MDA Conservation Grants Now Available for Pasture Management Intensive Grazing Systems
ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced that beginning July 1, conservation grants will be available to farmers who want to establish pasture for a management intensive grazing (MIG) system for their livestock that protects the soil from erosion, reduces nutrient losses and safeguards water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
“We are very excited to offer this new conservation tool to farmers,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Maryland farmers are proactive when it comes to using alternative management practices that have been shown to improve water quality. From both an environmental and an economic standpoint, management intensive grazing makes sense for many operations. I would like to recognize the efforts of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in establishing the Grazers Network to promote management intensive grazing.”
The newly funded practice involves planting quality forage species suitable for establishing a management intensive grazing system or renovating and converting a pasture previously used for continuous grazing. Sometimes referred to as rotational grazing, a management intensive grazing system divides pastures into several areas called paddocks. Livestock are moved from paddock to paddock on a planned schedule based on forage availability and nutritional needs. Livestock are not allowed to graze plants below a specified height. Allowing paddocks to rest and recover until the next grazing rotation improves vegetative cover, protects the soil from erosion, distributes manure more evenly in pastures, and protects water quality.
Beginning July 1, conservation grants covering up to 87.5 percent of the cost to establish a pasture to be used within a management intensive grazing system will be available to farmers through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost Share (MACS) Program. The maximum allowable rate for this practice is $50,000 per farm. Farmers should visit their local soil conservation district office to apply for the grants and receive free technical assistance in designing their systems.
Established in 1984, MACS provides farmers with conservation grants to install best management practices (BMPs) on their farms that address potential and existing water quality concerns. Cover crops, animal waste management systems and a variety of stream protection measures are among approximately 30 BMPs currently eligible for funding. When combined with the technical assistance offered by Maryland’s Conservation Partnership—MDA, soil conservation districts and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)—the program provides the foundation of the state’s efforts to achieve water quality goals identified by the Chesapeake Bay’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and advance farm viability into the future. Over the last 15 years farmers have spent $15.8 million of their own money to match $72.8 million in MACS grants to install over 10,800 water quality projects.