Sign-up for Maryland's state-funded cover crop program began Monday. The nation's most lucrative and extensively used statewide program offers close to $20 million in incentives for farmers to plant crops this fall to conserve nutrients, reduce soil erosion and protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The conservation grants help farmers offset cover crop planting costs. Traditional cover crops qualify for up to $100 an acre with add-on incentive payments for using highly-valued planting practices.
Harvested cover crops qualify for $25 to $35 per acre.
Sign-up runs through July 15 at local soil conservation districts. For more information, contact Maryland Department of Agriculture at 410-841-5864 or www.mda.maryland.gov .The three-week sign-up window will be the only one, according to Maryland Department of Agriculture officials.
Cover crops are one of the most cost effective practices for keeping nitrogen and phosphorus out of the Bay. For the third year in a row, Maryland farmers have planted more than 400,000 acres of protective cover crops on their farms. In 2013, farmers exceeded Maryland's 2013 Chesapeake Bay milestone commitment by 17%.
"This program is a mainstay of Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts," reports Ag 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."