April 22, 2008 / 4:12 PM / in 10 years

On Earth Day, USDA aids farmland preservation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservation easements will preserve 622 acres on six Maryland farms from development, including five in populous Baltimore Country, said the U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday.

Corn stalks are seen in the harvested fields of Prairie City, Iowa, November 14, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

USDA said it would award $2.6 million to Maryland through the Farm and Ranchland Preservation Program, which pays up to half of the cost of easements to prevent conversion of farmland to other uses. State and local groups provide the rest.

“This land will be protected by conservation easements and will be available for agricultural use forever,” Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said in a statement.

Schafer announced the award during an Earth Day visit to the Glenn Elseroad farm near Reisterstown, Maryland.

USDA said $1.6 million would go to the Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Program to protect 341 acres on five farms, including the Elseroad farm.

The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy will receive $600,000 for an agreement covering 281 acres on a farm in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore.

In fiscal 2008, USDA has released $50.2 million for the land preservation program nationwide. Created in 1996, the program has spent $536 million in 11 years to preserve 533,000 acres on 2,764 farms and ranches, including 35,000 acres on 257 Maryland farms.

Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Walter Bagley

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