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    Factors influencing Irish farmers’ afforestation intentions
    The natural conditions in Ireland have a positive influence on tree growth as the mean annual increment is twice as high as that in mainland Europe. However, due to centuries of resource exploitation and the expansion of agricultural land the isl¬¬and’s has the second lowest forest cover in the EU. An increased forest cover would encourage the establishment of a range of processing industries and thus support necessary economic development in rural areas. Furthermore through farm afforestation farmers are given the opportunity to diversify their businesses, as market output of the majority of cattle and sheep farms in Ireland often does not cover the production cost. To increase the forest cover, the government in the 1990s introduced a scheme supporting farm afforestation, which is encouraged through premium payments that are high enough to make forestry more profitable than the majority of drystock farming. Afforestation targets, however, have not been met and previous studies have failed to offer a consistent explanation for the shortfall in planting rates. Thus, the objective of this work was to identify the factors influencing farmers’ afforestation decision. More specifically the study aimed at identifying the combined effect of structural, socio-demographic and attitudinal factors on the probability to plant. Based on previous findings from in-depth interviews with Irish farmers’ about their goals and values regarding farming and afforestation, a postal survey was conducted in Spring 2012 including question on farm structure and socio-demographic variables as well as questions on reasons for planting/not planting. The data was analysed using logistic regression. The developed logit model showed that while profit goals did not significantly influence the decision-making with regard to farm afforestation, structural as well as attitudinal factors played a vital role in this process. This was identified as one reason as to why the current incentive scheme failed to deliver the outlined afforestation targets. Other policy tools are needed in addition to the incentives to further encourage afforestation.
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