Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is seeking more than $16 million from his proposed fiscal 2025 budget priorities to boost the county’s agriculture sector.
In his fiscal 2025 proposed budget, Ball is seeking $450,000 for Soil Conservation District’s Best Management Practices grant program, $500,000 for the Enhanced Agricultural Grant, $450,000 to staff up and launch the new Office of Agriculture and $15 million in Agricultural Land Preservation Program authorization for new easements.

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 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 fiscal 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.

Enhanced Agricultural Grant
This past summer, Ball announced the launch of the EAG pilot program, which is aimed at empowering and preserving agriculture-supporting organizations in the County. With $250,000 in initial funding available to farmers, nonprofits and organizations for programming, research and capital investments supporting the expansion, sustainability and education of Howard County agriculture, Ball’s fiscal 2025 budget request of $500,000 would double the County’s investment in these grants.

Office of Agriculture
Councilmember David Yungmann and his colleagues recently voted in support of the creation of the County’s new OoA. Ball’s $450,000 fiscal 2025 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, the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning 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.

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, 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 fiscal 2025 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.

Roving Radish
Changes are coming to the County’s Roving Radish meal-kit program, Ball said. 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.

Agricultural Grant for Innovation and Expansion
Ball also announced the County will continue to offer direct support to farmers with a sustained $100,000 investment in the Agricultural Grant for Innovation and Expansion program through the Howard County Economic Development Authority. 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 operations.