Pressure is mounting on the Agriculture Ministry to abandon its beleaguered forest licensing system as only 12 planting licenses per week have been issued so far this year.
Chief Economist John Fitzgerald says scrapping licensing requirements for felling, planting, thinning and roads is “the first necessary step” to kickstarting business for farmers who he says are should be allowed to offset livestock methane emissions by planting trees on their land.
Private forestry representative group SEEFA says the license model devised by the Department ‘will never be suitable to serve the sector’, while IFA says the scheme ‘needs to be thoroughly reformed’ to reduce bureaucracy and delays In progress.
It precedes the launch of the National Forestry Program 2023-2027 which is expected to be announced during the National Plowing Championships next month.
Speaking to independent assistant professor of agricultural economics at Trinity College Dublin and former chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, John Fitzgerald said the licensing scheme “has stopped farmers from planting trees”.
He added: “First, abolish the licensing regime, get things going again, and then consider whether the incentives are adequate to deliver what we want, or do we need to spend more money.
“From the State’s point of view, the main thing is to ensure the sustainability of the plantations over the next 30 years. It’s really urgent because it’s a win for everyone — sitting idly by while the climate deteriorates and farmers are unable to make money from it, has no meaning.
He says farmers should be allowed to offset their farm’s emissions production. “Considering forestry with agriculture makes sense in terms of incentives. If a farmer has methane-emitting livestock, but planting trees can offset that, then depending on stocking rates, farmers could completely offset the effect of existing livestock on their land with trees.
“It is important to give farmers the opportunity to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. We should be welcoming farmers rather than preventing them from being part of the solution that is the current situation. »
SEEFA chairman Teige Ryan said reforestation for 2022 “will end below 2,000 ha on a target of 8,000 ha”.
“Everyone is a loser. From a climate change perspective, this is much more alarming as COFORD (the advisory group appointed by the ministry) states that 16,000ha per year is needed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
“Last week, the Department’s dashboard showed a measly 13 reforestation licenses for the week, staying within the theme of averaging 12 per week for the year so far – a far cry from the 20 licenses required each week to meet the Department’s soft targets.
“The obvious solution is to move from a licensing system to a regulatory model as endorsed by Professor John Fitzgerald of the Climate Change Advisory Council.”
The Department of Agriculture did not respond to questions about the issues raised in this article.