ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A big boost is coming for farmers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and elsewhere who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a new $10 million initiative to help Maryland farmers. The Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief Program will help contract poultry growers directly and offer a bonus payment to any farm operation that got funding through the first round of the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

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“I am pleased to announce that we are immediately launching a new $10 million State of Maryland relief program which will provide direct payments to thousands of Maryland farmers, growers, and producers who have been hurt by COVID-19,” said Governor Hogan. “Far too often our farmers don’t get the respect or the appreciation they deserve, but I want our entire agriculture community to know that your commitment to our state and to our agriculture industry does not go unnoticed.”

Under the program, the Maryland Department of Agriculture will give direct $1,000 payments per poultry house, up to five houses per farm. Growers whose flocks were depopulated during the pandemic will be eligible for another $1,500 per house.

It will also offer a $15% bonus payment to any Maryland farmer who got federal funding through the first round of CFAP payments.

The first two waves of funding for the agricultural community did not include poultry contractors, though Hogan now said state funds are available for workers who have been trying to make ends meet since production was cut back due to COVID-19.

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Poultry farmers like Marylou Brown said small businesses like hers are taking the biggest hit. Though she produces plenty of food, she didn’t qualify for financial aid.

“I’m not a factory farm, it’s a family farm,” she said. “My daughter and I do this operation on my own, and in one year I can grow enough chickens to feed everyone in Ravens Stadium when everybody’s in Ravens Stadium.”

The state granted $24 million to Maryland farmers in the first round of the CFAP and another $16 million in the second round, but poultry contractors weren’t eligible. Now the state’s newest relief program dill directly pay farmers, growers, producers and poultry contractors.

“That money will come directly to me and it’ll help me pay some bills, so that’s a huge help,” Brown said.

For more information, or to apply online for the Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief Program, please visit https://mda.maryland.gov/pages/farmer-relief.aspx.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Rachael Cardin