Giving Thanks and Looking Forward
Published in the November 24, 2018, edition of Lancaster Farming
As we celebrate Thanksgiving and move into the holiday season, I want to take a brief moment to say thank you to all of the Maryland farmers who continue to support the Hogan-Rutherford administration. Our governor has done a great job getting our state back on the right track, and we are all very excited that the people of Maryland have elected to give us four more years to continue changing Maryland for the better. Rural Marylanders were among the first to embrace Governor Hogan as a candidate in 2014, and I can assure that we will always remember that.
Personally, it has been an honor to serve my fellow Maryland farmers as Secretary of Agriculture, and I look forward to continuing in that role for another term. I know it has been a tough year for a lot of us with erratic weather, but I want you to know that our staff at the Maryland Department of Agriculture is here to help in any way we can, and we are all grateful for the hard work you do each and every day to provide food and fiber for us all.
In addition to its effect on crop yields, I know that wet weather has made it difficult for many farmers to get cover crops planted by the program’s planting deadline. In response to that challenge, the department has launched a Healthy Soil Biomass pilot program for farmers who were approved to participate in the 2018-2019 winter cover crop program, but were unable to plant all of their acreage. The pilot program will pay these farmers a flat rate of $45/acre to plant qualifying small grains in leftover, unplanted fields to create a healthy soil biomass and protect water quality in nearby streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
The pilot program works in a similar way to the department’s traditional cover crop program, but it is a separate and distinct program with its own set of rules and requirements. Only farmers who were previously approved to plant cover crops this fall are eligible to participate. These farmers may plant up to 500 acres of qualifying small grains on “leftover fields” that they did not plant in traditional cover crops. Farmers have a choice of planting methods, but only wheat, rye or triticale may be used as the seed source. The planting deadline for the pilot program is December 1. Farmers interested in participating are encouraged to contact their local soil conservation district office.
WIP Workshops Planned for Fall/Winter 2018
Our department has partnered with the Maryland Department of the Environment and University of Maryland’s Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology to host a series of workshops aimed at helping local communities address the third phase of Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The series of six workshops began on November 16 and will run through December 6. Each workshop will focus on local goals, opportunities for collaboration, and how to proceed to reach targets in 2025 and beyond.
Each workshop will begin with state and region-specific overviews from the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Department of Agriculture before a set of breakout sessions organized by counties. Participants will then reconvene after lunch for a discussion on next steps. All workshops are free to attend and sponsored by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and funded by the Town Creek Foundation.
For more information on these workshops, visit: https://agresearch.umd.edu/agroecol/fall-watershed-implementation-plan-wip-workshops