new study out this week reports Maryland could realize economic benefits from agricultural conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is helping to implement the Clean Water Blueprint established in 2010, which seeks to restore the bay’s water quality along with rivers and streams feeding into the bay by 2025.

A new report showed fully funding the pollution-reduction efforts needed to restore the bay would add $655 million annually to the regional economy. Credit: Adobe Stock

One of the approaches used is creating forest buffers along waterways to help capture runoff.

Carolyn Alkire, co-owner of Key-Log Economics and the report’s co-author, describes how adding forest buffers would increase regional jobs.

“The direct impact of an increase in investment in forest buffers would be more jobs for people who are planting the trees,” Alkire pointed out. “An indirect impact would be more jobs for tree nursery workers because the tree planters would buy the seedlings from the nursery, and an induced impact would be more jobs in the grocery stores, where tree planters and nursery workers buy their food.”

The report stated implementing all the planned conservation practices in Maryland would translate into $41 million in economic output and support 423 jobs.

The Clean Water Blueprint targets include reducing pollutants that come as a byproduct of agricultural practices. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reported to meet the 2025 pollution targets, more than 90% of the remaining reductions must come from agriculture.

Rob Schnabel, the restoration scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said farmers are changing their practices to improve resilience and reduce polluted runoff.

“Many of the farmers that we’re working with are converting corn and soybean fields, monoculture fields, into permanent diverse cover pastures, which is a critical practice for water quality,” Schnabel explained. “Restoring the soil sponge, which makes farms more resilient during times of drought by helping to hold in water and reducing flooding during big storm events.”

Schnabel added diverse cover pastures also help farmers practice prescribed grazing where animal grazing is rotated, so pastures have time to recover.

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