Area dairy farms receive grant funding

Six dairy farms in Chau-tauqua and Cattaraugus counties will be receiving nearly $2 million to preserve the quality of local watersheds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the award of $13.8 million to more than 200 farms throughout the state by the state Soil and Water Conservation Committee and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

“Investing in our farms will help keep our agricultural industry competitive while maintaining the high standards of agricultural products that the Empire State is known for,” said Cuomo in a press release. “By enhancing conservation methods, we are ensuring the continued economic success of our farms, as well as the protection of our natural resources. These grants will not only have an immediate effect on our agricultural sector, but will also make New York a cleaner, greener, more sustainable state for future generations.”

In Chautauqua County, two farms are receiving a total of $528,874 in the Chautauqua Lake and Findley Lake/French Creek watersheds. The two dairy farms will be implementing two separate projects – a manure storage and transfer pond and a leachate management system off a bunk silo, according to Debra Kelley, secretary and assistant treasurer for Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“A manure storage is usually a pond that will hold usually about six months’ worth of waste so that the farms don’t have to spread in the winter. That helps them control runoff,” she said.

“… There is a very concentrated flow that comes off of (the bunk silos) so (the leachate system) will take that concentration into the pit – the manure storage – that is already there to keep it from going to where it shouldn’t and damaging other things,” Kelley continued.

Chautauqua County has received the funding in the past and according to Kelley, this is the fifth round of grant funding still open. With one of the dairy farms in the Chautauqua Lake watershed, Chautauqua County SWCD is trying to help maintain the quality of the lake.

“We are trying to do our part to help the Chautauqua Lake environment and hopefully to help to solve the issues that are there,” Kelley said.

In Cattaraugus County, the four farms are all in the Conewango Creek watershed and will fund projects addressing agricultural nutrients and runoff management. The funding awarded to Cattaraugus County is $1,458,225. One of the farms is in Chautauqua County ,but is close enough to the county line to be included with Cattaraugus County’s application. The dairy farms will implement projects that will help them better utilize agricultural nutrients decreasing runoff into the watershed, according to District Field Manager for Cattaraugus County SWCD Brian Davis.

“They’ll benefit the watershed as far as better water quality by better addressing the agricultural nutrients so they can be better utilized and not runoff and having them spread in the winter time when it may runoff,” he said.

This is not the first year Cattaraugus County has received this grant. It has applied in the past and has received the grant numerous times. In the past, the county has worked with Chautauqua, Erie and Wyoming counties.

“This one is mainly zeroing in on the agriculture nutrients, which is basically your manure. When (farms) can better utilize their manure, it makes it so they don’t have to use quite so many commercial fertilizers,” Davis said.

This is the 20th year the grant is being awarded throughout New York state. Davis explained the competitive grant application is “quite an involved process.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said that the relationship between county SWCD and farmers is what farmers rely on. The grant monies will help facilitate these relationships for future generations.

“I’ve relied on them for my own operations and thousands of other farmers have as well. This state funding will help facilitate the highly important partnerships between farmers and their districts now and in the future,” Ball said.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com