New York dairy farmers will get $21 million to implement on-farm projects to protect water quality and mitigate the impacts of climate change, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said Tuesday.

The funding will help CAFO-permitted farmers to help offset some of the cost of implementing projects for better manure management systems that reduce carbon and preserve nutrients used as fertilizer on fields. It can also fund precision feed management programs that reduce methane emissions. 

Concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permits are administered by the New York State Department of Enviornmental Conservation. The permits are required for farms over a certain size that keep livestock indoors for 45 days or more during any 12-month period.  

There are approximately 500 CAFO-permitted farms in the state, most of which are dairies. This allows the DEC to regulate 50% of manure produced in New York, and helps to protect water quality, according to the DEC. These farms are also required to follow a comprehensive nutrient management plan for their livestock.  

“New York dairy farmers are part of the solution to climate change and are committed to protecting our natural resources while producing dairy products for consumers. The state’s investments in the CAFO enhances nutrient management program play a key role in supporting science-based practices on our family dairy farms that reduce emissions, prevent runoff and protect water quality,” said Keith Kimball, the chair of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association and a dairy farmer.  

Dairy is big business for the state. New York leads the nation in cream cheese and yogurt production. The state has about 2,800 dairy producers and almost 300 dairy processing plants.

“As the state’s number one agricultural commodity, we certainly have a lot of be proud of when it comes to New York dairy. Our state is home to some of the most hardworking dairy farmers and dairy manufacturers who are producing and processing some of the very best dairy products in the world,” Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball said in a press release.  

The first round of funding will allocate $14 million, and the second round will be $7 million and will be distributed through county soil and water conservation districts.  

“This funding is a critical step toward helping our farmers transition to climate-safe practices that preserve our natural resources and combat climate change while continuing to protect their businesses and nourish our communities,” said Dale Stein, New York State Soil and Water Committee chair.  

In addition, Hochul included $34 million in the budget this year for dairy farmers to increase on-farm milk storage, cooling technology and invest in milk transfer systems.  

“The dairy industry is a powerhouse of New York’s economy, creating thousands of local jobs while nourishing our communities statewide,” Hochul said.