Agricultural Conservation Highlights
Agriculture is a leading industry in Maryland and the single largest land use. Maryland farmers play a key role in protecting our state’s natural resources, especially the Chesapeake Bay. During the last two decades, Maryland farmers have spent millions of dollars of their own money and countless hours of labor to install and maintain conservation practices on their farms to protect natural resources and enhance the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay.
Spurred by strong state and federal conservation technical and financial support, farmers incorporate soil conservation and water quality measures into their businesses. These conservation practices help farmers balance crop and livestock production with the need to protect natural resources, while confronting two ongoing concerns—the continued availability of farmland and access to markets or profitability.
Well-managed agricultural land provides many more environmental benefits than developed land. At a time when development pressure may be at its greatest, it is in the Bay’s best interest for Maryland to look to ways to keep farmers farming the land.
Maryland’s agricultural conservation accomplishments are many and include the following:
- Since 1984, farmers have spent approximately $16 million of their own money to match roughly $102 million in state and federal funds to install 19,400 best management practices (BMPs) on their farms—just under two BMPs per day, every day, for 27 years.
- In 2011 alone, farmers matched a record $23 million in MACS state grants with nearly $1 million of their own money to install 2,200 conservation projects on their farms. Collectively, these practices will prevent 2.5 million pounds of nitrogen and 105,200 pounds of phosphorus from impacting waterways each year. They also prevented an estimated 10,400 tons of soil from impacting waterways by cost-sharing a range of erosion control practices.
- Cover crops are widely recognized as one of the most cost-effective and environmentally promising ways to reduce agricultural runoff into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. In 2004, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund was established to create a dedicated and stable funding source for Maryland’s cover crop cost-share program. In 2008, Governor O’Malley’s 2010 Chesapeake Bay Fund provided millions more. During the 2010-2011 planting season MACS provided Maryland farmers with $18.3 million to plant a record 400,331 acres of cover crops on their farms.
- Since 1999, through Maryland’s Manure Transport Program, 718,924 tons of excess poultry litter and manure have been transported from areas with excess manure or high soil phosphorus levels to other farms or alternative use facilities that can use the product in an environmentally-sound manner. In Fiscal Year 2011, Maryland farmers transported 61,150 tons of manure to approved farms and businesses using $354,012 in state grants. Nearly half of this manure was shipped out of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Delmarva poultry companies provided matching funds to transport poultry litter, bringing the total amount of financial support provided to farmers through the Transport Program to $648,296.
- In Fiscal Year 2011, 99.9 percent of regulated farmers had nutrient management plans and 98 percent had filed annual implementation reports with MDA describing how they used nutrients during the previous calendar year. In addition, approximately 70 percent of farmers selected for on-farm audits were determined to be in compliance with program requirements.
- The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is a key feature in Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to place natural filters on private lands. The program helps protect water quality in local streams and rivers by reducing soil erosion, controlling nutrient runoff and increasing wildlife habitat. As of June 2011, farmers had exceeded WIP goals for CREP by implementing these BMPs at an average rate of 111 percent. Program participation stood at 71 percent of its statewide enrollment cap of 100,000 acres.
- Approximately 22 percent of all Maryland farmland is managed as woodland, which promotes sustainable forestry to provide clean water, improve stream health, stabilize soil reduce nutrients and sequester of carbon through actively growing forests and tree biomass.
- The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation has permanently preserved 283,000 acres of priority farmland for farming, with a public investment of over $550 million since its founding in 1977. The Foundation has preserved farmland in all of Maryland’s 23 counties.
See www.baystat.maryland.gov for more information about agricultural conservation achievements toward the Chesapeake Bay restoration goals