MDA Announces Cover Crop Sign-up
Includes Increased Payment Rates and New Cover Crop Plus+ Option
ANNAPOLIS, MD (June 23, 2022) — The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced that mail-in enrollment for this year’s Cover Crop Program runs from July 1-18, 2022. The popular conservation program provides farmers with cost-share grants to help pay for seed, labor, and equipment costs to plant cover crops in the fall to control erosion, recycle nutrients, build soil health, and protect the Chesapeake Bay.
“Several exciting changes have been made to our traditional Cover Crop Grant Program this year,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “We’ve also introduced a new Cover Crop Plus+ option for farmers willing to go the extra mile to build their soil’s health.”
Farmers who enroll in the department’s Traditional Cover Crop Program receive an increased base payment of $55/acre and up to $35/acre in add-on incentives to incorporate cover crops into their fields this fall. The maximum payment (including incentives) to aerial seed cover crops has increased to $95/acre. New this year, a late planting extension has been built into the program for farmers who cannot get their cover crops planted by the November 5 planting deadline.
Cover crops are essential to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the productivity of Maryland’s farmland. In the fall, cold-hardy cereal grains are planted as cover crops in newly harvested fields. As they grow, cover crops provide a living, protective cover against erosion and nutrient runoff while building the soil’s organic matter for next year’s crop. They can even protect fields from too much or too little rain. Eligible small grains may be mixed with radishes and legumes using a variety of two and three-species mixes to help create diversity. Traditional cover crops may not be harvested; however, they may be grazed or chopped for livestock forage after becoming well established. Farmers who participated in last year’s program will receive registration packets in the mail. Beginning July 1, interested farmers may download applications from the Cover Crop website. To be considered for cost-share, applications should be mailed or dropped off at the local soil conservation district by July 18, 2022.
A new pilot program, Cover Crop Plus+, is being introduced this year. This program option offers higher incentive payments and more planting choices for farmers who sign a 3-year commitment to plant cover crop mixes and practice conservation tillage to improve soil health. Farmers agree to keep a living root system in enrolled fields for most of the year and manage the cover crop to achieve maximum soil health and water quality benefits. The base payment for this premium incentive program is $115/acre per year. Optional add-on practices can increase the reimbursement rate to $160/acre. To qualify for payment, optional add-ons must be new practices for an enrolled field.
Enrollment for the Cover Crop Plus+ program runs concurrently with the Traditional Cover Crop Program. Applications will be available on the Cover Crop Plus+ website beginning July 1. To be considered for cost-share, applications should be mailed or dropped off at the local soil conservation district by July 18, 2022. Farmers may participate in both the traditional and Cover Crop Plus+ programs. Certain restrictions apply.
Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by the department’s Conservation Grants Program and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts. Applicants must be in good standing with the program and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. Other restrictions and conditions apply. Funding for the 2022-2023 Cover Crop Program is provided by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
Farmers who have questions or need assistance with their applications should contact their local soil conservation district. For more information, please contact Jason Keppler at (410) 841-5864 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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