$512,000 Grant Awarded for Agricultural Conservation Innovation - Southern Maryland Headline News

$512,000 Grant Awarded for Agricultural Conservation Innovation

Nutrient Trading Program Funded; Website and Registry to Facilitate Transactions

ANNAPOLIS (August 18, 2009) – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has received a $512,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a nutrient trading program between point and non-point sources in the Upper Chesapeake Bay. The nutrient trading program creates a public marketplace for the sale and purchase of nutrient credits (phosphorus and nitrogen). This exchange will help non-agricultural industries that have point source discharges to offset new or increased discharges. At the same time, participating farmers can benefit from economic incentives for expanding non-point source nutrient reductions.

“When available, nutrient trading will provide an opportunity for farmers to receive income for implementing conservation practices on their land,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Nutrient trading is one more tool in our efforts to achieve Maryland’s water quality goals.”

To participate, farmers must have already met a certain nutrient reduction baseline on their farms. Qualifying farmers may elect to install and maintain additional best management practices (BMPs) on their farms in order to sell nutrient credits for the amount of nutrients reduced by the added BMPs. Facilities such as wastewater treatment plants could buy the nutrient reduction credits to help meet regulatory requirements that limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that they are permitted to discharge in their wastewater to local waterways. Since the credit exchange requires a purchaser to buy 10 percent more credits than permit limits dictate, the end result will be to accelerate environmental benefits.

To facilitate trading, a web based marketplace and trading registry are currently under development at mdnutrienttrading.org. When fully operational, the site will be used to record approved credits, facilitate transactions and provide a tracking method for the public. This project supports the implementation phase of ongoing efforts by MDA and Maryland Department of Environment working cooperatively with a broad based stakeholder advisory group over the last two years. The program is expected to be ready for business in the coming months.

Conservation Innovation Grants are administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and are aimed toward enhancing the delivery of conservation programs to farmers and landowners. MDA’s proposal was selected by USDA from among 391 applications received from organizations across the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Islands.

Source: Maryland Dept. of Agriculture

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