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Spring IFA Newsletter


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Irish Farmers' Association Spring Newsletter

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Spring IFA Newsletter

  1. 1. Farm incomes and new Charter of Rights are Eddie Downey’s priorities as President Dear Member, I am greatly honoured to be elected the 14th President of the IFA. Having spent the back- end of last year meeting farmers and IFA officers in every corner of the country, I am acutely aware of the concerns being raised by farm families. Top of the list are: • Farm incomes must be improved by securing strong prices for our quality produce, maximising CAP payments and reducing input costs, and • A new Charter of Farmers’ Rights is required to remove the stress and fear surrounding inspections, and guarantee farmers the respect and fair play they deserve. To these priorities, I want to add two more that are crucial to our future in farming: • Irish agriculture must not be sacrificed in EU trade deals that turn a blind eye to imports which fail to meet European standards, and • In the Government’s review of farm taxation, we must hold what we have and push for new measures on farm investment, land mobility, income volatility and succession. Despite the serious challenges faced in 2013 - with bad weather until June, high costs and the fodder crisis - Agriculture continued to drive growth in exports, jobs and economic recovery. We delivered record exports of €10b and 25,000 extra jobs were attributed to agriculture and food. Incomes However, farm incomes still compare unfavourably with other sectors. The average family farm income in 2013 was just €21,400, compared to €32,200 for average industrial earnings and €48,300 for average public sector earnings. My message to Government, processors and retailers is that farmers must be properly and fairly rewarded for the job they do in producing high quality food. IFA is continuing to push for higher product prices across all commodities. Prices must reflect the cost of production and deliver a fair margin to reward hard work and allow reinvestment. Farmers need to see a real price and income dividend from quality assurance and sustainability programmes such as Origin Green. Winter finishers The price cuts and specification changes imposed by the factories on bull beef producers since December have inflicted serious losses on winter finishers. IFA has met the factories, both locally and nationally and livestock farmers have protested outside factories challenging them to restore price stability and confidence in the sector. IFA has also protested over the beef losses to Minister Coveney demanding that he confronts the factories directly. I have made it clear to the Minister that this is a critical test of Food Harvest 2020 and he must stand firm on the side of producers. Input costs Farmers are also being squeezed by high input costs. Since 2005, the cost of fertiliser is up by 62% and energy by 36%. The EU must take steps to tackle the international price cartels openly operating in the fertiliser sector. At home, the Government must do more to cut the cost of doing business. IFA is challenging all providers of inputs and services to become more efficient and reduce their costs. We are expanding our range of price surveys in order to maximise price competition. continued on page 2 IFA President Eddie Downey with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Government announcement of €580m/year in national/EU funding for the new CAP Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020 SPRING 2014 Member Newsletter 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:50 Page 1
  2. 2. 2 The fear and stress on farm families arising from compliance and inspections is totally unacceptable. I am demanding a new Charter of Farmers’ Rights that does away with the current Big Brother mentality and ensures farmers are treated with respect. I have opened negotiations with Minister Coveney and the Department seeking agreement on a new Charter with specific commitments on: • Realistic notice of all farm inspections • A reduction in the number of inspections and no duplication • A yellow card system and proper tolerances for minor infringements before any penalties are imposed • The elimination of unnecessary and frustrating red tape • Delivery of payments on time to all farmers, and • Tackling the unacceptable behaviour of the SIU. Deputy President Tim O’Leary now has responsibility within IFA for dealing with all ongoing issues relating to direct payments due to farmers. The Deputy has met all IFA Committee Chairmen and set out the IFA agenda in negotiations with the Department. On the eligible land problems, IFA has made it clear to Minister Coveney that he must go back to Brussels. It is unacceptable that farmers, who applied in good faith, are being hit with retrospective penalties. Trade talks IFA rejects the way the European Commission is using agriculture as its main bargaining chip in bilateral trade negotiations with Canada, the US and Brazil. As a major beef exporter, Ireland stands to lose far more than any other EU member state. The potential damage from the recent EU- Canada deal allowing 45,000t of steak cuts onto the European market is very real. A similar deal with the US and Brazil, given their magnitude, would have a devastating impact on our livestock sector. I have called on the Government, Teagasc and Bord Bia to undertake a full assessment of the potential damage to our beef sector focusing on cattle prices, farm incomes, jobs and exports. This must also include the impact on the dairy and white Newly elected IFA Executive Board: (l-r) Munster Regional Chairman James McCarthy, National Treasurer/Returning Officer Jer Bergin, Deputy President Tim O’Leary, President Eddie Downey, Ulster/North Leinster Chairman Bert Stewart, Connacht Chairman Tom Turley and South Leinster Chairman James Murphy. Milk prices can be held for most of 2014 meat sectors. IFA has also made it clear to the EU Commission that Brazil’s lack of reliable food safety, animal movement and traceability standards mean it should be excluded from access to the EU market, as it is from the US. The US and Canada must be subject to import quotas and end-use controls to Negotiations on new Charter of Rights get underway minimise damage to the European market, as well as strict equivalence of standards. I give you a firm commitment, as President, that I will work hard with our new team to deliver results for all farm families. Thank you Eddie Downey Eddie Downey reports that co-ops have responded to IFA’s milk price campaign of late 2013 by finding different ways of passing back some of the additional market buoyancy we had highlighted: through top ups and other means, such as volatility funds, and feed and fertiliser rebates. Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary says that with robust demand keeping well up despite rising global output, there are strong indications that milk prices can be held for most of 2014. Meanwhile IFA continues lobbying in Brussels on superlevy, but there is more support in Europe for production management after 2015 than for any relief before that date. Both Eddie Downey and Sean O’Leary have met with co-ops to press for a review of their development plans to identify opportunities for joint investment. IFA has urged all the co-ops involved and the Irish Dairy Board to re-engage urgently and find a solution to the centralised Kerrygold packaging project. IFA negotiation has helped shape a QA & Sustainability Scheme which the vast majority of dairy farmers should have no difficulty complying with. As the scheme is voluntary, farmers will decide when they are ready to engage, and IFA is calling on co-ops to incentivise farmers’ participation. Already, a number of audits have taken place, and reports from farmers are positive. Sean O’Leary (continued from page 1) 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:50 Page 2
  3. 3. Downey puts IFA’s priorities in Tax Review to Minister Noonan President Eddie Downey addresses Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the Association' Executive Council. 3 - ‘Pay & file’ date - disposed to treating farming as an exception because of end-year direct payments, so that the dates for filing returns and paying tax could be separated - Income volatility - will look at international examples of tax tools that might benefit Ireland - Simplification of tax returns – can be looked at as part of the review - Mandatory purchase of co-op shares - EU state aid rules are the main difficulty in allowing tax relief - Land leasing tax exemption – will look at how it can be refined to increase uptake and land mobility - Farm Forestry – is looking at new ideas to address the ‘high income earner restriction’. Eddie Downey identified the Association’s priorities to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in the current review of farm taxation, when the Minister attended a recent meeting of the IFA Executive Council: - That valuable existing tax reliefs, critical to the development and growth of the sector, are maintained - To secure new tax incentives to drive structural improvements by incentivising land transfer, mobility and investment, and - To develop new taxation tools to help deal with volatility in farm incomes. IFA is also pressing for the simplification of tax returns and use of technology to drive down compliance costs for small and medium size farmers. Responding to Council members’ questions, Minister Noonan said the review was about making the system more effective for the sector and not about increasing the tax take: - 90% agricultural relief - no plans to change it Eddie Downey has warned that the attack on bull beef prices by the factories has seriously eroded confidence, inflicted severe losses on winter finishers and undermined important export markets. Feeders are very frustrated and angry at the way the factories are changing the specification and using dual pricing, weight and age limits to undermine the beef price. Bull beef finishers have been hit with cuts of €200 to €300 per head. The factories and their supermarket clients cannot move the goalposts by imposing a new spec in the middle of the production season. Two years ago, factories pleaded with farmers not to export dairy calves live and promised positive market returns for bull beef. With the planned dairy expansion and more calves, livestock farmers need to be very careful. IFA Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said farmers have learned an expensive lesson. In order to drive price competition, the sector will shift its focus to the live export options for calves to Spain and Holland, weanlings to continental EU markets and forward stores to North Africa. IFA has secured a new direct ferry route to Britain through Stena and Minister Coveney must now remove the artificial barriers, including labelling, preventing this live trade from realising its full potential for Irish farmers. With UK prices at the equivalent of €4.60 - €4.70/kg for steers and a very large price gap with Ireland, the factories cannot justify the price cuts on prime in-spec steers and heifers. Henry Burns said pressure is mounting on Minister Coveney. “He must reject the factories’ tactics and stand up for farmers.” Over 1,500 farmers in factory protests against beef price cuts: IFA President Eddie Downey addresses protesters at Kepak in Clonee, Co Meath. Other protests were held at Dawn Meats, Grannagh, Co Waterford and ABP Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Minister must reject factories’ tactics Henry Burns 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:50 Page 3
  4. 4. 4 IFA President Eddie Downey has described the changes secured in the review of the nitrates regulations as “necessary improvements to support the development of the farming sector.” “Two-thirds of soils in the country are currently nutrient hungry because the existing regulations are inadequate. The additional phosphorous allowances on grassland, and nitrogen on tillage ground, will begin to address this problem and support the sustainable growth of crops and of the sector”. “The decision by the EU Commission to approve the continuation of the nitrates derogation for higher stocked farms is an essential requirement for the dairy and livestock farmers who will drive growth in the agri-food sector in line with the potential identified in Food Harvest 2020.” National Environment and Rural Affairs Chairman Harold Kingston said the change to the definition of soiled water, to include light fouling, better reflects the reality that soiled water is not the same as slurry. However, IFA sees the failure to provide flexibility in the rigid calendar farming regime as a missed opportunity to restore the right of farmers to farm based on best farming conditions. IFA has called on the Department of Agriculture and Teagasc to immediately develop proposals to maximise the use of pig and poultry manures on neighbouring farms, in order to encourage the full utilisation of these manures as part of the regulations. Undergrounding study must examine full impact of electricity infrastructure Eddie Downey has insisted that a comprehensive analysis of the overall impact on farm families and rural communities must be completed, as part of the Government appointed expert review panel study of EirGrid’s electricity infrastructure proposals. IFA has requested that the panel be expanded to included representatives with agricultural expertise and that the concerns of everybody impacted by the proposed development must be taken into account. IFA tackles Minister Hogan on Nitrates regulations, Climate Change legislation, water charges and rural littering: Environment and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan in discussion with Eddie Downey. IFA remains firm in its position that undergrounding must be part of route design and the national planning board An Bord Pleanala must be the final arbiter and not EirGrid. Smart Farming cost-saving studies begin in April IFA’s cross sector on-farm cost saving initiative is kicking off this year in April. Members of over thirty discussion groups across the country will have a free on-farm cost saving study completed, with the aim of identifying savings of at least €5,000 on each farm. Log onto or to keep up-to-date with how the farmers are getting on. IFA launches suicide helpline with Pieta House – Freephone 1890 13 00 22: (l-r) Joan Freeman CEO Pieta House, Helen McEntee TD, and President Eddie Downey. Nitrates review provides scope for expansion but further changes are required To Download 1. Text ifarm and your name to 51000 2. Click on the link in the return text. :: i :: ID2013 New requested font inplace Join over 35,000 farmers and download the ifarm app today. Access National and International farming news, Weather Now, Smart Farming, Market commentary and much more on your smartphone today. 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:51 Page 4
  5. 5. New CAP Programme 2014 - 2020 IFA Committee Chairmen get down to work with Minister Coveney on CAP implementation, opening of Farm Schemes and Cattle Prices: (l-r) IFA Sheep Chairman John Lynskey, Livestock Chairman Henry Burns, Minister Simon Coveney, IFA President Eddie Downey, Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy, Dairy Chairman Seán O’Leary and Grain Chairman Liam Dunne. 5 Eddie Downey raises farmers’ concerns over EU trade negotiations with Catherine Day: Irish woman Ms Day is the top civil servant in the European Commission holding the position of Secretary General. National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said “the national suckler herd is under real pressure and the €80 per cow/calf payment under the new beef genomic scheme from 2015 is positive support. It is essential that the cost to farmers is kept to a minimum and the level of genotyping does not exceed 15%.” National Dairy Chairman Sean O’Leary said “effective market supports” on the dairy side are essential to protect dairy farm incomes from excessive market volatility. National Sheep Chairman John Lynskey said Minister Coveney has agreed to re-examine the proposal to incorporate the Sheep Grassland payment into the SFP of flock owners. He insisted that the original €18m value of the grassland scheme must be fully protected for sheep farmers, so as to maintain the national ewe flock and ensure that payments to flock-owners are not diluted over time through convergence. IFA Grain Chairman Liam Dunne said the Minister must provide clarity on leased entitlements so farmers can plan their businesses and production. He also raised the greening issues and said Irish tillage farmers must have maximum flexibility to ease the burden and costs associated with impractical crop rotation and ecological focus area rules. President Eddie Downey told Minister Coveney “with the right approach to CAP implementation, the farming and food sector can play a central role in our economy recovery and deliver the targets for jobs and export growth in Food Harvest 2020.” IFA’s CAP campaign was one of the most intensive ever undertaken. Over a two year period, IFA officers in every county lobbied rural TDs, particularly Government politicians, on several occasions as the negotiations progressed. The 20,000-strong farmer protest in Dublin was crucial to a positive outcome in the CAP Budget negotiations, while the huge attendance at the Mullingar Rally late last year sent a powerful message to Government on the need for strong Rural Development funding. The Single Farm Payment (SFP) of €1.2bn and Rural Development funding of €580m per annum will provide a major support to farm incomes up to 2010. Key elements of new CAP • Single Farm Payment to be based on the Ireland’s internal convergence model with variable Greening, which limits SFP re- distribution over the period 2015 to 2019 • Flat rate payments and Regionalisation are avoided • Farmers on low payments to see increases to minimum of 60% of national average, estimated at €149/ha • Young Farmers to receive a 25% SFP top-up from a 2% deduction • €25m National Reserve to assist new entrants and young farmers from a 3% SFP deduction • 2013 Reference year and SFP based on entitlements • Max. payment of €700/ha with SFP cap of €150,000 • No transfers from PI (SFP) to P2 (RDP) • New €80/cow Suckler payment (beef data and genomics scheme) worth €52m per year for 650,000 cows • €195m DAs funding, to be known as Areas of Natural Constraint (ANCs) • New €250m GLAS scheme - agri- environment payment of €5,000 per year for 50,000 farmers • On-Farm Investment Programme for all sectors • Protein crops - coupled payment • Sheep Grassland Payment proposed to be incorporated into sheep farmers’ SFP. IFA President Eddie Downey called on Minister Coveney to ensure a smooth transition to the new CAP system. “The Department must clarify the issues around leased entitlements and provide each farmer with a detailed payment profile showing how all these changes will impact on their SFP over the next seven years.” 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:51 Page 5
  6. 6. CAP Reform - CAP Budget successfully defended against 30% cut - Total budget of €1.8b per year in EU/national funding achieved for Pillar I (SFP) & Pillar II (RDP) until 2020 SFP - €1.214b per year secured - Flat payments and Regionalisation rejected. Flexibility achieved on Greening - SFP focused on active, productive farmers RURAL DEVELOPMENT - €580m per year secured for vital farm schemes - Agri-environment scheme of €5,000/year for 50,000 farmers, with GLAS+ top-ups - Fully-funded Disadvantaged Areas scheme - Programme for on-farm investment across all sectors PRODUCT PRICES - IFA market intelligence and pressure on purchasers maximise prices in all sectors - Retailer legislation promised for early 2014 DIRECT PAYMENTS - Strong IFA pressure ensured over €1.8bn paid out to farmers last year and Minister Coveney has opened negotiations on an improved Charter of Rights NITRATES - Derogation secured to support sustainable growth - Extra P to address nutrient deficiency in soils - Re-definition of soiled water - Increased nitrogen allowances for crops DAIRY MILK PRICES: IFA helped secure price increases of 7c/l to up to 39c/l incl VAT, end year top-ups in some co-ops and volatility funds in others LIQUID PRICES: We’re going broke supplying milk campaign helped producer groups achieve prices close to 40c/l breakeven identified by IFA QUOTA ABOLITION: Lobbying in Brussels prevented superlevy by the back door after 2015 QA & SUSTAINABILITY: Hard negotiation delivered a scheme the vast majority of farmers should have no difficulty complying with LIVESTOCK SUCKLER SCHEME: Secured €52m funding for beef genomic scheme, delivering €80 per cow to maintain national herd LIVE EXPORTS: Re-opened live trade to Libya, driving price competition in the beef and livestock sector and increasing numbers shipped by 50,000 to 210,000 head BTAP: €5m aid to beef discussion groups for livestock farmers REPUTATION: Protected good reputation of Irish beef in horsemeat scandal LAND MOBILITY Retention of 90% Agricultural Relief and introduction of capital acquisitions tax relief for disposals for farm restructuring Extension of long-term land leasing incentives to encourage land mobility FARM BUSINESS THIRD LEVEL MAINTENANCE GRANTS: Strong IFA campaign resisted inclusion of farmland in income assessment PAY & FILE DATES: Existing dates for self-assessment retained avoiding cashflow problems on farms VAT REFUND: Flat-rate refund increased from 4.8% to 5.0% from January 2014, an increase worth €10m per year to farmers Meeting Minister Howlin to secure Rural Development funding: (l-r) Wicklow Co Chairman Tom Short, Wexford Chairman Pat Murray, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, IFA General Secretary Pat Smith and Wexford Sheep Chairman James Kehoe. IFA Delivery - Working 6 Transport Minister Leo Varadkar exempted hay and straw from load height regulations following representations from IFA: (l-r) Minister Varadkar, President Eddie Downey and IFA Environment Committee Chairman Harold Kingston. 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:51 Page 6
  7. 7. PIGS DNA TRACEBACK: Exposed imports and highlighted labelling deficiencies by processors and retailers IFA/TEAGASC JOINT PROGRAMME designed to support Irish pig producers by providing advice, research and education across a range of important issues in the sector PRRS: Strategy agreed to compensate affected farmers GRAIN Focus on farm-to-farm trading and developing niche markets in malting and milling POULTRY Ongoing negotiations to secure viable prices for broiler producers ANIMAL HEALTH TB: Herd incidence down to 3.85% in 2013 from 4.21% in 2012 and APT (animals per ’000 tested) dropped to 1.84 from 2.17 BVD: Programme significantly reduced risk to farmers of unknowingly purchasing PI animals. Eradication estimated to be worth over €100m annually to farmers. JOHNES: Pilot programme established, with Department and co-op supports for participants, to quantify actual costs involved for farmers SHEEP LAMB PRICES: Through strong price information and re-opening of live exports, IFA secured an increase in mid-season lamb prices and a doubling of live export numbers STAP: €3m secured for sheep discussion groups, worth over €800 per farmer SHEEP GRASSLAND: Rollover of €15m funding secured for 2014 scheme ENVIRONMENT & RURAL AFFAIRS LOAD HEIGHTS: Exemption for hay and straw will reduce transport costs CLIMATE CHANGE: Recognition at EU level that policy cannot damage Ireland’s sustainable growth plans for agriculture SMART FARMING: IFA-led initiative to deliver on-farm cost savings and improved returns through better resource IFA’s Retail Protests highlight need for statutory code of conduct: IFA took retailers to task for selling vegetables at 5c per kilo and demanded a ban on below cost selling. Meeting with EU Commission Head of Agriculture and Rural Development: (l-r) President Eddie Downey, Jerzy Bogdan Plewa Director-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, IFA General Secretary Pat Smith and European Director Michael Treacy. Hard for Farmers 7 management PYLONS: Government agrees to examine undergrounding of pylons as part of Grid25 plans COMMUNITY TEXT ALERT: IFA - An Garda Síochana partnership links Gardaí with key IFA officers to reduce criminality in rural areas FARM FAMILY Established Freephone suicide helpline 1890 13 00 22 with Pieta House Ongoing Farm Safety campaigns INPUTS & SERVICES Ongoing campaigns to reduce input costs for farmers across a wide range of products and services Helping individual members with payment delays, inspection issues, credit legal and other problems OTHER FARM FORESTRY: €114.8m funding secured for 2014 2013 FODDER CRISIS: IFA fund sourced and imported 30,000t of feed from Britain, France and the Netherlands BOGS: Reduction in the number of designated bogs HORTICULTURE: €4.2m grant aid for investment 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:52 Page 7
  8. 8. Negotiating with OPW Minister Brian Hayes for flood relief measures: President Eddie Downey with Minister Brian Hayes. IFA sets targets for Minister Coveney to deliver in new Farm Schemes IFA Rural Development Chairman Flor McCarthy said the IFA campaign, which secured €580m per year in EU/national funding for the Pillar II Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, is now focussed on ensuring effective implementation of the new farm schemes. Rural Development payments make up a significant part of farm income, particularly for the Cattle and Sheep sectors. The agreement on the financial envelope for RD Programme forms the basis for a wide range of measures, which is expected to be submitted to the EU Commission by Easter for approval, and IFA is calling for the opening of all measures to applications by this autumn. IFA has set important targets for Minister Coveney for the new agri-environment scheme GLAS, which must pay an average of €5,000/year to include 50,000 farmers over the next number of years, with a significant number qualifying for the GLAS Plus €2,000 top-up mainly in SAC and Commonage areas. The retention of funding for the Disadvantaged Areas (to be renamed Areas of Natural Constraint ANCs) is welcome, but the Government must set out a plan to restore payments to their pre-cut levels in the lifetime of the programme. On the new farm investment programme, Flor McCarthy said IFA is looking for a broad scheme with 40% grant aid up to an investment limit of €72,000 across all farming sectors. Standard costs must be increased particularly in areas where costs are high such as mountain and island areas. Other measures which form part of the Rural Development Programme will be discussion groups, the Leader programme, and support for partnerships. Hill Areas New IFA Hill Farming Chairman Pat Dunne said the Department proposal that 80% of commonage holders must agree on a stocking regime before entry into the new GLAS scheme is totally unworkable and unacceptable. He said this must change and he called on Minister Coveney to immediately establish a working group on commonage stocking levels, which has been promised for some time. Pat Dunne insisted that an Upland Environmental Management Scheme must be a key measure in GLAS and that the payment for commonages and Natura areas must be increased from the current AEOS level of €75 to €150 per ha. TAMs Funding Flor McCarthy reports that all farmers who applied for the TAMs Dairy Equipment and Sheep Handling and Fencing schemes at end December 2013 must be eligible for grant aid. IFA has insisted that all TAMs funding is fully utilised and that any underspends in other schemes are transferred to the dairy and sheep schemes. IFA is calling for Department approvals to be issued immediately. Flood alleviation measures Floods Project Chairman Tom Turley said that the priority for OPW Minister Brian Hayes must be to ensure that a proper river maintenance scheme is put in place. Following the recent flooding, it is clear that the mismanagement of our waterways and flood defences has led to thousands of hectares of land being flooded including many farmyards. Following a visit to coastal damaged areas in Co Mayo, Tom Turley said no farmer must be penalised under farm payment schemes where rock and debris have been strewn across productive land as a result of storms. 8 Nobody works harder for farmers Compiled by: Bryan Barry Assistant General Secretary IFA, The Irish Farm Centre Bluebell, Dublin 12 Telephone: 01 450 0266 Email: @IFAmedia IFA Member Services Nobody works harder for farmers Web App IFA surveys Shannon flooding damage: (l-r), Bertie Roche, Connacht Chairman Tom Turley who also has responsibility for flood and water management, President Eddie Downey, Michael Ryder and Galway Co Chairman Michael Flynn. 12,109 spring news_.qxd_IFA Forestry News FINAL 03/03/2014 17:52 Page 8