Department Launches Conservation Education Outreach Program for Small Horse Farms

Department Launches Conservation Education Outreach Program for Small Horse Farms

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ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 1, 2024) – The Maryland Department of Agriculture has launched an educational outreach program aimed at small horse farms to encourage conservation practices that benefit local water quality and create a healthier environment for horses. Included in the outreach messaging that will run through the month of April is a 30-second public service announcement appearing on Maryland Public Television’s Chesapeake Bay Week, Maryland Farm and Harvest, Outdoors Maryland, and other PBS programming. Additionally, social media messaging will be featured on the department’s social media channels and other digital platforms.

“With more than 94,000 horses, Maryland has more horses per acre than any other state,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks. “While horses are an important part of our state’s heritage and contribute to its economy and natural beauty, they can impact the health of local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay if not properly managed. This public education campaign aims to connect horse owners with free conservation services provided by local soil conservation districts to protect natural resources and improve the health of their horses.”

The public service announcements will direct visitors to the department’s conservation page for horse owners at mda.maryland.gov/HOW. The site provides tips on best management practices for greener pastures, cleaner streams, and healthier horses. It also includes links to educational videos, publications, resources, and local soil conservation districts.

Across the United States, nearly 3,000 soil conservation districts have been helping landowners conserve land, water, forests, wildlife, and natural resources on their properties for more than 75 years. Here in Maryland, 23 districts—one in every county—work with landowners across the state, and their work impacts almost two million acres of land. The department provides staffing support for many district positions, including equine experts who provide free technical and planning services to help horse owners address natural resource concerns such as mud and manure, over-grazed pastures, stream fencing, and soil health. They also help landowners apply for grants that could help pay for improvements.

Maryland law requires farms with 8,000 pounds or more of live animal weight or at least $2,500 in gross income to manage their farms using a nutrient management plan prepared by an MDA-certified plan writer. These regulated operations must also exclude horses and other livestock from streams.

For more information about this outreach campaign, please contact the Resource Conservation Public Affairs Coordinator, Rona Flagle, at rona.flagle@maryland.gov.