With demand for Irish timber greatly exceeding supply and with the anticipated growth in the requirement for woody biomass from the renewable sector the continued expansion of the private forest estate through new afforestation is the cornerstone to fulfilling this demand.
Forestry plays a significant role in contributing environmentally, economically and socially to rural Ireland and accordingly has the continued support and confidence of the Irish Government through state aid and tax relief.
Indeed the role forest expansion can play in allowing Ireland offset our excess carbon emissions, particularly from within the Agri sector, has been acknowledged in agreements recently reached in the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework. From 2020 credits generated in the land use and afforestation sector can be used for compliance purposes in meeting our binding non Emission Trading Sector’s targets.
New afforestation is incentivised through the payment, by the Department of Agriculture, of an, income tax exempt, forest premium, paid on an annual basis over a 15 year term to landowners who convert farm land to forestry.
Most recently, in Budget 2015, timber revenue became exempt under the high earners income tax threshold of €80,000. This allows current forest owners and indeed future owners to harvest timber through thinning and clear fell in the confidence that this timber revenue is exempt from income tax.
Entitlements such as the new Basic Payment Scheme can continue to be claimed along with the forestry premium provided that the land is classed as eligible land. Retired farmers can also qualify for the new afforestation scheme.
Grants for road building and broadleaf thinning are also available to encourage crop management and to assist with timber mobilisation.
National forest policy is to increase forest cover to 18% by 2046. Currently Ireland stands at just below 11% forest cover.
National Policy also dictates that by 2020, 16% of its energy consumption in Ireland must be created from renewable resources.
Ireland will also have binding carbon emission targets and compliance will be essential if we are to avoid penalties. As mentioned forest management and forest expansion can play a vital role in carbon mitigation.
As forestry is now so intertwined with multiple Government policies and produces a product where demand still exceeds supply one can conclude that the future for forestry is bright.
If you are considering establishing a new forest or need help managing an existing forest contact Pearse Gath, Green Belt Ltd on 086-8129917; firstname.lastname@example.org or Liam Cleare on email@example.com.