Forestry Grants and Premium Payments - Terms & Conditions
Details on T&Cs, eligibility, applications, etc.
- Questions to ask before deciding to plant
- How do I get the planting done?
- You are responsible!
- Who's who in the forest industry
Forestry grants are available from the Forest Service (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) under the Forestry Programme 2014-2020. DAFM sets the standards and approves grant and premium payments.
Applicants must be over 18 years of age and hold a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN). Companies must provide their company registration number (CRO).
All afforestation projects must obtain prior written approval (termed ‘Technical Approval’) from the Forest Service (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, DAFM). Applicants for Technical Approval must be the owner, lease holder or joint manager of the land at the time of the application.
An application for Technical Approval under the Afforestation Scheme must be made by the applicant and a registered forester (see List of Registered Foresters, PDF) following a joint site visit. As it takes time for the application to be assessed, make sure to apply early to catch the planting season, which normally runs between December and April.
Once a 'Technical Approval' is granted, the owner and forester will need to activate it by requesting a 'Financial Approval' from the Forest Service (DAFM).
Establishment operations can begin only once this subsequent Financial Approval has been obtained.
Establishment grants generally cover all of the costs associated with the establishment and early management of a forest. The rate of afforestation grant and annual forest premium depends on the quality of the land and the type of tree species it can grow.
The First Grant provides support for operations such as ground preparation, drainage, fencing, planting, forester fees and is payable following planting, subject to adherence to scheme conditions and various environmental guidelines.
The Second Grant is paid four years after planting, once the trees have become fully established and are free-growing. This payment covers maintenance works that will often be required (e.g. vegetation management, the replacement of failures).
Annual forest premium payments are payable for a period of up to 15 years.
Planting is a major decision and all implications should be examined. Talk the following questions through with your local Teagasc forestry advisor who will be able to provide you with independent and objective advice:
- Is some of my land suitable for forestry?
- What proportion of my land is enclosed or unenclosed?
- Are there environmental restrictions on my land, e.g. NHA, SAC, hen harrier SPA?
- Will planting maximise family farm income into the future?
- How can a new forest best complement and enhance other farm enterprises?
- What proportion of my land should I plant?
- What rate of annual premium will I qualify for?
- How will planting affect my Basic Payments Scheme payments, compensatory allowance, habitat requirements, etc.?
- What Grant and Premium Category will suit me: Afforestation, Native Woodland, Agro-Forestry or Forestry for Fibre?
It may be helpful to seek references from existing forest owners when selecting a registered forester, required to co-apply with you for planting approval.
If buying land with the clear / sole intention of planting: ensure that the land is eligible for forestry grant aid prior to purchase.
Forestry is a long term commitment: most profits will be realised after approx. 30 to 40 years for conifers and later for broadleaves. Felling the forest before financial maturity is likely to result in substantial opportunity cost in terms of potential returns. Timber harvested from early thinnings (after approx. 15 years and every three to five years thereafter) might also provide some regular income.
Land must remain under forestry and therefore is subject to a replanting obligation for all grant categories.
The option you choose should reflect your circumstances and the amount of time you can allocate to planning, organising and doing the work. It is important that your investment is managed to the highest standards to ensure you reap the rewards as the timber matures.
Ensure that you have a written contract between you and your Registered Forester in place before any work begins. All contracts should be referred to a solicitor. Once you have decided to plant, you can choose how to get the job done from the options described below:
- Option 1: organise the establishment work yourself
This is the most hands-on option, so you must invest time in gaining a good knowledge of forest establishment and management techniques.
You are required to employ a Registered Forester to help prepare and to submit your application to the Forest Service (DAFM) and to provide general supervision. Only when written Financial Approval has been received can the work start.
All sub-contractors hired, such as machine operators for mounding and drainage must be fully tax compliant. When the work is completed, the same Registered Forester submits an application to the Forest Service for payment to you of the First Grant and the first forest premium payment. An inspection by the Forest Service may take place at this stage before payment of the First Grant and also after four years for payment of the Second Grant. You, the applicant, must be prepared to fund all costs until the grant has been paid by the Forest Service.
- Option 2: hire a Registered Forester to organise some or all of the establishment work
Employ a Registered Forester to submit your application to the Forest Service. Only when written Financial Approval has been received can the work start. The Registered Forester will coordinate some or all of the work, as s/he will have knowledge of subcontractors and machine operators and can source trees and other materials.
Some of the work can be carried out by you, as agreed with your Registered Forester in the written contract. You, the landowner, must be prepared to fund all costs until the grant has been paid by the Forest Service, unless there is an agreement to mandate the grant to the Registered Forester. The works and the costs involved should be specified in a written contract.
Most Registered Foresters establish and maintain plantations under a 4-year contract and usually request that the grants are mandated to them.
No matter which option you choose, all the paperwork at pre-planting, post-planting and at the Second Grant payment stage must be prepared by a Registered Forester acting on your behalf. Registered foresters are professional foresters, either consultant foresters or attached to forestry companies. These foresters / forestry companies are registered with the Forest Service and carry professional indemnity insurance. List of Registered Foresters (PDF).
Prior to the payment of the Second Grant at Year 4, you as the forest owner must be satisfied that the forest has been maintained in accordance with best forest practice. Only if you are happy with your plantation should you sign the Year 4 Form.
No matter which option you choose, the Forest Service Inspector assesses a sample of sites at pre-approval stage, post planting stage and at year 4 stage, so do not assume that standards have been checked by a Departmental Inspector.
It is important to keep in mind that you, as the applicant, have ultimate responsibility to the Forest Service for your plantation.
- Forest Service (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) administers grants, controls tree felling and promotes research in forestry and forest products.
- Teagasc provides independent advice and training to all private landowners. Teagasc should be the first port of call for all landowners thinking of planting land. Your local forestry advisor will be able to provide you with free, independent and objective advice.
- Registered Foresters (List of Registered Foresters, PDF) are private forestry companies registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine providing commercial establishment and management services to landowners.
A properly established forest represents an appreciating tax-efficient asset, a good pension scheme for you, and a valuable inheritance for future generations. It will also help support the local rural community, benefit the environment and act as a source of renewable energy. Ongoing management is critical for success.
Regulations may change over time. Before making an application, please check that you have the most recent information.