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Delaware farmers leave $58k on the table as deadline passes for USDA grants

Delaware Public Media

The deadline for Delaware farmers to apply for federal help with reducing agricultural runoff has passed and $58,000 is still available.

The USDA issued a group of non-government organizations in Delaware and Maryland $5 million dollars to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed four years ago.

$86,000 was set aside for a program to help Delaware farmers in the Choptank, Nanticoke and Pocomoke regions do more to reduce nutrient runoff on their farms.  

But more than two-thirds of the money has gone unused and the deadline for farmers to apply was last Friday, April, 19.

Tim Garrahan is Delaware’s Assistant State Conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. He had feared the money would go to Maryland if Delaware farmers did not act on it, but now says he wants to work with Maryland officials to extend the deadline and keep the funds in Delaware.

“I need to get up with the Nature Conservancy, talk to them, see what can be done. I mean, we might be able to come up with some other applications out there. Just do some more outreach and get farmers to sign up,” said Garrahan.

The funds are meant to help equip farmers with GPS to use in conjunction with yield maps to target areas of their fields that need the most nutrients—rather than distributing an average amount across the entire field. This goes beyond what the state requires for nutrient management to try to reduce runoff in the watershed.

Garrahan says this is the only federally funded ag program in the First State that has seen such little participation.

“It’s kind of a high bar for nutrient management since they are already required by the state to do nutrient management—basic nutrient management. Not every farmer is interested or has the capability to do the higher advanced nutrient management,” he said.

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