AN 8% reduction in forestry premium payments, announced in last week’s budget, has been defended by Minister of State Tony Killeen.
He said the decision had to be seen against the background of unprecedented pressure on the public finances and the necessity of taking difficult decisions and making choices with limited resources.
Mr Killeen said he accepted that an 8% reduction in premium levels would have an impact on 15,000 recipients. But it was balanced by the decision to maintain the establishment grant scheme, which is the lifeblood of planting and employment in the forestry sector.
He said he remains confident that, with the 100% establishment grants and the maintenance of further significant expenditure on support schemes, the overall forestry package still provides an attractive land-use option.
Mr Killeen said, despite the financial pressure on his department, the total amount of funding made available for forestry and bio-energy is still almost e120 million, which is only marginally over 1% less than that provided in 2008.
“I will be meeting with industry representatives and look forward to continuing what has been a very constructive engagement in relation to the future of an important industry, not least given its role in relation to climate change and rural job creation”, he said.
The minister’s remarks followed sharp criticism from farming and other sources that the cut could have a devastating effect on the rural economy and the estimated 16,000 people employed in the forestry sector.
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