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Outsiders investing in forestry ‘threat to fabric of rural life’ claim farmers

Mr Loftus pointed out the annual Afforestation Premium in excess of €600/ha can be received regardless of where a person lives or what type of business they are in.

“These premium and possible futuristic carbon credits are the main driving forces behind the forestry expansion,” he said.

The INHFA are proposing that any future premium or establishment grants would require that the resident’s main home is within 50km of the forestry site, similarly for the headquarters of a business.

“It would not impact on local farmers who wanted to plant some of their land but it would eliminate companies and others coming to counties such as Leitrim and using that land potential as a carbon right-off at no cost to them but enormous cost to the local community.”

However, the Department of Agriculture said it must be remembered that the majority of payments for forestry premia and grants continue to be made to farmers who own their own land.

“It would not be legally possible to restrict eligibility for payments under EU state aid rules on grounds of geographic location,” it pointed out.

It comes as new figures show planting is falling far short of the government ambitions with just 2,000 hectares set so far this year, down 14pc on this time last year.

Currently, forest covers 11pc of Ireland’s land.

The government policy ambition is to grow this figure to 18pc by 2050 with woodland being used as a carbon sink as part of the country’s climate change mitigation plan.

Meanwhile, the IFA farm forestry chair Pat Collins has advised farmers who have financial approval to afforest to wait until the autumn to plant.

He said the planting season had been extended following the introduction of the Forestry Regulation, which now requires farmers to erect a site notice.

However, planting in dry conditions resulted in stressed plants.

INHFA calls for 50km restriction on payments for plantation investments

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