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Question 8 - Impact on Agricultural Resources - Full EAF (Part 2)

Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) Workbook

The proposed action may impact agricultural resources.

Cows grazing on pasture with farm buildings in the background

This question asks the reviewing agency to evaluate potential impacts on agriculture. Agricultural resources means the land and on-farm buildings, equipment, manure processing and handling facilities and processing and handling facilities which contribute to the production, preparation and marketing of crops, livestock and livestock products as a commercial enterprise, including a commercial horse boarding operation, a timber operation, compost, mulch or other biomass crops, and commercial equine operation as defined in Article 25-aa.

One of the most important agricultural resources is soils. Productive soils allow farmers to obtain high crop yields with the least expense and damage to the environment. In order to be successful, farmers need not only good soils but also need access to open lands suitable for farming. Farmers also need to be able to install and use various land management systems to support the farm operation including irrigation, manure spreading, and the ability to move equipment over roads and bridges.

To answer this question

Review Part 1 questions E.1.b., E.3.a. and E.3.b.

If any agricultural activities are taking place on or adjacent to the project site, or if the project site is within a New York State Agricultural District, the proposed project may have adverse impacts on farming. If so, check "yes" to Question 8 and answer sub-questions (a) through (h). If no agriculture is taking place on or adjacent to the project site or if the property is not part of a New York State Agricultural District, check "no" to Question 8 and move on to Question 9.

Identifying potential impacts

The reviewing agency should evaluate the following sub-questions and decide if there will be any impact. If there will be an impact, the reviewing agency must then evaluate the magnitude of that impact, and decide if the impact will be small or moderate to large. This will depend on the overall scale and context of the proposed project as described in the Introduction to Part 2. The reviewing agency should be reasonable when conducting this review.

  • If the proposed project exceeds a numeric threshold in a question, it is presumed to be a moderate to large impact.
  • If the proposed project does not exceed a numeric threshold in a question, the reviewing agency should consider the scale and context of the project in determining if an impact may be small or moderate to large.
  • These sub-questions are not meant to be exhaustive. The reviewing agency should use the "Other impacts:" sub-question to include any additional elements they feel need to be analyzed for potential impacts.

a. The proposed action may impact soil classified within soil group 1 through 4 of the NYS Land Classification System.

Highly productive soils are those that are best suited to producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops. In short, they are the best soils for high yields with minimum expense and the least damage to the environment. The NY Department of Agriculture and Markets has created a land classification system based on soils that are used in the agricultural assessment program pursuant to Article 25-AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law. Soil Groups can be identified at the NYS Ag and Markets Soil Group Numbers page. These soils are prime farmland soils and soils of statewide importance. An impact means that highly productive soils are taken out of agriculture and converted to non-farm use.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.3.a. and E.3.b.

Analysis

  • How many acres of soils identified as 1 through 4 in the New York State Land Classification System are present on the project site?
  • How many acres of these soils will be impacted by the proposed project?
  • What proportion of the total site are soils in group 1 through 4?

Will there be an impact?

If no highly productive soils classified in Soil Groups 1 through 4 exist on the project site, then there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The project will temporarily use these soils but will restore them for agricultural use next season.
  • A small proportion of these soil groups will be impacted and the remainder will remain in agriculture.
  • There are many areas adjacent to the site having highly productive soils remaining in agriculture.
  • Highly productive soils will be scraped away, stored nearby, and then spread after construction for reuse as agricultural soils.
  • The land use is such that the highly productive soils could be used again in the future, i.e. they are not covered in structures or impervious surfaces but will remain in critical sizes useable for agriculture.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • There will be permanent loss of these soils with no chance of use for agricultural purposes again.
  • A large portion of the site will have the soils disturbed that will make it hard or impossible to continue use of them for agriculture.
  • There are no other farmlands having such highly productive soils in the area.
  • Construction and operation of the proposed project will limit access to adjacent highly productive farmlands.

b. The proposed action may sever, cross or otherwise limit access to agricultural land (includes cropland, hayfields, pasture, vineyard, orchard, etc).

Some developments make it harder for farmers to access their agricultural fields. Installation of fences, gates, structures, or even landscaping in the wrong location can all prevent farmers from reaching their fields. Similarly, changes in roads and bridges, driveway configuration, or changes in traffic configuration can all work to limit a farmers' ability to use large farm equipment and trucks.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.1.a., and E.1.b.

Analysis

  • Are there any agricultural fields on or adjacent to the project site?
  • Are any structures, fences, signs, landscaping, gates, or similar structures sited in a manner that may prevent travel with large equipment along or to farm fields?
  • Will the proposed project result in any significant changes in traffic or traffic patterns that may limit the farmers' ability to access farm fields?

Will there be an impact?

If no structures, other planned site features, road, driveway or traffic changes prevent access to farm fields on or adjacent to the proposed site, there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impacts may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • An action that severs, crosses, or limits access temporarily and the land can return to agricultural use after completion of the construction phase.
  • Structures, fences, signs, gates or similar structures will be sited in a manner that will limit access but provisions have been made for farm equipment to have a right-of-way during certain times of the year, or in a different location acceptable to the farm landowner.
  • New roads, driveways, and bridges are built that may make it harder to access farm fields, but they are designed to accommodate equipment and machinery so they do not limit it.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Structures, fences, signs, landscaping, gates, or similar structures are sited in a manner which prevents access to farm fields.
  • Changes in traffic, road construction, bridges, and driveways are such that farm equipment will be unable to travel to reach farm fields.
  • Landscaping, structures, fences or similar structures are placed in a way that shade fields and are too close to safely use farm equipment near them.

c. The proposed action may result in the excavation or compaction of the soil profile of active agricultural land.

Some actions use or travel across active agricultural fields during construction processes. Others excavate or remove soils, such as mines and soil or sod operations. Actions that excavates, removes, or compacts, soils on active agricultural lands may impact the ability of those soils to be productive again for crops. Since farms depend on quality soils to grow crops, these activities could result in a loss of agriculture and farmland.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.3.b.

Analysis

  • Are there active agricultural lands on or adjacent to the project site?
  • Will there be any excavation or removal of soils or any heavy equipment used that would compact soils?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no activities that will excavate or compact soils on active agricultural lands, or if there are no active agricultural lands on or adjacent to the project site, there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Compaction of the soil profile is temporary and there are plans to restore that section of land to return it to agricultural use.
  • A limited amount of excavation is planned but it will not result in the cessation of farming on the property or the loss of much farmland.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Compaction of the soil profile is long-term and done in a way that the land becomes unusable for active farmland.
  • A large amount of excavation is planned so that there is no or little active farmland remaining.

d. The proposed action may irreversibly convert agricultural land to non-agricultural uses, either more than 2.5 acres if located in an Agricultural District, or more than 10 acres if not within an Agricultural District.

Some farmlands are included in a New York State Agricultural District established as per Article 25-AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law. There are NY Agricultural Districts established in each county of the State and in many rural towns, large areas of the municipality may be included in the NY Agricultural District. (These districts should not be confused with local agricultural districts. Local agricultural districts are established through local zoning laws and are not the subject of this question.)

As land is converted to non-farm uses, it often becomes harder to maintain agriculture in the region in the face of competition for the land, escalating land prices, nuisance complaints, and incompatible land uses. Since the purpose of a New York State Agricultural District is to promote and encourage active farming, it is especially important to evaluate a project's impact on the ability of farmers in an Agricultural District to keep farming. Construction of commercial and residential structures, new roads, and removal of soil are all actions that irreversibly convert agricultural lands so that they cannot be farmed again in the future. There is often a cumulative effect of land conversion: When a large amount of land is converted, the ability of other farms in and around that location to remain in agriculture becomes harder over time.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.1.b., and E.3.a.

Analysis

  • Does the proposed project include activities such as building, land clearing, grading, filling, or soil removal of agricultural land on some or the entire project site?
  • Is the project site located in a New York State Agricultural District?
    • If so, is the project site greater than 2.5 acres in size?
  • Is the project site not included in a New York State Agricultural District?
    • If so, is the project site greater than 10 acres?

Will there be an impact?

If no agricultural lands are present, or if no farmlands are permanently converted to other land uses, there will be no related impact. Check 'No, or small impact may occur.'

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The proposed action may irreversibly convert agricultural land to non-agricultural uses, either less than 2.5 acres if located in an Agricultural District or less than 10 acres if not within an Agricultural District.
  • Land that is converted is a use that is compatible with agriculture. This could include low density residential development, farm businesses, agri-tourism uses, or outdoor recreational uses like snowmobile trails or seasonal camps.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The proposed action may irreversibly convert agricultural land to non-agricultural uses, either more than 2.5 acres if located in an Agricultural District or more than 10 acres if not within an Agricultural District.
  • The proposed action irreversibly converts agricultural land to moderate to high density residential uses adjacent to or near an active farm located in a NYS Agricultural.
  • Known and identified critical masses of farmland are fragmented with non-farm uses.
  • New infrastructure such as roads, water or sewer lines are installed into active farmland. This is growth inducing infrastructure that could eventually bring new development that would result in the future conversion of active agricultural land.

e. The proposed action may disrupt or prevent installation of an agricultural land management system.

Agricultural land management systems include placement and use of irrigation lines and equipment, fencing, crop and soil management (fertilizing, plowing, preparing, tending crops, soil erosion control, manure management, etc), and pesticide control. This question explores whether a proposed action would disrupt or prevent these agricultural activities. Reviewing agencies should look beyond the boundaries of the project site and evaluate whether the proposal may adversely affect the ability of adjacent farms to operate their agricultural operations.

Applicable Part 1 Information

E.1.a. and E.1.b.

Analysis

  • Is the project location within a NY Agricultural District?
  • Is active agriculture taking place on or adjacent to the proposed project site?
  • What agricultural land management systems are being implemented and how might the proposed project disrupt or prevent them?

Will there be an impact?

If no agriculture is taking place in or adjacent to a project site, or if no part of the project will disrupt or prevent installation of agricultural land management practices, then there will not be any related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The project construction phase results in temporary disruption to agricultural land management systems.
  • Density of new residences or commercial uses is very low so as to be compatible with on-going farming.
  • Proposed projects are agriculturally oriented such as farm support businesses, processing facilities or farm tourism facilities that are compatible with agricultural management systems.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur if:

  • Development brings large numbers of non-farm uses and dwellings to an area which can prevent installation of land management systems due to concerns about noise, odor, or farm practices such as use of fertilizers and pesticides.

f. The proposed action may result, directly or indirectly, in increased development potential or pressure on farmland.

This question explores the growth inducing potential of the proposed project. Farmers rely on their farmland in order to remain in business. Farms do best when there is a critical mass of contiguous farmland located in an area. New, non-farm development can directly impact the ability of farms to remain in business directly, by removing lands that can be farmed. Or, non-farm development can fragment the critical mass of farmland to the point where farms can no longer efficiently operate. The more non-farm uses that are in and around farming operations, the more nuisance complaints there often are and farmers often have difficulty conducting their normal operations. Further, as lands are converted to non-farm uses, land values increase making it harder for farmers to maintain their land in farming or to buy other lands needed for their businesses. There is also a demand for new public services such as water, sewer and improved roads. All of these will directly or indirectly make it increasingly more expensive and difficult to continue farm operations. As farmers see the impermanence of agriculture as a land use, farms can increasingly be sold for non-farm uses.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2.c., C.3., D.2.c., D.2.d., D.2.j., D.2.t., E.1.b., E.3.a., and E.3.b.

Analysis

  • Will the proposed project remove active farmlands?
  • Are there other non-farm uses in the area already and
    • If so, how many in comparison to farm uses?
  • Is there an area in Town that is a large, concentrated block of farmland?
    • If so, does this project fragment these active farming areas?
  • Will the proposed project introduce new public services or improvements such as water and sewer lines that will make it more attractive for future non-farm growth?
  • Is the proposed use compatible with surrounding agricultural operations that may exist?
  • Is there a local or county right-to-farm law in the community where the proposed action is taking place?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no agricultural activities taking place in, adjacent to, or near the project site, it is not likely that there will be increased development pressure that would negatively impact farms. If so, check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur if:

  • The project includes very low density residential development and small scale non-residential development that can be shown to be compatible with farming.
  • The project includes agricultural businesses, food processing, and other agri-businesses that require produce grown locally that would support continued active farming nearby and in the region.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Moderate to high residential density that can result in loss of farmland and farming activity.
  • Provision of water and sewer systems as well as road improvements that bring more people and traffic to a farming area. These are growth inducing and will likely negatively impact farms over time.
  • Large commercial employers bringing in large structures, intense uses, and traffic that could adversely affect farms.
  • Land use conversions that increase the price of land make it harder for farmers to maintain their land due to increased taxes and makes it harder to buy new land to expand operations.

g. The proposed project is not consistent with the adopted municipal Farmland Protection Plan.

Many counties and local towns have adopted farmland protection plans. These plans usually identify critical farmlands, characterize current farming activities, discuss new opportunities for farming, and make recommendations on where and what kind of farming is planned for in the future. Other communities do not have a separate farmland protection plan, but do include this topic as part of their adopted Comprehensive Plan. Both types of plans should be considered as addressing future plans for agriculture in the community.

The reviewing agency should become familiar with locally adopted plans to understand long- and short-term plans related to farming in general and that neighborhood or parcel in particular. Some plans may identify certain areas as being critical farmlands where agricultural activities should be the primary land use. Others are more general and offer general vision and goals about what is desired for agriculture in the future.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2.a., C.2.b., and C.2.c.

Analysis

  • Do the plans recommend specific actions related to the location of the proposed activity?
    • How is the proposed project consistent with those recommendations?
  • Are there general goals that establish the role agriculture should play in the community?
    • How is the proposed project consistent with those goals?
  • Is the land in and around the project site identified as being of particular importance to long-term agricultural uses in the municipality?
    • If so why and how, and is the proposed project consistent with continued use of agriculture in that area?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no agricultural activities in or near the project site, or if the proposed plan is shown to be fully consistent with the goals, recommendations, and actions established in the local plans, then there will be no related impact. Check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur if:

  • The proposed project occurs on lands that are not currently farmed and that are not part of the critical mass of farmland identified in the municipality.
  • The project is of small scale and will not impair continuation of farm activities in areas of the town shown in the plan to be those where agriculture is considered the primary land use.
  • The project helps the community meet its goals to attract agriculturally related businesses such as a food processing plant that will use locally grown foods, a sawmill that uses lumber from local forests, or a restaurant oriented around serving locally grown food.
Moderate to Large Impact:

It is likely that one or more moderate to large impacts could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • A project removes lands from production that are identified in the plan as part of the areas critical farmland.
  • The project introduces land uses that are incompatible with agriculture in an area identified in the plan as critical farmlands or that will induce non-agricultural growth.
  • The project introduces a moderate to high density of population that will make it more likely that there will be farm/non-farm incompatibility and nuisance complaints will develop in an area identified in the plan as suitable for low density residential development.
  • A project that does, or could induce growth in the future with new road, water or sewer infrastructure that would ultimately be incompatible with areas planned for agriculture.

h. Other impacts:

There may be other impacts identified by the reviewing agency that are not addressed by the above questions. If so, they should be identified and briefly described here.

Some proposed actions may have beneficial impacts on the environment. The reviewing agency can use the 'other' category for that purpose, too.

Back to Part 2 (FEAF) Identification of Potential Project Impacts || Continue to Part 2 (FEAF) Question 9 Impact on Aesthetic Resources


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