(WBNG Binghamton) New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday announced a variety of measures to support farmers across the state to reduce energy costs, improve business operations and enhance environmental planning.
According to a news release from Cuomo's office:
The announcement continues the Governor’s larger efforts to enable growth in the State’s agricultural sector, including last year’s Yogurt Summit involving industry leaders, dairy farmers, and other stakeholders.
“New York is proud to be home to a robust agriculture industry that supports thousands of jobs and provides the economic lifeblood for families and communities across the state,” Cuomo said. “Over the past two and a half years we have worked hard to support the growth of our already vibrant agriculture industry, including cutting burdensome regulations and helping small dairy farms expand their herds. Today’s actions will enable dairy farmers to better plan for future expansions as well as reduce the costs for installing environmentally-friendly waste to energy digesters.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine said, “In this day and age, dairy farmers need to be jacks of all trades. They also need to pay close attention to how their operations are impacting our collective environments. This program is an important part of Governor Cuomo’s continued efforts to enhance New York’s dairy industry.”
Dairy Acceleration Program
Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the Department of Agriculture and Markets in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Conservation is launching the Dairy Acceleration Program (DAP) and making available $1 million in funding to help dairy farmers develop individualized business and environmental plans.
Modern milk production requires expertise from a number of disciplines, ranging from agronomics, environmental science, animal husbandry, crop science, human resource management, and financial and strategic planning. Through DAP, farmers will be able to tap into the expertise of the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) network, Cornell PRO-DAIRY and other agricultural programs to facilitate and grow their business and in turn increase production on their farms.
To be eligible for DAP a dairy cattle farm must have complete financial records. Preference will be given to farms with under 300 cows. DAP funding will cover 80 percent of a project’s cost.
Payments may include: up to $5,000 per farm to write a business plan or develop a combination of a business and facility growth plan; and up to $4,500 to update an existing Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) or $6,000 to develop a new one. CNMPs are a conservation system for animal feeding operations designed to address the soil erosion and water quality concerns. The CNMP encompasses the storage and handling of the manure as well as the utilization and application of the manure nutrients on the land.
Business planning includes financial analysis, farmstead development planning, facility planning and capital investment planning for increased milk production per cow. Environmental planning includes CNMP development and updates. Farms without an existing CNMP can hire a certified Nutrient Management planner to develop a new CNMP for farms with under 300 cows.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said, “Dairy farms are a major component of New York’s economy, and through smart planning these farms can incorporate important environmental protections into their operations. DEC looks forward to working with our partners in this effort to support dairy farming and promote valuable conservation practices.”
Tom Overton, Professor of Dairy Management at Cornell University and Director of PRO-DAIRY, said, “PRO-DAIRY is enthusiastic about the opportunity that Governor Cuomo is providing New York dairy farmers to strategically plan for growth through the Dairy Acceleration Program. It’s a comprehensive program, both from a business and environmental planning perspective and we’re pleased to be collaborating with Cornell Cooperative Extension and industry experts to deliver the program.”
Reducing Energy Bills with Clean Energy
Governor Cuomo recently signed legislation that supports farmers in their efforts to install anaerobic digesters, which convert farm waste to renewable energy, thereby helping farmers address waste disposal needs and nutrient recycling challenges, while helping them lower their energy bills. This legislation continues the Governor’s efforts to encourage growth in the yogurt and dairy industries throughout the state. Support for anaerobic digesters on farms was a key goal of the State’s first Yogurt Summit that was convened by the Governor in 2012.
Specifically, the legislation clarifies that anaerobic digesters fixed to agricultural lands are subject to existing property tax exemptions. This matter stemmed from a recent situation in which a local tax assessor had denied a request made by a farmer for a tax exemption associated with a facility used as an anaerobic digester, which had resulted in a significantly increased property tax bill. In addition, the legislation increases the limit to 1,000 kilowatts for the anaerobic digesters that are eligible for 15 year real property tax exemptions.
Other legislation recently approved by the governor supports farmers in their efforts to reduce their energy bills with the installation of clean energy projects such as solar and fuel cells. Specifically, legislation approved by Governor Cuomo increases from 25 kW to 100 kW the maximum electricity generation for the solar electric systems eligible for net metering without the need to move them to a commercial meter. Also, another bill authorizes the remote net metering of fuel cells installed on farms and non-residential buildings.
Senator George Maziarz said, “We need to keep being aggressive and proactive in bringing energy technology and agricultural technology together, because it’s in everyone’s interest. Farmers realize savings from lower costs, and the state benefits from diversifying its energy portfolio. In the end we are using innovative practices to support and grow our biggest business, and that’s right where our focus should be.”
“Encouraging the use of clean energy throughout New York is critical, and it is important that our farmers are able to take full advantage of these technologies and their related benefits,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “This package of legislation recognizes the unique energy needs of farms, and will allow farmers to install the clean energy systems that are best suited for their farm, while still receiving the benefits of net metering to make it cost-effective.”
Senator Patrick M. Gallivan said, "Agriculture’s future in New York State will be one of high-tech innovation defined by its ability to apply those innovations in an increasingly competitive marketplace. To ensure New York State agriculture and dairy continue to drive economic growth, New York State must be an engaged partner by advancing smart policies to support and grow our dairy sector like the Dairy Acceleration Program and increased anaerobic digester operations on area dairy farms."
Agriculture Chairman Assemblyman Bill Magee said, "This is wonderful news and I applaud the Governor on his efforts to support farms all across the state. For too long farms have been faced with significant increases in energy costs, fuel, fertilizer and many other burdens keeping them from getting ahead. This program will certainly help farmers grow and allow them to stay viable in New York State."
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi said, "This legislation increases the amount of solar power that farms throughout New York State can use by four times the cap that exists in current law. The bill is specifically designed to take advantage of the large amounts of farm land throughout New York State to bolster renewable energy production and provide farms, and New York’s Agricultural Industry, the ability to lower utility costs for agricultural operations."
“New York’s dairy farms are in a unique position to benefit from the exciting ascension of the yogurt industry as they supply healthy, local milk to the yogurt makers in their own “backyard.” Governor Cuomo’s new initiatives will not only help our farms grow in a responsible way, but in turn, will help our rural economy grow as well. We appreciate his continued recognition that New York’s diverse farms are an integral part of the business community Upstate and on Long Island,” said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau.