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June 29 is deadline to sign up for Md.'s cover crop programs

June 12, 2007

ANNAPOLIS - Sign-up has begun for the Maryland Department of Agriculture's 2007-08 Winter Cover Crop Program.

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 of up to $50 an acre through the program.

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

There are three cover crop program options: traditional, commodity and hulless barley.

Under the traditional, the earlier the crop is planted, the higher the reimbursement rate.

Depending on planting date, farmers can receive $30 to $50 an acre and 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 will offer split reimbursement payments dispersed in the fall and spring.

The commodity 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.

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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 is made available through a three-year U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Innovation Grant with enough funding this year for 10,000 acres. The grain board has received a commitment from Perdue Farms to buy the hulless barley produced under the program at regular barley quoted prices and it continues to explore further markets for the grain.

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 the fall of 2007 are eligible.

The cover crop program is administered by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share Program.

An online application form that can be faxed to local soil conservation district offices is available at www.mda.state.md.us.

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