During 2009 Maryland farmers participated in 2,370 projects on their farms, a record number of conservation projects, that will help protect water quality in and around streams and rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has released its 2009 annual report highlighting the 25th anniversary of the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Funded through a mix of capital resources and user fee-based programs—including the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund, MACS provides grants to farmers who install best management practices (BMPs) on their property to protect natural resources on their property.
According to the report, during its fledgling year in 1984, MACS provided Maryland farmers with $434,000 in grants to install roughly 130 conservation projects on their farms. Twenty-five years later in 2009, MACS provided Maryland farmers with a record $19 million in conservation grants to install 2,370 capital and special projects on their farms to control soil erosion, manage nutrients and protect water quality in streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
“Farmers who received MACS grants over the last 25 years invested more than $14 million of their own money into these conservation projects and agree to shoulder additional maintenance and upkeep expenses for a minimum of 10 years,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Earl F. Hance. “Such action on the part of Maryland farmers dispels the notion that conservation takes a back seat—even in tough economic times."
According to the report, in FY 2009, $10.7 million in MACS grants were used to help Maryland farmers plant 239,000 acres of cover crops statewide. Doubling the acreage planted in cover crops is a prominent feature in Governor Martin O’Malley’s suite of 27 ambitious two year milestones aimed at accelerating the Bay cleanup.
Expanding the amount of manure transported annually out of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed from poultry farms with high soil phosphorus levels is another milestone outlined in Governor O’Malley’s Bay restoration plan. In FY 2009, MACS helped Maryland poultry farmers transport 52,000 tons of poultry litter out of the Bay Watershed, exceeding the milestone goal by 168 percent.
Established in 1984, MACS provides farmers with grants to cover up to 87.5 percent of the cost to install best management practices (BMPs) on their farms to prevent soil erosion, manage nutrients and safeguard water quality. Cover crops planted after the harvest to absorb residual fertilizer, streamside buffers of grasses and trees planted to protect waterways from sedimentation and farm runoff and animal waste management systems constructed to help farmers safely handle and store manure resources are among 30 BMPs eligible for MACS grants.