“Plant trees and continue farming” – that was the message from Andrew Doyle T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, at an Open Day on an agro-forestry site at a farm in Kilcock, Co. Kildare. Agro-forestry is the planting of trees on farmland at lower density than normal woodlands so that farming activity can continue on the same land. It is funded through generous grants under the National Forestry Programme and these premia were significantly increased last year from €260 to €645 per hectare per year for 5 years.
Minister Doyle commented “this open day here on Leo Murphy’s farm is to help others understand agro-forestry and the benefits of considering this type of planting. To see the sheep grazing contentedly amongst oak, cherry and sycamore trees planted really highlights the benefits of this approach for our environment, our livestock and our land. The significant increase introduced last year on the grants and premia make this worthy of serious consideration by all farmers. The Department paid for the planting of those trees and pays an annual premium to the farmer for 5 years. This is part of the Government’s commitment to delivering results under the recently published Climate Action Plan 2019 and the role which our agriculture and land use sector in achieving these targets”.
The Open Day was very well attended and those present heard both from the owner, his forester and the Department on how best to consider an agri-forestry project. They also heard about the additional benefits of agro-forestry landscape enhancement, animal welfare, improved biodiversity, land drainage, positives for water quality, and timber production potential.
As part of today’s open day, the Minister also announced that his Department had agreed with the EPA on new rules which will allow the planting of agro-forestry in areas designated as acid-sensitive lands. This now gives farmers real options for planting trees on some 150,000 hectares of designated acid-sensitive areas. Minister Doyle welcomed this development “This now creates potential for significantly greater uptake of agro-forestry and native species in designated acid sensitive areas by farmers who wish to develop agroforestry as part of their farming enterprise”.
Farmers who are interested in joining the scheme can access details on the Department’s website under forestry grants and premium schemes, or may contact either a Teagasc forestry advisor, a registered forester or their agricultural advisor in order to learn more.