Enrollment Period for Maryland’s 2024 Conservation Buffer Initiative Opens on January 29

ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 22, 2024) ~ ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 22, 2024) - The Maryland Department of Agriculture has announced the opening of enrollment for its Conservation Buffer Initiative for the year 2024. From January 29 to March 8, qualifying farmers who plant forest buffers will have the opportunity to receive a one-time bonus payment of $1,000 per acre in addition to the existing incentive payment.

This initiative, now in its fourth year, aims to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by encouraging farmers to plant streamside buffers on their farms. The program offers attractive incentives and easy enrollment, as well as a variety of management options for participating farmers.

According to Maryland Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks, the department is proud to offer programs that resonate with farmers and promote widespread participation and commitment. He also noted that this program aligns with the objectives of the Tree Solutions Now Act of 2021, which calls for the planting and maintenance of 5 million native trees by 2031.

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Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Restoration Plan has set a goal of planting 63,980 acres of forest buffers by 2025. As of June 30, 2023, over 85% of this goal has been achieved. The state has also made significant progress towards meeting its goal of planting 5 million trees by October 26, 2023 with a total of 471,890 trees planted.

Under the Conservation Buffer Initiative, three types of buffers are eligible for funding and free technical assistance from local soil conservation districts: forest buffers planted next to waterways, grass buffers planted next to waterways or field ditches, and watercourse access control areas adjacent to pastures.

The program highlights for the year include payment rates ranging from $500 per acre for an existing grass buffer up to a maximum of $4,500 per acre for installing a riparian forest buffer with pasture fencing. Annual maintenance payments are also available for forest buffers during the first five years of the contract. Additionally, an extra one-time bonus payment of $1,000 per acre is being offered for enrolled forest buffers.

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While mowing and hay harvesting are allowed, nutrient applications are not permitted under this program. Contracts are available for either five or ten years and all work must be completed by June 30, 2025. Farmers can receive free technical assistance from soil conservation districts to help them install the buffers.

Funding for Maryland's Conservation Buffer Initiative comes from the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, Bay Restoration Fund, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Farmers who are interested in participating in this program are encouraged to apply by March 8. Applications and required forms can be found on the program's website or at local soil conservation district offices. For any questions or assistance with the application process, farmers can reach out to conservation experts at their local soil conservation district office.

With this initiative, Maryland farmers are once again stepping up to meet the challenges of protecting water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries while also contributing to the state's goal of planting 5 million trees by 2031.

Filed Under: Government, State

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