New project seeks to help Bay’s natural resources, ag

Associate Editor

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (Feb. 23, 2016) — More than $10 million from federal, state and local partners will go toward a new project to improve natural resources and protect agriculture in Maryland, Delaware and around the Chesapeake Bay.
Among the project’s objectives:
• Speed up the use of best management practices in Maryland and Delaware to reduce nutrient pollution reaching the Bay while focusing on cost-effective practices;
• Improve livestock producers’ ability to isolate, store and treat animal waste in order to keep organic nutrients from moving into nearby waters and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay;
• Improve cooperation between conservation and agricultural organizations to encourage more voluntary conservation among farmers;
• Improve coordination between conservation districts in Maryland and Delaware.
• Focus on Watershed Implementation Plan goals that haven’t been met but have an impact on the states’ ability to meet goals.
“We need to give farmers all the resources we can to get the job done… so we can ensure a healthy Bay,” said Hans Schmidt, Maryland assistant secretary of agriculture, at a Feb. 12 press conference announcing the project.
In Maryland, the money will be focused on animal-related conservation practices, including waste storage, stream fencing, heavy use areas and barnyard runoff.
Conservation district staff will also help dairy farmers install state-of-the-art liquid separation technology to overcome the cost of moving the liquid portion of manure long distances to crop fields that need more phosphorous.
“This grant is another step forward for Maryland agriculture’s commitment to resource conservation,” Maryland agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said. “We are very fortunate to have a strong group of partners in this project, and I am confident that this will have a tremendously positive impact to help Maryland farmers meet the state’s WIP goals.”
Delaware will use the money to emphasize crop production and the expanded use of cover crops, variable rate nitrogen application techniques and woodchip bioreactors for nitrogen removal.
The USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program awarded $4.5 million to the project, and $5.4 million came from local partners, including both states’ conservation district associations, the Maryland agriculture department and the Delaware natural resources department.