Most farmers careful of environment, survey asserts

January 27, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Maryland farmers have been living a real "stewardship success story," one that urban neighbors need to hear if the agricultural community is to prevent mandatory pollution controls, an environmental specialist told Carroll County farmers yesterday.

The facts to back up that story are contained in a Maryland Farm Bureau survey released yesterday that shows most farmers are following conservation practices that help protect the land and Chesapeake Bay, said Maryland Farm Bureau environmental resources specialist Dennis Stolte at the county Mid-Winter Farm Meetings.

His talk was one of nine sessions during the first day of the annual meetings at the Carroll County Agricultural Center in Westminster.

Area farmers also heard about pesticide application, grain marketing, management of soil residue and insect control during the daylong educational meeting.

Today's meeting, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 700 Agricultural Lane in Westminster, will cover topics such as exotic livestock, managing well and septic systems, and diversification.

"We've documented the voluntary practices that you know have been in place a long time before it was politically correct to do them," Mr. Stolte said.

"Agriculture in Maryland is a real stewardship success story. If we've done anything wrong, it's been not getting the word out to people," he said.

After showing a 15-minute video designed to educate urban and suburban residents about common agricultural practices that help protect water and land, Mr. Stolte reviewed the survey, which showed about 55 percent of Maryland's farmers use conservation tillage.

About 35 percent of farmers nationwide use conservation tillage practices, which help reduce erosion by leaving crop waste on top of the ground to hold soils in place.

Of 15,232 surveys mailed out in August, about 2,600 were returned to the Maryland Farm Bureau, Mr. Stolte said.

About 450 surveys had to be rejected because they were incomplete or from retired farmers, he said.

L "That's a pretty good return for a survey," Mr. Stolte said.

Also, Farm Bureau staff members felt the results were valid because the numbers were close to those already recorded by state agencies.

The survey -- sponsored by Farm Bureau in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board and Chesapeake Bay Trust -- also found:

* About 52 percent of the respondents use alternatives to chemicals to control weeds and insects such as natural predation and biological controls.

* Crop rotation is used on more than 58 percent of Maryland's cropland.

* Survey respondents routinely used soil testing and plant analysis on most of their crop land to help determine how much fertilizer should be spread on the land.

* More than half of the respondents said they had reduced their use of pesticides during the past year.

* More Maryland farmers use nutrient management programs than any other state in the nation.

"We often say that Pennsylvania has a law on the books [requiring nutrient management programs], but Maryland has a voluntary program that's actually working," Mr. Stolte said.

"You need to tell your friends in the legislature that," he said.

Mr. Stolte said he received a high number of survey responses from Carroll County.

In addition, most Carroll farmers were doing their part to protect the land, he said.

"Carroll County is one of the better counties about using conservation practices," Mr. Stolte said. "Farmers here are really trying."

Farm Bureau staff members may do a separate analysis of Carroll County's responses if there is enough interest, he said.

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