Members of the Westmeath Farm Forestry Group (WFFG) at the demonstration in Dublin last Wednesday, from left, Dermot Leavy, Gerry Lynam, Robert Ogle, Henry Ogle, Vincent Nally, James Ham, Olive Leavy, Ger Deegan and Claudia Marl.

Local forestry owners attend IFA demo in Dublin

Members of the Westmeath Farm Forestry Group (WFFG) travelled to Dublin for an IFA-organised demonstration to highlight the “chaos” in the forestry licensing system.

A spokesperson for the group, which represents farm forest owners from Longford and Westmeath, said that backlog in the licensing system “is having a seriously detrimental effect on how farm forest owners manage, and achieve income, from their own woodlands”.

“Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State Pippa Hackett met with the delegations and were left in no doubt, yet again, of the ongoing anger and frustration among farm forest owners.

“Farmer confidence is low, despite the high potential for woodlands to be a good additional and profitable enterprise on farms,” he said.

Speaking after the demonstration in front of the Convention Centre in Dublin, IFA president Tim Cullinan said that the backlog is denying farmers the right to manage their forests.

“They planted their land with the legitimate expectation that they would be able to thin and realise an income during its rotation, but the delays mean that this is no longer a reality for many,” he said.

“There are nearly 6,000 forest licences (afforestation, road and felling licences) caught up in the backlog.

“This is jeopardising the entire industry, from nurseries to saw milling, with hundreds of jobs already lost. The increased volume of imported timber is placing the health of the forest estate at unnecessary risk. Not to mention the economic burden on forest owners who cannot release the equity in their forests or who are watching the value of their timber crop decrease by over €10,000/ha if they cannot get a licence to thin.”

Mr Cullinan also dismissed as spin the comments made by ministers following the IFA protest on the forest licence crisis.

“It’s utterly disingenuous of both Minister McConalogue and Hackett to say they had some good news for farmers,” he said.

“They told us nothing new. We protested because of the deep frustration over government inaction. We need emergency legislation to give farmers licences for forest roads and thinning operations.”