Agriculture; Food and the Marine | Forestry industry programmes
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which the requirements of the forestry industry are being made in order to ensure the orderly development of Ireland’s forests and attention to the ongoing needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I am of the pressures impacting the forestry sector and met with representatives last week to explain progress towards finalising the new Forestry Programme for the period 2023 to 2027 and to reiterate my commitment to supporting the sector.
A thriving and resilient private forestry sector will continue to be central to the delivery of the Government’s forestry goal and I believe that the best solution to assisting the sector now is delivery of a well-resourced and ambitious forestry programme.
It is worth noting the considerable work that has been undertaken this year in developing a vision for a new future for forestry in Ireland. I am referring to the recently published Shared National Vision for Trees, Woods and Forests in Ireland until 2050 which was informed by a series of extensive engagements and consultation. The Vision has informed a new Forestry Strategy for Ireland which has been developed by Working Group 2 of Project Woodland.
In parallel, a draft Forest Strategy Implementation Plan has also been developed to facilitate the initial steps in the implementation of the Forest Strategy. This Plan comprises a list of actions and measures and includes the Forestry Programme for the period 2023-2027 which will be the main implementation vehicle for the Forest Strategy in the immediate to short term.
The draft Forest Strategy and Forest Strategy Implementation Plan were published on Tuesday the 18th of October and are now subject to a 6-week public consultation process. This means that stakeholders and interested parties are aware of the measures and Schemes that are being proposed for the next Forestry Programme and may submit their feedback on all elements.
Alongside this public consultation process, my Department is currently engaged in detailed discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to agree funding. We are also in contact with European Commission and are initiating the process for State Aid approval for the new Programme.
I will publish the financial supports for the new Programme at the earliest opportunity. In parallel, once the public consultation process has been completed we will take account of submissions received to arrive at a final version.
As regards payment to forestry companies and forest owners, we have to date this year paid out over €61.5 million which is a significant, fully Exchequer funded, investment in forestry. This is broadly in line with payments for the same period in 2021. We will continue to deal with payments in a timely manner, as has been our practice to date.
Specifically, as regards the Frost Reconstitution scheme, approvals are issuing daily. We expect to receive applications for payments from the sector shortly and we will be issuing payments in respect of these applications promptly. We would expect where all requirements are met that there will be no delay in making payment under this scheme and the first payments will be issuing by end of this month.
In terms of liquidity, I have met the pillar banks this week to highlight clearly that we are about to deliver on a new Forestry Programme and to reiterate how central the forestry sector is to Government policy.
I am firmly committed to introducing a well – funded Forestry Programme which both meets the needs of society and that of the sector, and this will provide guaranteed long-term investment in the sector.
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