Cover Crop Bill Is Dead For 2020 General Assembly

It was given an unfavorable report by a House of Delegates committee.


Annapolis, Md (KM) Legislation sponsored by Frederick County Delegate Ken Kerr (D) to allow farmers to harvest cover crops is dead for this year’s Maryland General Assembly. The bill would have allowed farmers who plant barley as a cover crop to sell their harvest to local craft breweries for use in making beer.

Delegate Kerr says the legislation received an unfavorable report last week from the House Environment and Transportation Committee. “Over the interim, I going to have to find another way, another pot of money that I can use to provide incentives to Frederick County grain farmers to experiment with two-row malting barley, specifically,” he says.

Under the cover crop program, farmers are paid by the state to plant these crops which retain soil so it doesn’t seep into the Chesapeake Bay.

Kerr says if farmers can be encouraged to grow this type of barley, it could be sold to local craft breweries, which currently import their barley from outside of Maryland. “Right now, most of the breweries–Flying Dog especially–buy most of their malted grain from Canada. But if we could grow it here and malt it here, and it would save a whole lot of money on transportation and import taxes,” he says.

But he says one problem is two-row barley, which is preferred by brewers, is a challenge to grow in Maryland. “But there’s great return on investment, especially if we can get it malted locally,” he says. “But until we can have enough sufficient quantity of this grain grown locally, we’re not going to get it malted locally.”

Despite this setback, Delegate Kerr says he will continue trying to encourage farmers to grow two-row barley. “I won’t be taking the cover crop approach this time,” he says. “I’ll find another way to provide financial incentives or some type of security for farmers who are willing to take a chance with this.”


By Kevin McManus