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Signup nears for Md. cover crop program

Traditional, harvestable and hulless barley options available

Traditional, harvestable and hulless barley options available

May 15, 2007

ANNAPOLIS - Farmers who plant cover crops this fall to help reduce soil erosion and protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries may apply for cost-share grants.

Up to $50 an acre is available through the Maryland Department of Agriculture's 2007-2008 Winter Cover Crop Program, the MDA said in a news release.

Sign up for the statewide program runs from June 4 through June 29 at local soil conservation district offices.

"We are committed to keeping agriculture profitable and providing farmers with the resources they need to protect the Chesapeake Bay for future generations," said Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"This year, we will provide a record $8.6 million in winter cover crop funding to share the cost with farmers of planting these environmentally-beneficial crops."

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Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson said the Commodity Cover Crop Program is in its second year for farmers who want to harvest their cover crop. There's also the Traditional Cover Crop Program "which does not allow for harvest and achieves stronger environmental benefits," Richardson said.

Under the Traditional Cover Crop Program, the earlier the crop is planted, the higher the reimbursement rate.

Farmers who plant their cover crops by Oct. 1 are eligible to receive $50 an acre in cost-share funding. Cost-share funding of $40 an acre is available to farmers who plant by Oct. 15. Farmers who plant by Nov. 5 will be eligible to receive $30 an acre in cost-share funding.

Farmers may enroll between five and 700 acres in the program. Traditional cover crops may not be harvested; however, they may be grazed or chopped for livestock forage after becoming well established.

MDA said it will offer split reimbursement payments dispersed in the fall and spring for the Traditional Cover Crop Program.

A Commodity Cover Crop Program is for farmers who want to harvest their cover crop. Up to 250 acres may be enrolled using a separate application.

Eligible farmers must plant by Nov. 5 to receive $20 an acre. Certain restrictions apply, MDA said.

For the second year, in cooperation with the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board, a hulless barley program is being offered to develop a feedstock for a future ethanol plant.

Funding for this program is made available through a 3-year U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Innovation Grant with enough funding this year for 10,000 acres.

Cover crops are cereal grains that may be planted immediately following the fall harvest of corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco or vegetables.

Barley, canola, rapeseed, kale, rye, ryegrass, spring oats, triticale and wheat planted in this fall are eligible, MDA said.

All seed used is required to meet Maryland Seed Law and Regulatory Standards and have a minimum germination rate of 80 percent. Certain manure use is restricted.

The 2007-2008 Maryland Cover Crop Program is administered by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS to participate and must be in compliance with Nutrient Management Program requirements during the entire program period, MDA said.

Requests for cover crop funds will be approved on a first come, first served basis, MDA said.

It said additional stand-by acres in the conventional program may be approved if funds are available after regular sign-up ends.

Stand-by acreage is not available in the Commodity Cover Crop Program.

Farmers should contact their local soil conservation district office to enroll before the June 29 signup deadline. An online application form that can be faxed to local soil conservation district offices is available on MDA's website at www.mda.state.md.us

For more information, contact the MACS office at 1-410-841-5864.

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