Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen this week announced encouraging news for the forestry sector by opening the next phase of the Forest Expansion Scheme.
The scheme, under the Rural Development Programme, is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
It will provide support for farmers and landowners to plant woodlands of five hectares or larger this coming winter. The first phase of the scheme last year resulted in over 180 hectares of new woodland planting.
The minister commented that forestry makes a valuable contribution to the Northern Ireland economy, saying: “Forestry has potential to contribute to a number of the outcomes in the new draft Programme for Government. For example, the outcomes of living and working sustainably and protecting the environment are served by working in forestry, wood processing, and the small businesses that use forests for tourism and pre-school activities.
“Also, supplying and using wood as a substitute for fossil fuels will help reduce emissions. And taking exercise in our forests will contribute towards the outcome of living long, healthy, active lives.”
Successful applicants to the Forest Expansion Scheme Establishment Grant may now receive up to 100% of eligible costs, compared with a maximum of 70% of costs under previous schemes. In addition annual premia are now payable over a 10 year period compared with 15 years under previous schemes, but at increased rates.
The Forest Expansion Scheme is competitive, meaning that projects must conform to the UK Forestry Standard and that the scheme favours bids with lower costs and which are part financed by the applicant. Applications are scored higher by providing public access, increased carbon sequestration, richer biodiversity, and larger scale over other bids.
The minister added: “I am aware of the challenges facing the land-based and forestry sector caused by the impact of global markets, exchange rate fluctuations and international trade. I will be engaging to help forge a new relationship with Europe and to develop a support framework that meets the needs and aspirations of the forestry sector.
“I am committed to addressing all of these challenges. By working collectively with forest growers and stakeholders we can build a forest industry that is well positioned in the global timber marketplace to supply the growing demand for wood, to provide people in Northern Ireland with a wide range of social and environmental benefits that forestry has to offer.”
Further details of the scheme and advice on how to apply, as well as an information booklet and application form, are available on the DAERA website at http://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/daera-forestry- grants.
Alternatively, contact Forest Service on tel. 028 6634 3019 or e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications for the Forest Expansion Scheme must be submitted to Forest Service by 3pm Friday, September 30, 2016 for the 2016/17 planting season.