Speaking after the INHFA conference in Carrick-on-Shannon, convened to discuss the expansion of forestry in the western region, MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said that the core policy objectives of the forestry strategy must be reassessed and redirected.
He said that the forestry programme of 2014-2020 set the roadmap for the issues now coming to the fore. For the first time ever, non-farmers and institutional investors were given the same level of premium support as the farmer. This equates to, in some instances, a premium increase in excess of 200% to non-farmers.
‘Ming’ said: “This, coupled with the eroding of environmental schemes in Rural Development has driven the hidden agenda of the last two administrations in relation to land use in the west of Ireland.
“The overarching policy of substantial expansion of the dairy industry with a corresponding increase in forest cover to offset increased agriculture emissions must be questioned and challenged”.
It is unjustifiable to continue down this road, permanently altering the landscape and depopulating the area, stated the MEP.
“In addition, the manner in which this is being carried out – a foreign company is brought in, given access to EIB finance at preferential rates – raises its own questions,” he added.