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Soil & Water in Orleans approved for nearly $350K in state grants

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 July 2016 at 11:00 am
Tractor in Yates

File photo by Tom Rivers– A tractor is pictured last August in a field of hay bales on Lakeshore Road in the Town of Yates.

YATES – New York State has approved $13.1 million in grants for agricultural water quality conservation projects, including nearly $350,000 in assistance for work in Orleans County.

The Soil and Water Conservation District grants in Orleans County include:

• $313,904 was awarded for the implementation of best management conservation practices to address agricultural water quality concerns on nine farms in the Oak Orchard, Sandy Creek, and Johnson Creek Watersheds. The farms will be implementing cover cropping systems that will keep nutrients and other pollutants out of the creeks while helping the farms remain economically viable.

• $34,584 was awarded for the implementation of best management conservation practices to address agricultural water quality concerns on one farm in the Oak Orchard River Watershed. The farm will be implementing a silage leachate treatment system that will keep nutrients and other pollutants out of the watershed while helping the farms remain economically viable.

The $13.1 million total state-wide goes to 42 agricultural water quality conservation projects across the state, benefiting over 120 farms. The funding, provided to 25 County Soil and Water Conservation Districts through the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program, supports projects that allow farmers to address water quality challenges in priority watersheds.

Together, these projects will work to prevent water pollution, reduce erosion and limit the amount of harmful sediments and other deposits in New York’s waterways. Funding for the program was increased in the FY 2017 Budget to $19 million, which will support future projects.

“Ensuring that New York’s waterways remain pristine is essential to the long-term viability of our booming agricultural industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will provide farmers with the resources they need to protect our treasured waters and surrounding communities, and foster sound environmental stewardship while supporting more than 120 farms across the state.”

“The Environmental Protection Fund provides our state’s agricultural community with the platform to get conservation on the ground and implement innovative best management practice systems,” said Dale Stein, a Le Roy dairy farmer and chairman of the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee. “Investing state funds in these conservation systems not only protects the state’s natural resources through effective environmental stewardship, but provides financial support to local economies.”

Dennis Kirby, manager of the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District, said one of the grants “will help farmers improve farms’ soil health and the quality of our county’s waterways by adopting the practice of planting cover crops after the main cash crop has been harvested.”

By keeping a living crop growing on the land as long as possible, the soil biology is improved, helping the next cash crop to grow and yield better, Kirby said.

“The growing cover helps storm water soak into the soil, rather than run off taking sediment and nutrients with it,” he said. “Cover Crops recycle nutrients left after the growth of the cash crop and make them available for the next crop.”

Often, Kirby said, a cover crop will help suppress weed growth and diseases, while fostering beneficial insect habitat. This will result in reduced pesticide use in the future.

This grant covers 9 farms located in the Oak Orchard, Sandy and Johnson Creek Watershed in the Towns of Barre, Albion, Gaines, Clarendon, Ridgeway and Shelby.

The second grant will improve water quality in the Oak Orchard Watershed by helping to implement a silage leachate treatment system that will keep nutrients and other pollutants out of the watershed, Kirby said.

“Runoff from a bunk silo will be captured either in a tank for field spreading or sent to a vegetated treatment area so that the nutrients are used on the farm and not released into a nearby stream which feeds into Oak Orchard River,” he said.