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Farm program's acreage may increase

August 10, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

Farm program's acreage may increase



Enhancements announced Thursday to a state program to take environmentally sensitive farmland out of production are projected to increase Washington County involvement by up to 50 percent, said Elmer Weibley, district manager for the Washington County Soil Conservation District.

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About 500 to 600 acres of farmland in the county are already in the program, Weibley said.

Under new changes they are expecting that amount to increase by 200 to 300 acres within one year, he said.

In February, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening offered a $10 million incentive to encourage farmers to participate in the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

Farmers are paid to protect wetlands and areas around streams and rivers. They can also get reimbursed for the costs of putting up fences and planting buffers next to streams.

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The farmers are paid about $100 an acre for every year they don't farm the land. Landowners can sell permanent development rights for about $800 an acre, he said.

Thursday enhancements were announced including increasing the types and amounts land and buffers eligible for enrollment.

The federal monetary reimbursement rates have also increased an average of 30 percent.

"Today Maryland becomes the first state in the nation granted federal approval to strengthen incentives for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program," Glendening said in a news release Thursday. "This will allow us to build on our aggressive efforts to protect our water quality, restore the Chesapeake Bay and expand habitat for our wildlife."

There are about 20,000 acres enrolled in the program in Maryland.

The state will pay farmers a one-time $100-an-acre bonus for joining the program.

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