Last Revised 3/9/01

Agricultural Programs

Farmland Protection/Agricultural Districts Program (NYS)

One of the critical issues involved in land use planning decisions for agricultural uses is to ensure that agriculture protection deals primarily with the preservation of agriculture as an economic activity and not just as a use of open space. Traditionally, agricultural uses are part of large lot, low density, residential zoning districts. With increased residential development, however, conflicts between agricultural and residential uses have increased. Complaints about noise, odors, dust, chemicals, and slow-moving farm machinery may occupy enough of the resources of a farmer so as to have a negative impact on the viability of his or her farming activities.

Article 25-AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law is intended to conserve and protect agricultural land for agricultural production and as a valued natural and ecological resource. Under this statute, territory can be designated as an agricultural district. To be eligible for designation, an agricultural district must be certified by the county for participation in the State program. Once a district is designated, participating farmers within it can receive reduced property assessments and relief from local nuisance claims and certain forms of local regulation. Agricultural district designation under Article 25-AA does not generally prescribe land uses. Under section 305-a of Article 25-AA, municipalities are, however, restricted from adopting regulations applicable to farm operations in agricultural districts which unreasonably restrict or regulate farm structures or practices, unless such regulations are directly related to the public health or safety (Agriculture & Markets Law, 305-a(1); Town Law 283-a; Village Law 7-739). The law also requires municipalities to evaluate and consider the possible impacts of certain projects on the functioning of nearby farms. Projects that require "agricultural data statements" include certain land subdivisions, site plans, special use permits, and use variances. Farm operations within agricultural districts also enjoy a measure of protection from proposals by municipalities to construct infrastructure such as water and sewer systems, which are intended to serve non-farm structures. Under Agriculture and Markets Law, 305, the municipality must file a notice of intent with both the State and the county in advance of such construction. The notice must detail the plans and the potential impact of the plans on agricultural operations. If, on review at either the county or State levels, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets determines that there would be an unreasonable adverse impact, he or she may issue an order delaying construction, and may hold a public hearing on the issue. If construction eventually goes forward, the municipality must make adequate documented findings that all adverse impacts on agriculture will be mitigated to the maximum extent practicable. "Right-to-farm" is a term which has gained widespread recognition in the State’s rural areas within the past several decades. Section 308 of the Agriculture and Markets Law grants protection from nuisance lawsuits to farm operators within agricultural districts or on land outside a district which is subject to an agricultural assessment under section 306 of the Law. The protection is granted to the operator for any farm activity which the Commissioner has determined to be a "sound agricultural practice." Locally, many rural municipalities have used their home rule power to adopt local "right-to-farm" laws. These local laws commonly grant particular land-use rights to farm owners and restrict activities on neighboring non-farm land which might interfere with agricultural practices.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a USDA-NRCS initiative authorized by the 1996 Farm Bill that provides farmers with technical, financial, and educational assistance to address soil, water, and natural resource concerns in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. A conservation plan is required to receive EQIP funding. EQIP addresses natural resource concerns through the implementation of structural, vegetative, and land use practices such as manure management facilities, abandoned well capping, tree planting, filter strips, nutrient, pest, and grazing management, and wildlife habitat protection and enhancement. Agricultural producers enter into five-to-ten year contracts with federal funding limited to $10,000 per year with a maximum of $50,000 for the total contract.

Additional Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Information (exit this site)

Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM)

Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) is a program to assist farmers in identifying environmental issues on their farms and implementing measures to maintain their economic viability while simultaneously protecting natural resources. Farmers voluntarily enter into these partnerships and remain the primary decision-maker throughout the AEM process. The AEM program focuses on helping farmers comply with federal, state and local regulations relating to water quality and other environmental concerns. The NRCS and County Soil and Water Conservation Districts coordinate the program.

AEM is designed to provide a system for planning and implementing environmentally suitable farming practices through the following steps or tiers:

Additional Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Information (exit this site)

Animal Feeding Operations

Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) means a lot or facility (other than an aquatic animal production facility) where animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and the animal confinement areas do not sustain crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues in the normal growing season. Two or more animal feeding operations under common ownership are a single animal feeding operation if they physically adjoin each other, or if they use a common area or system for the disposal of wastes.

AFOs include Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).  CAFOs are point sources of pollution under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and are regulated under Section 301 of the CWA. CAFO General Permit GP-99-01 is a single permit which covers all CAFOs (who apply for coverage) Statewide. Therefore, all CAFOs who are covered by General Permit GP-99-01 will have identical permit language and requirements. Unique facility-specific requirements will be detailed in the Agricultural Waste Management Plan, a requirement for all CAFOs.

To determine if a farming operation is a CAFO, see the Definitions Section for "animal feeding operation," "animal unit" and "concentrated animal feeding operation" or Section ("f," "g" & "j") of the General Permit. Only AFOs which meet the definition of a CAFO are eligible to apply for coverage under General Permit GP-99- 01. AFOs with less than 300 animal units are not eligible to be covered under the General Permit.

A farming operation can be a CAFO by meeting either the minimum number of animals (per category) established in the definition of "concentrated animal feeding operation," or by meeting the minimum number of "animal units" contained in that definition. "Animal unit" does not necessarily mean one cow, horse, or other type of animal. The concept of "animal unit," as established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is generically based on 1,000 pounds of body weight. The equivalent "animal units" for common livestock species are listed in "g" of the Definitions section of the permit.

General Permit GP-99-01 is a "zero-discharge" permit, i.e., there can be no discharge to any natural surface water, from the area where animals are confined, bedded, fed, or otherwise managed in a concentrated manner, unless a 25-year 24-hour storm event occurs (see definition "a" in the General Permit). Discharges occurring after a 25-year 24-hour storm event are allowed, provided the 25-year 24-hour storm runoff is retained. This discharge restriction does not apply to areas of the farm used for grazing, such as pastures.

If a facility is a CAFO, the procedure for applying for coverage under General Permit GP-99-01 is simply to complete and send in the Notice of Intent (NOI) form, enclosed as Appendix A. An NOI from an "existing" CAFO (see "a" in Section 5 of the General Permit) must be submitted to the NYSDEC by January 1, 2000. An NOI from a "new" or "expanded" CAFO (see same Section of the General Permit) must be submitted at least 30 days prior to commencing operation. If you submit an NOI, your facility is authorized by General Permit GP-99-01 fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of your signature, unless notified otherwise by the DEC.

CAFO Definitions

Animal unit means a unit of measurement for any animal feeding operation calculated by adding the following numbers: The number of slaughter and feeder cattle and dairy heifers multiplied by 1.0, plus the number of mature dairy cattle multiplied by 1.4, plus the number of swine weighing over 55 pounds multiplied by 0.4, plus the number of sheep multiplied by 0.1, plus the number of horses multiplied by 2.0. 1000 animal units (or greater) will refer to group I. in definition number j. 300 animal units (but less than 1000) will refer to group II. in definition number j.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) means an "animal feeding operation" which meets the following criteria:

I. New and existing operations which stable or confine and feed or maintain for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period more than the numbers of animals specified in any of the following categories:

1. 1,000 slaughter or feeder cattle;

2. 700 mature dairy cattle (whether milkers or dry cows);

3. 2,500 swine weighing over 55 pounds;

4. 500 horses;

5. 10,000 sheep or lambs;

6. 55,000 turkeys;

7. 100,000 laying hens or broilers when the facility has unlimited continuous flow watering systems;

8. 30,000 laying hens or broilers when facility has liquid manure handling system;

9. 5,000 ducks; or

10. 1,000 animal units from a combination of slaughter steers and heifers, mature dairy cattle, swine over 55 pounds and sheep;

II. New and existing operations that discharge into navigable waters either through a man-made ditch, flushing system, or other similar man-made device, or directly into surface waters of the State, and which stable or confine and feed or maintain for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period more than the numbers or types of animals in the following categories:

1. 300 slaughter or feeder cattle;

2. 200 mature dairy cattle (whether milkers or dry cows);

3. 750 swine weighing over 55 pounds;

4. 150 horses;

5. 3000 sheep or lambs;

6. 16,000 turkeys;

7. 30,000 laying hens or broilers when the facility has unlimited continuous flow watering systems;

8. 9000 laying hens or broilers when facility has liquid manure handling system;

9. 1,500 ducks; or

10. 300 animal units from a combination of slaughter steers and heifers, mature dairy cattle, swine over 55 pounds and sheep.

Additional Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) Information (exit this site)

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a State-federal conservation partnership program targeted to address specific State and nationally significant water quality, soil erosion and wildlife habitat issues related to agricultural use. The program uses financial incentives to encourage farmers and ranchers to voluntarily enroll in contracts of 10 to 15 years in duration to remove lands from agricultural production. This community-based conservation program provides a flexible design of conservation practices and financial incentives to address environmental issues.

Additional Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Information (exit this site)

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private lands. It provides both technical assistance and cost-share payments to help establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. Participants who own or control land agree to prepare and implement a wildlife habitat development plan. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers participants technical and financial assistance for the establishment of wildlife habitat development practices. In addition, if the landowner agrees, cooperating State wildlife agencies and nonprofit or private organizations may provide expertise or additional funding to help complete a project.

Additional Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) Information  (exit this site)

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