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The potential roles of forestry in rural development.

The potential roles of forestry in rural development.

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Farm forestry has the potential to revolution the Irish rural economy. Its benefits have been well lauded by the Irish government and the European Union. Substantial incentives have been offered to encourage farmers to become involved in farm forestry. However, for farmers these incentives are are wrapped in red tape and thus ineffective.
Farm forestry has the potential to revolution the Irish rural economy. Its benefits have been well lauded by the Irish government and the European Union. Substantial incentives have been offered to encourage farmers to become involved in farm forestry. However, for farmers these incentives are are wrapped in red tape and thus ineffective.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Rose Drea05368332Essay Option 1. The potential roles of forestry in rural development.TI312 Rural DevelopmentJohn McDonaghWord Count: 2,045
 
By the turn of the last century it was estimated that just one percent of Irish land wasforested (Coillte, 2008) and while this has increased to almost ten percent, incomparison to the European average of 35% it is still very low (DoAF, 2008). Theneed for increased afforestation was recognised in the 1980s with EU funding playinga significant role in the swell of farmers growing grant assisted forestry (Collier et al,2002). The CAP reforms in 1992 allowed farmers to be paid incentives to plant trees(Crabtree, 2001) and soon after in 1995, Ireland experienced a bumper plantation. Thegovernment recognised the increasing potential forestry could play in ruraldevelopment and in 1996 issued the “Growing for the Future: A strategic plan for thedevelopment of the forestry sector in Ireland”. The report had twin ambitions: toincrease the level of timber production, generating a viable timber economy whilealso “increase[ing] the level of farmer planting in the interests of rural development”(Collier et al, 2002, p.2). It is the success and failure to realise the second ambitionthat will be the topic of discussion in this paper.With between 14,000 and 16,000 farmers now involved in farm forestry thedevelopment of the forestry sector has been impressive (DoAF,2008), however thereality remains that numbers getting into forestry are steadily declining in recentyears. The governments aim of 17% of land coverage by 2030 (Farrelly et al, 2008)was about 25% below target (Collier et al, 2002) in 2002. Since then numbers gettinginto farm forestry have declined further with the 2008 yield expected to be just 6,000hectares making the figures calculated in 2002 (on the basis of 15,000 hectares being planted annually) outdated. The Irish Farmers Association (2008) has announced acrisis in the industry which sees it drift further into unsustainable territory. The aim of this essay is thus two fold: to uncover the reasons behind such a sharp decline inuptake and assess this impact on the future of forestry within the rural developmentcontext.With the acceptance that the agricultural sector required restructuring the EU also hadto face up to the prospect that this would impact significantly on rural development(Mc Donagh, 2006). The Irish government began to promote forestry as a method of diversifying the rural economy. The benefits of forestry appeared multiple withfarmers benefiting from EU payments which would increase their income, provide2
 
new growth to the almost nonexistent timber industry and create a natural resourcewhich could be turned into energy and help reduce greenhouse gases (Farrelly, 2007).Agenda 2000 focused on the need for greater “protection of the natural environment”(Mc Donagh, 2006) and the aim in providing “a farming population guaranteedreasonable incomes”. It was thought that a move away from traditional farmingmethods would provide this (Lowe et al, 2002) and forestry emerged as a possibleway forward. At the same time the Rural Development Programme 2000-2006 promoted diversifying farm activity in the aim to generate alternative incomes (McDonagh, 2006). So why now is the forestry industry facing such a decline when backed by both Ireland and the EU policy?Simply put, the incentives in place didn’t effectively attract the governments targetmarket. Farmers found the forestry scheme as having too many disadvantages withonly the minority seeing forestry as a worthwhile investment which would enhanceincome, quality of life and fit into future plans. At first sight the incentives in placeappear impressive with returns from forestry tax free, a start up grant to cover the fullcost of establishing a farm forest and an additional tax free grant paid out over twentyyears which varies on land size and crop type. Some short term benefits include thefact that in most cases trees are ripe for thinning before the twenty year mark (Farrellyet al, 2008) and the farmer can reap the profits while still availing of the tax free premium up to the twenty year mark. But the farmer has to wait until the crop fullymatures which on average takes between 35-45 years until he/she will reap the fullrewards of forestry. For most, it is simply too long a time to tie up land in a marketwhich may or may not withstand the pressures of time. Elands et al (2004) highlightedhow in many European cases forestry was seen as harmful to traditional farmingmethods and was perceived to have a negative effect on rural development. Another distinct disadvantage to Irish famers thinking of planting is the lands devaluation of worth. Under the 1946 Forestry Act, potential buyers of planted land are under obligation to replant (Magner, 2008). If perspective buyers are either full or part timefarmers they are entitled to the balance of the twenty year premium however if notthey are only entitled to receive a third of the payment. With land value soaring inrecent years combined with uncertainty facing the agricultural sector, tying up land inlong term investments is not seen as wise in present times.3

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