Maryland got an infusion of $2 million in federal funds Friday to pay state farmers to plant cover crops in winter, replacing state money cut from one of the most effective efforts to reduce nutrient pollution fouling the Chesapeake Bay.

The state's cover crop program was one of six farm conservation projects in the six-state bay watershed to receive a total of $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Maryland budgeted more than $20 million over the past year to pay farmers to plant small grains and other crops in winter, which soak up excess fertilizer left in fields after the fall harvest.

That amount was trimmed by $4 million for the next year, but Julie Oberg, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture, said the money has been essentially restored with this and other federal funds.

Tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

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