An example of ash dieback.

‘Mixed response’ to ash dieback scheme says Kinnegad forester

There has been a mixed response from members of the Irish Forest Owners to the announcement of the new package for growers whose crop has been wiped out by ash dieback, according to Olive Leavy from Kinnegad, who is national coordinator of the group.

The package announced last week is of €5,000 per acre and the Irish Forest Owners said this week that consistent lobbying by its representatives has finally borne some fruit.

Irish Forest Owners represents forest owner groups covering Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan, Meath, Louth, Westmeath, Longford, Offaly, Laois, Wicklow, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford and Waterford.

Olpive Leavy, national coordinator of the Irish Forest Owners.

“Some of our members are ready to move on and welcome the payment whereas other forest owners – particularly those with larger, more mature plantations – feel the payment does not come close to making good the financial loss ash dieback has caused,” Olive told Midland Farm Focus.

Continuing, she said the situation is “complex” and the impact of the disease has been different for different forest owners, depending on the size and age of the plantation.

“As a result, a one-size-fits-all approach is never going to reasonably compensate all owners of ash plantations and we hope that the door remains open to those forest owners experiencing the biggest losses – particularly in cases where the cost of clearance and maintenance far exceeds what is covered in the grants,” Olive said, going on to add that it was essential that all ash plantations, whether grant aid or replanted after clearfell, are eligible under the terms of this package.

However, she continued, it was unfortunate that it has taken over 10 years of unnecessary delays to deliver this package: “In the meantime, confidence in the sector has been severely eroded,” she said.

Olive stated that forest owners hope that this becomes a turning point and that there is recognition that forest owners must be put on an equal footing with those in other agricultural enterprises when it comes to matters with force majeure impact. She went on to say that what forest owners now need is clear and concise information on how to proceed and that it is also crucial that decisions on their application to the reconstitution ash dieback stream are decided quickly and that payments are made fairly and promptly without the additional constraints or paperwork. What was also required, she added, was an increase in contractor capacity.

Concluding, she said the forest owners hope that the Ash Dieback Taskforce, of which their chairperson Derek McCabe is a member, will convene in the coming weeks to ensure the rapid implementation of all the recommendations in the independent Ash Dieback Review, and that the taskforce would give forest owners the support needed to move on and get new trees in the ground.

“The success or failure of this initiative will depend on the efficiency and fairness with which the Forest Service deals with forest owners and the various anomalies that will inevitably arise,” she concluded.