ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced that four new conservation practices are now eligible for cost-share funding up to 87.5% through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. These practices involve adding woody vegetation in and along fields to serve as natural filters. Additionally, state cost-share funding has been expanded to help Maryland farmers install livestock fencing systems that improve pasture management.
“The department is excited to introduce these new opportunities for farmers to install more climate-friendly conservation practices that will help reduce sediment runoff from fields and improve water quality for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “Planting trees and vegetation next to cropland and in pastures makes good agricultural and environmental sense. The department stands firm in its commitment to provide farmers with the tools they need to protect our state’s vital natural resources.”
Trees and shrubs help to improve water quality by filtering runoff and reducing soil erosion. They also work to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and improve soil health, all while creating biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Once fully implemented, these natural filters will help Maryland meet its water quality goals for the Chesapeake Bay and help to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere.
New practices now eligible for funding and technical assistance include:
- Windbreaks – Rows of trees and shrubs planted to filter runoff, reduce soil erosion caused by wind, enhance wildlife habitat, improve air quality, and sequester carbon in the soil;
- Hedgerows – Small trees, shrubs, and grasses planted along the edges of farm fields or along roads to filter runoff and act as a living fence and wildlife corridor;
- Silvopasture – Integrates trees into active livestock pastures to filter runoff, provide shade and shelter for livestock, and sequester carbon;
- Tree and Shrub Establishment – Establishes trees and shrubs on agricultural land outside the stream corridor to improve water quality and sequester carbon; and
- Pasture Fencing – Allows farmers to develop rotational grazing systems that improve forage, distribute manure more evenly, protect the soil from erosion, and improve water quality
Interested farmers should contact their local soil conservation district to apply for cost-share funding and to receive free, technical assistance to install new practices. Applicants must be in good standing with the MACS Program and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations to be eligible. Other restrictions may apply. For more information, please contact the department at 410-841-5864 or visit the MACS Program website.