Forestry, ag sustainability in Maryland being studied

Staff Reporter

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Sept. 16) — The University of Maryland is studying the sustainability of agriculture and forestry in Maryland over the next two decades in light of the increasing number of programs and regulations related to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, smart growth and other initiatives.
Jim Baird, American Farmland Trust’s Mid-Atlantic states director and a co-investigator on the study, gave a presentation to the Maryland Agricultural Commission on Sept. 10 outlining the project.
The 20-month study will seek to answer questions including the following:
• What are the fundamental drivers that have affected the expansion or contraction of Maryland agriculture in the past?
• How are Maryland’s shares of different commodity markets expected to shrink or expand?
• How are changes in technology, crop and animal genetics, management and markets across product and production types impacting or anticipated to impact profitability?
• Which kinds of agricultural and forestry operations appear most likely to expand, shrink or otherwise change and how?
• What are some key investments of public or private dollars that could improve the likelihood of sustaining crop and livestock agriculture and forestry?
“We think a lot of the information here isn’t in already produced reports,” Baird said. “I think it’s important to ask how agriculture is going to be in 10, 20 years because of what the industry can do internally. … We’re going to have to do that largely through conversations, surveys, telephone calls.”
Representatives from the Maryland Department of Planning and the U.S. Geological Survey will also help build the study. The state’s participation will include the use of growth simulation models that project emerging land use patterns and future landscapes relevant to land use issues. Those will be used to create maps of projected land use change region by region across the state.
The report has a $226,000 budget paid for by the university’s Harry S. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology at the Wye Research and Education Center in Queenstown.
American Farmland Trust is a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to farmland preservation. It was founded in 1980.