Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts

 Maryland Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program

FSCAP: Recognizes farmers for being good conservation stewards and meeting the Agricultural Conservation Stewardship Certification Standard (ACSCS) (PDF Link Here)

Core Partners: Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts (MASCD), Maryland Farm Bureau (MFB), Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).

Funding Sources: United Soybean Board (USB), Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board (MGPUB), Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), and Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) (link to each of their web sites)

FSCAP is helping farmers on the Eastern Shore comply with new Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) rules and get Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans written.

How do I get involved? The best way is to email Gerald Talbert, FSCAP Project Leader

The Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts (MASCD) has established the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP) to acknowledge those farmers who are good stewards of their natural resources and to encourage and reward farmers to put more conservation best management practices (BMPs) on the land. The project has established the Agricultural Conservation Stewardship Certification Standard (ACSCS), which measures compliance with state requirements for the farm's nutrient management plan plus a level of conservation BMPs that prevent any significant sources of pollution from leaving the farm. FSCAP is also leading a smaller project, the FSCAP CNMP Project, in Somerset County to help develop Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs).

Through FSCAP, MASCD will establish a collaborative process to recognize good stewardship by farmers that will be acknowledged and respected by both the environmental and agricultural communities. By “setting the bar”, it will encourage other farmers to achieve certification and participate in new conservation programs that will put more conservation on the land and reduce pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. 

When a farmer volunteers to be evaluated, FSCAP works through the local soil conservation district to visit the farm to review the existing nutrient management plan, soil conservation and water quality plan and other pertinent documents to determine if the farmer meets the Agricultural Conservation Stewardship Certification Standard (ACSCS).

The assessor and the district planner will walk the farm with the soil conservation and water quality plan to see if existing conservation practices have prevented any significant sources of pollution from leaving the farm. If additional conservation best management practices (BMPs) are needed, the farmer may elect to work with the district for technical assistance in determining, designing and installing the appropriate BMP to solve the problem, after which the ACSCS evaluation could continue.

The farmer will also be provided with a Stewardship Notebook that contains background information and references on a variety of topics to improve farm management and conservation for the farmer to consider in the future.

Agricultural Conservation Stewardship Certification Standard

The Agricultural Conservation Stewardship Certification Standard (ACSCS) is a measure of good conservation stewardship. The certification project provides recognition for a farmer's accomplishment in sustainable management of his natural resources and will serve as a source of pride for himself and the agricultural community. It combines a current implemented nutrient management plan that meets state requirements and a soil conservation and water quality plan that prevents any significant sources of pollution from leaving the farm.

MASCD has four core partners in planning and supporting FSCAP: the Maryland Farm Bureau; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; the Maryland Department of Agriculture; and, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Representatives of the core partners formed a FSCAP Work Group and drafted project documents and procedures.

To date, FSCAP funding partners include: the United Soybean Board; the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan Project

MASCD received a grant from the United Soybean Board to provide its regular FSCAP services plus a specific focus on helping poultry growers develop Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs). A CNMP as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contains nine basic elements including nutrient management and conservation practices.

In the fall of 2009, FSCAP started working cooperatively with the Somerset Soil Conservation District to help poultry growers in Somerset County develop their CNMPs. FSCAP has commissioned two certified CNMP planners to perform 20 CNMPs in Somerset County by April 30, 2010. Those poultry growers who have implemented their CNMP will be contacted by FSCAP through the Somerset Soil Conservation District to provide recognition for their conservation efforts.