ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) today announced that the sign-up period for this year’s annual Cover Crop Program will run from July 1-16, 2021. The popular conservation program provides farmers with cost-share assistance to offset seed, labor, and equipment costs associated with planting cover crops on their fields in fall to build healthy soils and protect the Chesapeake Bay.
“The success and popularity of the Cover Crop Program is one of many examples that show how Maryland is leading the nation on sustainable agriculture practices,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “Cover crops are a critical tool in our efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed while also promoting healthy, productive farmland across the state. I encourage all farmers to contact their local soil conservation district and learn more about the program’s new incentives and application process.”
Enrollment will be conducted entirely by mail. Farmers who participated in last year’s cover crop program will receive registration packets in the mail later this month. Beginning July 1, applications will also be available on the program’s website. To be considered for cost-share, applications should be mailed to the local soil conservation district for processing and must be postmarked by July 16, 2021. Farmers who have questions or need assistance with their applications should contact their local soil conservation district.
This year’s Cover Crop Program features higher rates, more planting flexibility, and a variety of special incentives for certain highly-valued practices. Eligible farmers can receive up to $75/acre in cost-share grants to incorporate traditional cover crops into their fields this fall. The maximum payment for aerial seeding with incentives is $80/acre.
Incentives for this season include:
- Base payments have been raised to $45/acre for incorporated seed and $50/acre for aerial seed or aerial ground seeding.
- A $10/acre early planting incentive is being offered for incorporated seed.
- A $10/acre incentive is available to farmers who plant either rye or a multi-species cover crop.
- Maryland farmers who aerial seed or ground seed cover crops into standing corn on or before September 10 qualify for a $10/acre incentive payment.
- Incentives to terminate cover crops after May 1, 2022 are available.
- Farmers may plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco, vegetables, hemp, and millet.
Cover crops are important to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the productivity of Maryland’s farmland. In the fall, cold-hardy cereal grains are planted as cover crops in newly harvested fields. As they grow, cover crops provide a living, protective cover against erosion and nutrient runoff while building the soil’s organic matter for next year’s crop. They can even protect fields from too much or too little rain. To help create diversity, eligible cover crop species may be mixed with radishes and legumes, including clover, Austrian winter peas, and hairy vetch using a variety of two and three-species mixes.
Farmers are required to include a completed current Nutrient Management Plan Certification with their cover crop applications. This form may be downloaded from the program’s website, and must be signed by both the farm operator and the person who prepared the farm’s plan.
Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by MDA and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. Other restrictions and conditions apply. Funding for the 2021-2022 Cover Crop Program is provided by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.