Your questions answered on forestry – Eligibility, Basic Payment, maintenance and income issues

One of the most important conditions is that applicants, who plant part of their holding from 2009 onwards, must retain at least 10pc of the eligible hectares declared in 2008 in an agricultural activity, subject to a minimum area of 3 hectares. This is in order to continue to be regarded as an active farmer for the purpose of retaining eligibility for BPS.

Q Can I return the land to grass afterwards?

A No. You are changing land use from agriculture to forestry and therefore the Forestry Act 2014 will apply. This means that after harvesting the timber, you will have a legal obligation to re-establish a forest. This obligation also applies to agro-forestry.

That is why it is essential to do your homework carefully prior to committing yourself. Forestry can be an excellent farm enterprise. However, it is a one way street: you need to check out all the pros and cons and see if such an enterprise suits you.

Q How much would you roughly get for a hectare of trees going on today’s prices?

A That depends very much on the type of land, the type of trees planted and how well the trees have been looked after over the years. Conifers will take between 30 and 40 years to mature while broadleaves such as oak and beech will require a mere 100 years (plus)…

A typical commercial crop of Sitka spruce on the family farm will provide a young farmer with one of the best (the best?) pension funds available. For instance, a well-managed, 8-hectare (20 acres) forest of mainly Sitka spruce on reasonably fertile marginal land will provide a tax-free premium payment of €4,080 per year (€510/ha, €206/ac, GPC3) for the first fifteen years.

This is followed by regular income from timber sales (thinnings plus clearfell). At the end of a 33-year rotation, this farmer who may now be considering taking it a bit easier, can expect a typical income from timber sales of between €140,000 and €180,000 in today’s money (€17,000-€22,000/ha, €7,000-€9,000/ac). That will…

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