SCOTTISH Forestry’s Grampian team is offering advice to farming businesses in the region about planting woodlands.

A limited number of free feasibility studies are being offering to farm businesses in the Grampian region (excluding the Cairngorms National Park) to help owners assess whether forestry is right for them.

As well as detailing available options, the Farm Woodlands Assessment Scheme will explore predicted expenditure and cash flow through the grant scheme until the woodland is established and advise on future management – right up to expected first returns from harvesting.

Tim Gordon-Roberts, of Scottish Forestry’s Grampian office, said: “We are offering this scheme for a second year as we were oversubscribed last year, with all ten studies on offer being snapped up straight away.

“The scheme offers a great opportunity for anyone thinking about planting woodland to gain the information and confidence to apply for a grant and to help them see how they can fit woodland creation into their business plan.

“Woodland creation is a great opportunity to bring underutilised, marginal land into productive use, providing a secure longer-term income and maximising business productivity by adding an additional tax-free asset to a farm business.

“As well as eventually providing a regular income from timber sales, a new woodland will provide shelter for livestock, habitat for wildlife, and will help to reduce a farm’s carbon footprint – as well as providing an attractive back-drop.”

Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS) woodland creation grants provide an initial per-hectare planting payment, which is designed to cover most of the costs of preparing and submitting an application to Scottish Forestry, as well as preparing the ground for planting, buying the trees and getting them planted.

Tree protection costs, like fencing, are paid separately and can be claimed as soon as the work is completed. Maintenance payments are also paid for five years to replace any trees that die, carry out weed control and to make sure the tree protection remains fit for purpose. Farmers continue to benefit from the Basic Payment Scheme.

One FGS option is the sheep and trees scheme, which is designed for upland livestock farmers who are interested in planting between 10 and 50 ha of productive conifer woodlands. This scheme provides planting grants and additional support to build the infrastructure needed for timber harvesting, such as forest roads, lorry turning and timber stacking areas.

Mark Andrew, from Haddo Estate, near Ellon, took part in the scheme last year. He said: “We asked Scottish Forestry’s Grampian team for assistance as we were considering converting two entirely different areas of Estate farmland to commercial timber production.

“Their advisor was very helpful and confirmed the suitability of the sites for forestry, the tree species most appropriate, and our requirements and a projected cash flow for the first six years.

“We considered the scheme and applied for FGS support and approval. If successful, and if the schemes do go ahead, we will have two new commercial mixed-use plantations which will enable us to support a wider range of biodiversity than is currently present on the sites.

“The sites will also store carbon for a generation and more and will provide for the sale of much needed quality timber in the future.  We may not have considered these sites without the availability of the support from Scottish Forestry.”

Scottish Forestry said it is currently offering the scheme in the Grampian region so that more farmers can realise the benefits that farm woodlands can have for their business. It added that it is hoping to offer further initiatives in the future.

For more information on the Farm Woodlands Assessment Scheme, please contact Grampian Conservancy on 0300 067 6210 and ask to speak to Tim Gordon-Roberts. More information on farm woodlands is available here.

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