Farming’s impacts on natural resources and the environment are getting more and more attention these days—nowhere more so than here in Maryland, where the Chesapeake Bay is so important for commercial, recreational, and symbolic purposes. Farmers have traditionally been concerned with protecting the natural resources that provide the basis for continued agricultural productivity. They have installed erosion control measures to guard against loss of topsoil, changed farming practices to maintain soil quality, and adjusted pest management strategies to make best use of natural enemies, among other measures, as part of their efforts to make more efficient use of those resources. More recently, nutrient management has been a focal point for efforts to enhance the efficiency of fertilizer use and protect water quality at the same time. Maryland has also undertaken significant efforts to protect and expand the positive contributions agriculture makes to environmental quality by providing open space, scenery, and habitat for wildlife.
Extension and research faculty in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics continue to study policies for handling the complex interactions between agriculture, natural resources, and environmental quality. To date, they have concentrated on the following areas:
- Nutrient and poultry litter management
- Nutrient trading and water quality
- The use of best management practices for erosion and runoff control
- The economics of riparian buffers
- The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program