On Your Farm

Farming activities can affect our lakes, streams and other waters. Many farmers are already taking proactive measures to curb agricultural runoff from the farms they manage.

Things you can do

  1. Create and follow a Nutrient Management Plan.
  2. Follow the Manure Management Guidelines adopted by the Cayuga County Legislature in 2017 to minimize the environmental impact of manure runoff.
  3. Participate in New York State Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Program.
  4. Implement Best Management Practices including buffers, cover crops, conservation tillage, stream-side fencing, and silage leachate collection.
  5. Work with the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District for the planning and implementation of various water protection projects specific to your farm needs. They may also be able to obtain grant funding for the implementation of certain projects.
  6. Work with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County and take advantage of its various educational programs and materials.

Nutrient Management Plan

A nutrient management plan is a written, site-specific plan that reduces nutrient pollution while maintaining crop production and, in some cases, increasing farm profits. By developing a “nutrient budget” for a farm and applying the right amount of nutrients at the right time, with the right methods, a farmer can limit the number of nutrients that run off their land and into local waterways.

Most nutrient management plans contain a field’s crop production potential, the amount of nutrients needed to achieve this level of production and the recommended application amount, form, source, rate, placement and timing of manure or fertilizer. A number of best management practices are designed to lower the amount of fertilizer that a farmer must put on his land.

Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District can assist you with the evaluation of your environmental resource concerns and risks and also with the development of a plan to suit the specific needs of your operation.

The New York State Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Program

The AEM program is available to all farmers regardless of size or type of farm enterprise – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), non-CAFOs, and crop farms. AEM is a voluntary, incentive-based program that helps farmers make cost-effective and science-based decisions to help meet the farm operation’s business objectives while protecting and conserving the State’s natural resources. Farmers can work with local AEM resource professionals at the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District to evaluate the farm’s current operational methods, identify potential resource concerns, and develop a strategy to implement corrective measures that are identified using a tiered evaluation process.

Best Management Practices (BMPs)

The implementation of properly selected BMPs is a critical component in protecting water quality. When implemented, BMPs such as buffers, cover crops, conservation tillage, stream-side fencing, and silage leachate collection systems can reduce a farm’s operational costs, improve a farm’s production, and protect water quality.


  • Buffers: Grasses, trees and shrubs planted along the edges of farm fields and along rivers and streams can reduce the amount of pollutants flowing from the land into local waterways. Buffers can slow and absorb polluted runoff, stabilize stream banks, curb erosion and serve as habitat for wildlife.
  • Cover crops: Grown to provide soil cover and prevent erosion, cover crops can be annual, biennial or perennial plants grown in a single or mixed stand during all or part of the year, including the non-growing season. Common cover crops include legumes (like cowpeas or clover), forage radish, and cereal grains (like wheat, rye or barley).Cover crops are used to fill in bare soil when a main crop has been harvested, when there is a niche in a season’s crop rotation or a need to interplant a cover crop with a cash crop. They provide ground cover, reduce erosion, suppress weeds, reduce insect pests and diseases, absorb excess fertilizer, reduce nutrient leaching and enrich soil with organic matter.
  • Conservation tillage leaves one-third or more of a farm field covered with crop residue or vegetation throughout the year. When tillage is reduced and soil is left undisturbed, a field is less prone to erosion. Continuous no-till and minimum-till farming are two forms of conservation tillage.
  • Stream-side fencing is used to exclude livestock from local waterways can reduce the amount of nutrients and pathogens entering the water, prevent stream bank damage and erosion, and improve animal health. Fences can be woven wire or electric, and permanent or moveable.
  • Silage Leachate Collection/Management or seepage from silage piles in bags, bunkers, or silos,has extremely high concentrations of sugar and nutrients and, in surface water, it can deplete oxygen, kill fish and aquatic organisms, and create algae blooms. The reduction of silage leachate formation and the proper collection, storage and treatment and/or disposal/land application of silage leachate are measures that protect water quality.

Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District
This resource provides technical expertise and programs to assist agricultural operations in remaining profitable, sustainable and viable while also protecting water quality. Working with their agricultural partners including the National Resource Conservation Service and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, they are often able to obtain financial assistance for the implementation of various best management practices (BMPs) that also protect water quality.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County
This organization offers research-based resources and education to our farming community, and addresses the overall goals of local Agriculture & Farmland Protection Plans. Educators help farms remain viable and profitable businesses by providing comprehensive, research-based information on field crop production and soil health, nutrient management from both commercial fertilizers and manure, and water quality management both on and off the farmland base.