Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
WEDNESDAY 13 JANUARY 2010
Mr Mark Broadmeadow, Mr Pat Snowdon, Mr Mike Townsend
and Mr Richard Smithers
Q180 Earl of Arran:
And the Forestry Commission?
Mr Broadmeadow: I would agree that the timetable
broadly is about right. There are some aspects of the timetableone
of those would be market mechanisms which we will come on to later
onwhere I do not think the evidence is, and can be, there
for a quantifiable market mechanism to be in place. Some of the
elements, as Mike has pointed out, of the evidence base mean it
is a challenging timetable but a necessary timetable. The one
point that the White Paper did not draw out is that we cannot
know what will happen; we cannot know what the adaptation responses
will be because there is large uncertainty in the climate of the
future. We cannot think that by 2013 we will have all the ducks
lined up. We have to be aware that there is considerable uncertainty
and therefore it is the win/win measures that we need to advance
as a matter of urgency.
Q181 Lord Lewis of Newnham:
Do you think there is a significant difference in the problem
of the timetable as far as agriculture and forestation are concerned?
We were told by Defra in their paper that they thought the White
Paper dealt poorly with forestation.
Mr Smithers: The point has been made by others
before. The urgency in terms of adaptation is well illustrated
by the time it takes for a tree to grow. We are one of the least
wooded countries in Europe. The European average is 44 per cent
woodland cover. We have 12 per cent woodland cover in the UK and
nine per cent in England. Given all that trees can do for us and
for agriculture, we really do need to crack on. There are opportunities
even now within the agri-environment measures to do some things
in relation to woodland creation and the establishment of trees.
We need to take full advantage of those, even in these next few
years, but at the moment we are not doing so. At the moment there
is a lack of uptake of those measures and of higher level scheme
money more generally.
Earl of Caithness: I think that has partially
answered my question. I am going to come back on a later question
and follow that one through.
Q182 Lord Palmer:
Mr Smithers, you touched on my question a moment or two ago. The
Trust does not believe that current measures under the CAP adequately
support adaptation and currently the CAP does little to encourage
the establishment of new native woodlands. Especially as funds
for forestry seem to come from a very small rural development
budget, what changes in your joint view do you think might be
made in the short term to increase the possibilities under the
CAP for assisting the forestry sector and indeed for it to adapt
to climate change?
Mr Smithers: In the immediate term, given that
there are some woodland and tree establishment measures and more
coming in this year, the need really immediately is to encourage
people to apply for those measures. The Forestry Commission does
not do a great deal of outreach work. The organisationsNatural
England for exampleadministering and promoting agri-environment
schemes are very much focused on the agricultural side of things
inevitably. Perhaps one thing that could be done very immediately
would be to see those people who are working with farmers on agri-environment
being encouraged to promote the woodland and tree establishment
measures, being trained in how those are best implemented and
to see greater uptake. That would be great.
Mr Townsend: This also links back to something
that we were saying earlier about the tension between agricultural
production and a perceived problem with trees in relation to that.
I think there is something about the advice or knowledge gap,
a lack of understanding of the role that trees might play, and
the impact that may or may not have on productive landscapes.
Q183 Lord Palmer:
Who would be the best medium to transmit that to landowners?
Mr Townsend: I think the best medium is the
landowners. It is inevitably the case that landowners do draw
on the practice and experience of other landowners as being solid
advice, if you like. We may come on to this, but one of the big
knowledge gaps is not necessarily at the research end, although
there are always things of course you can do at that end; it is
turning that into some practical action which people can relate
to in a meaningful way. One of the reasons why there is a lack
of uptake of some of those environmental measures is that uncertainty
and lack of understanding. I think there are other things to do
with the complexity of some of the grant systems and the bureaucratic
nature of some grant systems which also act as a barrier, but
I think there is something missing there in terms of practical
experience as well.
Q184 Lord Palmer:
I know Lord Ullswater would agree, it is obviously not helped
by the unprofitable state of the industry.
Mr Townsend: That does not help.
Mr Snowdon: I would agree with much of that.
I think it would be helpful if forestry was seen as more integral
to farming activities. Again, it is this idea of having to be
in competition with farming which can be a restriction on how
forestry's contribution is perceived. There may be some cultural
reasons why forestry is not more used by farmers, if you like,
as an activity. That has to be recognised. I think it is very
important, as Mike has said, that research is fed down to a practical
level so that land managers are aware of the management issues
surrounding forestry and climate change for example. You may be
aware that there was a report published on forestry and climate
change towards the end of November by Professor Sir David Read
of the Royal Society. That provides the best evidence we have
in a single publication on the interaction between forestry and
climate change, but I think we do have a challenge now to disseminate
that information to land managers.
Q185 Viscount Brookeborough:
When you look at farmers and forestry, I am not sure that the
Forest Service in our case in Northern Ireland, or the Forestry
Commission, take into account that you are dealing within that
with two different groups: those who already have some forestry
and those who do not have a tree about the place. What may appear
as an incentive to somebody who has some forestry, who may already
have five or six hectares being sold every ten years or whateverthey
might feel morally obliged to reinvest someand what that
incentive entails will have no effect whatsoever on somebody who
has never had forestry before. If you talk about increasing forestry,
those people who already have some of it are quite likely to see
if they can put a little bit more into it. For the farmer who
does not have any, there is no understanding or education and
indeed it will be his first little blockin our case in
Northern Ireland where it is quite fast growing there is still
40 years; in most places in the rest of the United Kingdom it
is 70 or 100 years. I am going to talk about financing later,
but there is a whole education thing here because talking to a
farmer who does not have any trees, suggesting he plant some trees,
you are barking up the wrong tree!
Mr Townsend: I would agree with that. I think
that is certainly true. There is a very interesting example from
mid-Wales which you may be familiar with. There is a group of
farmers called the Pontbren farmers who have started off with
their hillsides and have had a problem with run-off of water from
pastures and pollution of water courses. They have invested a
lot of time and effort in planting hedgerows and putting in small
blocks of woodland and have found both an increase in pasture
production and increased lambing percentage. They have had some
practical feedback in terms of their farming practice.
Q186 Viscount Brookeborough:
In the short term?
Mr Townsend: In the short term.
Q187 Viscount Brookeborough:
It is shorter than the felling-time.
Mr Townsend: Exactly, so they have had feedback
in three or four years of undertaking activity. I think having
more of those practical examples of where farmers have undertaken
action and have seen benefits in the short term will be helpful
in terms of getting the right activity on those sorts of farms.
Mr Smithers: Timber is the least of benefits
for somebody planting today. It is these other benefits, these
ecosystem services which trees can provide very swiftly in terms
of water quality, increasing absorption of water into soil, preventing
run-off and so on, that are likely I think to convince farmers
to take action.
Mr Broadmeadow: I think Mike is quite right
that communicating to the landowners is absolutely essential.
It is worth pointing out that the delivery plan for England's
forestry strategy has been developed jointly by Natural England
and the Forestry Commission and increasingly we are working together.
I would anticipate that we will, through a combined approach,
be able to achieve what Mike points out. Picking up the point
that Pat made about the Read Report, the review of the evidence,
we are about to embark on a training course for our woodland officers
to ensure that they have all the up-to-date information on issues
associated with climate change, to ensure they can communicate
those both to landowners and also colleagues and stakeholders
in the regions to really get this message across.
Q188 Lord Lewis of Newnham:
The Woodland Trust makes an interesting set of proposals as far
as the CAP situation is concerned. You suggest in fact the merger
of the two current pillars into a single European land management
policy. I think one can see from where you are coming on that
in the remarks you made earlier in this discussion. Can you expand
on this proposal and explain how it might, in your mind, assist
the EU forestry sector to adapt to climate change? How else could
the CAP be amended to assist the forest sector to adapt to climate
change? In your evidence you also make a note of the point which
you just raised and that is that the complexity of the grant system
appears to be a significant barrier to uptake of many of these
applications that are put in. I can assure you that is not unique
to agriculture. We all suffer from that whenever we get into an
EU situation. The complexity of the application forms is enormous.
In many instances, one has help. How far are you able to help
people to make applications? Where would they go to get help?
The most impressive factor I met when I first made an application
to the European Union was to receive a document that was two and
a half inches thick and to start knowing how to even deal with
it was an important factor. I was wondering whether this was part
of your problem in getting money out via the CAP and other mechanisms.
Mr Townsend: I think it is part of the problem.
There have been studies done of previous grant schemes, not just
through the CAP, but other grant schemes related to forestry.
The two most significant barriers are the complexity and difficulty
in filling in the forms and advice and understanding how you actually
make it happen on the ground subsequently. That advice element
is absolutely crucial in turning what in some cases are quite
good schemes into action. I think take-up is a big problem with
many of these schemes. There is not sufficient help and advice
at a farm level at the moment. Going back to your opening point
about the combination of the two pillars into one land management
fund, as it were, I think part of the rationale behind this is
looking for a more flexible pot of money from which countries
in the EU can make decisions based on their own particular circumstances
and their own particular existing pattern of land use. Particularly
as we have very low woodland cover in the UK, we have in a way
a much greater need for increasing woodland cover and tree cover.
We are also applying some of that funding to existing directivesagain,
the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive are a good
exampleand there are also issues around soil conservation.
It is being able to use that pot of money in a more flexible way
for adaptation both at a farm level but also on a much wider landscape
and catchment level. I think that is the motivation to our thoughts.
Q189 Earl of Caithness:
Possibly one of the best hopes for forestry in the UK is that
it is not under European control. Do you find any support for
your idea that you want to shove forestry under Brussels control
rather than our own control?
Mr Townsend: No.
Q190 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
Are there similar bodies to yourself in other parts of Europe?
What kind of relationships do you have with them and what kind
of views do they hold on these kinds of questions?
Mr Townsend: We operate at a UK level.
Q191 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
Mr Townsend: Yes.
Q192 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
So you do not have link-ups?
Mr Townsend: No. In fairness, the nature of
woodland cover in the UK means that in other parts of Europe there
are not organisations like ours because the perceived need is
not as great. I think the Woodland Trust is peculiarly UK because
we have peculiar forest cover for that reason.
Mr Broadmeadow: We would support increasing
environmental payments to promote the environmental benefits of
Q193 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
Could you comment on my questions too that were addressed to your
Mr Snowdon: We work quite extensively at EU
level. We have international policy sections that do that specifically
and that is from ministerial level down to sub-committee level
within the Commission. One example at the moment is that we are
a member of a sub-committee on forestry and climate change which
is to report to the Standing Forestry Commission at the end of
this year. That brings together Member States from right across
the European Union to look at the evidence on forestry and climate
change and to bring that to the attention, if you like, of the
Standing Forestry Commission.
Q194 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
You see yourself as a public body rather than private?
Mr Snowdon: We are a public body.
Q195 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
I do not know the extent of this. You mentioned a 44 per cent
ownership of woodland across the whole of Europe by comparison
with the UK. Presumably you have figures, do you, on the balance
between public and private ownership?
Mr Smithers: No, that was not ownership. That
is 44 per cent woodland cover.
Q196 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
Mr Smithers: Yes, as compared with 12 per cent
woodland cover in the UK.
Q197 Lord Palmer:
Could we ask perhaps that you submit a breakdown? Could you write
in and let us know what the breakdown is?
Mr Smithers: Yes.
Q198 Lord Palmer:
Could I ask a very quick supplementary to the Forestry Commission?
There is not the equivalent in Brussels like there is of the national
farmer unions throughout the actual Community?
Mr Broadmeadow: Not to our knowledge.
Mr Snowdon: Forestry is dealt with rather differently
by Europe from agriculture. There are strategic documents which
are for forestry, but I think the emphasis is more broadly on
co-operation and information exchange rather than a mechanism
like the Common Agricultural Policy which originally was aimed
essentially at agriculture. The short answer is probably no, but
it is important to remember there is an EU Forest Action Plan
and there is a lot of discussion across Europe between various
forestry departments on how forestry should go forward.
Q199 Earl of Caithness:
Mr Townsend, you mentioned earlier the Floods Directive and the
Water Framework Directive as areas that could be helpful. Also,
the Government has said that the Habitats Directive is working
in the opposite way, being more restrictive. Could you expand
on how these other Directives might or might not help you?
Mr Townsend: Just taking the Water Framework
Directive which has now resulted in river basin management plans
being produced before the end of last year, we are already seeing
in that measures for woodland creation as a way of combating diffuse
pollution. We are already seeing measures coming through as a
result of the Water Framework Directive and the things coming
from that. I think the same will be true in relation to the Floods
Directive in that the role of trees, both in rural and urban areas,
is relatively well-evidenced in terms of surface water flooding
but also in terms of river flooding as well. There is evidence
of the role of trees in delivering those and our sense is that
these will feed through into measures subsequently.
3 Note by witness: It is not our intention
that forestry should be under European control, only that CAP
funds should be available in a more flexible way for forestry. Back