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In February, the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment awarded the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation, Inc. a $40,000 grant to help farmers and farm landowners form farm leases that support on-farm conservation practices, through a newly created website. The Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) at The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law is spearheading the Agricultural Conservation Lease Builder project.
According to Sarah Everhart, Senior Research Associate and Managing Director of ALEI at Maryland Carey Law, the need for conservation practices on leased farmland – which makes up approximately 40 percent of farmland in the Chesapeake Bay region – is great. “When farms are rented without a lease, or with a poorly formed year-to-year lease, farmers are less likely to use conservation practices because of the uncertainty of a return on their investment,” said Everhart. “A well-formed longer-term lease, however, can help landowners and farmers have the assurance they need to undertake the on-farm conservation practices that are critically important for the Chesapeake Bay clean-up process.”
ALEI and the Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc. have spent years creating educational resources and training agricultural service providers how a lease can be a tool to overcome the challenges of implementing conservation practices on leased farmland. The Agricultural Conservation Lease Builder website will serve a vital need by allowing farm landowners and farmers to customize a lease based on specific farming standards and practices.
Everhart explained “The website will allow landowners and farmers to work together and create leases that support conservation priorities and encourage environmental stewardship. We are very grateful to The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment for the grant funding and can’t wait to get started.”