unsatisfactory and, in the case of the broad range, simply absurd. .
With the ashes gone, there are no more native broadleaf species that can be profitable for the life of the farmer or indeed for the lives of his children.
What good is a 15-year premium when the oak tree isn’t ready for harvest until at least 100 years?
Our children must be well fed and warmly dressed, but it is difficult for young children to be green.
I have grown many varieties of orchids but at no stage do I think I can get a commercial profit from them.
Ash is a big exception: grow quickly, with the production of high-quality wood fuel and earn a real bonus. This option is no longer available so all planting of broadleaf trees is simply a gift to the nation.
It is without a doubt a wonderful gift, but some means must be found to adequately reward those who grow them.
I have discussed this with many afforestation farmers and forestry consultants, and all agree that a lifetime premium will change attitudes toward mixed-leaf broadleaf reforestation.
It may decrease after 30 years but is still enough to make up for the loss of arable land and maintenance costs.
Another scheme that could allow planning for ecotourism in the broadleaf forest could also be a major attraction.
Wooden cabins located in the forest are very popular with vacationers and can provide a good steady source of income. Urban dwellers especially like to rest in a cabin in the woods.
In addition to the enjoyment of the experience, the physical and mental health benefits of exercising and breathing clean, oxygenated air in forests are now well understood.
In terms of additional income, both hardwoods and softwoods make excellent fuels. With the price of petrol reaching almost unbearable levels, it will contribute to promoting the burning of kiln-dried wood in clean, modern wood-burning furnaces.
There has been a lot of negative publicity about wood fuel but it is well proven that after proper seasoning and drying, wood fuel is clean, green and neutral.
A good stove that will last a lifetime is relatively inexpensive to install and can replace all fossil fuels while heating the home with the added bonus of a cheerful fire.
Some of you may remember the inflation of the 1970s. If it recurs –and the outlook is ominous – then it certainly makes sense to get serious about developing our own fuels and building materials. We have the best climate in Europe to do so.
Well-planned and well-managed forestry benefits both human life and the natural environment. It’s time to be pragmatic.
Joe Barry is a farmer and forester in Co Kildare
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/forestry-enviro/joe-barry-why-farmers-are-not-planting-forestry-and-what-can-be-done-about-it-41460501.html Joe Barry: Why don’t farmers plant forests and what can be done about it