Grants aimed to help farms protect water

Seven farms in Montgomery and Schoharie counties are among 46 agricultural operations statewide shar

Seven farms in Montgomery and Schoharie counties are among 46 agricultural operations statewide sharing in about $13 million in grants aimed at protecting water quality, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Friday’s announcement brings to 40 the number of farms working to prevent cow manure and other farm runoff from entering streams in Montgomery County, according to county Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Corey Nellis.

Nellis said there were a total of 86 applications representing $26 million in requests submitted statewide, so about half of those projects will have to wait until another round of funding.

Two dairy farms in the town of Root will receive $200,648 for projects in Montgomery County, Nellis said.

The efforts will entail preventing silage leachate — the juice that flows from chopped up corn, which farmers store and feed cows — from entering the Flat Creek watershed.

One farm will develop a manure storage facility, Nellis said, and another will cover a barnyard to prevent rainwater from mixing with cow waste and flowing down to streams.

“One of our major concerns with our New York state waters is sediment loading and nutrient loading,” Nellis said.

Excessive nutrients and sediment can affect the quality of water and wildlife, Nellis said.

Farmers willing to spend their money with state support work with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to begin a review that covers the use of manure, fertilizing practices, the setup of the farm’s land and a study of how changes could minimize the farm’s impact on the environment.

Farmers typically pay between 10 percent and 30 percent of the project’s cost, Nellis said.

In some cases, these practices can actually save the farmers money, Nellis said.

In the case of a prior project in the town of Canajoharie, Nellis said a farmer’s cows increased their production by several pounds with the addition of a barnyard.

The covered barnyard protects cows from harsher elements, and cows not having to expend energy against those element can produce more milk, Nellis said.

“The cows are not stressed anymore, and they’re not walking across frozen mud. It takes a lot of stresses off of them,” Nellis said.

Similar work will take place on a farm in the Schoharie County town of Carlisle, while four other farms embark on planning for management efforts, said Lisa Kuehnle, nutrient management specialist in Schoharie County.

Programs in Schoharie County are receiving a total of $116,996 in grant funding.

Kuehnle said there were three applications submitted for Schohrarie County farms, two were approved.

There are about 50 farms planning or actively working on these projects in Schoharie County, Kuehnle said.

Nellis said the work is expensive, both for farmers and for the government, but he believes these efforts are making a difference.

It’s unclear how long the work could go on, Nellis said.

The most-recent agricultural census puts the number of farms in Montgomery County at 624, Nellis said, so there are another 584 farms to go.

“When you put it into real terms, it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort,” Nellis said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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