Maryland Agriculture Experts Highlight Need for Soil Conservation During Farm Tours in So. Maryland

CALVERT COUNTY - Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5) yesterday joined the Calvert Soil Conservation District (SCD) in a series of farm tours in Calvert County to view conservation practices installed on area farms to improve the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Following the tour, Congressman Hoyer also joined local farmers and members of the farming community at the annual farm dinner held at the farm of Allen "Sambo" Swann where he discussed the preservation of the Family Farm.

"There are many sources of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in manure and chemical fertilizers," said Congressman Hoyer. "As these nutrients leach and runoff into the ground and nearby waterways, they are transported into the Chesapeake Bay. I am pleased to visit these four farms to see the best management practices being used to play a major role in our efforts to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay."

Best management practices (BMPs) are conservation practices or systems of practices and management measures that control soil loss and reduce water quality degradation caused by nutrients, animal wastes, toxics, and sediment. Agricultural BMPs include strip cropping, terracing, contour stripping, grass waterways, animal waste structures, ponds, minimal tillage, grass and naturally vegetated filter strips, and proper nutrient application measures.

"The Mid - Atlantic region has a long tradition of farming, but in recent years we have witnessed a loss of prime agriculture land and watched farm numbers decline," Hoyer added. "Today, Maryland has approximately 12,200 farmers and 2.1 million acres of farmland and continues to lose acres at a rate faster than neighboring states. It is expected Maryland will lose about 40,000 acres and 200-400 farms by 2010.

"Family farms have a vested interest in their communities. They are more likely to use sustainable farming techniques that protect our natural resources and they guarantee the preservation of our green space. In addition to providing jobs and supporting local businesses, they help provide a safe supply of fresh locally grown products.

"I strongly supported the farm bill passed by the Congress in 2002 which provided for dramatic increases in conservation practices and support for water improvement projects. As we look to the next farm bill, it is in our best interest to improve successful conservation practices that help farmers solve water quality problems present on the farm. It is a realistic solution to help reduce the environmental impacts of nutrients and to preserve rural communities in our state and across the nation," concluded Rep. Hoyer.

Congressman Hoyer was joined on the conservation tour today by Y.D. Hance, former Maryland Secretary of Agriculture and current Supervisor, Calvert SCD; David Doss, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist; Louise Lawrence, Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Resource Conservation Chief; Gary Wynn, USDA-NRCS District Conservationist for Calvert SCD; Jennifer Snoddy, MDA Conservation Planner for Calvert SCD; and Ron Babcock, Sediment and Erosion Control Specialist, Calvert SCD.

The group visited two farms, both located in Owings in Calvert County, owned by Jim Bourne and Danny Gibson where conservation practices had been installed. Rep. Hoyer followed the tour by attending the annual Farm Dinner held at the Swann Farm, one of the largest farms in Calvert County.

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