The European Commission has authorised Ireland to pay national aid worth more than €900 million over the period 2007-2013 to encourage afforestation.
Ireland has the second lowest rate of forest cover in the European Union - at just 10% of the country's total land area. The primary objective is to bring the level up to 17% of land area.
Aid of up to 100% will be available for establishment of forests. The establishment grants will be conditional on compliance with the Code of Best Forest Practice - Ireland and with environmental and forestry practice guidelines. Short-rotation species are excluded from the scope of the aid scheme.
Under certain circumstances, an additional annual premium for maintenance costs and income foregone will be made available after forest establishment.
Farmers establishing new forests and existing forest owners will be encouraged to create high-nature-value forests. A yearly compensation payment will be offered for a commitment to higher environmental standards in the management of the forests, which go beyond the commitments normally required for planting.
The Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme complements Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. The aid will be granted by the Department of Agriculture and Food in Dublin.
The scheme is one of the first aids to the forestry sector approved under the Community Guidelines for State Aid in the Agriculture and Forestry Sector 2007 to 2013.
The text of the decision will be made available on the Internet - Click Here - once Member States have indicated whether they want parts of the decisions deleted for reasons of confidentiality. The decision can be found under the aid number N 161/07.