Agricultural Environmental Management

The District is very active in New York State’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) initiative. AEM is a way to integrate evnvironmental protection and improvement with the needs of farmers and communities, while coordinating technical and financial assistance. The goal of AEM is to help farmers protect the environment, while maintaining the health and vitality of their farm operations. AEM is a voluntary five-step process beginning with Tier 1, a one-page inventory of farm information such as number of cows milked and farm acreage. Tier 2 consists of a set of worksheets that documents the details of the farm operation and identifies resource concerns. Plans are made to address these concerns in Tier 3. Tier 4 is the implementation of the plan and Tier 5 is an evaluation and follow-up.

AEM can be of help to farmers who are looking to comply with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) regulations that recently went into effect. Also, AEM is a way to increase the opportunity for funding of agricultural improvement projects such as manure management, barnyards, and streambank erosion. Currently, the District is working with USDA NRCS to develop and implement AEM plans for farms in watersheds across the county.

Ag Non-Point Source Control
The New York State Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program (ANSCAP) seeks to prevent pollution of New York’s waters from agricultural nonpoint sources–resulting in cleaner rivers, lakes and streams for all New Yorkers. The program provides cost-share funding to correct and prevent water pollution from farms and farming activities. Funds are also available for Agricultural Environmental Management planning activities to identify farms and watersheds where improvements are needed. The program is a competitive grant program, with funds applied for and awarded through county Soil and Water Conservation Districts. State funds come from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund and the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. Projects selected for funding under this program must clearly address a significant water quality need or opportunity; propose a cost-effective solution to the problem identified; and have significant local and landowner support, including significant financial support. Most projects selected for funding are located within a watershed or sub-watershed of a “priority waterbody,” as defined by NYSDEC; and can be completed within one year of contract execution.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Farm Plannning
A Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) shall be developed and maintained for each CAFO facility covered by this General Permit. The CNMP shall be prepared in accordance with good agricultural practices and shall include measures necessary to prevent pollutants in runoff and overflows from all areas of the facility as required by this permit and in accordance with NRCS NY312. The CNMP shall describe and ensure the implementation of practices which are to be used to assure compliance with the limitations and conditions of this permit. Within the CNMP, the permittee shall identify a specific individual(s) at the facility who is responsible for the implementation, maintenance, and revision of the CNMP in conjunction with an AEM certified planner. The activities and responsibilities of the CNMP personnel shall address all aspects of the facility’s CNMP.

Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning (CNMP’s)
The Oneida County SWCD has been providing Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning (CNMP) services to area farmers for several years. Many farmers have taken advantage of this service and it continues to be a major part of the District workload. District personnel have received in-depth training on this subject and have access to all the latest CAFO and CNMP regulations. The District has aggressively sought cost-share funds from all available sources to help cover the expense of farmers’ plans.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP’s)
A Best Management Practice (BMP) is defined as a method, measure or practice determined to be the most practical and effective in preventing or reducing the impact of pollutants generated by nonpoint sources. BMP’s include structural and non-structural controls, and operation and maintenance procedures. For example, some commonly implemented BMP’s include diversion ditches, grassed waterways, fencing, roof water management, and strip-cropping.

An example of a BMP: heavy use area protection. An Oneida County barnyard, before and after.

Farmland Protection
Under Article 25-AAA of the Agriculture and Markets Law, the Commissioner is authorized to administer two matching grant programs focused on farmland protection. One assists county governments in developing agricultural and farmland protection plans to maintain the economic viability of the State’s agricultural industry and its supporting land base; the other assists local governments in implementing their farmland protection plans and has focused on preserving the land base by purchasing the development rights on farms using a legal document called a conservation easement (see section below). The purchase of development rights (PDR) can help where the benefits and protections available through agricultural districting and other planning tools may not be sufficient to overcome local development pressure and other issues affecting farmland.