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Md. expands drought relief programs

August 20, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Maryland farmers can now apply for $3 million in expanded drought relief programs, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said Thursday.

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On Thursday the state began accepting applications for cover crop and small grain programs under which farmers will be paid up to $25 an acre to grow crops. The deadline for applications is Sept. 3.

State funds are also available for the emergency feed assistance and water supply assistance programs that will provide grants to drought-stricken farmers forced to purchase water or feed for their livestock. There is no deadline for applications for those two programs.

On Aug. 2, Glendening announced that $3 million in emergency funds would be made available to Maryland farmers. But at that time it was not clear what programs would be set up to distribute the money.

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The four programs are intended to decrease the amount of bare farmland and provide some financial assistance to farmers, said Don Vandrey, a spokesman with the state Department of Agriculture.

Vandrey said enrollment in the Cover Crop Program is a priority for the state and he expects that every farmer who applies to participate in that program will be accepted and receive some money.

He said that planting cover crops is good for the environment because it keeps the soil intact and cuts down on the potential runoff of nutrients in the soil.

The $3 million available for the programs is far less than the estimated $102 million in crop losses throughout the state.

"No one's going to be able to make up 100 percent of the loss," Vandrey said.

"Farmers anticipate some good years and some bad years. But with two or three bad years in a row we're trying to provide enough assistance to save some farms," he said.

Elmer Weibley, district manager for the Washington County Soil Conservation District, said "It's not a question of is this particular program enough. It's not enough. It's not going to cover all the loses and no one thinks it will."

He said, however, the money should be enough to give every farmer who applies some funds.

"It's excellent news," Weibley said.

"This drought is so devastating that anything we can do to help agriculture (is good)," he said.

Weibley said that on Thursday his office received 14 applications for the Cover Crop Program and 12 applications for the Small Grains Program.

Jere DeBaugh, who operates a 25-acre dairy farm in Boonsboro, predicted that many farmers would take advantage of the state programs.

DeBaugh said he would have to review the details of the programs before deciding whether he would apply for any of the state funds.

DeBaugh is hoping that the little hay he had left over from last season will be enough to offset lower yields this year. He said his hay production is down by one-third.

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