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Ministers fail to fully appreciate devastation of ash dieback – IFA

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Forestry Committee chair, Jason Fleming has said that consecutive government ministers have failed to fully appreciate the devastation caused by ash dieback.

He said an interim scheme brought forward by the government, while approval is awaited from the EU for the new national forestry programme, “does not acknowledge the financial cost to farmers”.

Fleming added that this is “a serious blow to those whose ash woodlands have been devastated by this disease”.

Under the interim scheme, the site clearance grant rate has increased to €2,000 and grant rates are in line with the new Forestry Programme 2023-2027.

Applicants whose sites are still in premium will continue to receive this for the remaining years, but will be eligible for a premium top up to the new rate of the forest type established.

“The increased clearance and grant rates announced under the interim scheme are positive developments and reflect the increased cost of getting the work done, but the scheme does not compensate farmers for the loss of timber earnings,” Fleming said.

The IFA Forestry chair said “consecutive ministers have failed to fully appreciate the devastation caused by the disease and the severe financial cost to farmers”.

“These farmers have been left with nothing. Until the government acknowledges the financial loss and provides compensation to farmers by reinstating a 20-year premium on the replanted land, we will never see farmers planting at the rates required to meet our climate targets,” he said.

Ash dieback

Ash dieback is caused by an invasive fungal pathogen which originated in Asia and was brought to Europe in the early 90s.

Today, the pathogen covers most of the natural range of ash in Europe causing high mortality rates of ash trees.

The disease was first detected in the Republic of Ireland in October 2012 on plants imported from continental Europe.

According to Teagasc, the disease is now prevalent throughout most of the island of Ireland and is likely to cause the death of the majority of the ash trees over the next two decades.

Teagasc is currently carrying out research to establish a bank of genotypes of ash tolerant to ash dieback with the aim to produce planting stock for forests and hedgerows in Ireland.