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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Maryland Governor O'Malley Sign Agreement to Protect Drinking Water, Chesapeake Bay
Announce Improved Conservation Reserve Program for Maryland
WESTMINSTER, Md., April 24, 2009 -Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley today at the Richard Soper, Jr., farm near Westminster, Md., to sign an agreement that will protect drinking water for Baltimore residents.
"The USDA is committed to working with state and local governments to protect and conserve our natural resources and improve the quality of life in our communities," said Vilsack.
Maryland's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) helps protect soil and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by offering financial incentives to farmers and ranchers to take steps to protect streams and rivers from nutrient runoff.
Since the inception of CREP, Maryland farmers, ranchers and landowners have enrolled more than 74,000 acres and removed sensitive cropland and marginal pastureland out of production. Instead of tilling these acres, they have used program incentives to plant streamside buffers, establish wetlands, protect highly erodible land and create wildlife habitat.
The agreement signed today simplifies the way in which annual rental payments are derived. Now the farmer will get a percentage of Maryland's state determined soil rental rate. This will not only simplify the program for landowners and county offices, but in most cases will result in increased rental payments to the producers. The agreement signed today will also increase the one-time signing incentive payment for producers who are enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling expiring acres.