Minister Press Release

PRESS RELEASE
14/14 07 February 2014

COVENEY COMMENTS ON WEATHER IMPLICATIONS FOR FARMING

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, commented today on the effects on farmers of the severe weather in the recent past and on the forecast for the coming days. He said he recognised the difficulties and the hardship being experienced as a result of land which is very wet and slurry tanks full or nearly full. He reassured farmers that he and his Department will do all that is possible to assist them at this time.

In relation to inspections in particular, Minister Coveney said his Department would take a common sense approach and farmers need not be worried or concerned on this front. For example, where there has been severe storm damage including damage to fences and grazing or large deposits of stone or debris farmers will not be penalised under Direct Payments schemes.

The Minister advised farmers who find themselves unable to feed their animals that help can be provided. He reminded farmers that the Animal Welfare Helpline Lo Call 1850-211990 continues to operate for those with animal welfare concerns.

Minister Coveney said that Teagasc is already engaging with those clients who have been affected by bad weather. In addition, he had asked Teagasc to make practical advice available to all farmers on steps which can be taken to deal with their particular problems.

“My Department is also in close contact with farm organisations through the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council, whose members on the ground are very well placed to assess the situation. It is at times like this where the community spirit within the farming community comes to the fore”

While the majority of livestock are still housed and the supply of fodder is not an issue, there may be cases where farmers are faced with slurry tanks that are almost full and ground conditions not suitable for spreading. Minister Coveney said there are ways of addressing this and he advised farmers to seek advice from Teagasc.

Minister Coveney is visiting affected areas in Galway and Clare over the coming days and will be meeting with representatives and with some of those affected by this unprecedented bout of bad weather.

ENDS

Ash Dieback Update

Following confirmation of a finding of Ash Dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in Ireland in October 2012 (on plants imported from continental Europe), an ongoing major survey of ash has been carried out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This included targeted and systematic ash surveys of plantations, nurseries, roadsides, landscape and farm landscape plantings and hedgerows. As of 29 October 2013, there have been a total of 101 confirmed finding’s of the disease located throughout the country.

As part of the surveillance effort a systematic survey of Ireland’s hedgerows as well as a targeted survey of hedgerows surrounding infected plantations was carried out. Following confirmation of the first hedgerow infection earlier this month in county Leitrim the Department has now confirmed a second infected ash hedgerow site in county Tipperary. This hedgerow is within 50 metres of a farm landscaping shelterbelt of ash planted 8 years ago with imported plants that have also tested positive for the disease. This is now the second confirmed site of Chalara in a native hedgerow in Ireland. The Department are carrying out a survey of the hedgerow system in the vicinity of this finding before determining the extent of hedgerow to be removed in order to eradicate the disease at this site. In the meantime the farm landscaping shelterbelt is being removed.

Meanwhile the felling of trees in the first hedgerow infection site in Leitrim site has been completed. All ash trees in the surrounding hedgerows and associated leaf litter have been removed and destroyed from a 250m buffer zone around the site.

For further details: see the Department’s press releases (7 and 29 October 2013) below.

What is it?
Ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by the fungal pathogen Chalara fraxinea (Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus). It has spread rapidly across much of Europe. The disease can affect ash trees of any age and in any setting. The disease can be fatal, particularly among younger trees.

What does it look like?
The wide range of symptoms associated with ash dieback includes:

foliage wilt – black/brown leaves may be retained;
shoot dieback with brownish to orange discolouration, often multiple shoots; and,
elongated angular stem lesions, often diamond shaped.

Foliage wilt Shoot dieback Elongated angular stem lesions
Note, symptoms similar to the above may be caused by other factors, e.g. frost.

How can it spread?
Many details associated with the biology of Chalara fraxinea still remain unclear. However, it is likely that plants for planting and wood are pathways for spread over long distances and the disease may be introduced into Ireland through the imports of ash plants and wood, including firewood, from continental European countries.

What to do?
Forest and land owners are asked to be vigilant for the disease and to report (with photographs, if possible) any sites where they have concerns about unusual ill health in ash, to the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine: by email (forestprotection@agriculture.gov.ie); or, by phone (01-607 2651).

Please do not remove any plant material from a site containing suspect trees. Also, please observe the following hygiene measures on sites where the disease is suspected or where an ash survey is being carried out to help avoid its potential spread:

footwear: wash off all soil and plant debris from boots. Spray your boots with disinfectant and dispose of any used water onto an area where the water will not run into a watercourse;
clothing: check all clothing for any plant material; and,
tools and equipment: wash off all soil and plant debris, and disinfect and dispose of any used water onto an area where the water will not run into a watercourse.
When visiting a forest:
do not remove any plant material from the site; and,
clean clothes and footwear of any plant material, including leaves, before leaving the forest.
Please highlight this serious disease by downloading and displaying this Chalara poster (2.5 MB) in a prominent place.

Hayes launches future strategy for Broadleaf Trees

Hayes launches future strategy for Broadleaf Trees
Minister of State for Forestry, Tom Hayes TD today launched a Future Strategy for Broadleaves at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. The strategy has been drafted by the Future Trees Trust,a UK/Ireland collaborative body, which includes the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Teagasc. The overall aim of the strategy is to establish improved broadleaved trees as an integral part of British and Irish woodlands, which will in the long-term contribute to more productive forests with improved wood quality.
Speaking at the launch today Minister Hayes stated “At the outset I want to say that my Department very much welcomes a future with broadleaved trees, having well-adapted and high quality broadleaf planting stock is fundamental to any national afforestation programme. We all know that growing broadleaves tends to be a long term business, but it has an objective of producing high quality wood products. Having the right planting stock on day one is a key element in successful broadleaf planting.”
He added that “As a government department that is funding a national afforestation programme aimed at increasing forest cover from the current 11% to over 17% by mid century, we recognise the importance of using selected and well adapted tree species, both native and introduced, conifer and broadleaved. This is even more important when we consider the potential impacts of climate change.”
He noted that “The advent of new pressures on our native trees, such as ash and oak, shows the importance of working on tree selection and improvement as ways to address these issues. On the research side my Department has funded research on broadleaf tree improvement through successive COFORD programmes. And it is glad to be able to support the work of the Trust, as well as participation by Irish experts in the species groups, which include ash, birch, cherry, oak, sycamore and Spanish chestnut.”

Over 200 attend the Forest Owner Groups Conference

The Teagasc Forestry Development Department, in association with the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners and the Forest Service organised the Annual Forest Owner Groups Conference at the Ballykisteen Hotel, Limerick Junction, Co Tipperary last week, 8 October. Over two hundred forest owners, many with forests approaching thinning, attended. This reflects the major interest that now exists in bringing private woodlots to the marketplace.

Michael Somers, Teagasc and co-organiser of the conference said: “The conference provided an ideal forum for attendees to share experiences and acquire valuable information to help in their forest enterprise. The theme of this year’s event “Strength in Numbers” also reflected one of Teagasc’s objectives in promoting forest owner groups and encouraging active forest owner cooperation and participation.”

Dr Nuala Ni Fhlatharta, Head of Teagasc’s Forestry Development Department, paid tribute to the work carried out and progress achieved by forest owner groups to date. She noted that this was the fifth such event and during this time, the number of forest owner groups had grown from seven to twenty six groups spread throughout the country.

Michael Ryan, chairman of the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners explained in his presentation what forest owner groups are all about: “Function of producer groups is to allow the owner to maintain control of their forests”.

Opening the Conference, Minister of State Tom Hayes TD noted the relevance of the topics for discussion at the Conference. He welcomed, in particular, the inclusion of a talk on ‘Safety in your Forest’, stating “We are all aware of the crucial importance of farm safety so I welcome the inclusion of this talk in relation to forests”. He concluded by encouraging the forest owners in attendance to make the most of the opportunity presented by the Conference to learn and to make contacts in the industry and among other owner groups.

There was strong interest in the second session of the conference, which covered topics now of major importance to many forest owners, including forest insurance and the tax implications associated with a forest enterprise. The interest was reflected in the wide ranging and informed questions and debate during the question and answer sessions that followed.

Most of the presentations from this year’s conference can be viewed on the Teagasc Forestry website.

Minister of State Tom Hayes opens Timber Marketing Event

10 September 2013

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Tom Hayes, TD, with responsibility for forestry, today opened ‘Talking Timber’, a timber marketing event organised by Teagasc with the co-operation of the Irish timber industry, which was held in the Devon Inn Hotel, Templeglantine, Co. Limerick. The purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity for forest owners, whose plantations are at or approaching thinning age, to find out more about the timber selling process and to make contact with timber buyers in their area. A second event will be held in the Lough Allen Hotel, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim on Thursday, 12th September 2013. Opening proceedings, the Minister of State commented that the event was timely given the age profile of privately owned forestry and that “It is important for forest owners to realise that thinning, where appropriate, improves the end value and quality of a timber crop and managing the thinning process effectively can provide an additional income source and ultimately help to maximise timber production and therefore income for the forest owner at final felling stage.” He continued that “Timber mobilisation is a key challenge faced by the forestry sector in Ireland. It is essential that we encourage and facilitate getting the timber from privately owned forests onto the market.” He thanked the Teagasc Forestry Development Department and the various groups which assisted them in the organisation of the event, including representatives from local forest producer groups, the Irish Forest and Forestry Products Association, the Irish Timber Growers Association, forestry companies, forestry consultants and forestry contractors, for making the event possible. Minister of State Hayes noted that last year’s events attracted over 500 forest owners and hoped that this year’s attendees would find the events just as interesting and informative, adding, “There is no doubt that these events provide a fantastic opportunity for forest owners to learn about the process of thinning and selling their timber, and to make valuable contacts among other owners and among the purchasers, professional foresters and others in the timber industry.”

Forestry Facts

  • Over 10% of Ireland is under forest
  • In excess of 43% is in private ownership
  • Output in 2008 was C. €1.89 Billion or just under 1% of GDP
  • Employment in the forest sector is over 16,000 persons.
    • A 15,000 ha per annum afforestation programme will create on average 490 direct jobs annually.
  • Recreational value of forests valued at €97 million, which in turn generates €268 million in economic activities in rural areas.
  • Sustainable level of afforestation is 15,000 ha per annum
  • Government target 17% forest cover by 2030 equivalent to one million hectares of forest

The average size of a privately owned forest in Ireland is 8 hectares (20 acres)