Medina Journal-Register — The Orleans County Soil and Water Conservation District will receive nearly $300,000 in funding for a program that will assist farmers taking part in soil-improvement projects.
Soil and Water District Manager Dan Schuth announced Saturday that his agency will receive $290,402 from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as part of the State Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program.
Schuth said the purpose of the grant is to encourage farmers in the Oak Orchard Watershed to grow cover crops as a means to reduce erosion and soil loss from valuable crop land. Nine farms are set to take part in the three-year program.
"Farmers are great stewards of our land and depend upon it for their livelihood. They understand the need for soil conservation and clean water on a very personal level," Schuth said. Grants such as this help keep farms profitable, while furthering our interest in a better environment for future generations."
Growing cover crops takes up nutrients in the plant, preventing them from becoming diluted in water and washed away.
Cover crops are planted throughout fields after cash crops are harvested in the fall. Plants like radishes then grow through the winter before being removed or tilled under when it comes time to plant cash crops like corn and beans.
The process returning nutrients to the soil that could otherwise be diluted in water and washed away. Schuth said that farms using cover crops generally see an improvement in soil quality and find their fields easier to till.
"(A cover crop) breaks up the soil, creating a pathway for cash crops to go down deeper into the water table," Schuth explained.
This grant will cost share up to 75 percent of the cost of seed and planting the cover crop participating farmers. By the end of the third season it is anticipated that the farmers will become familiar with planting cover crops and will carry on the process, unassisted.
According to Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, more than 200 farms across the state will receive assistance from the project, which also is aimed at improving water quality in lakes, streams and rivers from potential agricultural runoff.
“Our local farms go to great and expensive lengths to protect nearby waterways from any unintentional pollution, and this funding will help farmers afford the necessary measures to protect our environment,” said Hawley. “This is an example of state government putting its resources to good use. These grants will not only benefit our landscape, but our job-creating farmers as well."
Schuth said his agency will apply for another round of grant funding later this year which would offer the same program to farms in the Sandy Creek Watershed.