Maryland's Conservation Buffer Initiative

Stream Buffer/Copyright Edwin Remsberg

​The 2024 Enrollment Period is Now Closed​
Now in its  4th year, Maryland's Conservation Buffer Initiative provides farmers with attractive incentive payments to plant streamside buffers on farmland to improve the health of local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.​

Incentives to plant riparian forest buffers are available again this year. These payments are on top of the $4,000 or $4,500 per acre offered for installation. To encourage more tree planting, the new incentives include:
  • A one-time bonus payment of $1,000 per acre to install forest buffers.
  • ​Up to $330/acre/year to help cover costs associated with maintaining forest buffer viability and health for the first 5 years of the contract.
Three types of buffers are eligible for funding and free technical assistance from local soil conservation districts under this program: 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:
  • Payment rates range from $500/acre for an existing grass buffer to a maximum of $4,500/acre to install a riparian forest buffer with pasture fencing.
  • Mowing and hay harvesting are allowed; nutrient applications are not.​
  • Farmers receive a one-time payment for enrolled land.
  • An extra one-time bonus payment is offered for enrolled forest buffers.
  • Annual maintenance payments are available for forest buffers during the first five years.
  • Contracts are for 5 or 10 years.​
  • Soil conservation districts provide free technical assistance to get your buffer installed.
  • Applications will be accepted January 29 through March 8, 2024
  • All work must be completed by June 30, 2025
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.  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 establi​shing woody vegetation. No grazing allowed in the access control area.​



  • Cropland next to a stream or ditch that has an established cropping history in pasture, commodity crops or hay
  • Areas adjacent to watercourses with highly erodible or hydric soils, as determined by the local soil conservation district.
  • 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.​
  • Farmers and landowners who are responsible for the management of eligible lands may apply. 
  • Farmers who lease land​ must certify an active lease for the term of the buffer, or provide an agreement from the landowner. 
  • Farmers and landowners must be in good standing with USDA and state cost-share programs.​
  • A current Nutrient Management Plan Certification is required and must be submitted with the application.
  • Additional restrictions may apply. 
Funding​​ for Maryland’s Conservation Buffer Initiative is provided by the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund and the Environmental Protection Agency. ​

Updated 1/24​/24

Contact Information

Jason D. Keppler
​Program Manager
Phone: 410-841-5864

Mailing Address  

Maryland Department of Agriculture
Conservation Grants ​
Room 207
50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401​

More Information, Applications and Forms​

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