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$1 Million Awarded for Finger Lakes Region Water Quality Projects
New York Ag Connection - 08/10/2017

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced nearly $1 million has been awarded for six agricultural water quality conservation projects in the Finger Lakes region, benefiting seven farms. The funding is provided to County Soil and Water Conservation Districts through the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program. It allows farmers to address water quality challenges in priority watersheds while increasing productivity and economic activity, which complements the region's economic growth strategy, Finger Lakes Forward. Through this program, farmers will be better equipped to prevent water pollution, reduce erosion, and limit the amount of harmful sediments and other deposits in New York's waterways.

"Investing in and preserving water quality is critical to the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers across the state and this award will benefit farmers and residents alike across Upstate New York," Governor Cuomo said. "With this award, we take a step forward in keeping the water in New York clean, protecting our natural resources and supporting the livelihood of farms across the state."

Through the program, County Soil and Water Conservation Districts apply for the competitive grants on behalf of farmers. A record 125 applications were submitted for this latest round of funding that will support 50 projects statewide. The awarded applicants receive grants to conduct environmental planning or to implement best management practices, such as agricultural waste storage systems, riparian buffer systems, conservation cover crops and structural soil conservation practices. Since the program began in 1994, more than $158 million has been awarded across the state to help farmers reduce and prevent pollution from agricultural sources.

The Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program is funded through the $300 million New York State Environmental Protection Fund. The program is administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee. It strengthens the State's Agricultural Environmental Management framework, a broader effort that helps farmers achieve better water quality and more effective farming systems.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie said, "The growing interest in this program is a great example of our farmers' strong commitment to preserving the integrity of our waterways and safeguarding the environment. I have proudly advocated to increase funding for this important program, and would like to thank Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Ball for recognizing the key role it plays in protecting land and water, as well as strengthening our State's leading industry."

Chair of the State Assembly Agriculture Committee, Assemblyman Bill Magee said, "This grant program is beneficial to both our farms and our communities. It will help protect valuable water sources and allow farms to be more environmentally friendly while supporting their ability to produce fresh, local food."

Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "This program supports solutions to water quality challenges on farms across New York, ensuring that our natural resources are protected and our agricultural industry remains competitive. These funds provide our farmers the ability to reduce the risk of potential pollutants and become better stewards of the environment, while continuing to produce fresh, nutritious foods for our communities."

"Governor Cuomo has made New York State a national leader in water quality protection, providing record investments in this year's budget to safeguarding clean water for our communities and natural resources," said State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. "These funds will assist farmers in their important daily work to proactively use best management practices that ensure the protection of our state waterways."

Chairman of the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee Dale Stein said, "The funding for these projects is helping our farmers further their environmental stewardship by implementing innovative best management practices to protect our waterways and reduce the erosion of our soils. Thanks to the historic level of funding provided in the Environmental Protection Fund for the second year in a row, New York is leading the way in the conservation of our most precious resources."

The announcement complements "Finger Lakes Forward," the region's comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The state has already invested more than $3.4 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan - investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million state investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The state's $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion - and the region's plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs.

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