Minister of State for forestry Pippa Hackett has announced details of a “a €79.5m package for farmers and landowners with ash dieback” which was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.

“I was determined to bring forward an action plan that would address both the concerns of farmers and landowners impacted by ash dieback, and the recommendations of the independent review group I commissioned last year,” she said.

While details have to be finalised, the package contains the following financial aid:

  • Site clearance grant of €2,000/ha.
  • Replanting grant rates as in Forestry Programme (2023-2027). Ash owners are free to choose the forest type (FT) that suits their site. For example, FT12 (65% mainly Sitka spruce) is €3,858/ha, FT 1 (native trees) is €6,744/ha and agroforestry is €8,555/ha.
  • Compensation for lost income. Groups such as the IFA and the Limerick-Tipperary Woodland Owners (LTWO,) who sought a once off €15,000 to €20,000/ha payment for income foregone will receive a Climate Action Performance Payment of €5,000/ha.
  • This will be paid as follows: €2,500 at Form 2 stage, followed by two payments of €1,250 at Form 3.

    “This was the maximum wecould achieve after discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure,” said a Department spokesperson.

    The demand for 20-year premiums for the replacement crop, has been turned down because of State Aid rules, according to Minister Hackett.

    Remaining years

    Those applicants whose sites are still in premium will continue to receive the premium due for the remaining years as expected but “they will also receive a once-off top-up payment equivalent to the difference between the existing premium and the associated new forest type premium in the new programme,” according to a Department spokesperson.

    “For example, a farmer with seven years remaining premium who enters into the Reconstitution Scheme to plant FT1 (native forest), will be entitled to receive a lump sum payment of approximately €3,336/ha.”


    The response by stakeholders to the package varies among farmers, forest owner groups, foresters and forestry companies.

    “The reaction of our members to the deal has been mixed,” said Geraldine O’Sullivan, senior policy executive, IFA.

    “At least this is the first time the farmers’ loss has been acknowledged,” she added. “Itprovides some financial relief and is a step in the right direction, but it only partially addresses the emotional and financial loss that farmers have experienced since 2012.”

    Simon White, chair of the LTWO group heavily criticised the €5,000 payment in particular, which he said “came nowhere near the €25,000/ha minimum loss of revenue”. White, who leads the ash dieback campaign and is a member of the ash dieback taskforce, said he and other members of this group were “not consulted” before the minister’s announcement. “This was totally disrespectfulfor those of us who have seen our land devalued,” he said.

    “My land which should be valued at €20,000/ac is now worth zero. The €2,000/ha cap on crop removal was totally unrealistic and fell €5,000/ha short on difficult sites.”

    While the ash dieback review mentions €2,000/ha for tree removal, he said: “This review was clear that the cost of site clearance and regeneration should be borne by the State with any residual value from the timber remaining with the landowner, which is not now happening”.

    Derek McCabe chair of the Irish Forest Owners (IFO) met members after the minister’s announcement to gauge their reaction.

    “It’s fair to say that our members cautiously welcome the package which provides financial aid but the devil will be in the detail as the plan is rolled out,” he said.

    This is a complex issue as no size fits all

    Members understood that the Department “wouldn’t be able to achieve 100% recompense” because of State Aid rules, he maintained.

    “This is a complex issue as no size fits all,” he explained. “Some growers will be disadvantaged because of the age of their plantations and other factors.

    “For example the €2,000/ha grant will be inadequate for most ash plantation owners.”

    He said this and other aspects should have been addressed by the taskforce.

    “I believe it was disingenuous of the minister to announce the package without consulting the taskforce which has never met since I and other members agreed to take part in this exercise.”

    John Roche agreed that the €2,000/ha grant is insufficient. Depending on the site, “a range of €2,500 to €5,500 is required with extremely difficult to harvest sites requiring up to €7,500”, he said.

    He also agreed with comments by Simon White and Derek McCabe about the treatment of the taskforce, which was appointed in February.

    “I am mystified by the suddenness of this announcement which has been taken without any consultation with the task-force,” he said.

    “I agreed to represent the Social, Economic and Environmental Forestry Association (SEEFA) and would have expected at least one meeting with the Department to discuss items such as the tree removal grant and relevant silvicultural issues.”

    He said the minister’s premature announcement pre-empted the work of the taskforce.

    “I welcome the fact that a decision has been made and we are hoping that it will work and that it will be delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Padraig Egan, chair of SEEFA.

    “I am glad to hear the €5,000 is tax free, but it should be paid in one instalment rather than three, which means it could be four years and more before the final payment is made.”

    “It’s positive that farmers have a choice of schemes and that there is no differentiation between broadleaves and conifers as regards qualification for the €5,000/ha payment, and that this will apply to plantations regardless of size,” said Paddy Bruton, MD Forestry Services Ltd.

    “While there are many details to be ironed out, we welcome this deal and would urge farmers and foresters to get behind it,” said Teige Ryan, director, None so Hardy Nurseries.

  • €2,000/ha site clearance grant.
  • €3,858 to €8,555/ha – range of planting grants.
  • €5,000/ha – Climate Action Performance Payment in three instalments.
  • €0/ha – annual premiums on new crop but top up payments for those with existing premiums.