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Signup Period for Maryland’s Conservation Buffer Initiative Opens on January 30

$1,000/Acre Bonus Payment Available to Farmers Who Plant Forest Buffers 

Annapolis, MD (January 26, 2023)- The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) is opening the 2023 signup period for its Conservation Buffer Initiative from January 30 through March 10, 2023. New this year, qualifying farmers who plant forest buffers will receive a one-time $1,000/acre signing bonus on top of the incentive payment for this practice. 

“The conservation practices supported by this program are helping Maryland to achieve its clean water goals for the Chesapeake Bay,” said Acting MDA Secretary Kevin Atticks. “This year, we are pleased to offer an attractive signing bonus to landowners who plant forest buffers on agricultural land to reduce carbon emissions and meet water quality standards. This program is a win-win for the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland’s climate action goals.”

Now in its third year, Maryland’s Conservation Buffer Initiative offers attractive incentive payments, easy sign-up, and a variety of management options for farmers who want to plant streamside buffers on their farms to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Plan includes a goal to plant 63,980 acres of buffers by 2025. As of June 30, 2022, Maryland has achieved more than 80% of this goal. Three types of buffers are eligible for funding and free technical assistance from local soil conservation districts under this program: forest buffers planted next to waterways, grass buffers planted next to waterways or field ditches, and watercourse access control areas adjacent to pastures. Program highlights include:

  • Payment rates range from $500/acre for an existing grass buffer, to a maximum of $4,500/acre to install a riparian forest buffer with pasture fencing
  • New this year, annual maintenance payments offered for forest buffers during the first 5 years of the contract
  • An extra one-time bonus payment of $1,000/acre offered for enrolled forest buffers
  • Mowing and hay harvesting are allowed; nutrient applications are not.
  • ​Contracts are for 5 or 10 years
  • Soil conservation districts will provide free technical assistance to install your buffer
  • All work must be completed by June 30, 2024

Farmers who want to install new buffers on land adjacent to waterways or improve existing buffers are encouraged to sign up for these grants by March 10, 2023. Applications and required forms are available on the website and may be mailed or emailed to the program by the deadline. 

Technical staff working in local soil conservation districts can help with questions about the application. 

Funding for Maryland’s Conservation Buffer Initiative is provided by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, Bay Restoration Fund, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

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Follow Maryland Department of Agriculture on Twitter @MdAgDept 

Contact Information

If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to arrange an interview, please contact:
Jessica Hackett
Director of Communications
Telephone: 410-841-5888