The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has once again called for a new compensation scheme to be put in place for forestry owners who have been affected by ash dieback. A delegation from the IFA, led by Jason Fleming, the chair of the IFA National Farm Forestry Committee, met with the Ash Dieback Review Group on Tuesday, August 15th, to highlight the concerns and needs of those impacted by the disease.
Fleming emphasized the importance of a new scheme that fully compensates those affected by ash dieback, stating that the IFA has repeatedly communicated this message to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). He also stressed the need for a new scheme that provides grants to support farmers in hiring professionals to safely fell roadside trees affected by the disease.
The IFA has compiled a document outlining its concerns regarding ash dieback support and the necessary changes. The association claims that the current treatment of farmers affected by the disease has created a ripple effect, discouraging potential forestry planters. The IFA believes that a new compensation scheme is crucial in restoring confidence and increasing farmer participation in forestry.
In June 2023, Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Pippa Hackett, announced the establishment of an independent review of the ash dieback support scheme. The IFA is seeking several changes to the scheme, including a 100% reconstitution grant for all infected plantations, the reinstatement of a 20-year premium on replanted land, adequate compensation for the value of the timber asset, the option for farmers affected by ash dieback not to replant without penalties under specific circumstances, stronger control measures to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases of grant-aided tree species, and the introduction of a financial support scheme for roadside ash trees.
Ash dieback was first discovered in the Republic of Ireland in October 2012 at a site that had been planted in 2009 with trees imported from continental Europe. Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, estimates that the disease will likely cause the death of 90% of ash trees over the next two decades. In Ireland, there are approximately 24,300 hectares of ash woodlands, accounting for 3% of the total forest area. Since 1990, around 17,000 hectares have been planted, mainly by farmers and grant-aided by the DAFM under the afforestation scheme.
The IFA’s continued push for a new compensation scheme reflects the urgent need for support and assistance for forestry owners impacted by ash dieback. The association believes that implementing the requested changes will help restore confidence and encourage farmer participation in forestry, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the industry in Ireland.