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MD. officials say Winter Cover Crop Program will offer relief to farmers

August 14, 2007

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland Department of Agriculture reminds farmers participating in the 2007-2008 Traditional Winter Cover Crop Program that they may graze their livestock in cover crop fields or cut and bale the crop for winter hay once the cover crop is fully established.

Many livestock producers are already in a feed deficit because of reductions in hay and grain supplies and pasture grasses due to the drought.

"In addition to providing water quality benefits, the cover crop program will provide some measure of relief to farmers struggling to cope with the long-term effects of this drought," said Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Cover crops are widely recognized as one of the most cost-effective and environmentally promising ways to absorb unused nitrogen and control soil erosion in order to reduce potential nutrient impacts to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries during winter. The Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program provides grants to farmers who plant cover crops of rye, wheat and barley in the fall to slow down rainwater runoff and absorb any nutrients remaining in the soil from the previous summer crop.

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For a second year, MDA is providing a Commodity Cover Crop Program for farmers who want to harvest their cover crop. The Commodity program option is in addition to the Traditional Cover Crop Program which does not allow for harvest and provides stronger incentives to plant cover crops for their environmental and soil quality benefits. The use of manure and commercial fertilizer is restricted under both programs.

For more information, farmers should contact their local soil conservation district or the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) program at 410-841-5864.

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