Land use must shift from beef to forestry
Friday 16 Aug 2019
The recently published annual review from the Climate Change Advisory Council recommended that a reduction of Ireland’s national cow herd would deliver a significant decline in national greenhouse gas emissions and that many aspects of the low-carbon transition objective are contingent on an expanded and sustainable forestry sector.
There is currently a large area of land in cattle production which would earn more money under forestry. Recent farm income data from Teagasc shows there are extremely low or negative profit margins being made from beef farming while the forestry premium for coniferous species now greatly exceeds the average returns in beef farming while it is greater still for broadleaves.
It is important to stress that the replacement of beef farming with forestry is a win-win-win action. It increases farm income, reduces emissions and significantly increases carbon sequestration. And yet in all the recent controversy about low returns from beef farming or the threat posed by the proposed Mercusor deal, these facts never got a mention.
Generally, there has been a marked reluctance on the part of the landowners to heed the financial imperative. Perhaps the reluctance of more farmers to consider forestry is understandable from a behavioural and social perspective as beef farming is a familiar way of life for many landholders who would not be knowledgeable about forestry.
There is also a very prevalent negative attitude to forestry ranging from such perceptions that forestry is inimical to agricultural development to it being responsible for rural depopulation and social isolation and limiting land-use options. In general, it could be said that State policy over the years, with respect to afforestation, has been inconsistent in its budgetary provision and declining in achievement, even as its role in emissions mitigation should have been become more obvious.
The forestry programme for the period 2015-2020 had a planting target of more than 43,000 hectares and it is particularly disturbing that even that low target will not now be achieved.
Source: Irish Times
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