New York's AEM Program is a voluntary, incentive-based program that helps farm operators make common-sense, cost-effective and science-based decisions that help meet business objectives while protecting and conserving the State’s natural resources. Strong partnerships at the local, state and federal levels have led to the growing success of AEM, linking existing agricultural and natural resource service agencies together with the farmer as a cooperative team. As the umbrella program for all of New York ’s agricultural conservation efforts, AEM also lays the groundwork for participation in other state, federal and locally administered programs. With close to 10,000 farms enrolled in 54 counties across the state, AEM is continually expanding as new assessment tools are tailored to meet the needs of all types and sizes of agricultural operations.

"AEM & New York Farm Families:
Leading the Nation in Conservation."

View the AEM Strategy for Delaware County

Frequently Asked Questions regarding AEM:

Why should I participate?
AEM is a process that documents land stewardship and helps target available funding for recommended environmental practices. Participants often find that they improve their farm’s operation along with the AEM-provided benefits to water quality. Those who help develop and follow a certified nutrient management plan also reduce their liability for off-farm water quality problems. We believe that farms in the Susquehanna watershed will benefit more from participating in AEM than risk the imposition of water quality regulations if AEM's voluntary approach fails to improve the river’s health.

Where does my information go?
The first step of AEM, called Tier 1, gathers basic farm information. If there are no concerns that the farmer feels they need assistance with, then that is as far as your farm will go in the AEM process. The NY State Ag & Markets will receive a better idea about the types of farms in each watershed, the amount of land being farmed or in forest use, and the number and type of animals being cared for. No farm or owner names are included in the information supplied to the state.

What happens if there are concerns on my farm?
The farm will move on to the next level of the AEM Program and a Tier 2 assessment of the farm will be conducted.  This assessment is done with a trained AEM Program technician.  The technician will ask you a set of questions on 19 pre identified resource concerns that most farms have.  Your farm, depending on the type of operation, may have 1 or it may have 19 of these concerns.  These concerns are ranked 1-4 on a preset scale.  If there are concerns that rank a 3 or higher, these concerns usually signify a need to use remediation.

What do you mean by remediation?
The AEM Program can address concerns with a Tier 3A.  This allows the District to go back to the farm with a plan of action to address the severest of those concerns.  Although this plan is just a plan, there is another step the District can pursue, known as a 3B that will allow the District to compete for funding within the state to help assist the farm financially in accomplishing their environmental goals.

Will participating in the program obligate me to “fix” my environmental concerns that are identified as a 3 or 4?
Absolutely not.  While there are reasons to fix those concerns, there are also reasons that the concern will never be as severe of an impact to the environment that something else non-ag related may be. From the identification of the concern, there are some basic changes in management for the concern addressed.  An example of this is if you have a fuel storage area that is not completely enclosed and up on concrete, but you live near a large lake, where there is a marina that dispenses fuel on the water, your concern with a fuel storage area will never pose as great a threat to the public waters as the marina may.  When we weigh what the state will spend money on, we have to say, where is the most bang for the buck?  Sure, fixing the fuel storage area is worth it for the farm (especially if your own well is impacted), but the state has a higher responsibility to meet the needs of many.

How do I rate?
Glad you asked.  We send a summary explaining the concerns and suggestions for remediation to each farm we visit.  Environmental stewardship efforts are documented in this summary.  This information is strictly confidential and cannot be foiled.  The District will tabulate the data gathered from all farms assessed and do a follow up report to those farms with the results.  While no farm will be identified by name, all farms will be identified by type of operation. 

[Thanks to Dutchess County SWCD for this FAQ section.]

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