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In Maryland, farm conservation going dry

2:15 PM EDT, April 17, 2013

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Although by all accounts the Maryland legislature had a very productive session, legislators fell short in protecting the land that most sustains us — our farmland. While we applaud the successful defense of open space funding overall, for the second year in a row, both the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund and the Rural Legacy Program were slashed. This year they lost a combined $8.7 million.

The trend and timing of these cuts is alarming. In addition to providing a host of benefits, starting with our food, farmland is central to meeting the Chesapeake Bay restoration goals to which Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia have committed. The current Maryland cleanup plan counts on farms to deliver 60 percent of the nitrogen reduction, not to mention their role in providing towns with flood control protection, recharging groundwater and maintaining wildlife habitat.

Maryland's commitment to reduce nutrient emissions into the bay by 2025 will be impossible to attain and maintain without the cooperation of farmers and fully-funded conservation programs that protect farms from development. The issues and concerns of the day are critical, of course. But we take our eyes off the future at our peril.

Jim Baird, Washington

The writer is Mid Atlantic Director of the American Farmland Trust.

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