Forestry and farming

 

Sir, – Alan Matthew (Opinion, November 1st) makes several important points in relation to farmers requiring the right incentives to reduce emissions. Incentives, whether market or through government policy, steer industries and sectors and this is particularly the case with agriculture.

In 2019, payments to farmers totalled over €2 billion including single farm payment, rural development and forestry payments. Of this €2 billion-plus spend by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, forestry received just €90 million, or 4.5 per cent of the total.

This imbalance in supports must be examined, particularly when one considers that according to the most recent Teagasc National Farm Survey 2020, only 11 per cent of “cattle rearing” farms are economically viable, with only 25 per cent of “cattle other” family farms and 28 per cent of “sheep farms” considered viable.

These three farming systems account for over 70 per cent of our farms nationally and the direct payments received from the Government by these farms was greater than the average family farm income for all three farming systems. In effect, the State subsidises the maintaining of these farming systems.

In a separate report by Teagasc and NUI Galway, the long-term average annual net return across all but the best and worst soil types is positive for replacing most of these farming systems with forestry.

Furthermore, the journal Nature Communication recently published a study that demonstrates the vital role new forest planting can play in the fight against climate change in Ireland.

Farmers will be major players in achieving the aims of our Climate Action Plan.

Afforestation must be made more attractive to our farming community by significantly increasing forestry and tree planting incentives provided by the Department of Agriculture.

Ireland in recent years has planted considerably less than half its modest national planting targets, yet forestry has the potential to be our most significant terrestrial carbon sink.

– Yours, etc,

DONAL WHELAN,

Irish Timber Grower’s

Association

Dalkey, Co Dublin.