THE Forestry Service has been accused of holding the private forestry sector to ransom with excessive ‘red tape.’
During a visit by IFA national president Tim Cullinan to West Cork, the CEO of the Forestry Owners Co-Op Society (FOCS), Dr Kathryn O’Donoghue, complained that ‘unacceptable delays’ within The Forestry Service in issuing licences had decimated the industry. Mr Cullinan was hosted by Rosscarbery forest owner and FOCS director, Pat O’Sullivan, along with his son, James, with his young family.
Welcoming the IFA president, Abraham Kingston of FOCS sought his support and urgent intervention in voicing the concerns of the forestry sector. He asked for a unified voice in seeking transparency in processing licences, highlighting that no other sector of farming had the same level of regulation to contend with.
Dr O’Donoghue went on to question the wisdom of The Forestry Service, who have, over the years, added layers upon layers of rigorous assessment procedures which are repetitious and contradictory, making it impossible for anyone to develop a sustainable, efficient forestry industry. She went on to point out that the industry, with threatened closures of mills and temporary staff lay-offs, is in a profoundly serious position losing two years growing and felling seasons.
Pointing the finger of blame at successive agriculture ministers for ignoring what is an extremely valuable industry to the Irish rural economy, she said: ‘Our forests account for up to 14,000 jobs directly and generating €2.3 billion for the economy. ‘
In addition, the co-op’s policy chairman, Michael Greaney, pointed out how forests sequester millions of tons of carbon and absorb more and more carbon dioxide each year: ‘All round the world, trees are regarded as a major resource in the fight against climate change. In Ireland, our government has ignored forestry as a crop and failed miserably in communicating the message of climate change and the role of trees in addressing the issue.’
Dr O’Donoghue challenged the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister of State, Pippa Hackett, to implement the MacKinnon report without delay pointing out that the major barriers in achieving climate targets and forestry planting targets clearly lies at the door of a forestry service, which she alleged, ‘fails to communicate or in any way engage with the sector on the ground.’
Forest owner James O’Sullivan, with his young family by his side, expressed his fears for the future about forestry and dairy working side by side. It was clearly pointed out that the forestry grower was not going to be ignored any longer by government with Dr Kathryn O’Donoghue letting the gathering know how pro-active the Forest Owners Co-op are in pursuing the Forestry Service on issues of licensing, knowledge transfer, policy, the new CAP roll-out and administrative development.
She closed the discussion on behalf of FOCS by encouraging young farmers to take on board afforestation within their farm plan and spoke on the various possibilities within the new CAP programme, stating that it is a good time to embrace forestry and she encouraged young farmers to take up the Co-op Afforestation Induction course starting in the autumn.
IFA president Tim Cullinan acknowledged the difficulties growers were encountering and strongly voiced his support for the sector, concurring with FOCS in welcoming a CAP programme, which is innovative going forward to 2030. There was widespread consensus that everybody should be working together towards the betterment of a forestry and farming viable rural economy.