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Snapshot of Maryland Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Maryland Farmland in the Path of Development

AFT Study

Statewide Plan for Agricultural Policy and Resource Management

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Every year, America loses 1.2 million acres of farmland, much of it our best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live. Nearly 20,000 acres of farmland per year are converted to development in Maryland. Statewide, Maryland is losing farmland at the 3rd highest rate in the country.

What's New

Maryland's First Women Landwowners Conservation Learning Circle

Posted 11/20/2014

Maryland’s first Women Landowners Conservation Learning Circle culminated on Nov 14 with a luncheon for the participants and invited guests from agencies and local organizations. The participants had met on 4 occasions to learn from each other and women agricultural professionals how to improve the stewardship of their farms and achieve their visions for the land.  In describing the experience to the Circle experience, participants said:

  • “It’s been inspiring to me to see all these amazing women working to protect their land.”
  • “The circle is important for dialogue. Women talk differently than men.”
  • “ I have more knowledge to talk to my farm manager on improvement practices.” 


Maryland is the third state where AFT’s is implementing its national initiative. Our goal is to empower women to access conservation technical and financial assistance to clean the water, build healthy soil and preserve farmland for future generations. Generous support from the Chesapeake Bay Trust made this latest expansion possible.


Keep Dedicated Funding for Maryland’s Farmland and Open Space Where It Belongs

In 1969, the Maryland Legislature created Program Open Space to preserve farmland, parks and environmental lands along with an established dedicated funding source from real estate transactions. “This has enabled Maryland to be a national leader in protecting farms, yet the track record of using these funds for their intended purpose has been far from stellar,” said Jim Baird Mid-Atlantic director of American Farmland Trust.

Previous administrations and legislatures frequently raided the funds. While some money has been paid back, an astonishing billion dollars has not been used to protect land as intended. Governor Martin O’Malley faithfully supported full funding for farm and other land protection in previous budgets, but this year he proposed $60 million be diverted to the general fund and the General Assembly may divert even more.

“With the third highest rate of farmland loss in the country, Maryland needs every penny of these funds,” says Baird. “We understand that economic times are tough, but land conservation has already lost too much.” It is time to say gambling with our future is not OK – contact your state Senator.


Mid-Atlantic Director Confirmed to Maryland’s Rural Legacy Advisory Committee

Baird.jpgJim Baird, Mid-Atlantic director for American Farmland Trust, was confirmed by the Maryland Senate Executive Nominations Committee as a member of the advisory committee for the Rural Legacy program.

Enacted by the General Assembly in 1997, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program was created to discourage sprawl development and protect areas for future generations to enjoy. “The program provides farmers and landowners an alternative to developing (or subdividing) their land or selling their property to developers,” said Baird. “It was created specifically to protect large, contiguous tracts of land rich in natural resources, farms and forests. It is a great combination of agriculture and environmental protection.” The 11-member Rural Legacy Advisory Committee and the Rural Legacy Board, which is comprised of Maryland’s Agriculture, Natural Resources and Planning secretaries, review grant applications annually, ultimately leading to recommendations to the governor and Board of Public Works on which Rural Legacy Areas to fund. Since its enactment, the program has protected 75,434 acres of irreplaceable farmland. 

Report Reveals Recomendations for Sustaining Agriculture in Frederick and Montgomery Counties

Jim Baird presenting at FAME ConferenceA group of farm, conservation and public health leaders from Maryland's Frederick and Montgomery counties gathered September 16 to discuss recommendations for maintaining the health and economic vitality of the counties’ agriculture industry. Centered on a report entitled Farming At Metro’s Edge: Securing the Future of Agriculture and Farm Communities in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, the gathering was designed to formulate ideas and actions to keep agriculture productive and profitable for the next generation. “AFT has been pleased to participate in this 100 percent grassroots effort by citizens and organizations to bring the community together to talk about the future of farming so close to the nation’s capital,” explained Jim Baird, Mid-Atlantic director for American Farmland Trust. The report drew from proceedings from the Farming at Metro’s Edge conference.

Taking Risks on the Farm Proves Economically Rewarding, Environmentally Beneficial in Maryland

Manure-injection.jpgThe past three years of work on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has provided important information to farmers and agricultural advisors about the relationship between on-farm conservation and water quality. Starting in 2012, seven Maryland farmers worked with American Farmland Trust; Agflex, Inc.; and local crop advisor Don Moore to test new fertilizer practices on a portion of their crop land by participating in the BMP Challenge. The risk proved rewarding, with an average increased profit of $6 per acre while reducing nitrogen applied by 7 pounds per acre on the test acres. “Throughout the entire BMP Challenge process, farmers demonstrated their willingness and eagerness to learn,” explained Moore. “They want to adopt new technologies if they make good economic sense.” Read more details about these Eastern Shore efforts

Dairy farm in winterPreserving Clean Water and Viable Farms
in the Mid-Atlantic

All farmers and ranchers know preparing for the year ahead starts with looking back at the bright spots and challenges from the seasons before. At AFT, we’re proud that in 2012 we rallied farmers and citizens alike to advocate on behalf of protecting farm and ranch land. Our innovative projects helped family farmers pioneer sound farming practices, which help to preserve our land and water resources. We also laid the groundwork to keep farmers on the land by providing tools and resources that allow them to thrive.

We’re sharing accomplishments and inspiration from 2012 in the words of our expert staff.

While all the reasons we have identified through the years for why farmland is important are all still true, we also have this heightened concern about water quality. We need to understand what role farmland and farmers play in this realm and we articulate that to people. They need to understand how much agriculture is part of the solution for this issue, too. And so this last year I’ve been working on making the case that farmland is essential for water quality so we can make it part of the policy solution.

Read more from Mid-Atlantic Director Jim Baird

Unveiling Crucial Findings for the Future of Farms at the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum

Farm on the water in the fallHow is farmland stacking up to development in efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay? Mid-Atlantic Director Jim Baird has been working with partners in the region to help answer this question and recently presented their findings at the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum. With widespread perceptions of farms as the primary water quality problem in the Bay area, many think that smart-design housing might actually be a preferable land use. “Not necessarily,” says Baird. “We have found that, thanks to growth in conservation practices spurred by the Bay Restoration Plan, farmland actually puts about 15 percent less nitrogen into the Bay watershed per acre than developed land.” Move ahead to a 2025 scenario. Should all of the conservation measures on farms and developed lands be implemented, farmland is projected to release 28 percent less nitrogen than developed land. Adds Baird, “These findings are important both to restore Chesapeake Bay health and to maintain the farms that provide our food and support our local economy.” 

Planning for the Future in the Chesapeake Bay

Corn crop in MarylandDebates on how to clean up the Chesapeake Bay—a national treasure constituting the largest estuary in the United States—are all over the news these days. Central to the discussion on the future of the Bay is how to offset pollution from new growth and development in the watershed. American Farmland Trust has been seeking solutions that benefit both the environment and farmers by pursuing the creation of trading markets for clean water “credits.” In Maryland, this trading will come from the Department of the Environment’s plan, a draft of which, Accounting For Growth, is up for public input in five meetings across the state over the next several months. “Cleaning up the Bay is more than a slogan. It is a serious challenge that will affect everyone no matter if you are a homeowner, farmer, developer or business owner,” says Jim Baird, American Farmland Trust's Mid-Atlantic Director. “These meetings are about how to keep the Bay on the road to recovery even while new growth brings increased pollution.”

New Video: The Benefits of Conservation Practices on Farms

Butterfly near waterWhat is nutrient trading and why is it important for a healthy future? To help answer these questions, we teamed up with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and talked with farmers and experts about nutrient trading in the state and its possible impact on the Chesapeake Bay. The video will be used as a new tool to assist the state's roll-out of a program that has the potential to bring new revenue sources to farmers and lower the cost of pollution reduction for all citizens of Maryland.


Cleaning Up the Chesapeake Bay: With the Right Tools, Agriculture can be a Key Player

Chesapeake WaderIn May 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order for a fresh look at the federal government’s role in Chesapeake Bay cleanup. The EPA and four cabinet-level departments recently released draft reports that estimate meeting water quality goals will require a 44 percent reduction of nitrogen entering the bay. Agriculture is one of the contributors to pollution in the bay, and reducing run-off while ensuring farms stay in business is no easy task. Fortunately there are some tools that that help farmers improve water quality, while allowing them to keep the farm business alive.

Project Update

American Farmland Trust Receives a $650,000 Grant to Enhance Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay

Farmer Testing WaterAFT received a $650,000 grant to support the Mid Atlantic Clean Water Initiative which will implement the BMP challenge for Reduced Nitrogen in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania

AFT launched the Mid Atlantic Clean Water Initiative to help farmers enhance their nutrient management and reduce high nutrient levels that impair local and regional water quality. The new project has started with a $650,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grant was part of a $5 million fund specifically for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  By working with producers in the field and at the policy level, AFT hopes to reduce between 200,000 and 270,000 pounds of nitrogen and set the stage to expand the program in each state over three years.

x More on the Mid-Atlantic Clean Water Initiative

More Project Updates

Focus on Maryland

boy-feeding-horseSaving Farmland with Transfer of Development Rights Programs: A Valuable Tool for a Priceless Resource

In Queen Anne County, Maryland, the president and two commissioners have made a proposal to save farmland and focus urban growth with a voluntary transfer of development rights (TDR) program [PDF]. According to Jim Baird, AFT’s Mid Atlantic States Director, “TDRs have proven to be invaluable in protecting important resource lands, while directing new development to areas with existing and adequate infrastructure.” But they are not without their detractors: developers who chafe at the added cost, suburban residents who resist more density in their neighborhood and some farmers who worry that their land will lose value when zoning changes are made. “It’s another tool in the tool kit,” says Baird. Ultimately citizens will decide what they want their community to look like and the best way to achieve that. AFT has provided comments or background information to both efforts.

Woman at Farmers Market with No Farms No Food ToteLocal Food from Local Farms “Just One Click Away”

Eating local and supporting local farms has never been easier thanks to the University of Maryland’s newly released virtual farmers market. This site allows consumers to find a local farm selling everything under the sun from Apples to Watermelons.  This easy to navigate guide demonstrates how simple and rewarding it can be to source a delicious diet right in your backyard.  Visit FoodTrader.org and start ordering-up local today.

More Focus on Maryland

FederAl Farm Policy and The farm bill

What’s in the farm bill and why is it important? Find out what’s next for the farm bill and how we can make sure the legislation's promises are turned into programs on the ground.


The Apple as Planet Earth Presentation
The Apple As Planet Earth

Do you know how much of the earth is suitable for farming? Watch the video and learn why protecting our farmland is so important.

American Farmland Trust