ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Department of Agriculture today announced that this year’s cover crop sign-up will be conducted entirely by mail from July 1 through July 17. The popular conservation program provides farmers with cost-share assistance to offset seed, labor, and equipment costs associated with planting cover crops on their fields in fall to build healthy soils and protect the Chesapeake Bay.
“To help ensure the health and safety of our farmers and local soil conservation district staff, we have switched to a mail-in registration process for this year’s cover crop sign-up,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “As we continue to safely reopen the state, it is important for Maryland farmers to know they can continue to count on the department for assistance in protecting valuable water and soil resources.”
Farmers who participated in last year’s cover crop program will receive registration packets in the mail later this month. The packet includes an application, program flyer, step-by-step instructions, and return envelope that has been pre-addressed to a local soil conservation district. Beginning July 1, applications will also be available on the program’s website. To be considered for cost-share, applications must be postmarked by July 17. Farmers who have questions or need assistance with their applications should contact their local soil conservation district.
Eligible farmers can receive up to $60/acre in cost-share grants to incorporate traditional cover crops into their fields this fall. The maximum payment for aerial seeding with incentives is $65/acre. Here are some additional highlights:
The base payment is $40/acre for incorporated seed and $45/acre for aerial seed or aerial ground seeding.
A $10/acre early planting incentive is offered for incorporated seed.
Farmers who aerial seed or aerial ground seed cover crops into standing corn on or before September 10 qualify for a $10/acre incentive payment.
Incentives to terminate cover crops after May 1, 2021 may be available.
Farmers may plant cover crops after corn, soybeans, sorghum, tobacco, vegetables, and — new this year — hemp and millet.
Cover crops are important 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 the next year’s crop.
To help create diversity, eligible cover crop species may be mixed with radishes and legumes, including clover, Austrian winter peas, and hairy vetch using a variety of two and three-species mixes.
Farmers are required to include a completed current Nutrient Management Plan Certification with their cover crop applications. This form may be downloaded from the website, and must be signed by both the farm operator and the person who prepared the farm’s Nutrient Management Plan.
Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Applicants must be in good standing with MACS and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. Other restrictions and conditions apply. Funding for the 2020-2021 Cover Crop program is provided by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
–Megan Guilfoyle, Maryland Department of Agriculture