MDA Cover Crop Program Sign-Up Runs June 24 to July 15
ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced that open enrollment for its 2013-2014 Cover Crop Program will run June 24 through July 15 at soil conservation district offices (SCDs) statewide. This year, Governor Martin O’Malley has allocated approximately $20 million for the popular conservation program which provides grants to farmers who agree to plant cover crops on their fields in the fall to conserve nutrients, reduce soil erosion, and protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Farmers are urged to visit their local SCD office during the three-week sign-up window, as this will be their only opportunity to registers for this year’s program.
“Cover crops are one of the most cost effective things that we can do to keep the nitrogen and the phosphorus out of the waters of this Bay. For the third year in a row, Maryland farmers have planted more than 400,000 acres of protective cover crops on their farms, and this year we’ve exceeded Maryland’s 2013 Chesapeake Bay Milestone commitment by 17 percent,” said Governor O’Malley. “I’d like to thank our farmers for understanding that we’re all in this together and for realizing the importance of balance for the future prosperity of the next generation.”
Farmers participating in the 2013-2014 Cover Crop Program may choose from two management options. 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. Harvested cover crops qualify for $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.
“The cover crop program is a mainstay of Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “This year, the program takes on extra importance. Maryland’s newly revised nutrient management regulations require farmers to plant cover crops when organic nutrient sources are applied to fields in the fall.”
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 the harvest of corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco or vegetables. Barley, canola, rapeseed, kale, rye, rygrass, forage radish, spring oats, triticale and wheat planted in the fall of 2013 are eligible. Farmers may use seed they have saved, however, all seed used is required to meet Maryland Seed Law and Regulatory Standards and have a minimum germination rate of 80 percent.
Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by MDA and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. It is 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.