Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM)

With agriculture recognized as a potential source of pollution, NYS Ag and Markets, NYS DEC and NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee, have been working for years to develop a coordinated format for dealing with potential water quality problems of farms.  The Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program is the framework, which while used for the last several years, has recently been codified into NYS law for dealing specifically with non-point source pollution on farms.

For those not familiar with the AEM, it is a consistent, structured framework for farms in the State to protect and enhance the environment while maintaining economic viability.  It is a process consisting of 5 tiers, or steps. These steps are used to take an inventory of the ag. operation, document existing environmental stewardships, identify any environmental concerns, develop a plan to deal with the environmental concerns, and the implementation of the plan and/or solutions to the environmental issues.

You can begin the AEM process by completing  the Tier1Questionnaire.  Please email the questionnaire to  or mail it to 151 Finney Blvd., Malone NY 12953.  If you have any question please call our office at 518-651-2097

Funding Opportunity through AEM Program

Over the past decade Soil and Water Districts have worked diligently with their farming communities on implementing agricultural environmental management (AEM) best management practices (BMPs) to further farm viability. Due to each party’s hard work in 2019 a new component was added to the AEM Program; a cost-share program to aid in funding projects on farms. Districts can receive funding to implement projects within their county with a cap of $50,000 per farm. 2021 will start the second round of this funding availability.

What is it?

A grant opportunity to implement small projects on farms. This funding would assist farmers in implementing best management practice systems on their farm. This means that the applying farm must have a conservation plan written before applying, and that, if funded, the farm must upfront the initial cost of the total project, and upon completion of that project, to standard, the district reimburses the farm up to 75% of the total project cost; leaving the farm responsible for at least 25%. Projects must be completed within 2 years.

Don’t have a conservation plan or a plan that is up to date? No worries, contact the Soil and Water office, (518) 651-2097, and we can work with you to have a plan written before applications are due, plans are written at no cost.

Examples of eligible projects….

Prescribed Rotational Grazing System

This is for any farm that is currently grazing or wants to livestock: goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, cows, horses, alpacas, etc.  A plan would be written with recommendations on rotationally grazing livestock using 5 or more paddocks during the grazing season. Alternating paddocks allows for forage vigor and regrowth, decreases the reliance of supplemental feed, potentially decreasing feed costs, increasing soil health, potentially decreasing fertilizer cost, increasing herd health, and decreasing soil erosion in areas where livestock tend to congregate. The plan would be written based on the current animal numbers that the farm has and a scenario would be included that showed the number of animals the land could support. Cost share funding for implementation of a Prescribed Rotational Grazing plan could be utilized for fencing, watering systems, laneways, etc.

Forest Conservation Management System

This is for any farm with a farm woodlot that you remove firewood from or a maple sugaring operation. Forest Conservation Plan Assistance through this program assists you if your farm has recently had a timber harvest on your property and are now dealing with erosion issues or are planning on a harvest and want to limit the impact of the timber harvest. A Forest Conservation Plan may be of assistance to you to address these concerns. The Forest Conservation Plan will identify erosion concerns, water quality impacts, disease concerns and assist you in managing your woodlot in the most sustainable way possible. Cost share funding could be utilized to assist in implementing forestry best management practices to divert water from trails and roadways such as water bars, culverts, rubber belt deflectors, etc. or to fix ruts or other soft spots that impede access and cause unnecessary erosion. If you are interested in improving the health of your woodlot through thinnings there are other cost share programs that can address those concerns.

Soil Conservation System (Cover Crops)

This is for any farm who utilizes cropland, pasture, vegetable and fruit production, orchards and vineyards. Soil Conservation Plans use management-based measures such as crop rotation, tillage, cover cropping, etc. to reduce/control soil erosion, reduce run-off, enhance soil health and improve productivity of land. This plan is utilized to assess risk of water and wind erosion and make specific recommendations for how various practices will work together to address concerns.  Farms may rent Soil and Water’s 10ft Great Plains No-till drill to implement practices. Cost-share funding could be utilized to assist in cover cropping, contour farming, forage and biomass planting, strip cropping etc.

If you are interested in this funding opportunity, have questions, or need a plan written please contact the Franklin County Soil and Water Office phone: 518-651-2097 or stop in 151 Finney Blvd. Malone.