Md. cover crop funds dwarf last year's

August 22, 2006

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland's Bay Restoration Fund is more than doubling the amount of money available now in the state's Cover Crop program, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich said last week.

In addition, Ehrlich announced an incentive program to help develop feedstock for future ethanol production, and the availability of financial credits for producers of certain renewable fuels.

"Planting winter cover crops is the most cost effective and efficient way for farmers to reduce erosion and take up excess nutrients so they don't run off into the bay and its tributaries," Ehrlich said.

A total of $8 million is available this year for the cover crop program, more than doubling last year's funding, he said.


The money is a portion of the fees septic system users pay to reduce pollution reaching the bay. Cover crops take up the nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, used as fertilizers from the soil so they don't feed into stormwater runoff or seep into the groundwater.

Ehrlich said Maryland farmers will be approved to plant 290,000 acres - a record high - of traditional and commodity cover crops.

The planting will prevent an estimated 1.8 million pounds of nitrogen and 45,000 pounds of phosphorus from entering the bay and its tributaries, he said.

In addition, Ehrlich announced the new Hulless Barley Incentive Program, made possible through $750,000 grant from the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board, for farmers to gain experience growing the small grain for use in ethanol production.

This program, for farmers who plan to harvest their cover crop, will provide an additional incentive payment of $15 per acre to plant hulless barley, he said.

Ehrlich also talked about the state's new Renewable Fuels Incentive Board. He said it is designed to attract investment in the bio-fuels industry and to offer farmers additional market opportunities for their small grains and soybeans.

A state law passed last year authorizes the award of up to a $0.20 per gallon financial credit for the production of qualifying renewable fuels, Ehrich said. That gives farmers an opportunity to realize additional value for their commodities, he said.

The Renewable Fuels Incentive Board, consisting of the secretaries of Agriculture, the Environment, and Business and Economic Development and the director of the Maryland Energy Administration, will now begin accepting applications for production credits from qualifying producers.

Applications are available from the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

In recent years, with new development moving into more rural areas, conflicts between farming and non-farming neighbors have increased, the state agriculture department said in a news release. These disputes occasionally end up in court or before local land use decision-makers, it said.

The Governor's Intergovernmental Commission for Agriculture formalizes a year-long effort led by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to bring local officials, planning agencies, and farming interests together to address issues of concern, the department said.

The commission is to promote farming's profitability by ensuring that state agencies work with local government and industry groups. Voting members are not state agency officials, but rather farm industry groups and local government interests.

Also, Ehrlich said, as Maryland's population grows, pressures increase on local jurisdictions to maintain adequate public wastewater facilities and infrastructure.

The state Department of the Environment is issuing guidance documents on water and wastewater planning for local governments to encourage regulatory compliance and balance growth while protecting the environment.

The plans "provide reliable information for local decision-makers in considering the need for new infrastructure to accommodate new growth," Ehrlich said.

For additional information about the Cover Crop and Hulless Barley Incentive Programs, visit

For information on the Renewable Fuels Incentive Board, including an application for production credits, call 1-410-841-5775.

For a copy of the Water and Wastewater Capacity Management guidance documents, call 1-410-537-3512, or go online to the MDE website:, scroll down on the Homepage to "New Publications" and click on "more publications".

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