FARMING Connect is able to support farmers and foresters in all financial aspects of managing profitable woodlands, whether they are considering woodland establishment, woodland management or are interested in developing their woodland business.

That was the message relayed to woodland experts at two seminars held recently in Garwnant, Merthyr Tydfil and Coed-y-Brenin, Dolgellau as the Welsh Government project presented its toolkit of options to over 140 delegates.

Geraint Jones, Technical Forestry Officer for Farming Connect said: “We were keen to share information, learn from experts within Wales’ woodland sector and give attendees the opportunity to learn more about how we can play our part. Promoting plantations, managing woodlands and bringing environmental benefits to Wales’ rural landscape is one element of our project.

“Farming Connect aims to increase efficiency and profitability within Wales’ woodland sector, so we are keen to reach out to individuals and small businesses working within the industry. Farming Connect’s advisory service, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government

offers expert, independent, confidential and bespoke advice to people, so we urge people to get in touch.”

John Browne, Senior Advisor on Forestry at Natural Resources Wales said: “We’re keen to see more woodland in Wales being brought into management, increasing its value to our communities, the economy and the environment we live in, which is why we’re introducing long-term forest management plans so they provide clearer, more comprehensive plans for managing areas of woodland.”

Historical clearance of our woodland has been an on-going problem in the UK until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the government introduced changes. In Wales, woodlands now account for 15 percent of the land cover but approximately 40 percent of that woodland is under-managed or not managed at all.

Delegates at the two seminars were told that forest management plans will soon be introduced, and although there will still be the option to obtain permission to fell trees through a short-term felling licence, the long-term plan option will help us promote our woodlands and plant new ones.

The forest management plans are based on initial self-screening which will provide greater clarity to everyone involved and should reduce the amount of time Natural Resources Wales spends assessing plans. This increased professionalism is important not just so individuals and businesses can provide better service to their customers, but will also reduce costs that will soon be applicable to people as Natural Resources Wales begins charging for discretionary advice.

The Welsh Government has set large targets for planting new woodland. As well as providing an Environmental Screening Assessment as plans are created, landscape considerations also need to be factored in. This will be particularly pertinent as some sizeable new woodlands will need to be created if Welsh Government targets are to be met.

Other areas that will help to create more new woodlands and bring more existing woodland into management will include further woodland grant schemes and the further development of Glastir opportunities. It is important to bring more farm woodlands into management, and for those woodlands already being managed to extend their income generation streams to beyond timber and into areas such as game and woodland recreational activities. Promoting opportunities and supporting ways for managing smaller, lower-value woodlands and increasing the supply of woodfuel products, particularly for on-farm benefit will be a positive step forward.

“Farmers and woodland owners are eligible for support from the Farming Connect scheme,” explains Geraint Jones.

“If you farm a minimum of 3 hectares of land, work on a farm or within the forestry sector for 550 hours a year or own a minimum of 0.5 hectares of woodland, you are eligible for support. We can provide a range of independent and confidential advice either partly or fully funded.

“Working with professional organisations, we can offer one to one support on creating forestry management plans or assist you as an individual or group on further technical advice required.

For more information on Farming Connect support, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/

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