Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) is a voluntary program that helps farmers operate their business in a manner that is environmentally sound. One of AEM's many functions is that of an agricultural planning tool used to identify and address water quality concerns on farms. Typically, a SWCD representative will come out to the farm and go through a series of worksheets that cover basically all areas of the farm from manure management to stream and floodplain management. The evaluation can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.
An AEM farm summary is developed that identifies the major pollution concerns on the farm, and the corresponding AEM action plan includes recommendations to correct or improve the various areas of concern found in the summary report. Practices are commonly recommended to address barnyard runoff, silage leachate (or juice), manure management, grazing systems, stream crossings, and milkhouse waste water. The worksheets are also educational in that they inform the cooperator of benchmarks relating to soil sampling, forage sampling, drinking water analysis, and other aspects of the many sciences found on the farm.
Once an appropriate conservation practice is selected to address a specific area of concern, AEM helps to link farmers to programs that offer financial assistance. Cost-share funds for non point source pollution control and abatement provide incentive to farmers to address environmental problems on the farm. Although not all projects are eligible for financial assistance, technical assistance is still available through SWCD. The AEM summary is a valuable planning tool and provides additional resources and networking opportunities.
If you would like to participate in the AEM program or have any questions, please contact Cortland SWCD to find out more and set up a farm visit. For farms that have participated in AEM in the past; please contact SWCD to update your summary to reflect any significant changes that have occurred on the farm. An update every 3 years will keep farms eligible for cost-share assistance and will help foster a positive and active relationship between Cortland County agriculture, local supporting agencies, the community, and the environment.