Dáil Éireann - Volume 658 - 02 July, 2008

Written Answers. - Afforestation Programme.

Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding the afforestation programme; the plans he has put in place to ensure afforestation targets for 2008 are achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26346/08]

  Deputy Brendan Smith: The current suite of Afforestation Grant and Premium Schemes, along with the various support measures, is the most financially attractive package made available in the history of forestry in Ireland. The establishment grant covers 100% of the planting costs, while the annual forestry premium is payable to farmers for 20 years. Both the grant and premium rates have been reviewed in recent times and increased in order to make the scheme more attractive.

Under the Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS), landowners can receive a premium of up to €200 per hectare, over and above their forestry premium, should they choose to participate in the scheme, which promotes the establishment of high nature value forestry. This scheme was launched as a pilot in 2007, and after some refinements, including reducing the planting level threshold from 8 hectares to 5 hectares, has been adopted into the suite of afforestation schemes.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food provides funding to a variety of organisations within the sector to promote new forestry planting, sustainable management of the growing crop and the initiatives to effectively market the timber produced. We are also undertaking significant promotional activities to encourage further participation in forestry. Radio advertisements aired earlier this year, highlighting the benefits of planting forests, are supplemented by promotion and publicity in other media throughout the year.

Earlier this year Mr. John Malone completed a review of the factors affecting the rate of afforestation in Ireland. His report outlined a number of recommendations, aimed at furthering the afforestation program, which are currently under review.

I believe that the combination of the very attractive financial package available and the significant supporting promotional efforts being undertaken will assist in furthering our afforestation programme in 2008.

Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to introduce the trimming of broadleaves scheme; when funding will be released by his Department to support this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26347/08]

  Deputy Brendan Smith: The Broadleaf Thinning and Tending Scheme aims to improve the quality of broadleaf plantations by encouraging [562] thinning and tending at a young age. While demand for all the forestry schemes is quite high this year, my Department is in the process of prioritising expenditure within the Forestry budget as a whole.