New grant rates – Frequently asked questions
Question 1. To what schemes do the new rates apply?
Answer 1. The new rates apply to the two forestry grant schemes specifically targeting the creation of new woodland, that is the Woodland Grant Scheme (WGS) and the current Farm Woodland Premium Scheme (FWPS). Both these schemes are open all year round and are funded under the current Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.
There are also increased rates which apply to the now closed archive Farm Woodland Premium Scheme (FWPS), which ran from 1993 to 2006 and for which some annual premium payments are still being made.
Question 2. Why have the rates increased?
Answer 2. The Forestry Strategy (DARD, 2006) identifies a long term aim of doubling the area of forest from 6% to 12% of land area over the next 50 years, mainly through increased private sector afforestation of agricultural land and our current annual target is 550 hectares of new woodland.
We are aware that over the last three years private grant aided planting has declined and so to address this, Forest Service have carried out a review of forest expansion and a stakeholders’ consultation exercise. An important issue identified as a result of both initiatives was that the current forestry grant rates aimed at encouraging new woodland creation did not provide enough incentive, both in relation to the WGS establishment grant rates and FWPS annual payments for compensation for agricultural income foregone. We have therefore reviewed both schemes and the result is the increased rates outlined here (insert link to new rates tables).
Question 3. If I wish to apply now to plant new woodland this coming season, will I get the new rates?
Answer 3. Yes, you will be eligible for the new rates for the Woodland Grant Scheme and if you apply, for the current Farm Woodland Premium Scheme.
Question 4. If I have recently applied or been granted approval for WGS / FWPS do I get paid at the new rates?
Answer 4. Yes. We will apply the new rates to all claims made from 23rd November 2009. Therefore, if you have applied, been visited by a forest officer, been granted approval or planted but have not yet submitted your claim form, the new rates will apply to your payment.
Question 5. I have submitted my WGS claim form before 23rd November 2009 and have not yet been paid. Will I be eligible for the new WGS rates?
Answer 5. No. If we have received your claim before 23rd November 2009, you will be paid at the previous WGS rate applicable at the time you submitted your claim.
Question 6. I am in the current FWPS scheme and have already received some of my FWPS annual payments. I have a number of years left and still due the remaining payments, will these remaining payments be at the new FWPS rates?
Answer 6. Yes, the new FWPS rates will apply to future payments of existing successful FWPS applications received from 1st January 2007 as well as successful new applications. However, the new rates will not be applied retrospectively on FWPS payments already made under the current RDP 2007-13.
Question 7. What about the pre-2007 archive FWPS rates?
Answer 7. We have increased most, but not all of these. Of the nine land category rates in the pre-2007 archive FWPS, two remain unchanged because the review indicated no increase in income foregone for those particular land categories. The amount of increase for the others is not as much as the current FWPS scheme and we justify this on the basis that all forestry grant aid comes from a single limited budget and we must take into account a wide range of factors including the need to prioritise expenditure to achieve current and future woodland creation targets, affordability in relation to budget allocation, how successful the schemes were in achieving their objectives and the existing scheme structures. We believe that the increase in payment rates is reasonable in the current economic climate and sufficient to maintain confidence amongst beneficiaries.
Question 8. Do I need to submit any documentation to qualify for any of the new rates?
Answer 8. No. Forest Service will automatically apply the new rates to all successful applications, including those where approval has been granted and a claim has yet to be submitted.
Question 9. Given the current financial constraints facing the department, is the Forest Service and the department able to afford these increases?
Answer 9. The department is committed to increasing woodland cover to meet its woodland creation targets and these rate increases clearly underline that commitment. We now have sufficient funding in place to apply these increases and achieve our current targets.
Obviously there is a limited budget to cover our forestry measures and if uptake increases dramatically over the coming period so much so that we achieve our targets earlier than expected and thus fully commit our budget before year end, we may have to consider options such as suspending our schemes temporarily until the beginning of the next financial year. We will therefore continue to monitor the uptake of our schemes as well as our expenditure.