IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally said that the UCD report on the socio-economic contribution of forestry in Co. Leitrim contains some useful information on the value of forestry to the county as well as the social impacts for those living in the county.
“I would encourage farmers to take time to digest the report. It’s important that we better understand the impact of forestry on the county and its people, so that we can formulate policies that support farm forestry and ensure greater consultation with local communities,” he said.
The economic contribution of forestry and the wood processing sector to Leitrim, which was valued at €26.5 million in 2017, is significant. As was the estimated 310 jobs that were supported by the sector in the county. Two-thirds of the forests in the county are owned and managed by farmers, with investors owning 26% of the forests while 5% of forests were inherited.
He said that the inherited forest category is relatively new and shows the possibilities of intergenerational exchange and retention of the homestead by family members who might not be in a position to farm the land conventionally.
However, Vincent Nally cautioned that the figures are a snapshot based on 2017 figures and do not fully capture the scale of investor planting that has taken place in recent years since the removal of the farmer premium differential under the current forestry programme.
“The removal of the farmer differential and the increase in forest premium payments to non-farmers is behind a lot of the negative attitudes to forestry. From my initial reading of the report, it does not analyse the longer-term downstream impact on local communities of this scale of investor planting,” he said.
He concluded that it was important for the development of the sector that farmers were paid for the carbon sequestered in the forests, which based on the current CO2 prices had a market value of in excess of €3.5m per annum.