Veon Ltd, Irelands leading forest management company, conducted a survey of farmers covering their attitudes to forestry at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan on 20th September 2017. The purpose of the survey was to ascertain farmers attitudes towards forestry from the broad base of farmers who attended the event. The survey results are presented below.
In Counties with above national average forest cover (11%), 77% of respondents from those counties viewed forestry positively (despite only 11% having actually planted forestry) with 42% having considered planting forestry but not having progressed to planting. Of these, 41% cited commercial reasons for not proceeding to plant and 26% cited current forest policy as their main reason for not planting. The remainder made no comment.
In Counties with less that the national average, 53% of respondents from those counties viewed forestry positively (despite only 7% having planted). 46% have considered planting forestry but have not planted with 38% citing commercial reasons for not planting and 30% citing current forest policy reasons for not proceeding to plant forestry.
37% of respondents who had no forestry on their farms had considered forestry as an option and of these 77% were positively disposed towards forestry i.e. if these respondents had access to additional available land they would be positively disposed to planting forestry on it. Of this 77% of respondents who were positively disposed to forestry, 35% were Beef farmers and 35% were Sheep farmers.
20% of Dairy farmer respondents have forestry holdings of whom 50% are positive towards forestry.
Of the 80% of Dairy farmers who do not have forestry holdings only 12.5% of them had ever considered forestry as an option. Dairy farmer respondents who considered forestry negatively cited “too long term” and “permanent land use loss” as primary negative factors for their views.
All Sheep, Beef and Tillage farmers who were surveyed had considered forestry as an option but only 15% had planted forests. 85% of these farmers surveyed were positive towards forestry.
Only 10% of all respondents owned forests and all of these were positive towards forestry.
66% of all respondents were positive towards forestry. (This level of positivity towards forestry is testament to the success of all sector participants in promoting the positive attributes of forestry to the farming community).
Of all farmer respondents who have not planted forestry, 65% were positively disposed towards forestry and of these 26% cited current forest policy as the main reason they did not proceed – specifically the Permanent Land Use Change followed by Environmental designations (SPA and SAC).
50% of Beef, Sheep and Tillage farmer respondents gave “Commercial Reasons” for not proceeding to plant forestry with 75% of these being positively disposed to forestry.
The Farming community views forestry positively and the survey shows that in counties where forestry is higher than the national average the positive sentiment is higher. This could refer to the those seeing forestry activity in their counties such as planting, roading and harvesting contributing to the local economy.
Beef and sheep farmers appear to be aware of forestry and have considered it. However, dairy farmers are less so and this may provide an opportunity for afforestation amongst this cohort through promoting the benefits of income stabilisation and carbon offsetting/storage.
The main barriers to afforestation cited by all farmers was the replanting obligation and environmental designations. It is believed that overcoming these barriers will contribute to increased planting.