The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association have hit back at proposals by Coillte to work in partnership with a UK asset management company as they aim to plant a further 100,000ha of new forestry.
INHFA Council Representative for Leitrim/West Cavan Patsy Daly outlined how these proposals are a major threat to our rural communities and must not go ahead.
In discussing this Daly stated “how many communities are dealing with the scourge of a failed forestry policy that has prioritised the interests of investment funds and multinationals ahead of local farmers and the rural economy.”
This has, he added “seen local farmers unable to compete for farmland in their area as forestry premium and tax exemptions has given forestry investors a critical advantage in the purchase of land.”
In assessing the proposals by Coillte to partner with both the UK asset management company Gresham House and Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), it will he stated “provide Coillte, through these funds, access to State Support through the Forestry establishment grant and the annual forestry premium, thereby creating a land management and acquisition monster that no farmer can compete against.”
There is stressed the INHFA Representative “an urgent need to reassess this proposal and we are calling on both Minister McConalogue and Hackett to defer the signing of any agreement, until such time as there is a full debate on the implications for farmers and rural communities arising from the transfer of national territory to a foreign entity.”
This proposal by Coillte should, he added “also provide a wake-up call to the Government and those promoting the investor-led forestry policy that continues to undermine many rural areas.”
It is he stressed “time to change and implement a policy that promotes
• Native woodlands and native broadleaves ahead of forestry mono-culture,
• Supports farmers and communities ahead of management companies and vulture funds,
• A policy that will see trees as part of our farms and not replacing our farms,
• Support only available to those that have owned and farmed the land for a minimum period of time.”
This he concluded “is a policy we can support and one that farmers and communities will support, but critically a policy that ensures our lands remain in the control of Irish farmers who are invested in their communities.”