$16 Million Available in Cost-Share Funds to Md. Farmers

Cover Crop Program Sign-Up Runs June 21 – July 15

ANNAPOLIS (June 3, 2011) – The State of Maryland has committed approximately $16 million for the 2011-2012 Cover Crop Program, which provides grants to farmers who plant cover crops in the fall to conserve nutrients, reduce soil erosion and protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Enrollment will take place June 21 through July 15, 2011, at local soil conservation district offices.

“Cover crops are among the most effective and efficient ways to reduce storm-water runoff from our farms. They are a key feature of our state’s Watershed Implementation Plan to restore the Bay’s health by 2020, five years before other states in the watershed,” said Governor O’Malley. “I applaud farmers for their commitment and leadership in planting a record 400,000 acres of cover crops last year. We hope to build upon this accomplishment by providing farmers with the investments they need to plant cover crops.”

This year, farmers who plant traditional cover crops receive a base rate of $45/acre and up to $55/acre in add-on incentives for using highly valued planting practices. Traditional cover crops may not be harvested, but can be grazed or chopped for livestock forage for on-farm use after becoming well established.

Farmers who choose to harvest their cover crops receive $25/acre with a bonus payment of $10/acre if rye is used as the cover crop. Farmers may fill out one application to enroll in both program options. There are no enrollment caps and certain restrictions apply.

“Cover crops are important to the health of the Bay and the productivity of our farmland,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Consistent funding, attractive reimbursement rates and easy enrollment allow our farmers to count on cover crops when planning their cropping systems.”

Cover crops are cereal grains and winter annual brassicas (plants in the cabbage family) that are planted to take up nutrients that remain in the soil following production of corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco or vegetables. Barley, canola, rapeseed, kale, rye, rygrass, spring oats, triticale and wheat planted in the fall of 2011 are eligible. Special incentives are available to farmers who plant rye. Farmers may use seed they have saved. All seed used is required to meet Maryland Seed Law and Regulatory Standards and have a minimum germination rate of 80 percent.

MDA’s 2011-2012 Cover Crop Program is administered by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program and funded by the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS to participate and must be in compliance with the Nutrient Management Program.

Farmers should visit their local soil conservation district office to enroll during the June 21 – July 15, 2011 enrollment period. Additional information is available on MDA’s website at www.mda.state.md.us.

When fully implemented, the full suite of 2-Year Milestones will preventing an additional 3.75 million pounds of nitrogen and 201,000 pounds of phosphorus from reaching waterways by the end of 2011. Cover crops will account for 25 percent of this reduction.

Source: Maryland Department of Agriculture

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