11 September 1998

Grants might make decision easier

Farmers are often reluctant

to plant woodland because

they believe available grants

wont cover establishment

costs. That is not always

correct, says Graham Goodall

of Cranfield University

IN the long-term, a woodland could improve the farms landscape, conservation and shooting value, and, if the right species mix is planted, provide income from timber, says Graham Woodall, farm woodland project officier for Cranfield University, Silsoe, Beds.

Mr Goodalls advice is based on the findings of an EU-funded project at four local farm sites, which aim to show farmers that planting trees can be a viable proposition. Cranfields partners in the project are the Forestry Authority, MAFF and Beds County Council, which owns two of the farms.

At the four farms, with their range of silvicultural systems which include traditional broadleaved woodland, agroforestry and poplar plantations, grant aid has more than covered establishment costs.

For example, 7.3ha (18 acres) of broadleaf woodland and coppice cost a total of £9270 to establish, the planting grants received amounted to £10,675. At another site, the cost of establishing 13ha (32 acres) of traditional broadleaf woodland came to £17,700 while planting grants totalled £20,225.

These costs included the use of contractors; farmers could make substantial savings by doing the planting work themselves.

To ensure a farm woodland will be viable, Mr Goodall stresses the owners objectives must be clear from the start. Look around at local woods to see which species grow well and at local timber markets before deciding what trees to plant, he advises.

Mr Goodall admits woodland is not always going to contribute substantially to income. But for many farmers, timber is not a prime objective when planting trees.

"Wildlife and shooting were the main objectives of farmers we surveyed in mid-Beds. Timber was way down the list," he says.

Any income from timber is likely to be for successive generations. Even broadleaf thinnings are unlikely to bring in revenue for 30-40 years. But one of the farmers in the project included some fast-growing poplars to provide himself with a "pension fund" in 25 years time.

Mr Goodall says it is essential to assess potential pest problems so the correct decisions about using tree shelters or fencing are made at the onset. Aftercare – particularly annual weed control – is important, too. "A commitment must be made to early maintenance, either in terms of using on-farm labour or contractors," he insists.

Mr Goodalls final advice to potential planters is to remember that a woodland is a long-term venture. "You may not get the benefit from the woodland yourself but future generations certainly will."

This three-year project ends in the summer of 1999. Next September, Cranfield is holding a conference at Silsoe, entitled Farm Woodlands for the Future, where the projects final conclusions will be presented.

As with most farm woodland schemes, the Bedfordshire sites rely primarily on the Woodland Grant Scheme and the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme to provide the all-essential grant aid.

In addition, some sites near urban areas qualified for the WGS Community Woodland Supplement. But many farmers would choose not to apply for this grant because of the problems that providing access can bring, particularly if the land is used for shooting, says Mr Goodall.

The Forestry Authoritys WGS is paid in two instalments, 70% at planting and 30% after five years provided that the trees have established satisfactorily. The rates are £700/£1050/£1350, depending on the area and whether conifers or broadleaves are planted. The FWPS is paid by MAFF, but is now claimed for on the same form as the WGS, which simplifies the grant application procedure. The FWPS is paid annually for 10 or 15 years and should more than cover the costs of early maintenance. Entry to the FWPS relies on the proposed planting having been approved under the WGS.

The Forestry Authority pays several supplements to encourage planting in priority areas. The Community Woodland Supplement of £950/ha is paid if access for local people is provided.

A Better Land supplement of £600/ha is paid if the trees are planted on arable land or improved grassland. One new Locational Supplement is paid in the area of the South West Forest, which in broad terms is the area bordered by Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor.

The Forestry Authority now administers a number of Challenge Funds, where farmers can bid for funding to carry out new planting. These include bracken land in Wales, native woodlands in National Parks and the Central Scotland Forest.

Further targeted funding comes through the Annual Management Grant and Woodland Improvement Grant. For example, WIG Project 2 is for work carried out in undermanaged woods, while WIG Project 3 is for projects which improve woodland biodiversity. Some WIG funding is also administered through Challenge Funds.

Full details about Forestry Authority grants are available through local conservancy offices. Details of the FWPS are available from local MAFF offices. But in addition, there are many grants paid by other sources. These include English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, local authorities, National Park authorities and regional woodland projects.

GRANTSFORNEWWOODLANDS

Planting Grants: Paid in two instalments – 70% after planting and 30% in year 5 although the trees must be managed for a further 5 years to retain the grants.

Under 10ha £/ha Over 10ha £/ha

Conifers 700 700

Broadleaves and native pinewoods 1,350 1,050

Density of planting is generally a minimum of 2250 trees/ha. 1100 trees/ha is acceptable by agreements for amenity woodland, new native woodland, poplar plantations or agroforestry. Up to 20% of the area planted can be left as open ground and remain eligible for the grant.

Restocking and Natural Regeneration Grant: Paid 100% after planting new trees for restocking or paid when natural regeneration has been established with minimum densities of 2250 conifers and 1100 for broadleaves. There are two elements – the first an agreed discretionary payment for preparatory work and the second, a payment/ha.

Conifers £325

Broadleaves and native pinewoods £525

Challenge Funds and National Forest Tender Schemes: Various funds are available in specific geographic areas.

Supplemental Payments: Several other grants are available in addition to the planting grants

Better Land Supplement: £600/ha paid 100% after planting for new woodland on improved grassland or existing arable land.

Community Woodland Supplement: A £950/ha premium is payable after planting new woodland within 5 miles of a village or town that can be used for informal recreation.

Locational Supplement: £600/ha available in specific geographic areas to encourage planting.

Farm Woodland Premium Scheme (FWPS): This comprises annual payments for 15 years where more than 50% of the area is broadleaves and/or native Scots pine, the payments are reduced to 10 years if 50% or more of the area is conifers. Trees must not be felled for at least 20 years. The rates of payment vary with the land type.

Arable land eligible for AAP £/ha

Outside LFA 300

LFA disadvantages areas 230

LFA severely disadvantages areas 160

Cropped and improved grassland

Outside LFA 260

LFA disadvantages areas 200

LFA severely disadvantages areas 140

Unimproved land

All LFA areas 60

Land in receipt of the FWPS and eligible for Arable Area Payments can be counted towards set aside obligations. Set-aside payments will not be received.

Short Rotation Coppice: £600/ha on non set-aside land and £400/ha on eligible set-aside land available for planting willow and poplar where an end use is confirmed. Payable 100% after planting. Supplements are not available however set aside payments are available on eligible land.