Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen today announced a second application date of 12th September 2016 for the Forest Expansion Scheme under the Rural Development Programme, part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, to help farmers and landowners benefit from the Chancellors assurance that “all structural and investment fund projects … signed before the Autumn Statement will be fully funded, even when these projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU”.
The Scheme is competitive, and provides 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. This year, applicants can apply by 12th September or by 30th September. Those applying by the 12th will be considered first, and any that are unsuccessful in the first tranche will be considered again alongside those applying by the 30th, subject to funds remaining after consideration of the first tranche.
The Minister commented that this scheme is a valuable opportunity for farmers and landowners to diversify part or all of their holding into forestry, and so make a valuable contribution to the Northern Ireland economy post EU-exit. She said: “Forestry has potential to contribute to a number of the outcomes in the new draft Programme for Government. These include living and working sustainably and protecting the environment by working in forestry, wood processing, and the small businesses that use forests for tourism and pre-school activities; by supplying wood as a substitute for fossil fuels; and living long, healthy active lives by taking exercise in our forests.”
Successful applicants to the Forest Expansion Scheme Establishment Grant will receive up to 100% of eligible costs and an Annual Premia payable over a 10 year period.
The Forest Expansion Scheme is competitive, projects must conform to the UK Forestry Standard and it favours bids with lower costs 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 went on to say: “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”.
For further details of the Scheme and advice on how to apply, an information booklet and application form are available on the DAERA website or contact Forest Service on telephone number 028 6634 3019 or e-mail on [email protected] Applications for the Forest Expansion Scheme must be submitted to Forest Service by 10.00am Monday 12 September 2016 or 3.00pm Friday 30 September 2016 for the 2016/17 planting season.