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 Header Item Beef Industry (Continued)
 Header Item Felling Licences

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan] Is funding in place to pay it this year? Does the Minister envisage having that fund or ensuring that farmers receive cheques in quarter three or four of this year? I understand consultation is ongoing and that much of the next number of weeks will be focused on that but the Minister will have all the information and consultation he needs finished by August. Surely then a timeline must be set out regarding when those payments will be issued.

I understand that the submission in April referred to by the Minister set out one of the conditions as being the application of extensive production methods. What was meant by that? Does it mean that the smaller-scale farmer will go away? What was intended by that?

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Could the Minister clarify what he means by the term "application of extensive production methods"? Is he saying that the more intensive beef farmers will take the hit? Is that the suggestion? What does it mean because it seems to open a door for the response the Minister got from the EU?

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny I would like some clarity regarding suckler cow farmers. We understand that a large portion of this fund would probably go to the finisher. The Minister mentioned what would happen down the line but often times its a case of wait horse and get grass and they seldom get fed. That is the problem here. Will a specific portion of this money be allocated? What pro rata amount will it be? Will it be 2:1 or a 50:50 split between the finishers and the suckler cow farmers?

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I will start with the last question. The submission we made to the Commission quantified the relative hits that finishers and producers of weanlings, particularly from the suckler herd, had taken. While I do not want to stand up here and say I have the scheme now, broadly speaking, that will be reflected in the final shape insofar as targeting the €100 million where the hit impacted most. My recollection is that the figures in the finisher and suckler area are €67 million and €35 million. Let us wait and see what happens subject to consultation and approval by the Commission, which is a critical hurdle.

My ambition is to do it as quickly as possible. I do not underestimate the challenge in terms of designing a scheme and giving farmers an appropriate time to apply bearing in mind that the scheme will, hopefully, over the line from Brussels. The deadline is 31 July. We will then put together the necessary administrative arrangements to invite applications, a closing date, processing of applications, a payment system and the back office requirements in terms of systems to support the payment and processing of all those applications. This is not an insignificant task but it is certainly my ambition to do it at the earliest possible date in 2019.

Regarding Deputy Ó Cuív's question about intensive or extensive, the measure will deliver support where losses were felt. They are in both intensive and extensive systems and I hope would be reflected in that context. The ambition is to focus the resource wherever the hit was felt be it anybody who sold finished cattle regardless of whether that was an extensive system of finishing, or anybody who reared sucklers regardless of whether that was a highly stocked intensive system or an alternative system bearing in mind that the average suckler herd is 15 suckler cows which broadly speaking is not considered to be an intensive system of production.

Felling Licences

 51. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the number of tree felling licences issued in each year since 2014, the number of trees felled in each year, the proposed contribution to the climate action plan 2019 targets from hedgerows and tree cover here; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28120/19]

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan I wish to ask the Minister about the number of tree felling licences issued in each year since 2014 and what role he thinks trees and hedgerows can play in the climate action plan. I know it is governed by the Forestry Act 2014. The question is prompted by the fact that quite a few constituents have contacted me about people moving into a property and immediately cutting down major tree cover. There seems to be no control over that whatsoever. Many agencies do not have to get permission from the Forest Service to do so.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The felling and thinning of trees is an activity that is governed by the Forestry Act 2014 and the accompanying forestry regulations of 2017. My Department is the consent authority for the issuing of felling licences and does so in accordance with detailed procedures that take account of relevant environmental regulations and the principles of sustainable forest management. There are certain exemptions under the Forestry Act, including, for example, felling in urban areas or felling of individual trees in certain circumstances.

  The number of felling and thinning licences issued since 2014 is as follows. In 2014, 2,390 licences were issued; in 2015, 2,518 licences were issued; in 2016, 6,514 licences were issued; in 2017, 3,003 licences were issued; in 2018, 3,603 were issued; and to date in 2019, 2,948 licences have been issued. It is not possible to give a precise estimate of the number of trees felled in any one year under licence as this will depend on the area of the forest being felled, the species being managed, the age of the crop and the type and nature or cycle of the silvicultural interventions. This is influenced by whether it is a first, second or later stage thinning or clearfell and-or whether the forest is managed under a continuous cover management system.

  The licensing process makes it obligatory to replant a clearfelled site in forests in all but the most exceptional cases. This avoidance of deforestation is essential in terms of meeting our climate change objectives. The climate action plan 2019 recognises the key role afforestation has to play in climate change mitigation particularly through carbon sequestration. Under current rules agreed as part of the EU effort sharing regulation, forestry can contribute some 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 per annum of carbon towards Ireland's emissions targets under the next climate mitigation period 2021 to 2030. The climate action plan now sets a target of an average of 8,000 hectares of new planting per year. While this will mostly yield benefits in the longer term post-2030, it will also contribute to our 2030 target through carbon sequestration.

  My Department has approved an average of 9,000 hectares for new planting each year for the last three years. This means that there are almost 10,000 approved and shovel-ready hectares available to the forestry sector that could be planted today. The challenge is to ensure that all of the effort that goes into securing and approving new sites results in those sites being planted if planting levels are to increase and the target of 18% land cover is to be achieved. I am committed to working towards this target through the continued provision of generous grants and premiums, engagement with a range of stakeholders from farmers to public bodies and a dedicated promotion and communication campaign and by examining ways in which farm forestry can be better integrated into the new CAP. Knowledge transfer programmes and other initiatives that raise awareness of the economic and ecosystem benefits of forestry will continue to play an important role in tackling some of the barriers to planting. Hedgerows are an important landscape feature that have been supported by various agri-environment schemes over the years. In fact, my Department has facilitated the planting of around 11,000 km of new hedgerows and the rejuvenation of some 6,000 more under successive agri-environment schemes.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

These hedgerows could possibly represent a significant carbon sink and could potentially be used as a mitigation option. In view of this, the climate action plan commits to ensuring that local authorities extend hedgerow surveys nationwide. Once these are completed by 2020, the Government will commission a study to quantify the climate mitigation and adaptation potential of this resource by 2021.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Minister mentioned the planting of 10,000 hectares per year - 22,000 hectares in all. How does that fit into the overall targets under the climate action plan because clearly it has a key role? This is a significant issue even when we discuss the Mercosur trade deal on the broader international scale involving climate change involving as it does the fact that Brazilian agriculture is devastating one of the great forestry resources in the world.

Does the Minister think that planning permission should be required for major cutting of trees in urban areas? I also note that the Government's felling and reforestation policy does not cover a range of national agencies such as Bord Gáis, Aer Rianta and CIÉ. There seems to be great scope for organisations to be able to just remove trees. As the Minister is aware, there is considerable controversy over BusConnects in Dublin city because it is feared that around 5,000 trees, including 700 or so in my constituency of Dublin Bay North, could be demolished.


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