Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced his proposed Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) budget priorities for agriculture that will have a lasting impact for years to come. In his FY25 proposed budget, Ball seeks $450,000 for Soil Conservation District’s Best Management Practices grant program, $500,000 for the Enhanced Agricultural Grant (EAG), $450,000 to staff up and launch the new Office of Agriculture (OoA) and $15 million in Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALPP) authorization for new easements. Photos of the event can be seen here.

Howard County is a bold leader in modern, sustainable agriculture. Since taking office in December 2018, we have launched several initiatives and programs to preserve farmland and promote our agricultural communities. My proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget builds upon those investments and demonstrates our commitment to agriculture, to our farmers, to our farmlands and our rural west.

Calvin Ball
Howard County Executive

Soil Conservation District’s Best Management Practices

Last year, the County provided $200,000 in funding to the Soil Conservation District’s Best Management Practice (BMP) implementation grants program. The program assists growers who want to do right by the land, but do not have the necessary resources to invest in their property. In his FY25 budget, Ball is requesting an additional $250,000 in new funding in addition to the annually slated $200,000 to create a new revolving BMP loan program to help farmers bridge the financing gap.

“Our best management practices grant program has been a real homerun for the farming community,” said David Plummer, District Manager, Howard Soil Conservation District. “We are thrilled to expand this program so we can help even more farmers invest in the viability and longevity of their land, and ultimately in the future of farming for all of Howard County. Thank you to the Agricultural Preservation Board for continuing to push for investments in best management practices and for helping our farmers to continue to be leaders in conservation.”

Enhanced Agricultural Grant

This past summer, Ball announced the launch of the EAG pilot program aimed at empowering and preserving agriculture-supporting organizations in Howard County. With $250,000 in initial funding available to farmers, non-profits and organizations for programming, research and capital investments supporting the expansion, sustainability and education of Howard County agriculture, Ball’s FY25 budget request of $500,000 would double the County’s investment in these grants.

“Thanks to County Executive Ball and all who supported this initiative, our inaugural EAG grant program was a great success. With twice the funding, we will double our impact in Fiscal Year 2025,” said James Zoller, Agricultural Coordinator, Office of Community Sustainability and Executive Secretary, Agricultural Preservation Board.

“Thank you, County Executive Ball, for hearing the funding priorities of the Board,” said Jamie Brown, Chair, Howard County Agricultural Preservation Board and Farmer, TLV Tree Farm. “The EAG program and new Soil Conservation District’s BMP fund are exciting opportunities to support our producers.”

Office of Agriculture

Earlier this month, Councilmember Yungmann and his colleagues voted in support of the creation of the County’s new OoA. Ball’s $450,000 FY25 budget request provides funding to staff up and launch this new office at West Friendship Park, bringing agricultural resources closer to Howard County’s farming community. As Ball announced in December 2023, OoA will bring together the agriculture-facing functions of Howard County Economic Development Authority (EDA), the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) and University of Maryland Extension to collaborate toward a common goal of supporting Howard County’s farmers and farmland. OoA’s location at the County’s Department of Recreation & Parks’ West Friendship Park will also allow the two agencies to develop and provide agriculturally-focused recreational programming and learning opportunities for residents and visitors at the park.

“From the creation of the County’s first-ever Office of Agriculture to the West Friendship Park Agricultural Programming Focus Group – which I look forward to being a part of, the future of agriculture and ag education is bright in Howard County,” said David Yungmann, Councilmember, Howard County Council (District 5). “Additionally, with the Enhance Agricultural Grant program and Soil Conservation District Best Management Practice implementation grants, we are taking the necessary steps to helping our farms thrive.”

“I’m also excited to see the County’s Office of Agriculture move full steam ahead and bring all of our ag-supporting agencies together under one roof. This coming fiscal year will truly be a big year for building out our team,” added Zoller.

“We are especially excited about the future of the Office of Agriculture and working closely with the new team to promote farming her in Howard County,” said Brown. “As a farmer, I look forward to being able to drive up the road to speak to somebody about an issue instead of having to drive into Ellicott City or Columbia.”

Agricultural Land Preservation Program

Since reopening the County’s ALPP in 2019, Ball’s administration has invested more than $12 million in easements to preserve 362 acres of prime agricultural land from development. This land provides the fruits and vegetables, dairy and protein that fill our plates, the grains and hay that feed our livestock, and the space for horses and other animals to roam.

For the first time in Howard County since 2013, Ball is requesting $15 million in his proposed FY25 budget to infuse new funding into the County’s ALPP to acquire news easements that preserve farmland forever. This investment, coupled with updated easement term options adopted in 2023, will create the flexibility to allow property owners to select the interest rate, contract length or down payment option that meets their financial objectives.

“Our Agricultural Land Preservation Program is model of success for resource conservation and smart growth principles,” said Lynda Eisenberg, Director, Department of Planning and Zoning. “This is strengthened in HoCo by Design which calls for continuing our land acquisition program, while building on existing efforts to assist the ag community to grow and diversify. To carry forward this long tradition of preserving ag land in perpetuity a $15 million authorization for continued ag preservation easement acquisitions will help Howard County continue to lead not only in 2024, but for many years to come. By protecting farms, we are ensuring a space for continued crop and livestock production needed to feed our residents and fuel a diversified economy.”

Roving Radish

Ball also announced transformational changes coming to the County’s award-winning Roving Radish program. A meal-kit program, Roving Radish’s mission is to promote healthy farm to table eating habits, while creating a sustainable market for local farms. The County will be rolling out the long-anticipated Roving Radish Mobile Market van later this spring, which will allow the program to bring more fresh local produce directly to communities around the county. The van will provide yet another outlet for local farms to easily sell their produce at a profit.

“Thank you all for your continued support for farming. Farming is a tough business, but it’s our way of life. And investments like these will help us to pass on this legacy to the next generation,” said Leslie Bauer, President, Howard County Farm Bureau. “As President of the Farm Bureau and a member of the County’s Agricultural Preservation Board, the budget investments in grants, loans, Roving Radish and the preservation easement program outlined today give me hope for the future of farming in Howard County.”

Agricultural Grant for Innovation and Expansion

Ball also announced the County will remain a leader in direct support to farmers with a sustained $100,000 investment in the Agricultural Grant for Innovation and Expansion (AGIE) program through HCEDA. Geared toward Howard County crop or livestock producers or processors, agricultural cooperatives, seafood processors or primary or secondary timber products processors, HCEDA AGIE grants help these producers expand or diversity their business operations.

“Our AGIE grants have been a great resource, helping growers make important investments in their operations or explore the feasibility of larger purchases. The EAG grant has really stacked well with our AGIE program for bigger investments of equipment or programming than we could otherwise provide,” said Jennifer Jones, CEO, HCEDA. "Agriculture is essential to Howard County’s economy and it is important that we celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives. Farms and farm related industries provide local food for our community and jobs. It is a perfect time to recognize the hard-working people of agriculture for all they do.”

In additional to announcing his agriculture spending plans for FY25, Ball also proclaimed it “Agriculture Day” in Howard County in honor of March 19th being National Agriculture Day.


Media Contacts
Safa Hira, Director of Communications

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