Maryland Healthy Soils Policy

Maryland Healthy Soils Program

Date:

Passed 2017

Legislation:

HB1063 (CH0373): Agriculture – Maryland Healthy Soils Program

Sponsors/Co-sponsors:

Description:

This Bill, now law, established the Maryland Healthy Soils Program to be directed by Maryland’s   Department of Agriculture. The program aims to increase biological activity and carbon sequestration through improved soil management on Maryland’s farms. The program will be based on emerging soil science and will be modeled after California’s Healthy Soils Program. It will provide incentives, including research, education, technical assistance, and, subject to available funding, financial assistance to farmers to implement farm management practices. There is no additional funding associated with this bill and is currently educational in nature only.

Soil Health Definition:

“Means the continuing capacity of soil to: 

  1. Function as a biological system;
  2. Increase soil organic matter;
  3. Improve soil structure and water and nutrient holding capacity; and 
  4. Sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions”

Stated Goals:

  • To improve health, yield & profitability of Maryland soils
  • To increase biological activity and carbon sequestration in agricultural soils in Maryland
  • To promote widespread use of healthy soils practices by Maryland’s farmers
  • To provide incentives (including research, education, technical assistance, and funding) to support farmers implementing best management practices 

Program Required Measurements:

N/A 

Tools: 

  • COMET-Planner evaluates potential carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from specific conservation practices. 
  • NRCS Practices

Funding Source:

There is no current funding associated with this bill. It is assumed in the Fiscal Summary that the program can be implemented using existing MD Department of Agriculture resources.

Funding Type:  

N/A

Practices eligible for funding: 

N/A

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking process:

The program is run by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups:

Lessons Learned:

  • The Bill passed with the support of climate activists as well as the Maryland Farm Bureau

Media:

Maps?


Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Fund – Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Use of Proceeds for Maryland Healthy Soils Program

Dates:

Introduced January 2020

Passed unanimously in the House in March 2020, but did not pass the Senate in time (due to the pandemic ending session early).

Legislation: 

HB395

Sponsors/Co-sponsors: 

Description:

This bill amends the existing Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Fund, which is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and specifies that the Maryland Healthy Soils Program be included in any allocations to climate change and resiliency programs. The bill would require that $500,000 of the renewable and clean energy programs account be allocated to the Maryland Healthy Soils Program. The act was amended to only be effective for five years until 2025.

Soil Health Definition:

N/A

Stated Goals:

N/A

Program Required Measurements:

N/A

Tools: 

N/A

Funding Source:

Strategic Energy Investment Fund (SEIF)

Funding Type:  

Cap and Trade through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) 

Practices eligible for funding: 

Agencies Involved:

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) manages the Strategic Energy Investment Fund (SEIF)

Rulemaking process:

N/A

State Universities & Researchers: 

N/A

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

N/A

Education & Advocacy Groups:

Maryland Climate Coalition

Lessons Learned:

N/A

Media:

Opinion: What Will Maryland’s Climate Legacy Be This Year


Solid Waste Management – Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion – Food Residuals

Date:

No movement in 2020 session (House bill introduction only).

Legislation: 

HB 589

Sponsors: 

Description:

The bill requires businesses that generate at least a quarter of a ton of food waste to send that food waste to a composting facility or compost on-site by 2024. Businesses that generate large quantities of food waste must begin earlier and the requirement is staggered based on a yearly decreasing amount of food waste generated per week. Businesses are exempt from the bill’s requirements if no composting facility exists within a 30 mile-radius of the business.

Soil Health Definition:

N/A

Stated Goals:

Statewide waste diversion

Program Required Measurements:

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is directed to establish guidelines to assist businesses with compliance and develop maps and other information to identify existing composting facilities as well as “guidelines for estimating the weight of the food residuals generated by a business”. The bill also establishes annual reporting requirements for MDE. 

Tools: 

To be developed.

Funding Source:

General fund.

Funding Type:  

N/A

Practices eligible for funding:

Requires separation of food residuals from other solid waste and waste diversion by 

  • Food waste reduction; 
  • Donations of servable food items; 
  • Onsite composting; 
  • Collection and transportation of food waste for agricultural use or for processing in an organics recycling facility;
  • Any combination of those waste diversion activities.

Agencies Involved:

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) 

Rulemaking process:

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is directed to establish guidelines for implementation of the act.

State Universities & Researchers: 

N/A

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups:

John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

28 organizations in Maryland signed a joint testimony:

  • Clean Water Action 
  • Multi-Faith Alliance of Climate Stewards of Frederick County
  • Sunrise Movement Baltimore
  • Runners4Justice
  • Frederick Compost Workgroup
  • Takoma Park Mobilization Environment Committee 
  • Baltimore Free Farm
  • Echotopia LLC 
  • Baltimore Community ToolBank 
  • Sunrise Movement Howard County Sugarloaf Citizens Association 
  • Maryland Legislative Coalition
  • WISE
  • Greenbelt Climate Action Network 
  • Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland
  • Environmental Justice Ministry Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
  • Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Indivisible Towson 
  • Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Lessons Learned:

N/A

Media:

ILSR Helps Introduce Maryland Bill to Require Food Scrap Recovery

Counties Oppose Forced Composting to Select Facilities


Cost-Sharing Program – Fixed Natural Filter Practices

Policy: 

MACS Bill

Date:

Passed in 2020

Legislation:

HB687, SB0597

Sponsors: 

  • Del. Stein
  • Del. Barve
  • Del. Fraser-Hidalgo
  • Del. Gilchrist
  • Del. Healy
  • Del. Holmes
  • Del. Lierman
  • Sen. Young
  • Sen. Hester
  • Sen. Beidle
  • Sen. Kagan
  • Sen. Pinsky
  • Sen. Rosapepe

Description: The Maryland Agricultural Cost Share (MACS) program provides farmers with grants to implement practices that prevent soil erosion and safeguard water quality. This bill would expand the program to incentivize a wider array of permanent practices that promote soil health and protect the Bay.

Soil Health Definition:

N/A

Stated Goals:

The proposed legislation would help farmers more easily add long-term, fixed natural filters such as tree buffers and grass pastures to farms. It would also stop the state from using agriculture cost share funds for practices that do not have environmental benefits. This would correct an issue where some funds were being used to help with start-up costs for large chicken farms or other purposes that could create more pollution.

Program Required Measurements:

N/A

Tools: 

N/A

Funding Source:

N/A

Funding Type:  

N/A

Practices eligible for funding: 

N/A

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking process:

N/A

State Universities & Researchers: 

N/A

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

  • Maryland’s Soil Conservation Districts

Education & Advocacy Groups:

  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Fair Farms
  • Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis
  • Future Harvest
  • Institute for Energy & Environmental Research
  • Neighborhood Sun

Lessons Learned:

  • N/A

Media:


Maryland Healthy Soils Grant Program

Date:

Introduced in House in 2020, no movement. 

Legislation:

HB1176

Sponsor/s: 

Description: Establishing the Maryland Healthy Soils Grant Program to provide funds to eligible grantees to administer projects to improve the health, yield, and profitability of soils of the State; requiring the Department of Agriculture to implement and administer the Grant Program and to calculate an eligible grantee’s greenhouse gas reduction per acre by using the COMET-Planner developed by certain agencies; authorizing the Governor to include $300,000 in the budget bill for the Grant Program beginning in fiscal year 2022; etc.

Soil Health Definition: “Healthy soils” means the continuing capacity of soil to:

  1. Function as a biological system;
  2. Increase soil organic matter;
  3. Improve soil structure and water and nutrient holding capacity;
  4. Sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Stated Goals:

  1. Improve the health, yield, and profitability of the soils of the State;
  2. Increase biological activity and carbon sequestration in the soils of the State by promoting practices based on emerging soil science, including planting mixed cover crops, adopting no–till or low–till farming practices, and rotation grazing; and
  3. Promote widespread use of healthy soils practices among farmers in the State.

Program Required Measurements:

Maryland Department of Ag. to calculate grantee’s GHG reduction per acre using the COMET-Planner.

Tools: 

  • COMET-Planner

Funding Source:

General fund.

Funding Type:  

Expiring sales and use tax exemption for sales of machinery and utilities used to produce bituminous concrete.

Practices eligible for funding: 

  • Practices based on emerging soil science, including planting mixed cover crops, adopting no–till or low–till farming practices, and rotation grazing.

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking process:

Maryland Department of Agriculture to implement and administer the Grant Program and adopt certain regulations.

State Universities & Researchers: 

  • Dr. Ray Weil – provided oral testimony
  • Dr. Sara Via – provided oral testimony

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

  • Maryland’s Soil Conservation Districts

Education & Advocacy Groups:

  • Fair Farms
  • Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis
  • Elemental Education
  • Future Harvest
  • Institute for Energy & Environmental Research
  • Neighborhood Sun

Lessons Learned:

Media:


Last updated 4/10/21


Questions?

Contact Maryland@healthysoilspolicy.org