New Incentives Announced to Combat Ash Dieback Crisis in Ireland

Cabinet Approves Ash Dieback Action Plan with Increased Grant Rates for Affected Forest Owners

The Irish cabinet has officially given the green light to an ‘Ash Dieback Action Plan’, aimed at tackling the devastating impact of the disease on ash plantations. This plan includes increased grant rates for clearing and replanting affected areas. Forest owners facing the brunt of the ash dieback crisis will receive a €5,000/ha payment, separate from other grants, as part of the ‘Climate Action Performance Payment’ (CAPP) scheme. This payment will be accessible to all forest owners who actively engage with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s ash dieback initiatives.

The Department has confirmed a significant boost in the site clearance grant rate, doubling it from €1,000 to €2,000 per hectare under the Forestry Programme. Moreover, enhanced replanting grant rates have been introduced, offering up to 20% additional funding based on the forest type. For instance, conifer forests (type 12) will receive €3,858/ha, native tree forests (type 1) will get €6,744/ha, and agroforestry will be eligible for €8,555/ha. Those with sites still in premium will continue to receive the remaining premium years and a one-time top-up payment equivalent to the difference between the existing premium and the new forest type premium.

Farmers who opt for the Reconstitution Scheme to plant native forests, for instance, could receive around €3,336/ha as a lump sum payment. The total funding allocated to ash plantation owners under the new plan exceeds €230 million. Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, emphasized the government’s commitment to addressing the ash dieback issue and meeting the concerns raised by farmers and landowners. Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, highlighted the department’s efforts to implement the plan swiftly, with a sub-group of the Forestry Strategy Consultative Committee being established to ensure a coordinated response.

There has been a ‘mixed reaction’ to the ash dieback payment scheme. Jason Fleming, chairperson of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s Farm Forestry Committee, noted a varied response among farmers. While acknowledging that the payment recognizes farmers’ financial losses for the first time, Fleming stressed that it falls short of compensating for the full extent of the damage caused by the disease. Many farmers rely on their ash forests for income, particularly for pensions, and the payment may offer some relief to some, but not all. Fleming expressed concerns that the grants provided may not cover the costs of re-establishing older forests, potentially impacting farmers’ finances.

Farmers are awaiting further details and clarity on the terms and conditions attached to the payment, as several questions remain unanswered. The concerns raised by farmers underscore the complexity of addressing the challenges posed by ash dieback and the importance of ensuring adequate support for those affected by the disease.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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