Maryland's Conservation Buffer Initiative

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PLANT THE BUFFER THAT WORKS FOR YOU​
Sign-up Begins January 11 and Ends February 5​

Introducing Maryland's new Conservation Buffer Initiative. This pilot program provides a new funding option for farmers who want to plant streamside buffers on their farms to improve the health of local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.  

YOU TALKED, WE LISTENED  
Maryland's Conservation Buffer Initiative offers many features that farmers have asked. These include attractive incentive payments, a buffer option for field ditches, more flexible site management, and shorter contract terms.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS   
Three types of buffers are eligible for funding and free technical assistance under this pilot: forest buffers planted next to waterways, grass buffers planted next to waterways or field ditches, and watercourse access control areas adjacent to pastures. Here's how the program works:
  • ​​Farmers receive a one-time payment for enrolled land with 75% paid when the contract is executed and 25% paid when the project is completed. 
  • Payment rates range from $500/acre for an existing grass buffer to a maximum of $3,500/acre to install a riparian forest buffer with fencing.
  • Mowing and hay harvesting are allowed; nutrient applications are not.
  • Contracts are for 5 or 10 years.
  • Soil conservation districts provide free technical assistance to get your buffer installed.
  • All work must be completed by June 30, 2022 

NO CONTACT SIGN-UP  ​ 
  • ​​Apply online or by mail between January 11, 2021 and February 5, 2021
  • Please see instructions and forms at right. 

CHOOSE YOUR BUFFER      
Grass Buffers on Watercourses – Establish a new buffer or improve an existing buffer between cropland and either an adjacent watercourse or field ditch. Buffers are herbaceous and range in width from 10 feet to 100 feet.  

Forest Buffers on Watercourses – Establish a new buffer or improve an existing buffer between cropland and an adjacent watercourse. Buffers are planted with trees and shrubs and range in width from 35 feet to 100 feet. 

Watercourse Access Control Area – Establish a new access control area or improve an existing access control area between an adjacent watercourse and an active livestock pasture. Additional funding is available to establish livestock exclusion fencing. The conservation buffer located between the fence and the watercourse may be planted in grass or trees and shrubs. It may range in width from 10 feet to 100 feet but must be at least 35 feet wide if establishing woody vegetation. No grazing allowed in the access control area. 

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QUALIFYING LAND 

  • Cropland next to a stream or ditch that has an established cropping history in pasture, commodity crops or hay
  • Cropland next to a watercourse or field ditch that has been historically enrolled in a conservation program for at least one year out of the last five years, 2014 –2019
  • Field ditches are not eligible to establish woody conservation buffers. 
  • Existing buffers or agricultural lands that are actively enrolled in state (MACS) or federal programs (CRP, CREP, EQIP, etc.) or mandated by an easement are not eligible for this program.

PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY  
  • Farmers and landowners who are responsible for the management of eligible lands may apply. 
  • Farmers who lease leasing lands must certify an active lease for the term of the buffer, or provide an agreement from the landowner. 
  • Applicants who are ineligible to participate in USDA or state cost-share programs due to deceptive practices or nonconformance are ineligible to participate in this program. 
  • Farmers and landowners must be in good standing with the Maryland Nutrient Management Program, the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share Program and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Program, if applicable.
  • A current Nutrient Management Plan Certification is required and must be submitted with the application.
  • Additional restrictions may apply. 

HOW TO APPLY FOR OUR GRANTS   
  • ​Download the application.
  • Complete the application and submit with
  • Email your application to: conservation.buffer@maryland.gov between January 11, 2021 and February 5, 2021 or mail to Maryland Department of Agriculture, c/o Conservation Buffer Initiative, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis MD 21401
  • Questions? Call your local soil conservation district.

FUNDING  
Funding for Maryland’s Conservation Buffer Initiative is provided by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and the Environmental Protection Agency. 


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Contact Information

Alisha Mulkey, Program Manager
Program Planning & Development
Office of Resource Conservation
410-841-5863

Mailing Address  

Maryland Department of Agriculture
Conservation Buffer Initiative
Room 306
50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401​

Email Address​conservation.buffer@maryland.gov

Application Instructions
  • ​Download the application
  • Complete the application and submit with 1) a map that shows the location and acreage of the buffer, and 2) a signed Nutrient Management Plan Certification Form 
  • Email your application or send via the postal service (see addresses above) between January 11, 2021 and February 5, 2021​  

Applications and Forms

Additional Help