Md. Receives $854,000 in Grants for Agricultural Conservation - Southern Maryland Headline News

Md. Receives $854,000 in Grants for Agricultural Conservation

So. Md. Will Benefit from Horse Farm Management and Nutrient Trading Pilot Programs

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has received two Conservation Innovation Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for two projects to protect the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland waterways. A $604,794 grant will help owners and operators of small-sized equine operations in the seven Patuxent River watershed counties with pasture and manure management. The second grant, $250,000 in funding, will develop a pilot nutrient trading program between point and non-point sources in the Upper Chesapeake Bay. In addition, MDA is a partner with a University of Maryland research team on a $999,000 grant to develop a new management technique for drainage ditch systems on the Eastern Shore that is expected to remove phosphorus from ditch water before it reaches waterways.

"These grants are great news for Marylanders and for the Chesapeake Bay," said Agriculture Secretary Roger L. Richardson. "Our department, in partnership with the farm community, continues to move forward in seeking new and innovative ways to help the environment while ensuring a strong economic outlook for farming. When farming thrives we can continue to enjoy a local supply of food, open farmland, a cleaner environment, and a strong quality of life."

The horse farm management grant will provide technical and financial assistance to horse owners in Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Prince George's counties through the county soil conservation districts. The recreational segment of the state's horse industry is growing quickly and local agriculture groups have identified the need to address small-sized horse operations as part of the Maryland Tributary Strategies as a high priority. This grant builds on a similar $700,000 Chesapeake Targeted Watershed Grant announced just over a month ago by expanding the geographic area eligible to participate. MDA's partners on this soil and water quality project are the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension and Equine Studies Program, the Horse Outreach Workgroup, Maryland Department of the Environment, soil conservation districts, the Maryland Horse Industry Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The second grant makes possible the development and implementation of a pilot nutrient trading program for the State of Maryland to use in managing nutrient loads from point and non-point sources. The approaches developed will offer the opportunity for intrastate and interstate trading in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Through the grant project, MDA expects to conduct an analysis of the complex issues related to nutrient trading including quantifying "credits" for best management practices (BMPs) installed by the agricultural sector. The final goal is to illustrate through the Upper Chesapeake Bay pilot project that nutrient trades can be a part of a successful program to reduce nutrients to the Bay and its tributaries. This project builds on EPA trading guidelines and policies developed in 2001 and 2003 and will be a cooperative effort with Maryland Department of Environment.

MDA also is a partner in a grant to the University of Maryland of almost $1 million to install and test phosphorus absorbing structures in drainage ditches on the Eastern Shore as a way to remove a large percentage of phosphorus from ditch water before it reaches the Chesapeake and Coastal bays and their tributaries. In addition to removing phosphorus from ditch water these treatment systems have the potential to remove nitrogen, sediment, and other contaminants. In general, MDA works with local public drainage associations (PDAs) to assure operation and maintenance plans for public drainage systems are technically adequate and properly implemented to protect water resources. MDA provides technical assistance for the operation and maintenance of approximately 820 miles of drainage ditches on the Eastern Shore.

"MDA is aggressive in its efforts to leverage outside funding to support, expand and accelerate environmental conservation efforts related to agriculture," said Secretary Richardson. "These outside funds are critical to our continued success and we thank our partners and funders for their continued support."

The Conservation Innovation Grants are administered by the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service and are aimed toward enhancing the delivery of conservation programs to farmers and landowners.

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