There are currently 179 permanent staff working in the forestry divisions of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue provided this information in response to a written parliamentary question by independent TD, Deputy Carol Nolan. The staff in these divisions are involved in various aspects of the forestry remit, including licensing, promotion, forest health, payments, and engagement at national, EU, and international levels on forestry policy issues and forest sector development.
This information comes at a time when no afforestation licenses have been issued by the DAFM in September. However, an area of 11ha has been planted this month, bringing the total for the year up to 1,238ha. The breakdown of the current number of permanent staff working in each of the three forestry divisions within the DAFM is as follows:
– Forestry Division: 96
– Forest Sector Development (FSD) Division: 12
– Forestry Inspectorate Division: 71
This increase in staff resources is in response to changes in regulatory requirements regarding forestry licensing, according to Minister McConalogue. He also mentioned that the new afforestation scheme under the Forestry Programme 2023-2027 is now open for applications, offering premia of up to €1,142/ha and a 20-year premium period for farmers.
The delay in issuing grant-aided forest road or afforestation licenses is due to the DAFM awaiting full and final approval of the new programme. While two licenses for new plantings were issued last month, a total of 12 non-grant-aided afforestation licenses have been issued to date, allowing for 170ha of new plantings. However, the DAFM has previously stated that it has granted financial approval to commence planting to 288 grant-aided license holders, under an interim scheme, representing 1,750ha.
The Social, Economic, Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) has raised concerns about the timeline the DAFM is working to in order to process approved afforestation sites and sites awaiting approval. SEEFA commented on the latest figures, stating that no afforestation licenses have been issued this month and questioning the DAFM’s planting target for this autumn. They expressed their concern that farmers are being left in the dark with no improvement in the dire state of the forestry industry in sight.