(Hauppauge, NY – January 31, 2017) – Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced today that the County has been awarded a five-year $1.2 million grant by the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). The grant, which was awarded as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), will provide much-needed funding and technical assistance to farmers on the East End of Long Island.
“Suffolk County has the most diverse agriculture in New York State, as our farming community remains an integral part of the County’s economic growth and land preservation initiatives on the East End of Long Island,” stated Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “I am grateful to the USDA for recognizing and supporting our ambitious agricultural efforts in the County. Improving Suffolk County’s water quality is a top priority of my administration, and we remain committed to working on initiatives geared towards the restoration and preservation of our most precious natural resources, which will be a significant boost for our farmers.”
“With this USDA funding, farmers within the Peconic Estuary Watershed will now have access to a local, trained professional who can help develop and implement a top-notch plan to help protect water quality and improve soil health. I applaud Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s commitment to innovative initiatives that will help improve water quality and enhance local wildlife habitat within the county,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.
“This critical USDA funding builds on Suffolk County’s initiative to preserve ground and surface waters on the East End,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of both the Senate Agriculture Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee. “I fought for these federal funds to help our farmers gain access to the technical assistance and financial resources needed to make informed, environmentally sound decisions. I will continue to push for these programs to protect water quality, preserve soil health and improve land restoration.”
The RCPP grant will enable the County to hire an agricultural specialist who is trained and certified in Nutrient Management Planning and Integrated Pest Management Planning at the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District. The specialist will be responsible for developing, administering, and implementing a certified nutrient and pest management planning program tailored to the County’s unique agricultural commodities and resource concerns for the protection and improvement of surface and ground water resources. This specialist will help accelerate on-going efforts among farmers and RCPP partners to test, implement, and monitor the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) within the Peconic Estuary Watershed, an estuary of national significance.
With certified nutrient management and pest management plans, farmers in the Peconic Estuary Watershed will be able to access additional NRCS cost-share funding to implement best management practices including, but not limited to, composting, mulching, cover cropping and crop rotation, irrigation, irrigation water management, no-till/reduced-till, vegetated treatment area, agrochemical mixing pads, fuel and fertilizer tank replacement, roof runoff management, water and sediment control basins, and the use of slow or controlled release fertilizers.
Congressman Zeldin said, “A strong agriculture industry and renewed focus on water quality are essential aspects of the life and culture on Long Island. With this funding, our county officials have an excellent opportunity to enhance the way we utilize and protect our natural resources. I look forward to supporting this effort from the federal level.”
“The timing of this grant is perfect. Now more than ever, Suffolk County farmers are working to reduce groundwater and surface water contamination. At the same time, the agricultural industry is threatened now more than ever by high costs and the pressure of overdevelopment. This important grant will allow us to leverage local efforts already underway, so that Suffolk County farms can continue to thrive, while at the same time, doing their part to protect our critically important water quality,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming.
“It is vitally important that protecting our ground and surface waters remain a top priority for the county and the agricultural community,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski. “This funding will give the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District, an agency which not only conserves and protects water quality, but soil quality as well, the personnel and resources to help farmers and growers implement practices to help achieve clean water goals. I applaud County Executive Bellone and the Department of Economic Development and Planning for their efforts in securing this funding from the USDA.”
“The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) New York is looking forward to our partnership with Suffolk County and other partners to help provide technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers,” said Greg Kist, State Conservationist at the USDA NRCS New York. “The assistance will focus on addressing the water quality issues surrounding the Peconic Bay and will help producers minimize the issues caused by farmlands. The funding for this project is in addition to regular funding that is available to agricultural producers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).”
“This award symbolizes the continued cooperative efforts of local stakeholders including the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District, Cornell Cooperative Extension and NRCS to protect and preserve Suffolk County’s natural resources. These funds provide the partnership a greater capacity to develop conservation plans for Suffolk’s agricultural sector. Conservation plans outline the best management practices for farms to minimize their impacts on the environment,” said Corey Humphrey District Manager, Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Vito Minei, P.E, Executive Director, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County said, "Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County looks forward to working with the county and other partners on the development and implementation of management plans that will reduce the impacts of agriculture on water quality and preserve the viability of agriculture un Suffolk County.”
“The Long Island farming community is grateful for the support of USDA NRCS in awarding this grant to help farmers implement best management practices. Farmers recognize the importance of taking care of our natural resources and have been stewards of land and water resources for decades. This program will assist farmers in continuing these important efforts. We would also like to recognize the County for their support of the agricultural industry on Long Island to keep our farmers viable in these challenging times,” added Rob Carpenter, Administrative Director at the Long Island Farm Bureau.
DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek Gallagher said, “Suffolk County is one of New York State’s leading agricultural producers, and this NRCS grant will provide important support for efforts to improve water quality in the County. This will not only help protect Long Island’s sole source of drinking water and beautiful coastal waters, but will also maintain a valuable resource for the county’s farmers who contribute greatly to the regional economy.”
“American Farmland Trust applauds Suffolk County, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners for working together to help farmers do their part to protect drinking water on Long Island and the Peconic Estuary”, said David Haight, New York State Director for the American Farmland Trust. “Well-managed farmland can not only act as a natural filter to protect clean water, but is vital for growing local food and the regional economy. Long Island needs more efforts like these to keep farmers on the land while protecting the environment.”
Alison Branco, Director of the Peconic Estuary Program said, “It is gratifying to see the USDA recognize the regional partnership that exists here on Long Island where farmers, regulatory agencies, and environmental organizations work together to minimize the impacts of farming on water quality. This project will provide much-needed funding and technical support to help farmers to continue to operate viable businesses while at the same time reducing agricultural contributions to the excess nitrogen loading currently plaguing the Peconic Estuary, an ‘Estuary of National Significance’ and economic engine of the East End.”
Ten partner agencies and organizations will collaborate on this project including the Suffolk County Soil & Water Conservation District, USDA-NRCS, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the Peconic Estuary Program (PEP), the Long Island Farm Bureau, the United States Geological Survey, American Farmland Trust, and NYS-DEC.
For more information on the County’s “Reclaim Our Waters” initiatives, log on to www.suffolkcountyny.gov or www.facebook.com/stevebellone.