Money flowing to farms to protect water

Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District received more than $406,000 recently, as part of a push by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to protect water from pollution caused by farming.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday said $12.2 million in funding will help 209 farms in 27 counties to prevent contamination to streams, rivers and lakes from agricultural runoff.

Corey Nellis, district manager of the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District, the funds going to the district – totaling $406,842 – will be used to assist two farms in Montgomery County; Cauwenburgh Farm in Canajoharie and ERCS in Root.

Nellis said water tested at one of the sites included high levels of phosphorus coming from barnyard contaminates such as manure.

Nellis said each farm will have work done to create ways to prevent wastewater on the farms from running into local streams.

For example, Nellis said, Cauwenburgh Farm has an uncovered yard where livestock can walk around. Rainwater, mixing with manure and other contaminants in the yard, could then flow into nearby streams or creeks.

Both farms will build covered barnyards to prevent rainwater from hitting the yard, as well as buffer zones to divert fresh water to the farms and block access to streams to prevent contamination from livestock.

ERCS also will have a special grazing area established, he said, made from an old cornfield.

The grant covers roughly 75 percent of the total cost, with the farms expected to pay the remaining 25.

“I would say these projects would be scheduled for implementation in 2014,” Nellis said.

According to a news release from Cuomo’s office, these competitive grants provide funding to county Soil and Water Conservation Districts to address water quality challenges facing farms in priority watersheds throughout the state. The conservation districts utilize the state’s Agricultural Environmental Management framework to implement the grants. Conservation districts develop plans tailored to a farm’s goals and watershed needs and establish practices and technologies to achieve those goals.

“Well-managed farms are an integral part of New York’s economy and landscape,” Cuomo said. “Through this program, we are supporting farms across the state to put in place best practices when it comes to protecting water quality in their areas while ensuring the continued production of fresh, local food supply. Not only will these projects improve the environment, they will also help stimulate economic activity in the communities.”